The last year has been big for us, as we have gone out of our way to try to make ourselves as green as possible without changing our lifestyle too much. I get emails all the time from people thinking that the small things they do will not matter, so why do them at all? In response, I wanted to put together a list of thing we have done (both small and large) to try to encourage others to do the same. If everyone does the small things, they will have a big impact worldwide.
1. We have switched grocery stores. We used to go to Trader Joe’s for all of our groceries, but we realized that we were always stopping somewhere else (Whole Foods, Wild Oats) in order to get organic fruits and vegetables. And that just added to our time in the car, the gas we used, and our own personal time. So we switched entirely to Whole Foods…it is a little more pricey, but we can get everything we need, from vegetables to cereal, and most of it is organic and/or natural. This saves us time and gasoline, and it allows us to eat as much organic food as we can.
2. We sold my wife’s car. I have been working from home now for 7 months, and living here by the beach has its perks in that I do not need a car anymore. I can walk anywhere I need to go, be it the grocery store, post office, bank, etc. I do have a bike that I use to ride to tennis class, and I have a bus pass and Flexcar membership in case I need to go outside my bike riding range. This not only lowers our CO2 output, but we have one less car payment, one less insurance payment, and one less parking spot to pay for. It has been about 1.5 months now and so far so good. If you live somewhere like I do, consider getting rid of one of your cars!
3. We are making a conscious effort to try to buy organic cotton and sweat-shop free goods. I just recently bought a pair of eco-jeans from Levi’s that cost me no more than a pair from the Gap. My wife just bought some vegan natural makeup from Whole Foods, and she says it feels totally fine.
4. All chemicals in our house have been banished…we only use natural detergents, cleaners, room sprays, and soy candles. I either make them myself or we buy Seventh Generation or Method products, which work great as well. Even our hand soap is all natural and paraben free. Its the small things that add up, remember that! And these things don’t really cost any more than the regular stuff!
5. Canvas bags are our friends. We no longer need any of the bags that the grocery store tries to make you take with you…even though some of them tend to look at you funny if you bring your own. We have 4 canvas bags that we bring with us to the store every week, so we never get asked paper or plastic. As for the little plastic bags that produce goes in, we keep those as well and bring them back to the store each week.
6. We have replaced every light in the house with CFL bulbs. The light is the same as regular bulbs, but these last 10 years and cut your electricity costs significantly. They are available in almost any size now, so you can even replace those weird shaped bulbs in the bathroom!
7. Living in Los Angeles, running your air conditioning can get expensive…so now we go without. Of course, it took moving to the beach to do so, but still, we don’t even have an air conditioner in our place. Cheaper on the bill, and less emissions to cool down our house! If you do have AC, be sure it is on a programmable thermostat so you don’t have it running 24/7.
8. Power strips, power strips, power strips. Even when they are not “on”, your electronics are sucking down power, sometimes at almost 50% of what they use when fully on! When we aren’t using them, we have our TV, DVD player, stereo, computer, monitors, etc on power strips that we shut off at night. That way no phantom power is being used. Saves money and CO2 emissions!
9. Use public transportation. This goes along with #2 above, but we use it even when we have access to our car. When we need to go somewhere that our closest bus line runs to, we hop on board. No need for even more cars to clog up the road when the bus is cheap, easy to get to and you don’t have to worry about parking.
10. Recycle your scrap paper into homemade notebooks. My wife started doing this and I never even thought about it! Anything that we print or she brings home from work that we no longer need, we cut up into 4 squares and make into little notepads we leave around the house. You know, paper has two sides! We have not bought notepads in a long long time!
What have you done to green yourself? Let me know in the comments!