The Little Things DO Matter, So Don’t Think Otherwise.

August 5, 2008

Oftentimes we hear reports about how changing a light bulb will not make a bit of a difference in the fight against climate change and that everyone must make huge sacrifices in order to have any effect. I say don’t listen to them! You should do what you can and what you feel comfortable with; if you feel fine moving into an earthship and living off the grid, then by all means please do! But if you only feel like you can change a light bulb and maybe buy organic bananas, then please…do that as well and do not feel guilty about it.


All the small acts by millions of people really do add up, and you have to keep that in mind as you do your little part.

All anyone can ask you to do is something small, as asking people to change their entire lifestyle, ride only their bikes, grow all their own food, install solar panels on everything, etc., will only serve to turn some people off from doing anything at all! Of course the more we all do the better off we will be, and doing more than the average person will benefit everyone in the long run. But while climate change is real and could be very, very bad for the human race, sometimes those of us involved in the movement forget that not everyone is willing to forgo some comforts to try to save the planet…myself included. Do I want every person on the planet to get onboard and do as much as they can? Of course. Do I think they will? Nope. So encouraging even the smallest changes from people is way more tactful than proclaiming them “enemies of the environment”. Don’t you think?

I am guilty of many things that would not be considered “best” for the environment.

We drive a Subaru Forester rather than a Toyota Prius. I really like Twizzlers – they are my favorite food group outside of yogurt. Not all my clothing is organic cotton or hemp. My cat does not eat the natural, organic cat food. And I like my electronics – my Mac Pro which I write this site on, my iPhone that serves as my mobile office, or my flat-screen TV which brings me 200 satellite channels. Not one of us is perfect in our quest to be more “green” – and for some of us to call out others who may not be as green is not fair. Yes, I still get mad when I see a soccer Mom driving her 1.2 children to school in a shiny black SUV that has never seen dirt, never mind a rocky road. The fact that my town doesn’t recycle plastic infuriates me. But still, I power on, thinking I am doing the best that I can at this point in my life. Sure, we are looking at real estate that either is or can be solar-powered. But am I willing to live in a tent? Sorry, no.

If you replaced ONE single incandescent light bulb with a CFL, you would reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by more than 300 pounds each year.

If you turned your thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer, you would reduce your CO2 emissions by about 2,000 pounds each year.

If you could wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket, you would reduce your CO2 emissions by about 1,000 pounds each year. You could save another 550 pounds per year by setting the thermostat no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you could use a clothesline to dry your clothes 6 months out of the year, you would reduce your CO2 emissions by about 700 pounds each year.

This post is not meant to start a war over who is doing enough or not enough – it is just a reminder that everyone can and should do their part as much as possible. Is your 90 year old grandfather going to switch the way he has lived his life for 90 years? I doubt it…but cut him some slack, he is 90! Teach your friends, help your family, and just do the best you can – hopefully everyone will eventually be kicking in to the best of their ability. Just don’t let anyone you know give in because they think the little things don’t matter – because they most certainly do.

Photo by Daveybot

Filed in: Green • Tags: , , ,

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (14)

  1. Glen Allsopp says:

    You are perfectly right, the little things do matter. Especially if everybody starts doing them together ;)

    Great post

    Cheers,
    Glen

  2. Gawky Green says:

    Totally in agreement.

    That’s what I think the most intimidating thing about “going green” is…people have this fear that you have to be all or nothing or that you have to be some environmentalist who knows all the random jargon out there.

    But truth well told–the little stuff DO matter.

  3. Small deeds are important is all walks of life. Thanks for the reminder.

    Stumbled.

  4. David says:

    Thanks Jill, appreciate the kind words!

  5. Jill says:

    Great post and wonderfully written. I’m a firm believer in the little things mattering- in fact was what ultimately drove me to start my own blog. But even I sometimes catch myself being upset that others don’t “get it” Your post said it beautifully- thank you!

  6. Bri says:

    I agree completely! We aren’t perfect by any means, but we do what we can…especially when it comes to issues we whole-heartedly believe in. One example, I am absolutely opposed to animal testing in MOST situations so there are some “organic” products that I don’t buy.

    One thing I wanted to comment on also, was the issue of your town not recycling plastics. I work for a municipality and have found out that many places that don’t recycle specific items do so b/c the company they use doesn’t have a buyer for those items. Example: my city doesn’t recycle paper board (cereal boxes) or aluminum products that aren’t cans. This is because our recycling company doesn’t have anyone willing to buy back paper board or other sources of aluminum. One thing you might look into is fiding a company that would be willing to service your area that does have buyers for plastics. Hope that helps!

  7. Uncle B says:

    Changes for the environment that happen from the top down will have the biggest impact. we the American people are avout to elect a government that will topple world standards of personal transportation and change the way business is done in the world by weaning us from our dependency on oil. I we want a better world and we are willing to accept radical changes we must use the power of the vote to get things done.lat election we held out hope for an oil based economy and voted that way. If the U.S. had chosen to be a moral people, and leaving Iraqi oil alone, and following Al Gore, decided to develop the South Western deserts, with the technology of the times – solar/thermal-molten sodium – electricity installations, for the same amount of money as that war cost, ($650 Billion), today, we would be tapping into the largest, renewable, sustainable, energy source the world has ever known. It would have paid every energy bill in the U.S.A. for maintenance fees only – FOREVER! It would be equivalent to an oil field that can NEVER run dry! Low cost electric power, and storeable hydrogen gasoline replacement from the electricity, for all!
    After the millions of murders, and $650 billions of dollars, borrowed from our children”™s futures and pissed away, with thousands of our own and others maimed and disfigured for life, millions of families utterly destroyed, ours and theirs, we are no closer to Iraqi oil production than the Iraqis are!
    The next time you hear a blithering idiot spoiled brat, drunken, drug addicted, sociopath, rich Arabic saber dancing daddie”™s boy oilman, stand at a microphone and threaten YOUR safety with someone ELSE”™S weapons, remember what you lost America, remember, and weep! (also see http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan)

  8. Dave Conrey says:

    Reading this post is like looking at myself in the future. I have this same conversation in my head almost daily.

  9. David says:

    You talk to yourself in your head all day too, huh Dave? :-)

  10. Jordan says:

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  11. Condo Blues says:

    Small things absolutely add up! I reduced my household electricity use by over 30% by keeping all of my big nonEnergy Star appliances (still working & too new to ditch) and using them more wisely. I didn’t so many big home improvements, actually less than $200 dollars worth and that was mostly lightbulbs and caulk. What really helped us was changing habits. Our orginal goal was reducing our use by 20%, so we were really happy after crunching the numbers at the end of the year that all of our little things added up and beat our target by 10%!

  12. Couldn’t agree more. Your honesty about the things you feel guilty about is refreshing. Just because we can’t be perfect doesn’t mean we can’t be better. The examples you give are good and if everyone in the USA and Western Europe did just one thing differently it would add up to a massive change. Every journey starts with a single step.
    The other way everyone can make a difference is finding ways to reuse/ re-purpose/ repair/ remodel things rather than throw them away. That could make a massive contribution.

  13. Green Bean says:

    I’ll say this, people seem much more likely to make small personal changes than to engage in any form of activism. I think getting people involved in any way possible is smart. Plus, I remember someone saying CFLs were their gateway drug. In other words, small personal steps are sometimes the means to transform a regular person into an environmental superhero.

  14. Nancy says:

    Totally agree! And as they say, one thing leads to another…