Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day = Reality Check: How to Live in a Planet-Friendlier Way

This year's Earth Day highlights the urgency of prioritizing environmental initiatives and living in a more ecologically sustainable way - from individuals to communities to corporations to nations.

My partner has challenged me to come up with 10 ways to improve my "footprint" on Mother Earth.  Getting a grip on global challenges may seem daunting to individuals, but as we all know, many small, grassroots changes add up to a big result.  What if everyone cut their use of plastic bags by 50%, or ate meat one less day per week, or chose an EV car for their next vehicle, or bought some of their grocery items in bulk rather than in single serving plastic wrappings?

Changes need to be significant, but also realistic.  At the very least one has to start somewhere.  Eventually I will own an EV, grow my own vegetables, have a solar-powered home and only buy packaged items with environmentally responsible packaging.  For the time being, we've come up with the following list of what I can realistically implement right away:

1.  No meat (beef, pork, lamb).  If I buy poultry (which I occasionally do) it will be organic, free-range and locally produced.
2.  Everything recyclable gets recycled.  Period.  Laziness is not an excuse (oh, it's just one water bottle....)
3.  Speaking of water bottles - a reusable water bottle.  Other than having a flat of 500 mL bottles for the home emergency kit, there is no reason to buy these every week for the gym, yoga, taking to work...
4.  Reusable bags.  Large carry-all shopping bags, washable produce bags (Whole Foods sells them), and only biodegradable plastic ones (which can be used 2-3 times for food if clean, by the way).
5.  Trip planning to drive less means more efficient errand running and less gas used.  Gas ain't cheap so this will save money.  Oh, and for my weekly corporate meeting in the city which is an easy, direct route - there is a bus that picks up 1 1/2 blocks from my place and gets me into the city to a drop off point which is actually closer to my meeting than parking is.  Not to mention the stress of driving around looking for a parking spot at an overpriced meter and being on high alert to make sure it doesn't run out before a zealous meter maid smugly puts a $40 ticket on the windshield.
6.  Heating and A/C.  Turn the thermostat down 2 degrees in the winter.  For the summer I am getting a screen sliding door for my balcony portal, and I've already made screens to fit the living room and bedroom windows.  Fresh outdoor breeze beats A/C, and the screens mean I get to enjoy my space without sharing it with mosquitoes (ick!) or spiders (OK, spiders are useful but I still don't want them in my home).
7.  Household product choice.  Green products for laundry, dishwashing and cleaning.  100% recycled fiber toilet paper and tissues.
8.  Appliances.  Use the energy saver cycle on the clothes washer and the dishwasher.  Also, laundry doesn't have to be done in hot water - many eco friendly detergents work very well in cold water.
9.  Get bills and receipts via email, rather than printed out on paper.
10.  Food shopping.  Locally grown (organic) produce.  Ugly produce too.  A mostly plant-based diet is healthy!  Buying in bulk and choosing food products in environmentally responsible packaging.
11.  And finally - make a donation to an environmental protection group or charity.  It's tax deductible and shows support for a good cause.  Oh wow - looks like I got an extra one in there :-)

My challenge to you:  what will YOU do to live more respectfully on this planet?