With a name like Eartha, you can imagine that I often get asked about the best ways to live greener. I've noticed in many of these conversations that people seem overwhelmed by where to start or what to do next. This isn't surprising because studies show that when consumers are offered too many choices, they tend to become paralyzed and choose nothing.
We've all seen the magazine and website lists like "365 (or 100 or 37, you get the idea) easy ways to be green." I live and breathe environmental consciousness, but I find myself overwhelmed at the prospect of reading such lists, notwithstanding actually completing any of the 365 items. So, where should you start if you've made a resolution to live more sustainably? That's where a short list of options does come in handy. And although some actions have more of an environmental impact than others, the key is to choose what resonates most with you.
Although I've always been committed to saving the planet, I started my quest to transform my passion into action shortly after college. I had a huge mental list of things that I wanted to do to live more sustainably, moving beyond just recycling and turning off the lights. I'd always wanted to learn to compost, get involved in community environmental projects, actually remember to bring my reusable bags to the store, learn how to save energy in my house, etc. Eventually, I decided that I would start one new project a month and then add another each month. My little experiment failed miserably, as that was more than I could handle. So I backed off and tackled one new green living task each season.
During the summer I started backyard composting, then I got a home-energy audit in the fall to learn how to cut down my heating bills. I've managed to keep this strategy going fairly consistently through the years. Once Baby Steward arrived, I added family friendly green actions like buying organic food and increased my vigilance about green cleaning. I've also noticed along my journey that it's much easier to change habits that are fun or align with my lifestyle. Even though we all know driving less will greatly reduce our carbon footprint, you may have to commute a fair distance to your job with no bus route option. Don't stress about not being able to drive less. Just pick another option that is more achievable!
Here are just a few ideas that could have a potentially big impact.
• Save energy in your home and/or buy renewable energy.
• Drive less or drive a fuel-efficient vehicle.
• Compost your food waste.
• Become a smart shopper. Reduce consumption and read labels to understand the carbon footprint of the products you buy frequently.
• Advocate for environmental policy. Write your elected officials and attend a town council meeting at least once a year.
• Get involved in your community. Volunteer with an organization that you love.
• Grow your own food and buy organic, local products.
• Make or buy green cleaning products.
Again, commit to only one item at a time. And make sure it's something you are truly interested in pursuing and able to achieve. Even small successes are incredibly rewarding and create momentum to tackle more green actions. If you have specific questions on how to green your life, visit highcountryconservation.org or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at email@example.com.