A few months back I wrote about a friend of mine who is teaching an eight-week lifestyle redesign course in California, aiming to help people "green" their lives in sustainable ways. I asked for readers' eight tips, and while I didn't get many responses, I thought I'd share my own thoughts anyway. What would you recommend to someone trying to make her lifestyle more sustainable in eight steps?
1. Do you really need that?
Seriously. New makeup, a little tchotchke for the house, new shoes - on sale! More space, a new car? Sometimes the answer is yes. Most of the time it is no.
2. Ride a bike.
Or rollerskate. Guaranteed to make you exercise and laugh, even if you can't switch to commuting to work by bike. And maybe if you fall in love with biking, you'll consider getting a little closer to the office on your next move.
3. Refuse the bag.
Probably one in ten times we actually need the bag: not enough space in the purse/backpack/etc, it is raining, whatever. Just carry your purchase around in your hand or throw it on the seat of your car - whatever it is, it's likely packaged enough already.
4. Spend some time with your trash.
Some good, quality time. Get to know what your city recycles and what it doesn't. And if there is a place you can take your scraps to compost. There really is no "out" or "away" when you throw something in the garbage - it's just going in someone else's backyard. And it basically NEVER decomposes in the landfill, no matter what it is.
5. Examine your food.
In my opinion, the US food system is one of the scariest
environmental and security time-bombs we have ticking. So I do my best with the farmer's market and organic options. Read some labels and ask, like Michael Pollan, if your grandmother would recognize the freaky stuff they're selling as food.
6. Take a look at the big picture.
I've recommended some books that provide background for the environmental "religion," written from various points of view. If you don't like my list, you can check out the reviews over at The Blogging Bookworm. I've also suggested some movies in the body of this blog, and another blogger recently compiled a great selection. You'll be motivated, disgusted, inspired, and you'll have some context for why people are all hot on a variety of environmental topics.
7. Get real.
Take a hard look at what you can manage given your time constraints, financial situation, living conditions, etc. Biting off more than you can chew only makes you frustrated and resentful. And not everyone loves canning. Or composting. Or cooking their own meals. Let the pros do what you hate and figure out how you can make the best use of your time and energy.
8. Do something.Something you really love. Not necessarily an environmental something. If you spend time doing something you're passionate about, you'll care about this world and the people in it. And you'll feel more motivated and optimistic.
And check out this link from my dad, who uses the wisdom of the ancients to keep his life simple.