Simple Steps to Greener Living

by on December 14th, 2014
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When you hear the phrase “green living,” what comes to mind? Be honest. Do you think of hemp-clad hippies squatting in yurts? Smug suburbanites driving pricey hybrids? The truth is, it’s entirely possible to green your lifestyle without going to either extreme; the trick is to start small, keep it simple, and above all stay sane about it. You’ll have a much greater chance at making real and lasting changes than you would if you tried to uproot your whole way of living overnight
So where do we start?

1) AWARENESS. You’ve probably already begun this step, or you wouldn’t even be reading this article, but becoming aware of the way you live and the way you impact the world around you really is the starting point for most people. Pay attention to your daily routines; take a look at what you bring in, and what you throw out. You’ll be surprised at what you find.

2) RESEARCH. Augment that awareness with information. Where does your trash go after you leave it by the curb? Where does your community source its water supply? Where were those vegetables grown, and how? Who produced that meat on your dinner plate? Read the label on that product, then look up those unpronounceable chemical names and find out what they are–and more importantly, what they’re doing to you and to the planet.

3) START SMALL. You’ve laid the foundations and now you’re ready to act. It seems overwhelming, but you’re determined; just remember to go easy on yourself at first. You don’t have to do everything at once, and you don’t have to single-handedly change the world. Perhaps you could start by seeing if your neighborhood or apartment complex has a recycling program; for most people, recycling is a pretty painless way to begin the greening process. It’s not that much more effort to rinse out the milk jug and put it in the recycling bin than it is to just toss it in the trash can!

4) IMPLEMENT NEW CHANGES GRADUALLY. You’re now in the habit of recycling your plastic and paper and aluminum. You’re reading the labels on your products and becoming aware of what’s in them and what impact they have on the planet. From there, start phasing out potentially harmful products and replacing them with healthier and/or more sustainable options. Choose the biodegradable cleaning product in the recyclable bottle next time you’re at the store. Spend the extra few cents on the sustainably-produced product over the commercially-available one you’re used to (because of your research, you’re now aware of the difference, right?).

5) THE LITTLE THINGS COUNT. It’s the common sense small things that we rarely even think of, but that make a cumulative effect. Switch out your incandescent bulbs with CFLs. Turn the light off when you leave the room. Wash the laundry in cold water. Turn up the thermostat in the summer and down in the winter. Use a ceiling fan. Don’t leave the water running when you’re brushing your teeth. All these seemingly minor things add up in terms of consumption; by extending your awareness even to these small daily tasks, you’re laying the groundwork for truly mindful living.

6) STAY POSITIVE. Any lifestyle change can feel overwhelming, and pushing yourself too hard too fast can lead to frustration and resentment. Rather than giving in and giving up, instead give yourself permission to be imperfect. Even the greenest among us slips up once in a while! If you forget to recycle that water bottle, or you take an extra-long hot shower one morning, or you splurge on a steak dinner that you know wasn’t raised in a sustainable manner, don’t beat yourself up for it. Acknowledge that it’s OK to not be perfect all the time, and resolve to do better next time. Remember: just the fact that you’re aware enough to care is a profound statement about you!

Following these simple steps won’t make you into an eco-warrior overnight, but they will help you along the way to becoming a more responsible consumer and a more earth-friendly resident of our beautiful, endangered planet. Good luck with your new green life!

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