Those of you old enough to remember watching Sesame Street in the 1970’s where Kermit laments being green will get the reference in the title of this post. I’m not a frog but it certainly isn’t easy being green in a world where plastics pollute our oceans, carbon and methane emissions cook the planet, drinking water is contaminated by toxins from chemical runoff, food is loaded with pesticides and governments are more concerned with who is lining their pockets than the people and animals they are responsible for.
It isn’t easy but it is possible to reduce the harm we inflict on our environment. I’m not suggesting you give up showering for a week at a time or move into a cardboard box in the woods somewhere. Little things, however, can become bigger things when done collectively on a larger scale. We all know about the obvious things that we’ve been hearing about for years like switching out old incandescent lightbulbs for long-lasting, energy-efficient LED’s, keeping the thermostat set at a reasonable temperature, limiting the use of air-conditioning, etc. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. These are things we should ALL be doing, without even thinking about them, right?
So, what else can we do, then, to help the planet remain green? Here are ten things you can do:
- Walk or ride a bike if/when you can instead of driving. If that’s not possible, group errands together so that you can get multiple things accomplished in one trip.
- Conserve water. Take shorter showers. Skip watering the lawn. Make sure dishwashers and washing machines have a full load before running them. Wash clothes in cold water. Shut off the tap while brushing your teeth.
- Conserve energy. Raise the thermostat on the A/C in the summer, lower it in the winter. Don’t run things that you aren’t using. Unplug items that don’t get used often – they still draw current even when not in use. Hang clothes outside instead of drying them in a dryer – they smell better!
- Go solar. If you own a home, install solar panels on your roof to lower electricity costs and feed energy from the sun back into the grid. There are programs available that will substantially reduce (or possibly eliminate) the cost of installing panels. If you rent, you can sign up for “green” energy where more of your electricity comes from solar sources.
- Cut back on plastics and packaging. Bring a reusable water bottle and shopping bags with you when you’re going out. Purchase a bamboo cutlery set that can be kept in a purse or glove box instead of using disposable plastic utensils. You can also purchase reusable straws made from bamboo or stainless steel. Purchase a bamboo toothbrush. Buy nuts and grains in bulk and store in glass mason jars.
- Recycle. Take advantage of what your city or town offers for recycling programs. Get crafty! Reuse household items that you might simply toss for crafts or storage. Prescription bottles can be used to hold beads, pins and other small craft notions. Empty jars make great containers for storing those nuts, grains and spices you just bought from the bulk bins. Reuse bubble wrap or other packing materials to protect fragile items.
- Buy used. Thrift stores and yard sales can be treasure troves for used furniture, household items and clothing. You know that dress that’s been hanging in your closet since 2005? Donate it! Buy used books from sites like Better World Books where you can get books for under $4.00 and they will donate money to literacy programs across the globe. Check out books from your local library for free!
- Shop local. Making purchases from local businesses improves their bottom line, enriches the community and cuts transportation emissions. Support local farms by buying fresh produce that comes from the fields directly to your plate. Look into a CSA share and get top-quality, fresh produce all summer long while supporting local growers. Visit your local farmers’ market and if your community doesn’t have one, look for one nearby or start one. Don’t forget your reusable bag!
- Grow food, not lawns. You don’t need a few acres of land to plant a small garden. Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and squash are all easy to grow with plenty of sun, water and a little TLC. Don’t have a yard? You can plant tomatoes and beans in pots on a patio or balcony. Check to see if your town has a community garden and get those hands dirty!
- Go vegan. Wait, what? Yes, I said the “v” word – VEGAN. That means eating only foods that are plants or come from plants. “But I’ll starve”, you think. No you won’t. “I’ll have to eat salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner”, you think. Far from it. A lot of foods you already eat are vegan. Spaghetti with tomato sauce? Vegan. Peanut butter? Vegan. Oreo cookies? Vegan. “Give me one good reason to give up cheese and hamburgers!” I’ll give you three.
Health. With heart disease and diabetes in epic proportions, especially here in the United States, eating a healthy, whole food, vegan diet can drastically reduce your chances of getting either.
Animal cruelty. Do you have pets? Would you put Fluffy on your plate with some sauteed onions and gravy? All animals have intelligence and experience pain and emotions. We do not need animal products in our diet. Animals slaughtered for food, skin or fur are as lovable and deserving of care as your pet. The dairy industry is cruel, and causes physical and emotional pain for dairy cows. Gestation crates for sows are nothing short of torture. We can choose to be better.
The environment. Animal agriculture is one of the most destructive industries on the planet. Methane from the belching and excrement of animals raised for food provides for more greenhouse gas than from transportation. Vast amounts of water are needed for raising and slaughtering these animals for food. Waste pollutes nearby rivers and streams. Land that could be used for feeding humans healthy vegetables and fruits are planted with animal feed. Hundreds of acres of rainforests, the lungs of the planet and home to biodiverse species, are felled every day to plant feed crops for animals that we eat, for cattle grazing or for cheap palm oil that’s in all of our junk food.
As the title of this post infers, it isn’t easy being “green”. We have the ability to choose what we wear, what we buy, what we eat. We can choose compassion for animals, the planet, other people and ourselves. That’s what this blog is all about. I hope you will join me on my compassionate journey.