Tuesday, August 26, 2008

40 steps on the personal path to green


by No Impact Man

A few weeks ago, I asked readers, "If a friend decided they wanted to do something about the environment, how would you tell him or her to start?"

So just in case you or a friend wants to start, here are 50 of the answers, in no particular order and boiled down to their essence. You can read the full versions here and follow the included links for further explanation (and thanks so much to all who contributed):

  1. Don't buy food that comes in plastic or paper packaging.
  2. Read the heartbreaking article "Plastic Ocean".
  3. Buy fewer things. Don´t buy on impulse. Ask yourself if the thing you're buying is something that you really need.
  4. Understand the impact of the products that you buy on the environment, from resource extraction through to disposal (watching The Story of Stuff will help).
  5. Eat less meat (read here to understand why).
  6. Getting your fingers dirty by growing your own food--even if it is just some basil on your windowsill--is the quickest way change your thought patterns about other green issues.
  7. Stopped using my dryer and use a clothes line or drying rack--and enjoy saving the cash.
  8. Drive less.
  9. Fly less.
  10. Organize your community to lobby state and local officials to pass a suite of laws increasing energy efficiency, clean-tech funding, and public education campaigns.
  11. Walk more, and walk *to* places. Ideally, walk to the grocery store.
  12. Start buying food and household products that are only made of things they can pronounce.
  13. Make your own non-toxic household cleaning products.
  14. Collect all of your trash each day and so you can see how much you produce.
  15. Start with one or two things (take the bus one day a week, use cloth bags, etc) and make it a habit. Then move on to another and another.
  16. Stop using your car for journeys of less than 2 miles--walk or bike.
  17. Try to go a month without making any purchases other than food and energy.
  18. An easy quick tip: stop using papertowels and paper napkins. Keep cloth towels on hand for cleaning and cloth napkins for mealtime (read why getting away from paper products is important here).
  19. Find a "green" mentor. Someone whose actions and philosophy you admire. Have them recommend reading, start discussions, teach practices, and lend support. Doing this together is the best part!
  20. THINK about how running the tap wastes water. THINK about how lights on in rooms not occupied wastes energy.
  21. Avoid bottled water (read why here and here).
  22. Join Freecycle, where you can give away what you don't need and get second-hand stuff for free.
  23. Go to a good carbon footprint calculator so you can learn in what areas of your life you are using energy and carbon needlessly.
  24. Don't waste.
  25. Be mindful of how your actions affect others. Everything else stems from mindfulness.
  26. Make a contribution of time or money to a green organization.
  27. Tithe.
  28. Recognize that happiness in life is related to relationships with other people, not shopping.
  29. Reach within to determine what inside yourself doesn't feel right, what isn't working for you and start making changes from there.
  30. Pray.
  31. When the activity is fun, good for the environment, and also affects personal health (physically and also psychologically), it's much easier to maintain. So if you like biking, bike. If you like cooking, cook local.
  32. Never use your car for a trip of less than two miles. Walk or bike. Notice the benefits to your physical fitness.
  33. Swear off plastic bags.
  34. Spend more time in nature, taking a class or reading about the environmentalist movement, whatever will make an impact deeper than the desire to be trendy in an era of greenwashing.
  35. Skip sodas, juices, things that come in bottles and cans--for a week.
  36. Bring your own mug to the cafe and carry your own water container (read about the ultra-cool reusable water bottle and coffee cup here and here).
  37. Make a detailed budget and track spending habits (if you realize exactly how much your car costs you, you may choose a bike).
  38. Switch to CFL lightbulbs, turn down your thermostat, and put a blanket on your water heater.
  39. Stop your junk mail.
  40. Join grassroots efforts to push the government to pass legislation that moves us quickly off fossil fuels and nuclear energy.