I grew up in an energy conscious household; my mom likes to say that we were green before it was cool. We have always abided by the reduce, reuse, recycle concept – we bring our reusable shopping bags wherever we go, we buy in bulk, and we are conscious about our power usage.
I never thought about why we composted or did not use our house’s central air conditioning – it was just something that we did (and do). It was not until I got to high school that I realized a lot of households were not like ours (my friends were shocked that we did not have AC). When I talked to my mother about why we lived the way we did, she explained that her efforts were her small part to preserve the natural environment for me and my future children.
The lessons she taught me as a child have stayed with me as an adult. Among many other things, I compost, I use LED lights, and I pick up trash when I see it to make sure it is disposed of (or recycled) properly. For the most part, they are easy things that do not take additional time out of my day or cost a significant amount of money (in fact, they tend to save me money in the long run).
I always get a bit frustrated when someone says they won’t recycle because their actions don’t matter. We have all heard that argument before – that one person’s individual actions have no effect because the relative impact is so small. I would argue that your actions do matter, since your actions inform the larger forces that can affect measurable change. If you recycle, your town sees that recycling is a valued service and directs additional funds to make the process easier and more widespread. If you choose to bring recycled bags, the stores you frequent see that they do not have to spend resources buying single-use bags. Maybe your actions are immeasurable, but the broader impact of those actions are revolutionary.
You don’t have to make drastic changes to make an impact. Why not test out one of these low risk options to lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle:
- Food – it is estimated that 13 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are derived from the production, transport, and disposal of foods (we at PRA are taking steps to eat more local foods through the Field Goods program)
- Start a compost pile to reduce the amount of food waste that goes to your local landfill (an added bonus – it’s great for your plants!)
- Eat one less red meat-based meal per week
- Purchase locally produced food
- Shopping – it is estimated that 29 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the production, processing, transportation, and disposal of goods produced within the United States
- Bring a reusable bag with you to the grocery story (I leave a few in my car so I always have one ready to go)
- Buy products in bulk rather than individually sized portions
- Home maintenance
- Reduce your water usage through washing your car and watering your lawn less frequently
- Turn off lights in the rooms you are not using
- Switch out your old incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents or LED bulbs
- Add solar panels to your home (they are more affordable than ever through models like Solar City)
- Learn your town’s recycling ordinances and begin recycling
Try one and see where it gets you. Maybe take on another when you are ready. Your goals do not have to be to change the world – they can be as simple and kind as preserving the natural beauty of your local river, lake, mountain, beach, or neighborhood for future generations.