In my last post, I touched on making change starting with the small things in our daily lives we can control as we turn a corner into the New Year. I am a firm believer that if each person on this planet does one small thing, collectively there will be a big impact. We’ve all seen it; many people start off their New Year’s resolution with high hopes in losing weight or quitting smoking only to give up and return to their old habits in just a couple of months. This trend is visually apparent when mobs of people show up at the gym in January and February, only to die back down to normal by March. Why is this? For some (maybe even most) people in our culture, there is an all-or-nothing mentality. They assume if they aren’t able to make it to the gym at least 5 days per week then they are not going to be successful at their weight loss goals and reap the benefits of living ahealthy lifestyle, so why even bother. But I can recall hearing a report on the news about how maintaining a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. While exercising for 30 minutes 3 days per week may not give you the same results as going full speed ahead on an intense workout regime, it is still better from doing nothing at all. Your muscles will be stronger and your body will still benefit compared to not exercising at all. Do what makes sense for you, and not your personal trainer. Make your goals realistic, and when you don’t quite meet them, try to do the next best option.
I think the same is true with many aspects of life, including making positive changes environmentally. Most of us do not directly have the means to change industrial practices or policies on a large scale, or buy a home that runs strictly on renewable resources. Should we therefore throw in the towel and live a wasteful life of excess? I think not. So what can we do? Where do we start? Try the moderate approach. I offer some of my favorite EASY tips that have come in handy for this busy working mom and I know I am no different than many of you out there who are juggling many more things than I. Parents may find these particularly useful, but they can really translate to anyone. I love that doing these things often has added health and economic benefits too to help you reach your other New Year’s resolutions!
1.) Reuse stuff. I must confess to you, after a very brief trial period I gave up on cloth diapers for my child. But there are still so many ways to reuse materials, that are much less messy.
- Yep, we all know about the 3 R’s, so before you throw that bottle in the recycle bin perhaps it can make a fun bath toy for your tot. That scrap paper can also be incredibly useful as a canvas for your child’s artistic endeavors or for your grocery list. I often use plastic containers from items I purchase (like coffee) to store toys or crayons, cosmetics, or other household items.
- Swap Clothes. We all need to wear them, and any parent will tell you that it sometimes seems kidsoutgrow their clothes before they’ve even had a chance to wear them. I’ve never been one to turn down hand-me-downs from friends and family.
- Opt for used books. Like clothes, you can swap these with friends. But there are also many places that sell used books at a reduced price. Many of my child’s favorites are the same ones I used to enjoy!
- Reusable mugs, water bottles, and shopping bags for me have become a no-brainer. If you haven’t already, give it a try and keep in mind that there will be an adjustment period to break old habits.
2.) Make green choices at the grocery store, sometimes. Since there is often an added cost to buying organic, fair-trade, or other eco-friendly groceries, it might not always be in the budget make these choices on everything in your cart. But when it makes sense, do buy the organic peaches or the planet-friendly bathroom cleaner. A great example is to purchase organic produce from the dirty dozen list. And for those things that are worth it to you, do pay the extra cents
3.) Turn off the lights! This is my favorite one on saving energy. So basic, but still surprises me how often it gets overlooked. At home you may not be going for an efficient furnace or LED lighting yet, but you can still turn off the lights you’re not using. Bring this habit to work too and don’t forget to turn off the lights on in the conference room or bathroom when no one is in there.
4.) Plan your drive to maximize your gas mileage (and time). While I completely encourage others to give up their car and use alternate transportation methods, I must admit this is not a sacrifice I am willing to make at this point in my life when I have to take my child to day care or may need to leave work to take my child to the doctor’s at any given time without notice. But when driving in general, I do plan accordingly to make the most out of my trips. Stop at the store that is on route from work, or combine errands into a general area if possible. It also really pays to drive a fuel efficicent vehicle.
5.) Take the Stairs. This one may be more challenging for some than others depending on physical ability and the situation at hand. It’s a lot easier for me to make this choice when I only have one flight to go up to get to my office, compared to having to go to the 8th floor in the Medical Center. But, do it when you can.
6.) Make Cuts in Chemicals. It’s easy to use vinegar, baking soda, lemon, and other natural items we already have in stock as cleaning solutions. Better for your family and the environment.
Ready to make the commitment? Check out the Go Green Pledge, that was based on this principle of doing small every day things to save energy and natural resources while at the University of Rochester.
I’d really love to hear other ideas of what you do too!
By Amy Kadrie
photo by brewbooks, http://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/2062647044/