Our sustainable future will be guaranteed not by personal actions or government mandates or corporate revelations that green business is healthier for the bottom line…but by switching out that “or” to “AND”. We need personal actions AND corporate smarts AND government goal setting AND every other level of improvement we can get our hands on.
Toward that end, here are 20 (or so) ideas for the personal action pieces of this complex, diverse, exciting, and imperative, puzzle. Have fun. Let me know what you think.
Use a bar of soap.
Why? You use less, avoid the weight of transported water, eliminate the bottles, and avoid toxins often included as scent and suspension agents. There are also so many cool, craft-made options out there. Buy local!
Shower before getting into the pool.
Why? The lotions, deodorants, and cosmetics, as well as sweat of the day load the pool and increase use of chemicals while putting pressure/wear on filtration systems. They can also adversely affect others in the pool.
Freeze the ends of veggies.
Why? You can then simmer them once a month or once every few months to make your own wholesome vegetable stock. Then compost the remainders.
Use a refillable Keurig filter or, better, switch to an electric teakettle and a French Press.
Why? Keurig pods create a lot of waste. “75 million homes (in the USA) brewing single-use pods like K-cups every day” From the Story of Stuff. A refillable means avoiding that waste, and you can still choose the flavors you like. A French press does even better, as you can change the strength (some days I need COFFEE and some I need only coffee). An electric tea kettle is safest, and powers with electricity which, over time, will become more and more from renewable energy production.
Wash your ziplock bags…and when they are dead, cut off the zip and recycle the plastic bag with any local soft plastic recycling. In NY this occurs at grocery stores over 10,000 sf in size.
Why? Food storage has moved to plastic which is one of the biggest burdens on our waste stream and on our planet. This approach will also save you loads of money. Trust me. I have a bag dryer on my counter (next to my electric tea kettle and under my LED lighting)…I use it nearly every day.
Take off your shoes in the house. At least provide a good outdoor walk off mat and an indoor one you can wash periodically.
Why? Think of everything you are tracking in, including lead and petrochemicals from roadways, dog poop, spit, and normal, friendly, dirt. Walk-off mats or removing your shoes will keep your interior air cleaner, and extend the life of your carpets and floors.
Don’t buy scent diffusers – make your own with some vodka and essential oils.
Why? Many industry scents are classed as neurotoxins, and there are little to no regulations for scents as they are typically proprietary in nature. Select essential oils, and control how much you use. Certainly never use plug in diffusers. They are not only toxic, but can be a fire hazard.
Carry containers for leftovers in your car, along with reusable bags.
Why? You will benefit tremendously from not having takeaway containers fill up your garbage cans.
Rinse your bathing suit after wearing in the pool or ocean. Only wash it once in awhile (barring too much sand, seaweed or sunscreen on it).
Why? Although “less is more” is misquoted more often than less, it is true that washing clothes less means more life for the garment. You need to get the chlorine or salt out of bathing suits, but you do not need to apply soap or rigorous washing very often. Your suit will last longer, and keep its color and stretch better.
Try using about half the required detergent along with spot treating dirty areas.
Why? Save money, save water systems, and save your clothes. Focus the cleaning, and use less soap overall. And certainly less “softener” which is often scent-laden.
Hang up clothes wrinkled, and iron them only before wearing.
Why? Anyone with experience in theatre will tell you this is much more effective in helping clothes last longer. Also most sizing actually starts to “burn” and degrade clothes.
Use wood cutting boards. I choose bamboo for durability.
Why? Although personal preference is part of this, certainly, wood has inherent anti-microbial properties that plastic does not have. It is easy on knives. It is readily cleaned with warm soapy water. It does take a periodic oiling. I’d rather eat wood than plastic.
When using an escalator, move to the right if you plan on standing still for the ride.
Why? Aaargh, really? Escalators were created to speed transportation. Allow people to use them this way by letting walkers move past you. Same on the people movers at the airport.
Refuse single use water bottles, even when they are given to you at events.
Why? These are a slap in the face of Mother Earth, quite frankly. They make water cost 4-5 times the cost of gasoline for your car, add untold plastic waste into our landfills and systems, and deliver water that is no safer (often less safe) than municipal water-system tap water. What a scam. Less quality for more money. Besides, a good re-usable water bottle can be all about YOUR style.
Make your own soda or flavored water drinks at home.
Why? You pay a ton for the label and (typically) plastic bottle, and to transport the water weight. This is a huge burden on our sustainable future. Buy soda syrups and a soda maker such as SodaStream, or simply add flavors or fruits to tap water for an unlimited variety.
Never, ever, ever use disinfecting wipes or antibacterial soaps unless you have a medical condition for which this is required practice.
Why? A couple of reasons. Cost. Waste (single use throwaway stuff). Toxins that affect air quality and can harm your skin and your lungs. Finally, they kill all bacteria including the good bacteria we need, and they don’t dissipate in a safe way as alcohol and peroxide-based treatments do. Save our water systems, and your future health by cleaning (which is an awesome thing to do, preferably simply with soap and water), and using only peroxide or alcohol-based sanitizers.
Try to not warm up your car (or cool down your car in the summer) before driving.
Why? It has been proven that the only reason to warm a car is personal comfort. If you need that, then OK. But there is actual detriment to the good operations of the car as idling is the least beneficial operational range for vehicles. It is understandable if you want comfort, but the car will warm up faster if you are in gear and driving. If you have a car with seat heaters, use those until the engine hits temp. Of course, do what you must to clear the windows!
Add an inch to your grass length.
Why? Longer grass can retain moisture and remain healthier over time, and more resilient in drought conditions. Even better, cut with a mower that leaves the trimmings on the lawn. You may have to “thatch” (comb out some excess clippings to avoid rot) every couple of years, but your yard and your soil will be healthier for it.
Why? You can reduce your storage space for novels, the e-reader is great for travel, and it ends up being greener over time.
Certainly keep books that rely on good printings of photos or any special editions that are important to you, but donate the “pocket book” novels you’ve had for years and have not re-read. If you love the e-reader (I love my kindle) consider donating your often re-read novels and buying the e-versions, so you have them handy to read wherever and whenever you go.
Don’t use poison on mouses in your houses.
Why? Because poison is bad. And because the critters then die in your walls and smell until they totally dessicate. (Yes, we learned this the hard way) Traps take more effort, but you WILL be happier. I swear it.
Try local beer or wine whenever you travel.
Why? This adds to your experience, improves local economies, and dramatically reduces wasteful transport of bottles or kegs of beer. I highly recommend the taste journey!
Send me your 20/20 foresights!
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