What is sustainability?
Based on a simple concept that everything we do depends and affects the natural environment, sustainable living helps nurture that environment to keep it healthy for future generations. If we do not keep the health of the earth in mind, we will end up getting sick along with our environment. If you are concerned about the national economy, take some steps on a personal level and local level to live more sustainably, and the costs to clean up our messes will go down. We hear a lot about how toxic some areas of the earth have become, and I know I feel pretty impotent to help. Then I remember the wonderful expression “Think Globally, Act Locally” and I realize there is much I can do right here in my own home and town.
Stewardship is a word often used when discussing sustainability. When I was a Girl Scout we were taught to always leave a place we visited better than how we found it. It caused a bit of a controversy one year when we set up our booth at the local Sportsman Show, complete with our tent and fake campfire….and shotgun shells and tangled fishing line that we had found when we took a walk down by the river. Each of us has a choice how we leave our mark, and those people had left trash. They did not like to be called on it, but the reality of it was that they were not being good stewards.
Ten things ANYONE can do to live more sustainably:
1. Purchase items with minimal packaging. Do you know that we Americans are the largest waste producers in the world? Think about what you carry to your trash can…how much extra plastic and cardboard is involved in the items you purchase each week and unwrap in your home. Stop buying the megasize package of food at the store because it “saves money”. It is not a savings if you end up not eating it before it spoils. Select alternative items with low waste.
2. Recycle. Your town probably offers some opportunities. When I moved to my current town there was a curbside recycling service that required a paid membership. I was surprised but willing and sent in my money. To my great annoyance, pick-ups were poorly managed and in a few years the company went out of business. Through the actions of a few active people, however, there are recycling bins located at most local grocery store parking lots. So, bag up your cans, your paper, and your glass, and when you head out for your weekly shopping, drop they off! We do not need to put everything into landfills! It may be easier to just carry everything out with the trash, but someone who understands their role as a steward of the earth takes a few extra steps to help.
3. Turn off electricity and water not being used. How many times did your mom remind you to turn off the light when you left the room? Well, do that! How about the power strip under your computer…..ever feel how warm it is when you have your system OFF? Consider turning the strip off nightly. And come on, how many times do you have to be reminded to turn off the water while you are brushing your teeth!
4. Use public transportation or carpool or walk. It is truly amazing how many people get stuck in traffic jams, sitting one to a car in that line. They claim they want flexibility to leave work if they need to or to run errands on the way home. Think about how you practice your daily commute and how often you actually just went there and back. Consider walking, biking, carpooling, or taking the bus at least one or two days a week. And walk–if it is less than a mile, you are talking about less than 20 minutes!!
5. Buy Local. Much of the produce at your supermarket travels hundreds or thousands of miles to arrive there. We won’t even discuss how they are harvested before peak ripeness in order to make that trip so it doesn’t even taste good (or maybe we did just mention it enough?) but how about all the fuel needed to get it there? The cost of transporting local produce to a farmers market or stand is a tiny fraction of that…AND the food is freshly picked and tastes better!
6. Bring your own bags. Paper or plastic? That is so old fashioned!! How about canvas or cloth? Or, like our local fresh farm market has: the farmers provide old feedbags and volunteers sew them into shopping totes for the members! Oh yeah, it means you have to remember to grab them when you leave the house…..okay, get those brain cells working!
7. Go paperless. You’re reading this on your computer so the next step to stopping all that junk mail in your mailbox is at your fingertips. You can switch over to paperless account statements for your bank, credit cards, and utilities. You can pay online through your bank most likely…that also saves on stamps.
8. Clean with Green Products. Years ago, when my kids were little, the concept of green products caught my attention. The fear of poisoning their environment had me search out alternatives to the cleaners my mom had used. I was surprised to find excellent products that not only cleaned as easily, but were made with nontoxic ingredients that would not add indoor pollution to our home. That helped with allergies too!
9. Skip the bottled water. We need to make sure to get enough water, but buying bottle after bottle is not the best way. There are many reusable containers available to fill at home and carry with you. And at the very least, if you do buy bottled water, please dispose of it by recycling!
Finally, this is not just for Earth Day……the more people who can live this way, the healthier we all will be. Do your part. Yes, you….you really need to recognize your responsibility of being a steward.