Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Green Streak

So, a few months ago I won this book on Dani's blog, and while I was happy (it was the first thing I'd won online, ever!) I can't say that I was super excited or anxious to read the book she was sending me. It was about the environment. About how we are all connected. About how what we do matters. It sounded kinda hokey to me. I didn't think it would change anything about my life, except that I could finally say that I read a book about "being green". So I put off reading it for a few months and instead read "The Chamber" for the 10th time (seriously, it's an addiction.) Anyway, once I finished my old beat up paperback, I figured I would check this one out, just to see. And it has been on my mind ever since.

This book is not only written in a way that most people can easily understand and relate to (it's actually kind of funny at some parts), it really brings home the concept of how every little thing we do, good or bad for the environment, has an effect on the Earth and on our fellow creatures, human and non-human alike. We ARE all connected, which, considering the Internet and the whole 'global village' phenomena of the last 15 years or so, shouldn't be so hard to imagine. I think that most of the time we think we are connected virtually, or through communication, but never actually physically connected. But we are. Our environement is. What I do here in Canada has an effect on what goes on in the Pacific Ocean, China, Africa and the Artic. This is the point he really brings home throughout You Are Here.

The book is basically broken down into different trips that the author takes to various places around the world, and he discusses one environmental topic (but sometimes more) relating to the place he's in. In India he talks about our e-waste and trash in general, in the Amazon he talks about deforestation, in Alaska he talks about global warming, and so on. He ties it all together though, and through scientific facts and, well, common sense, he explains how our lifestyle as we know it today is harming the planet and how unless we make some major (and some not so major changes), we won't be able to sustain it, for ourselves let alone for future generations.

The part that I really liked was how he stressed that individual actions CAN make a difference, because (and this is what we need to realize) if everyone did these seemingly insignificant changes, it would make a big difference in the world. Maybe 1 person turning off their lights when they leave the room won't make a huge difference, but if everyone in Canada did it, well, then we'd see some results, and that would benefit everyone in the world, not just in Canada. We need to work together, and everyone needs to pitch in.

I would say that before I read this book I was "green concious." Over the past year or so I've been thinking more and more about what I can do for the environement (partly because it's become so popular in the media, but also just from my own personal feelings), but this book has really inspired me to not only think about making some changes to my lifestyle, but to actually make them. So I thought I would list all the things I'm already doing to help the environment, and also list what I could do better.

What I already do: Use reusable grocery bags (the best decision I've made in awhile!)
What I could do better: I need to remember to bring these bags to ALL stores, not just the grocery store. Wal-Mart, convenience stores, clothing stores all use plastic bags and they can really add up. For heaven sakes, my purse is about the size of 2 plastic bags, I should just be stuffing what I get into my purse!! (after I've paid, of course.) From now on, I will try to remember to say "no bag thank you" when I shop.

What I already do: Turn off the lights when I leave the house.
What I could do better: Turn off/Unplug all appliances that aren't being used. This one is kind of tough, I can't imagine having to plug in the TV or computer everytime I want to use it, but I will start out small and work my way up (unplugging my hair dryer in the morning, and the lamp in my room.)

What I already do: Wash my clothes in cold water.
What I could do better: Use my clothes line more (I tend to use it in only absolutely perfect conditions), or, in the winter, use a clothing rack instead of my dryer.

What I already do: Turn off the water when I brush my teeth.
What I could do better: Conserve more water. The water chapter of the book was one of the most interesting...and scary. Living in Canada (on the Coast in a fairly rural area) I never really considered a lack of freshwater, but it's going tobe a major issue for the next generation, or even later in my own, unless something is done soon. So from now on, I'm going to follow the "yellow, let it mellow" rule for my toilet (TMI? Sorry), I'm going to attempt shorter showers, collect rainwater to water my flowers and, when we get our own house, install low-flow toilets/showers/taps.

What I already do: Take the bus to work.
What I could do better: I could walk during the summer months, or bike. I could also attempt to shop closer to home, instead of going out to the big box stores 15 mins away. I can also not let my car idle, even while in the drive-thru, and if we were to ever buy a second car, we could make sure to buy a hybrid.

What I already do: Buy organic apples at the store (umm, yeah, just apples.)
What I could do better: Start buying locally/organically. I'm super excited about this one, because the whole idea of transporting food and the cost of doing it (the environmental cost, but also the monetary cost) makes absolutely no sense to me. Why would I want to buy apples from the States or even Ontario when I live one hour away from some of the best orchards in the country?! Why can't they be made available in my grocery store chain? So, I talked it over with Dan, and starting on our next grocery trip, we are going to buy our meat, dairy, eggs, bread and produce from a local farmer's market and only buy canned goods/prepared food/foods that I can't get locally, like bananas, from the grocery store. Now, of course, I will have to look into the difference in price when doing this, but if it is at all possible for us to afford it, I would really like to make this one happen. One trip to the grocery store during the week, and one trip to the famer's market on Saturdays. Sounds ideal to me. Also, I would like to try and grow some of my food, like herbs and veggies. Saves money and the trip!

What I already do: Buy 2nd hand clothes (and give my clothes back to 2nd hand stores).
What I could do better: When I do buy new clothes like socks and underwear, see if I can buy organic/fair trade and labour brands.

What I already do: Recycle.
What I could do better: Recycle better. I'm really good about recycling plastic and glass bottles and food boxes (cereal, etc), but I'm not so great about recycling paper, which is a huge waste. I need to put a little box/bin next to my garbage bin and mark it as "paper" so that I can get into the habit (and also get into the habit of recycling my scrapping papers too!) Also, before it comes to recycling, I need to reduce what I use. Reduce the amount of packaging I buy when possible (this one hit hard, I can't remember exactly how much it is but over 50% of the trash we throw out is packaging.) Choose products that have as little packaging as possible, even if it's something that you can recycle.

Well, I could go on and on, but those are just a few examples. I hope that I've maybe given you something to think about, and I haven't scared you away from thinking green. It's really not that hard. If I can do it, then anyone can...really ('cause, trust me, I am the least "hippie" person you'll meet, so it's not about going totally granola.) At first you are "hyperaware" of everything you do (which is good), but after awhile it will become (or so I hope) like second nature (which is better.) And if we pick up these good habits now, then our children will pick them up as well, naturally, so hopefully they won't have to deal with the same issues that we do. We all need to stop the "someone else will do it" and "it won't make a difference" attitudes we have when it comes to the environment, suck it up, and do our part. Get others to do their parts as well. Spread awareness. Read this book. Go green!

How "green" would you say you are? Has anyone else read this book? I'd love to hear your comments!


Some green Flickr Favs as of late:

1. Weinheim, 2. jump shots never get old., 3. Little Mac, 4. spring is in the air, 5. falling for you, 6. Untitled, 7. Parkhouse Hill #1, 8. How many stanzas in the springtime breeze?, 9. Floating colors.... Created with fd's Flickr Toys." hash_id="3507462239">1. Weinheim, 2. jump shots never get old., 3. Little Mac, 4. spring is in the air, 5. falling for you, 6. Untitled, 7. Parkhouse Hill #1, 8. How many stanzas in the springtime breeze?, 9. Floating colors....

(One last thing, this was a good link I read on Earth Day. Alot of the same things I mentioned above are listed as tips, and she included tons of links as well: 40 Tips to Go Green at Home - Simple Moms)

(Back to regularly scheduled blogging next week)


Aimee said...

This post really hit home for me. I am about where you were before you read the book. I've got to get my hands on it now, I want to be better and it sounds like it gives some great insight. Thanks for the inspo!

Selena said...

glad to see you moving in a greener direction. I wish everyone would.

Mandi said...

So great! I took an oceanography class this semester which was really an eye opener for me.

marit said...

Eyes are opening all over the world for this... I'm glad that more people start thinking/reading and (most of all) DOING something about it!