We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences.
– Marian Wright Edelman
We experience global warming, there are mountains of garbage everywhere, forests are being cleared, and our seas are dying. The situation is rather dire, but I’m holding on to the belief that I can make a difference, so I’m going to do something about it. Taking from the words of Patagonia’s visionary founder Yvon Chouinard:
There’s no difference between a pessimist who says ‘it’s all over, don’t bother doing anything’ and an optimist that says, ‘everything’s going to be fine, don’t bother doing anything.’ I’m a total pessimist that thinks it’s all over, but I’m going to do what I can so that I’m part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
With that said, I’m brushing aside both pessimistic and optimistic thinking in favor of hopeful doing, with these “green habits” that you can also get started with:
1. Colder showers
For many of us, shower routines are precious. I know I personally cannot commit to happily taking a cold shower everyday for the rest of my life. However, turning down the thermostat of the heater is not a bad compromise. First of all, colder showers can help save up on the electricity used to heat the water. Usually colder showers also mean less time dilly-dallying and less water used. For every minute less you spend in the shower, you could actually be saving up to 5 gallons of water. As an added bonus, it’s also a great way to wake yourself up in the morning.
2. Skip the straw (or any other unnecessary stuff when dining out)
It’s not just about the straws. Don’t get me wrong, skipping the straw is already a wonderful achievement. Whenever we buy food to-go, it’s so easy to just take whatever the establishment gives us–napkins, paper bags, plastic utensils. As with anyone wanting make a difference, we need not take things as they are just because this is the way things have always been done. Make it a habit to ask yourself if you really need all those napkins, or if you need to use disposable utensils when you have reusable utensils. Feel free to tell them not to give you all of those unnecessary items, and most food establishments will even thank you for helping them cut down on costs.
3. Skip the bottled water
The initial green reason we can think of for skipping the bottled water is reducing the amount of bottles that pile up in the landfills (only 20% of which can be down cycled). However, we are able to reduce much more than that. Skipping the bottled water saves on the resources used to produce the bottles, transport the bottled water, and the money we use to buy a bottled-version of something that is readily available at home.
4. Use the microwave
Obviously, you are not expected to cook all of your meals in the microwave. For heating small portions of food, however, the microwave may be the greener option. Due to the shorter time it takes to reheat food using the microwave compared to the conventional stove or oven, you can use up to 50% less energy.
Now I know that retaining the nutritional value of your food is of utmost importance, so it would be best if to read up on the do’s and don’ts of cooking with microwaves.
5. Read the label
In this consumerist society, reading the label allows us to make better and informed decisions about our purchases. We can use this habit to make greener decisions by checking if made with sustainably sourced raw materials. Another option is to check the country of origin and develop this preference for locally produced products. Reading the label also helps us to make healthier food choices.
“Every time you spend money, you are casting a vote for the kind of world that you want” -Anna Lappe
6. Air dry your clothes
If your electricity bills are sky-rocketing, the dryer may be the culprit. As one of the most energy-intensive appliances in the house, avoiding the use of the dryer can save up on electricity usage. Hanging your clothes outside (or behind the refrigerator for rainy days) instead of using the dryer can save up to 700 lbs. of CO2 per year.
Sam Dizon (@dizoncommasam) is a part-time sustainability researcher, part-time blogger, and full-time lover of the world. She firmly believes in small acts of kindness, world peace, cheap dates, and the efficiency of bullet points. Follow her side-street adventures here: samthingtodo.wordpress.com.