Green in 15 // Living a More Sustainable Life

>> Friday, February 24, 2017

When I was deep into my college years, I was taking mostly writing + anthropology classes. I also flirted with a minor in environmental studies. Over and over again, we'd calculate our ecological footprint and then spend a lot of time talking about ways to be more sustainable. It was a practice I completed often. And -- at the time -- my footprint was impressively small.

I've toured pioneering co-housing communities, interviewed people who have built their own straw-bale houses, lived in a town where composting has been mainstream even at restaurants, farmers markets, and beyond for years longer than I've been alive. Where local food and farm-to-table seems like the natural choice.

It's funny how moving an hour or so away can make sure a difference . . . but when you don't have a community set up for cultivating this type of lifestyle, it's much more difficult to do it on your own.

So, I thought I'd revisit this whole activity of calculating my carbon footprint. (Here's how you can, too. It takes less than 15 minutes!) The quiz is sort of difficult and required a bit of estimation on my part. Anyway, our family's result was 35 tons of CO2/year. That's actually pretty good. Apparently 44 percent better than average. Before I pat myself on the back, I think a lot of that has to do with not doing any air travel or travel in general, basically ever.

If you're not thrilled with your results or -- like me -- you just want to do better, there are tons of little tweaks you can make in your routine to get there. These are the absolute basics. Consider it a refresher course. In other words, we ALL know this stuff and just need reminding.

If you eat meat, you can try eating less of it. 

Obviously, this is a vegetarian site, so you know I'm all about loving plant foods and all. I think our family could shift to a more plant-based diet because we do get dairy heavy from time to time. Even people who are hardcore carnivores can make a big impact by going meat-free at least some of the time. If you do choose to eat meat and animal products, try choosing local sources as often as possible.

Do the waste-free thing. 

One of my professors used to carry around a fork and spoon inside of a clean napkin everywhere he went. That way, he wouldn't need to use plastic utensils AND he'd have some easy "packaging" if he wanted to take something home. And the man even used that large napkin to bring salad greens home -- sans dressing, of course.

I've written more about our quest to create less waste, so if you're interested you should give it a read.

Some of my favorite waste-free tools include:

Use your car less often. 

This seems like an obvious, but if you live in an area like we do -- public transportation (or alternative modes, like biking or walking) isn't so friendly. Small communities like Ithaca and large cities have it figured out. But where we live, the routes are spotty (and dangerous) between areas and at times quite inconvenient. Still, this is an area where we could surely improve. I'm trying to group my shopping trips with other errands so we don't need to head out on multiple occasions, for example.

I also try to walk as much as possible to run errands despite not living in a very pedestrian friendly area overall. Our neighborhood, though, does have some spots that are handy and close-by. For example, we've changed our pharmacy to the one that's closest to our home, we use the vet that's closest, we use the doctor (for Stephen and myself) that's closest, we chose the preschool that was closest so I could walk, etc., we often go to the diner that's a half mile away simply because we can walk there.

Turn out the lights.

One thing I always find funny (and I mention this because they're coming today), is that my in-laws are always turning all the lights on in our home. I never notice it being dark or too dim when they aren't here. We just . . . don't turn on many lights. Maybe in the kitchen while we're cooking. Otherwise, I try to rely on the daylight and as few lamps as possible. We've also moved to LED bulbs in many rooms.

Now that the daylight hours are longer, this one is an easy change! At very least, turn out the lights when you leave the room.

Buy less, want less, etc.

This whole minimalism trend (because you have to admit, it's become a trend) does have something worthwhile inside of it. And I know not everyone does minimalism because it's the "cool" thing -- but all the videos on YouTube may make you scratch your head. Anyway, buying less is great for your footprint. Or if you do buy, maybe consider buying more items second-hand. (Poshmark, ThredUp, and other online shops make this easier, too. But I still favor my local stores because they are the least expensive.)

Here's an outfit I wore this week that was entirely second-hand, save the VT-made bag I bought on Etsy from my talented internet-friend Tessa at Foliage.

Of course, always try your best to reuse and repurpose your stuff before buying, too. I'll be back in the future with some more specific ways you can move toward sustainability in your home. If you're new to the blog, check out my Green in 15 series, my homesteading posts, and some of the related links below. There's tons of good reads in the archives!


Green in 15: Revamping Your Cleaning
DIY Natural Lotion Cubes
Powerful DIY Laundry Detergent
Cleaning with Vinegar
5 Green Cleaners That Work
5-Minute Homemade Deodorant
8 Ways We've Eliminated Plastics
Cleaning Produce The Natural Way
Chemical-Free Clean With Castile Soap

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