So here’s the thing: most of the stuff that we get fed as being green or sustainable is just green-washing. That green window cleaner is not that green. That organic chicken is probably still cooped up in a well, coop somewhere and eating some really disgusting feed with its waste streams totally unregulated and emitting methane. That cleaner-burning diesel is still blowing out carbon emissions and racking up nitrogen oxide emissions. So what’s a girl to do to make it right in this crazy world?? Well, there are things you can do. Really. Unfortunately it’s not just buying a Prius and calling it a day, but it’s not too painful I promise. If you really care about sustainability and climate change, you can take a few steps that are good for your wallet in the long run: because your wallet will thank you for not living in a totally ruined planet that’s toxic to all forms of life. Where do we begin on this fun journey, you ask? Why, you start at home:
1. Eat Less (or no) Meat and Dairy.
The simplest way to reduce your carbon emissions is to lower your meat and dairy intake. Dairy cows and animals grown for slaughter consume massive amounts of feed and water, to say nothing of the volumes of waste produced. The average American eats about 200 pounds of meat and 33 pounds of cheese per year. By reducing the overall demand for animal food products, we reduce the grave demands we place on our lands with these huge farm operations. Yes, we have to eat. And I personally still eat a small amount of organic meat each year (mostly beef or fish) and I’m working on reducing my dairy intake. The tough questions then become how much of an impact organic operations have on sustainability, since they require more land to produce fewer animals. We haven’t figured out yet the balance between humane treatment and less impact on natural resources, but it’s still a good move away from huge demands for animal products, as businesses, farms and government will start to recognize the trend and respond with better organic operations and incentives towards that model of farming (that’s a big leap with plenty of idealism mixed in, but it’s how we start).
2. Carry Your Reusable Bags with You.
I own at least 30 reusable bags and could never seem to remember them when I was in the grocery store. Last year’s Earth Day yielded me two cotton promotional bags that were large but folded very neatly into my purse. Now I never forget my bags and I rarely ever have more than two bags worth of groceries. It’s felt so great to change my behavior, and I am now trying to find ways to avoid plastic bags everywhere. They are what end up in the North Pacific gyre, in pieces so tiny that fish eat them, thinking it’s food and they die because they think they are eating but are only consuming garbage. It’s a freaking tragedy when you see a fish cut open and revealed to be full of tiny plastic “nurdles” or plastic pellets. Plastics are such a HUGE industry that it’s probably impossible to even somewhat diminish their growth any time soon, but there are areas where we can easily remove our use of plastics. Bags at the grocer, retailer, restaurant and in our brown bag lunches are just a few of them. Use reusable stuff when you pack your lunch. Bring your bags, even to the mall or the restaurant. Use a pooper scooper instead of a bag for your dog’s poop (don’t you wish that invention from the movie Envy was real?).
Changing behavior is hard, and people get defensive (don’t you tell me what to do!). When we do change those behaviors those and see tangible benefits, we’ll continue to innovate and take the next steps to preserving our natural resources and showing them respect.