I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed on the PCTV show “The Homeowner’s Survival Track” hosted by Sol Skolnick. You can watch the video, and read on to get my thoughts on how people living in Suburbia can green their lifestyles in a manageable way, and empower themselves with information, and how you can help others raise their awareness and make sustainable changes.
The information is out there. How do we green our lifestyle? Look online, go to a bookstore, or most imporantly, think it through.
As far as I can tell, the biggest changes come when someone starts questioning what’s in front of them, and decides to educate themselves.
Question what’s in a package or accepted ways of getting things done. So if you watch television, you were probably inadvertantly taught how to clean your house, for instance.
MILES and THE PAPER TOWEL ANALOGY
You follow what you’ve been taught. For some reason it became the norm to use Brawny paper towels for cleaning up spills and even general cleaning. So people have adopted the habit of going to the store, purchasing multi-packs of Brawny towels, using them to clean and tossing them away. But as soon as they stop and consider that those towels came from 4,000 miles away, are made from trees, then oil is consumed in transporting them to a warehouse, then they are trucked to stores, then a person drives to pick them up, then they are tossed. Not to mention the plastic packaging. And repeat. Over and over. This is a consumable. Multiply that by all your neighbors doing the same, and their neighbors and people all over the country. Do some math and figuring. How many paper towels are being used right now? Wow. It’s a pretty needless waste in my book.
And that’s a product with limited ingredients: paper and packaging. Imagine if we educated ourselves on something like shampoo. There are often around 25 ingredients. We’d look into where and how each of these ingredients is produced, how it is shipped, how it is processed, and then how the final mixed product is packaged, how the packaging was created, produced and transported, and how it all gets to us. So how far away it comes from. And what those ingredients really are.
Then we add one more thing to this scenario: how it is disposed of. Gone. A lot of people are now conscious of recycling packaging, so perhaps your shampoo bottle is a plastic that can be recyled in your town and you recycle it. But we need to think about the ingredients of those bottles being flushed into our water and soil.
It’s all a matter of awareness. Education. Behavior change.
I think once we educate ourselves in this way we naturally begin to question everything.
Now to the basics of what we can do:
I like to break it down into rooms of a house. This makes it feel more manageable we have do-able goals for change. For instance, we can tell ourselves, “This year I’m going to green my kitchen.”
We could focus on the kitchen or the bathroom or the laundry room or even the outside of the house, like switching over to push mowers or converting our lawns to perennials and vegetable gardens.
Let’s start with the kitchen. It will feel more manageable if we break it down. Set ourselves a goal: ‘this year I’m going to green my kitchen’. Give it some time for educating yourself and your family. Deciding what changes to make, getting used to new patterns of behavior, purchasing.
Top 5 things we can do to green our kitchens
1- Food: begin by buying educating yourself about one food category and switching over to buying those foods locally and sustainably grown. Let’s start with Meat. There are lots of regional producers of chicken, beef, pork and lamb. You can find these meats at area farmer’s markets.
For a more thorough education, go meet the farmers. See the property, how they produce, what they feed their animals, how they treat the soil and the water. That’s your water supply. Water connects us.
So that helps about 7 months a year. There are a few year round markets here in Westchester: one in S. Salem, one in White Plains. There is a local foods market in Bedford Hills. Meats can often be ordered from a farmer directly and frozen. Added benefit to greening your meat supply is that the meat will have more flavor, have more CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid) which is a healthful free fatty acid.
And yes, I’m an environmentalist who isn’t saying to become vegetarian.
2- Cleaning chemicals- think before you put any more chemicals down the drain, find out what they are and what they do to our water supply. Start looking into greener alternatives. We have two local manufacturers of green cleaning supplies. The Citrasolv company is right up in Danbury and their products are in all the area health food stores. Sound Earth is in Fishkill, NY. Or get radical and start making your own cleaning agents.
3- Paper: replace your paper towels and napkins with cotton. I find great ones at estate sales! Use cotton rags for cleaning too. Cut up worn or stained towels or cotton sheets.
4- Water reduction. Find ways to clean dishes with less water. This one is a matter of changing habits: don’t leave the water running. Make it a game. How little water can I use to get these dishes clean? Can I capture water to use it for watering plants. I have one friend who captures shower water into a bucket and uses it to flush the toilets. There are levels of how green we get. :)
5- Lights- replace your lights with LED lights. There are cool LED light strips you can easily install under upper cabinets to illuminate your counter work space. LED’s are much more efficient than compact fluourescents, last longer, and are instant on/off, meaning that you don’t have to wait for them to heat up and you can turn them on and off without concern for wearing out the bulb.
This is just a beginning. Just some ideas for a place to start becoming aware and make small changes that will eventually have a huge collective impact. Keep checking back to this blog for more ideas, and send me your ideas. I love them, and love sharing them.
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