By Kate Agliata:
The laundry is piling up, e-mails need responding, and your 3rd grader still needs help with her homework—you have enough on your plate as it is, without the added pressure to transform your entire lifestyle toward greener living. I hear you, really. Not to mention, buying organic (anything) can, at times, be a bit pricey. But before you give me an Amen sister, you should know that green living doesn’t have to be as time consuming, complicated, or even as expensive as you think. In fact, these are often some of the greatest misconceptions about making green changes to your life. Being environmentally aware means striving to make the planet a better place to live; but for you and your family, it also means making healthy choices, and also about living more simply, so that you can enjoy more of life—concepts you probably already strive toward. The most important first step you can take toward living a greener lifestyle is to do away with the pressure and expectations you feel about it all. Looking beyond the big (and often intimidating) picture of green living can allow you and your family the freedom you need to set simple, realistic, and manageable goals. Here are several easy, yet efficient ways to green certain aspects of your life, without breaking the bank.
Recycle- This one is easy. It’s also a great place to rev up the family’s motivational factor by getting everyone involved. Make it a game to see who can keep more recyclable items out of the trash, and placed into the recycling bin. Depending on where you live, you might already have weekly curbside recycling pickup available. If that isn’t the case however, many contracted garbage collectors now offer recycling pickup for a small, additional monthly fee (an extra $5/month gets my recycling picked up biweekly by Waste Management). There are also numerous conveniently located area recycling centers that accept drop offs.
Kick the bottled water habit- In this well developed world in which we live, bottled water is typically no healthier than the water that comes straight from your home water tap. If you are among those who purchase bottled water strictly for the taste, you may want to consider installing a water purifier into your home’s water system. Approximately 80% of plastic water bottles are not recycled each year, and instead, end up in landfills, lakes, rivers and oceans, causing substantial environmental damage. In addition, the U.S. alone utilizes an astonishing 1.5 million barrels of oil for mere production of plastic water bottles. Ditching the disposable habit and simply buying a few reusable water bottles for your household will not only save you loads of money, but it’s also another easy and realistic way to live greener.
Reusable shopping bags- Similarly to plastic water bottles, plastic bags account for a significant amount of environmental pollution, in fact, less than 1% of them are recycled each year. Additionally, the manufacturing process of plastic bags requires the use of numerous toxic hazards in its production. Using cloth bags instead of plastic, is quickly becoming the trendy thing to do, so it should be easy, right? That is…only if you could remember to actually bring them to the store each time, right? Don’t sweat it. It typically takes an average of four weeks to make an act into a habit. Stick with it. You’ll be lugging two weeks’ worth of groceries in canvas bags from the car before you know it.
Shop local-Farmer’s Markets- The foods we tend to buy at grocery stores have typically already traveled great distances. This transportation requires extensive use of fossil fuel energy and results in the emission of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and the leading contributor to global warming. Next time you head out to shop, give the big box stores a rest and instead pay a visit to the local, little guy in town. Farmer’s markets provide a fun outing for the whole family, often offering live music, arts and free samples as well. They give you a great reason to shop locally, eat fresher foods, and because you’re buying direct, you’ll tend to reduce your grocery bill as well.
Eat less red meat- When you cut out a portion of your family’s weekly red meat intake, you’re not only saving some green in your wallet, you’re also helping to drastically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of red meat. Designate one to two dinners a week as being meatless nights and you’ll feel good about making significant strides toward greener living.
Buy (gently) used- Buying used clothing or other items, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality or this year’s fashion trends. Trust me, I know, you have enough of a hard time justifying spending oodles of money on a coat you’ll wear for the next five years, let alone spending the same oodles of money on a coat your three-year-old will wear for the next three months. This is where consignment sales come into the picture—I promise you, everyone goes to them (yes, even your snobby neighbor whose daughter exclusively wears Hannah Anderson). Arrive early enough to one of these consignment events and presto, you still have complete access to well-made, quality clothing; only you’re not relinquishing a small fortune in exchange by shopping this way. Thrift stores, yard sales, and Web sites like craigslist.com, are also other great options for scoring gently used items.
Give experiences, not stuff- It’s a given, being human means that you will create, obtain, and bring into your life an enormous amount of stuff. Add children, and guilt, I mean gifts, associated with holidays and birthdays, and your household almost instantaneously becomes filled with a plethora of clutter, knickknacks, and other, often unidentifiable objects. Although you can’t control what others give you, you can however, take a personal, greener step in reducing the craziness through your own gift giving efforts. The next time your child is invited to a birthday party, give a gift certificate to spend an afternoon ice skating or toward the indulgence of special treats at a local ice cream shop—instead of buying another Barbie doll or race car. Web sites such as BigBham, and other deal of the day sites, are great resources in finding daily deals on local and unique experiences.
Kate, a freelance writer and mother of two, most often finds creative inspiration in writing, but occasionally at the bottom of an empty wine glass. She has hijacked her family’s former lifestyle and is in the midst of creating a simpler and greener approach to life. To follow her family’s challenges and successes in this endeavor, visit her blog, at Kate’s Musings. She and her family have lived in Birmingham since 2009.