Friday, January 18, 2013

"Micro Greens" - Small Changes We Can All Make to Be Greener

If you know me, you might know that I can be a little aggressive about recycling and trying to get my friends to recycle more too. Now that we're in the throes of the whole New Year's resolution season, I've been realizing that many of my "resolutions" are geared towards being more energy efficient and less wasteful this year.

It got me thinking that it might be a nice blog topic - living greener. And I truly mean the phrase "greener" in the least douchey way possible.  It's a stupid phrase that the yuppies have basically hijacked at this point, but just know that I mean well and am not trying to one-up anyone with how smog-free my Prius is. I don't even technically have any car at all, so actually that's the ultimate green one-up... Suckas!

Anyway, I put together a list of small changes that anyone can try to make that will do more good than evil in the struggle for keeping our planet from exploding - and I'm calling them "micro greens". I challenge you to pick at least one thing from this list and do your damnedest to incorporate it into your own life. And for god's sake, don't be shy about leaving YOUR suggestions for micro greens in the comments below!

Some of these are things that I already do, but some are things I want to work on this year:

1. Stop running the water while you're brushing your teeth. I'm making this the first item on the list because it's something I've been doing for most of my life at this point, so I can safely say it's easy enough that EVEN A CHILD can do it. Turn the water on when your toothbrush is below the faucet head. Turn the water off when your toothbrush is not below the faucet head. Simple! It's just a habit folks... so get into it. Ultimately, you want to get to the point where you feel like a jerk whenever you notice that there's water running down the drain that you're not using.

2. Turn the lights off every time you leave a room that no one else is in. Every time! Only leaving the room for, like, "one second"? Who cares? It's still "one second" that doesn't require the lights to be on. You're leaving the room lit for "one second"... for no one! Think about how little energy it requires to flip a light switch off and on. No really, envision it now. That's all the energy you must summon to turn the lights off on your way out of the room, and then summon again to turn the lights back on once you re-enter the room. Now, make yourself feel like a jerk anytime you feel too lazy to do that on your way out of a room.

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3. Eat a little more seasonally. Bookmark this site for eating "in season" foods: My friend Kim shared this link in her blog the other day, so thanks Kimbew. Not saying you cannot stray from that list and that you must eat in-season all the time, or else face elimination. But maybe it'll inspire you to eat a little more in-season than you had been before - maybe you can make one of the in-season foods part of one of your dinners this week, to start. Eating in-season means that your food is traveling a shorter distance to get to you because it's not being grown in some tropical location thousands of miles from your dinner table. That means less fuel is being used for your food to make it to your plate.  AND THAT MAKES THAT SHIT GREEN. (#TransitiveProperty) Now, don't you feel like a little more of a jerk for eating that strawberry in Alaska in February?

4. Re-use plastic bags. "Paper or plastic?" is becoming a less-common question around North America, it seems. Many places are either ditching plastic bags in total favor of paper, or trying to phase out bags altogether via the "shaming you into bringing your own re-usable bags" method. But for all you folks who still live in places where plastic bags are common, chew on this:  Those plastic bags are re-usable, too... You don't need a fancy-schmancy cloth bag if you've got a stash of 175 plastic bags in and around your home. Bring those back to the store to re-use for your new groceries. Many supermarkets also have bins where you can bring back your extra plastic bags for recycling. It's important to use bins like this instead of recycling the plastic bags in your regular home recycling, because those bags can't go through the processing procedure that other plastics can go through - they'll clog everything up!

And you know those smaller plastic bags that you get in the produce section of the market, that you fill up with apples or oranges or avocados? You can re-use those, too! Why not bring those smaller bags back to the store to re-use those for your produce? If you get to the point where you feel really shitty anytime you've just put a plastic bag into the garbage, then you're totally on the right track.

5. Don't throw away anything that you can recycle. There's an ad I've been seeing around BC lately that says something like, "Every juice box you throw away instead of recycle says something about you." And there's a little angry juice box looking back at you with arms crossed. He's just been talking shit about you. Get it? "Says something about you"? LOLOLOLOL. Really though, it's a good reminder... every time you toss something into the garbage that you could have recycled, just imagine that item looking back at you, really disgusted and disappointed like, "Really, bro? Really?"

Another way I shame myself into recycling everything that can be recycled is to say to myself, "What if everyone said, 'Nah, I'll just throw it away this time,' instead of recycling?" If everyone made that decision, just once or twice a day, we'd end up with a lot of needless garbage. So pick your favorite self-shaming mantra and repeat it to yourself every time you're thinking about throwing out that soda can instead of recycling it.

6. On the very important flip-side, don't recycle anything that shouldn't be recycled!! This is tricky because it starts out with only the best intentions. You want to recycle, you want to create as little garbage as possible, so you recycle EVERYTHING. Those egg cartons, that empty pizza box, those plastic bags, that milk carton, that razor-like hard plastic that came around your new flash drive. The problem? Not everything CAN be recycled! And things that were fine to recycle in Portland may not be fine to recycle in Vancouver. Every city's recycling program is different - some cities encourage you to throw EVERYTHING together and let them do the dirty work of sorting it all. Other cities are so lazy that if they see an un-recyclable item in a batch of recycling, they'll ditch the entire batch of recycling rather than sort through it all. Do the quick research required to find out the "Do's and Don'ts" of your city's recycling program. Print or write a list of the common items that you can and cannot recycle and post it on your refrigerator or beside your recycling containers. You don't want your greasy cardboard pizza box to be the reason that an entire street's worth of recycling gets tossed into the garbage... DO YOU?

7. Ween yourself off of paper towels. For some, this is no problem because they don't use too many in the first place. For others, this could mean throwing your entire home routine into a "DA FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW?!" machine and adjusting it to the "SHIT'S HITTING THE FAN" setting. If that's you... whoa. I mean, take a deep breath. We're going to get through this. What do you use paper towels for? Some people wipe up every single spill with a paper towel, blow their noses with paper towels, stuff their bras with paper towels, and dedicate 5 minutes every morning to praying to their paper towel roll. But really, how many of a paper towel's uses could be satisfied by one of those reusable kitchen rags or a sponge or a washable cloth rag/towel instead? Become more aware of the fact that paper towels are creating easily avoided garbage. Next time you reach for a roll of paper towels, stop and ask yourself if there's a reusable rag you could use instead. And if there is, then only proceed with a paper towel if you want to feel like a huge jerk.

8. Unplug your shit. Make it a habit to unplug appliances/electronics or lamps that are not in use. It might make you feel a little insane-o or neurotic at first, but it can quickly become a habit that you don't even have to think about. Keep your toaster, coffee maker, and blender unplugged when you're not using them. If you aren't dependent upon it for accurate time-keeping, unplug your microwave between uses as well. Use power strips when possible, so you can easily switch the power off of several electronics at once - this is a perfect thing to do with your TV, DVD player and stereo, for example. Just like #2 on this list, when you think of how little energy it really requires to flip a switch or unplug an appliance, you'll feel like a huge douche for being too lazy to do it. Every little bit of saved energy counts!

So there you have it folks! My list of micro greens for dat ass. As you may have noticed, the secret to living greener is actually just to totally shame yourself every time you do something un-green.

Now that you've read this and probably thought of 8 other "way better!" things you could have written your own micro greens blog about, I want you to do two things:

1. Share your "way better" ideas with me in the comments and make me feel like a jerk for not thinking of them first. Your shame tactics will serve to help make me a better person.

2. Share this blog with someone you give a crap about!

Imagine if every person who read this was inspired to do 3 things on the list, and then passed this blog along to a few others who each were inspired to implement 3 things on the list... It would be the ultimate non-douchey, well-meaning, smog-free Pyramid scheme!

Now go save your planet or else your kids will hate you.

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