Looking back at how I was raised and how the household was run, I can say that we were extraordinarily eco-friendly and self-sufficient although we never would have called ourselves that. There was no green movement then and those who talked about doing good things for the earth were thought of as hippies or granola girls, both of which were easily cast as crazy, out there, or of making no sense.
My mother was raised in a relatively well to do family that had a nice home, private school, and fancy clothes. My father was raised by a relatively poor family that struggled and lacked most regular things. However, both of them generally lived with the idea of having a self-sustaining garden, of buying local (and knowing all your local sellers from produce to meat to clothing), of buying only what you needed from food to housewares, of living within your means, thrifting, bartering, of recycling and re-purposing.
We actually never ate granola but we did eat seasonally because we bought directly from the butcher, the fish shop and the local farmers. My mother made a lot of my clothes when I was younger, we resoled our shoes until they were completely gone and my father darned our socks with dental floss. At the same time my mother bought a few expensive Danish teak pieces for our living room from a well-known store, my father did a yearly shop at a gentlemen’s store for his high-quality and expensive suits and cost wasn’t spared when it came to entertaining guests either for an intimate brunch or a big night time summer party. We were a one family car – even when we lived out in the country (my mother biked with me) and when I was old enough to bike I had to go through several hand me downs before I got my first brand new one. We gardened together, we built and revamped houses together, we camped together and we went to elegant dinners together. We participated in every range of life depending on what our needs were. It was about working with our means and our lifestyle. It wasn’t a movement, it wasn’t extra effort, it wasn’t hard or something deserving of a brownie badge. It was just basic, every day living.
I think the biggest misconception is that the eco-movement is that – a movement. Something that only some people are doing, something that doesn’t have to be done. Something that only those with money or without children can do. Something that is for them, not us. Something that takes energy or time when the truth is, it’s just about conscious living. About being respectful of yourself and your environment which then leads naturally to being aware and respectful of the total environment.
I most likely won’t have a home run on solar panels. I won’t be buying an electric car and I’m not raising chickens. I don’t sew or thrift, I’m not vegan and can’t imagine giving up fish or eggs. But I’m conscious of the way I live, where I shop, what comes into my home and what goes out. And, as the saying goes, a waterfall begins with only one drop and look what comes from that.
So, in honour of Earth Day I bring to you my favourite links, tips and ideas:
If I could offer a few ways to start I would say the biggest difference can come from cleaning your home using organic and natural cleaners. This is so easy and mainstream now that there’s no reason not to (and here’s a list of my favourites). I think this is especially crucial if you have children, pets, elders or any one with breathing problems living under your roof. Don’t put bleach down the drain – there are safer alternatives. There are easier, more natural ways to clean floors. If you can’t afford to buy organic paint, at least clean the walls in an eco-friendly way.
The second is organic food. I have no idea why so many people have issues with this and think it’s elitist. Putting chemicals, antibiotics and hormones into food is a relatively new thing in human food. If you look at all the diseases and health issues that are plaguing people at an alarming rate, don’t you think there’s some kind of connection? Prevention, to me, is far cheaper than correction. If you can’t make the switch completely, at least make sure your dairy and meat is hormone and antibiotic free, especially if you have children. Then move to fruits and veggies. This can be tricky in a lot of parts of the US and the world and even trickier if you have a family. But consider the long-term benefits and then also re-think your eating. If people went for hundreds of years without processed food, maybe you can, too. Fresh when you can, organic when possible, and the simpler the better for your budget, your waistline and the environment (no good can come from a 5lb of jar of pickles from Wal Mart).
The third is awareness of your usage of things from water (brushing teeth, showering, washing you face, dishes) to electricity (do you need to run the AC all the time or the heater. Can you turn off more lights or put in new lightbulbs?) to garbage (if you’re throwing out a lot of food every week, rethink your buying/eating habits). It’s amazing how just being aware of what you use can change not only your environmental impact but your pocket book, too. Instead of running the heat in my flat when it’s cold, I run a small electric heater. My gas bill has gone down by more than half and my electric bill hasn’t gone up at all.
There are so many other little things you can do – from making sure you recycle at home, consume the food you buy (don’t over buy), think twice before buying something you don’t need, get to know your local shops and boutiques, think about your environment and then move those thoughts to your community.
What not to do on Earth Day
Great article from Treehugger on tips and ideas of what you shouldn’t do.
Printed on recycled paper with lots of fantastic (but never preachy) eco-friendly information from lifestyle to fashion to activism. I really enjoyed the feel of this new magazine, both in holding it and in reading it. It’s refreshing to see something eco-friendly and stylish without lacking substance but without being too granola-y. It’s smart, it’s fun, and it’s totally worth buying. They even have a blog.
Kelly LaPlante interview on Design Sponge
I have the pleasure of knowing Kelly and what I love about her is how genuine, laid back and incredibly brilliant she is about the eco-living lifestyle. Her enthusiasm for life is infectious as are her designs. She’s someone who walks the walk and didn’t jump on board to be cool but because that’s just how she rolls.
I love the idea of Guerrilla gardening and may or may not have participated in throwing seed bombs into empty lots. If that doesn’t sound like something you can do, check out the Plant a Billion site. I’ve often wondered if we greened more urban space – especially in poor inner city areas – would that have a positive effect? If gardens were put in, trees that bloomed in spring were planted, if kids could smell grass just after it’s been cut, if people lived in beautiful areas would it change their habits and thinking? Well, let’s start with each planting a tree for $1 and see.
Energy Efficient Home:
Post I wrote on ways the government can help you make your home efficient from free audits to low or no interest loans for new AC’s and natural lawns.
Wash Clothes the old Fashioned Way
With the exception of towels and bedding, I really don’t use a washer and dryer. I prefer to hand wash most things which is great for the environment and fantastic for my clothes. I’m really good at getting whites, white without bleach.
Moving in no fun but a few ideas and tips can make it cheaper and easier on the environment (and hopefully you).
Tonic Mail Stopper (formerly Green Dimes)
I signed up with this service when it first came out and I am happy to report it’s effective in eliminating junk mail for me. This is huge considering how many trees are used to produce materials that most people throw away (not recycle).
Craigslist and Freecycle
I have had a lot of success with Craigslist in selling furniture or items I no longer needed. It’s free to post and you’re almost sure to get a response. It’s a great place to look for items you might need, too. Freecycle was great when I had a million magazines to get rid of. A local art organisation came and picked them up!
Recycling at Staples
These stored are abound in the US and make e-recycling easy. From computers to cartridges to cell phones and batteries, by bringing in your goods you do good for the environment and your piggy bank (they give you an in-store discount!)