The big buzz in the news lately is Al Gore's discussions with Congress on Global Warming. His movie, An Inconvenient Truth, brought to light a lot of issues that have been researched and proven ad nauseum in the last 20 years or so.
And yes, they have been proven. Even Bushie himself admitted it. The earth is heating up and there are dire consequences and we have to do something about it.
Many Americans feel that this is kind of an insurmountable task. Too much to deal with. We don't know how to do it--we're of a culture of all or nothings. If we're going to do something, we're going to do it to the MAX! And we're going to be the BEST! And the most efficient and the highest paid and the most advanced and we're going to lead the world!!!
Or else, we'll just ignore it and pretend it's not happening, put it off for "later", make excuses about how we need that big gas-guzzling SUV (you know, for all that off-roading we do in the Target parking lot) or else save it for when we can do it best.
After all, eventually we'll figure out a way to completely reverse the whole global warming thing and clean up the entire environment with technology creating tons of jobs and solve all the world's problems. We're American. It's what we do. Right?
Well, no. At least, I don't buy that. Or I'm not patient enough to wait until then.
So, in our house, we're trying to do our part. Even if it's just a little bit. Because every little bit helps. You do what you can, when you can, because it will make a difference to someone, even if it's not a lot. You don't have to go full-granola super-hippie to change something. You can wear your leather jacket to the food co-op, while carrying your designer purse, and buy something organic and not feel guilty about not doing enough. Do something, it will help.
So here's some of the stuff we've incorporated into our lives. We're not perfect. We still use some Ziploc bags (though I try to rinse and reuse whenever I can), and I sometimes forget to take the center of the toilet paper tube down to the recycling bin. But we're trying. Here's a few things that are working for us. Take from it what you will.
*Driving a Hybrid. Yep. We got lucky. Found one used. We get between 42 and 55 miles to the gallon, depending on how we drive and if it's cold out. (Running the heater really drops the mileage, so when we can, we turn it and the fan off.)
*We share a car. Dr. B often walks or buses to work, and I pick him up sometimes. We live close to his work, which helps.
*When weather permits, we walk to local stores and restaurants, patronizing our local economy and saving gas. (It didn't permit in February. It was too cold.)
*We recycle. Glass, plastic, paper. This is state law in WI, and has been since like 1978. They pick up every other week. We don't even have to sort it!
*We compost. Got lucky again--the previous tenants had put in a composter. We keep a tupperware under the sink for coffee grounds and filters, fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells, etc. (No meat.) We've found that it really doesn't get smelly, despite what you might think. Maybe because it's not aerated by all the other stuff in the trash, I don't know. When it's full, we dump it in. The little buggies work on it, and we shovel out beautiful potting soil. Bonus: our garbage never, ever smells. And there's very little of it.
*We don't buy or use paper napkins or towels. We have a big stash of cloth napkins, and I throw them in the laundry with towels. We'll each use ours until it's dirty, and we have our own napkin rings in a basket to keep them in, so we don't share germs. (Which we share anyway, because we're married, but at least I don't have to wipe my piggies on his mess.) I got a mega-pack of cheap thin washcloths at Shopko, and we use these for spills, etc., that you'd use paper towels for. They also get thrown in with towels. I have been amazed at how much waste this simple change has reduced--and not to mention the cost! Haven't gotten to cloth hankies over Puffs yet--a bit too squeamish for that.
*I got a mop with a head you can wash, and a floor sweeper (like a swiffer) with a cloth head you can wash. Ditto for dust cloths. Why pay repeatedly for boxes of throw-aways that will fill up the landfill, and cost a lot (money-wise and ecologically) when you can throw it in the machine and it works again? And don't get me started on those toilet cleaners and shower systems. A can of Comet ($0.89) and a little elbow grease do amazing things--and won't clog our landfill in 3 years when you get tired of paying 8 bucks for refills.
*We use compact fluorescent light bulbs. Saves energy, big time, and you hardly ever have to change them. They last years. The light they emit is virtually indistinguishable from regular incandescents, and you can find them on sale for about a buck each. Well worth it. They are recyclable, and you can read about it here.
*We have a programmable thermostat, set at 68 only when we need it (5:30-7 AM, 4-9:30 PM.) The rest of the time it's at 62, because we're usually not here or sleeping. We use lots of blankets on our bed, and have a space heater in the bedroom for really cold nights. Our landlords put the thermostat in, but we love it and will install one wherever we go.
*Dr. B uses a stop valve that he installed on the shower. When he's soaping up or shaving, he stops the water, and restarts it when he rinses. I don't do this. I get too cold. I tried, really. But at least he does!
*We don't run water while washing our face or dishes. We fill the sink, and use that. You'd be amazed how much goes down the drain when you're picking at your blackheads or soaping up a dirty pan. I clean the sinks often, so the germ thing is negligable.
*We don't buy anti-bacterial products. Dr. B was a geologist before becoming a nanotechnologist/chemist/photovoltaicist (I made that word up!), and he's very passionate about this one. Anti-bacterial products leach into the groundwater, making SuperBugs that are resistant to everything. We use plain old Ivory bar soap, and don't use Colgate Total toothpaste (did you know it has Triclosan in it? That's putting pesticides directly into your mouth!!! YUCK!) Note: I teach middle school band, and substitute all over the district. I have kids spitting/coughing/sneezing on me constantly, and am not sick very often. Your body can fight amazing things with just the help of soap and water. Let it.
*We try to buy local food whenever possible. It doesn't have to travel as far, using less gas and packaging. Plus, it tastes better and has more vitamins. Who wants lettuce that has traveled further in its life than you have?
*Packaging: if we can buy something with less, we do. Simple as that. Bar soap, wrapped in paper (degrades quickly by itself) vs. liquid soap in a bottle that had to be created, shipped, stored and eventually will have to be shipped again and energy used to recycle it. Pretty easy decision, but not one you always think about.
*We try to bring reusable bags to the grocery store. Try. Don't always remember, and often don't have enough so we end up coming out with a mix. But sometimes we do remember, so that counts!
So, are we perfect? No. Of course not. We still do stuff that's not great for the environment. But these things are helping, if even just a little. Dr. B commented today, after putting out the garbage and recycling, "you know, we really don't produce very much waste anymore." The little things are adding up. Imagine if everyone in the US did just a few more little things--how much of an impact could we make?
So here's my question for you: what else are you doing that we haven't tried/thought of/heard of? I'd love some more ideas! Doing good makes me feel good--and I like feeling good.
I am an American, after all.