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I am an American. I am both proud and ashamed of this statement. On one hand i live in the land of the free, I can vote, I can say what I please, own a gun, choose my job and love whomever I please. On the other hand I live in an obese wasteful nation that is set in its ways and whose leaders and people are unwilling or incapable of change.
WE must change as individuals before we can change as a nation! Not only will going green help to better our nation, but it can help keep money in your pocket. I have saved tons of money over the past year and greatly reduced my carbon footprint by making some simple life choices. In this post I will describe some of the small life changes I have made to help our nation become more green and how simply recycling isn’t going to save us.
If someone were to ask “What do you think of when someone says ‘Going Green'” most people would probably say “recycling.” While recycling is great paying attention should come first and foremost. If you pay attention first you can recognize what you can “Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle”. This simple life choice will help you so much more than you would think. When I first started trying to be green I started recognizing how much we Americans actually waste. I started to pay attention.
Everybody knows not to buy something you aren’t going to use. This is good, but its only a start. When you go to buy products try to pay attention to how it’s packaged. Can anybody explain why our cereal is in a bag in a box? I know the box is pretty and has that cool brand name we have come to love but really… why? Does it really increase the life expectancy of our cereal by such a margin as to waste an entire cardboard box for every purchase? Buying the bulk brand cereal is not only cheaper, but far lest wasteful. Like when I buy trash bags, rather than buy the ones that come in a box, I buy the one’s that have a little strip of sticky paper wrapped around them instead. I still get the same number of bags for the same price, but the amount I have to recycle is greatly reduced. This also goes for many items in a pharmacy. For some reason we put our pills in a hermetically sealed bottle … in a box. WHY? Please pay attention to packaging & recycle what you can. EPA states that in 2007 %32.7 of America’s Municipal solid waste is paper & paper-product waste.
What else might we americans waste? Well three big contributors are diapers, take out waste, and plastic bags. Using cloth diapers is a choice that your family must make as a whole but will help the nations going green efforts TREMENDOUSLY!
Disposable diapers may be convenient and in some cases cheaper if you pay a cloth diaper cleaning service, but they generate so much waste its despicable. Not only that but the chemicals produced, expelled and left on the diapers during the production process are harmful to the environment and YOUR BABY! Since I don’t yet have a child I cannot vouch which is cheaper, but I know that I plan on using cloth diapers even if it costs me a bit more.
I do however go out to eat rather often. The next time you go out to eat and want to take food home, or even when you order takeout, pay attention to how much waste is generated. You will probably find that you end up with a TON of extra crap that you just end up throwing away. I am still working on the habit, but I am trying to carry washable plastic containers in the trunk of my car that I can use to take my leftovers home. This greatly cuts down on styrofoam & plastic waste. I also carry a hobo knife with me (a pocket knife with a fork and a spoon) at all times to reduce the amount of wasted plastic-ware I generate.
Whenever I go shopping I try to remember to carry a reusable shopping bag called a ChicoBag with me. This tiny little bag is very convenient and helps me reduce my plastic waste considerably.
Reuse / Give to Others
The best part about reusing things is when you get to be creative. Many of the things you find on my Creations Page are from old reused materials I found lying around the house. You can make terrariums out of light bulbs, leaf blowers out of a vacuum and a tin can, lazy suzan’s out of old motors & sheets of plastic, and anything else you can think of. Even if you aren’t the DIY type you can still reuse things like plastic bottles & bags or even donate your old stuff to a charity so other people can reuse it. Also, please use rechargeable batteries. I have very slowly built up a good collection of rechargeable batteries and haven’t bought a disposable battery in over a year. I don’t always remember to grab my ChicoBag when I go shopping, so I save the plastic bags I get and use them to dispose of my cat’s pee & poop. I also re-wear many of my clothes, thus reducing the loads of laundry I have to do by a considerable amount. I also hang on to things I find might be useful later. This can occasionally cause a bit of a problem in terms of clutter, but its a minimal price to pay for being green.
Everybody should know what recycling is, but what you should learn from this article is not just the three R’s, but to PAY ATTENTION. When you go to throw something away check it for the little recycling symbol. I have found that more often than not things are recyclable. Even your junk mail! That’s right! You can recycle all that crap you get in the mail instead of throwing it away. To be frank the only things you can’t really recycle are items with food waste (which you should compost if possible), hard plastics, chemicals & batteries. Another thing you should know is that when you recycle plastic and many other materials you aren’t really “recycling” it. It’s actually downcycling . This means that when you “recycle” a plastic bottle you don’t get another plastic bottle, you get something else made with a lower grade plastic, and eventually it can’t be recycled. This is why reduce comes first in the three R’s. One should consume less before you recycle, because even recycling isn’t a great solution and can’t always be done. I hope you will take a few things from this post and apply it to your own life. I’m not asking you to change the way you live, but to simply pay attention.