Monday, August 8, 2011

The Five Ways I Plan on Being Green This Year

I know that being 'green' is a popular trend now days and I know that most people could give at least one example of something that they do to be green. Well Jim and I have both worked very hard to incorporate measures of 'green-ness' in our lives, and we are always striving to improve. So how green are you really? Are you really making a true dent in your carbon footprint, or is it more of a fad that's just hard to keep up with? I want to share with you five things that we are either already doing, or that we plan on implementing during the next year to decrease our rapidly growing impact on the environment.

1. Alternate forms of transportation
Now I'm not saying that alternate forms of transportation means cycling everywhere, but that is an option for us in Arizona once the end of October hits. In fact I think that all too often we don't even think of biking or walking as an option. To me it's the best option because it gives you exercise and is better for the environment. 

For all of the months where walking/riding is not an option, Jim and I carpool and use the light rail. Not all cities have a form of reliable public transportation, but fortunately for phoenix we have a very dependable light rail system and an okay bus system. Jim and I have offices that are close enough together that we can carpool and for the short amount of distance between our jobs I can light rail the rest of the way. I get a discount through my work and a lot of employers and educational institutions offer a  discount to promote public transportation, so in never hurts to ask! 

Now is this the easiest option for us? No! It takes a bit of organization on our part with timing and the logistics of carpooling, but it somewhat becomes second nature after a while. Not only do we do our part to keep Phoenix from getting hotter than it already is, but we save more money in gas than we already did by driving a fuel efficient car!

2. Sustainable shopping
This is not meant to get you to want to buy a bunch of tide, but it is kind of a cool representation of using your resources. :) So what do I mean by sustainable shopping? Well there are three main points I want to share with you:
  • Reusable grocery bags: this seems obvious and easy; the less demand we make for the paper and plastic, the more we help out the environment...but how easy is it to actually follow through with? I can't tell you how many times we start to walk into the grocery store and smack ourselves in the heads because we forgot the bags. Practicing this means planning, making a conscious decision and possibly just driving around with reusable bags in your car all of the time. (It's easier to remember if you bike to the store).
  • Buying local: Being green is in now, and with the rise of big bad agriculture companies and sadly, our government putting some local farmers out of business to keep up with demand, farmers markets are popping up more and more to keep local farming alive. So support it! Find your local farmers market and go once or twice a week. How much healthier do you think it is to eat food that has been picked three days ago as apposed to three weeks ago?!? It's good for you, it's good for your local economy, and the shorter the distance the food has to travel, the better it is for the environment. We have two local farmers markets that we like to go to, and even for Arizona, we actually find a very good selection of fruits, veggies and other goods.
  • Thrifting/learning how to sew: This one is my biggest challenge. I have to say that it's so easy to keep up with the trends and hop on over to Forever 21 to pick up a sun dress or a new top. This is a habit that I really want to get out of. There are so many clothes already made in this world, why do we keep contributing to the waste of brand new clothes? Most of them are from China and have been shipped half way across the world for us to get them! Vintage clothing is typically made in the US and with a little TLC can be made like new again. Part of actively thrifting for new clothes is learning how to tailor them to your body. I plan on taking Elsie's e-course DIY Dress Up to learn how to alter clothes that I've thrifted, since I'm pretty needle and thread illiterate. Now is it possible to have your whole closet all vintage finds? Yes. Is that what my closet is going to look like, probably not. There's a need for items like white tees and underwear, but the more vintage you have, the more unique you are as well! Oh, and I never thought that Phoenix had good vintage flash, you just need to look! EVERY town has them somewhere, they are just hiding.
3. Home Garden
Gardening from home is something that is close to my heart...and I haven't even started! I recently went to a nutrition conference in Kansas City and sat through a session on school and community gardens. I was already very interested in having a garden for our home, but this just made me that much more enthusiastic. Here are some quick benefits to home and community gardens:
  • Less time from the garden to the table: as I mentioned before, the less time your food spends in transit, they better it is going to be for YOU!
  • Less pollution from transporting: when you get fruit from a foreign country or even from a state other than your own, you know that it has spent a lot of time in traveling and more time traveling = more time polluting the air. 
  • Less pesticides and poisonous chemicals: these chemicals are bad for you, the are bad for the plant (killing a lot of the health benefits of the plants) and they are bad for the earth. I feel like man has become too powerful for his own good, and unfortunately it looks as if our technology is hurting us more that it is helping. I  personally feel that there are a lot of greedy people in the world and instead of looking at the consequences that pesticides, chemicals like Round Up and genetically modifying our foods will have, they only look at the dollar signs that come along with them. I truly feel that we are morphing our foods into substances that are no longer good for our bodies. Buy organic and plant organic. 
  • Gardening is good for your health! So obviously more fruits and veggies are good for your health, and this isn't pushing my topic of 'Green' but I still wanted to include it. Studies from the Louisiana State University show that gardening is a great way to combat obesity and promote a healthy lifestyle! Not just by promoting fruit and vegetable consumption, but by getting people into fresh air, getting them active through digging, carrying water in some cases and lifting, and giving them some time to slow down and focus on something mentally. 
4. Eating a plant based diet
I know that this one is going to be a hard one to win people over with...people are very attached to their meat! Now, I enjoy a good steak from time to time, and that's why I cannot justify being completely vegetarian or vegan, plus I think variety in the diet is never a bad thing. It's somewhat selfish, and somewhat realistic for me to not completely cut out all animal products. I know that personally I don't have the willpower to always say no, but some people do. I do however, have justification of why I feel like everyone should try a plant based diet, both environmentally and for their personal health:
  • From the greenhouse gasses produced by the animals themselves (yes as in farts) to the processing and transporting of the end 'product', meat is a HUGE pollutant on the environment. If you want to see for yourself how bad it is, here's a link to a great resource that will show you how eating meat impacts the environment. For example, eating 4oz. of beef is equivalent to driving almost seven miles in a car! (The average steak in a restaurant is more than 4oz. and ranges anywhere from 6-12oz.)
  • If we want to get all of the nutrients necessary for body's needs, there simply is not enough room in the diet for meat. The Healthy People 2010 Guidelines came out last year, and USDA has released their knew 'My Plate' promotional materials to help consumers with the guidelines. I have to say that personally, I'm not sure that I 100% agree with all of the guidelines that came out, but I think that we need to give the average US citizen credit for having a little bit of common sense. Lets think about it, a thousand years ago, did we have all of the marvels of technology that we do now? No, we harvested and ate fruits and vegetables and occasionally meats and grains depending on our region. So why do we think that a diet high in meats, dairy, and grains is the best thing for us? Personally, my order of importance on the food chain: Veggies, fruit, grains (minimally processed oats or grains), dairy, meat. Now, I include them all in my diet, but it's in moderation and balance.
Eating a plant-based diet is a new thing for us. It takes a lot of work and creativity, but in all honesty, I feel better! Replacing meats, breads and large amounts of dairy in my diet for veggies, and fruits has given me more energy and I don't have that gross feeling that I usually get after eating Mexican or Italian food!

5. Making or recycling furniture
This is a new one for us, and while we have a handful of pieces in our house that are family heirlooms or furniture from Craiglist or thrifting, we could do better. The idea isn't to throw out all of our Ikea or store-bought furniture, but over time just replace those worn items with thrifted or hand made furniture. The first example is that we need new shelves in our living room. We are hoping to either find something through thrifting that we can make our own and restyle it, or find parts and wood through searching online (Craigslist) or at auctions and get the materials needed to build it ourselves. The best bet for people trying to do this is to go to a salvage shop. We don't have the best ones in Arizona, but they exist. I think part of the fun is putting in the work yourself and having the satisfaction that each piece is unique to you!

So what did you all think? Are some of these doable or are you practicing them already? What would it take for you to make a change? Jim and I plan on working on these until they are habits, I'll keep you posted on the progress of our projects and try to give pointers on how to successfully implement them.

Share with me any other ideas you have to be green this year!

Keep it real,

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