Saturday, May 3, 2008

Where to begin "going green"?

This is such a great question - I just got an email from Paige at the Blue Ridge Eco-Shop posing this question and I would love to respond with this blog.

Personally I think this is a question that each individual must ask himself/herself.

The landscape of people's lives is as varied and diverse as the plantlife and animal life which are beautifully contained within it. So I prefer to consider "greenness" as a path you choose to be on. It's a process. And a big part of being on that path is refraining from judgement and comparison with someone else's path. No two paths are alike. It's important to honor your own path. So I think the first step is to decide what feels right for you, your significant other, and your family. Also, how are you going to sustain that. There are times when it is easier to be mindful of every choice I am making, and times that aren't. The most important thing to remember is to STAY on the path. You might take one step forward and two steps back. That's O.K. Small changes add up to big change.

There are lots of ways to begin - with your home, your food, your workplace.

I chose to begin with my trash: what am I bringing into my home, what is leaving my home? That focus allowed me to really look at my purchases(the packaging, the quality, where I was buying), and at the same time look at the trash I was generating (the average American family generates 4 pounds of trash a day). That's when I really upped the recycling (streamlining the organization of it being a huge hurdle - the piles can drive family members crazy - plastic here, newspapers, there, corrugated cardboard, non-corrugated, items to be fixed, items to be donated. Solution five bins that have a home in the garage).

Then I started to compost (cross your fingers next weekend I'm taking the bin batch out and putting it in the garden). Most everything except fish, dairy, and meats.

I also went through my home and began eliminating anything I didn't need or want anymore and I took it to Goodwill, Salvation Army, the Clothing Center, the Boys and Girls Club, Freecycle. Decluttering. Unloading some of the unnecessary material goods that add up over time (like pulling weeds).

And instead of replacing all that unwanted "stuff", I began to rethink what I chose to purchase and where. One source that I found completely helpful was New American Dream.

I also started talking to my kids about smart buying. And what happens to all our "stuff" (if you haven't seen "the story of stuff" - it's a must see, 20-minute inspirational video, which will inspire). We invented the term "catalog cranks" - that's where you spend so much time looking at catalogs and whining about what you want that you don't enjoy the things you have right there already. So we have no catalogs around the house.

I have a book called What Kids Really Want That Money Can't Buy, written by the founder of New American Dream, but it's really applicable to all of us. We all want enough safe food to eat, clean air, clean water, flowers in springtime, healthy croaking amphibians in summer, space to throw frisbees, quiet, somewhere to feel connected (community). It's a matter of simplifying and creating space for those values to be truly lived.

In the course of taking these steps, Betty was born!

And now that she's around, hopefully she makes it easier for people to get connected to these better, greener choices. She's that best friend who doesn't judge or criticize you for what you're not doing.

She invites you in for tea and shares information. And when you ask for the "cooking tips" (i.e. where to begin going green) on how to serve up a better, greener Earth, she enthusiastically shares them with you (and only asks that you throw a few bills in the tip jar every once in a while - hence the "donate" button).

That's how I personally began. I would love to hear about your path toward green.


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