Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Moving beyond the 3 R's into the 3 P's

Recycling, reducing, and reusing efforts are going on everywhere. I see people carrying their reusable bags into stores, I hear about people opting to consign, my own neighborhood in the county recently signed on for community-wide curbside recycling now offered by Allied Waste. So perhaps it's time to move beyond the 3 R's into what I believe can be just as powerful: the 3 Ps: Process, Pace, and Pragmatics.

As with any new endeavor, remember being greener is a process and a practice. One day maybe you fell you've taken step forward, then you come home to find your kids left all the upstairs lights on while you all were gone. In meditation it's called the return movement - the most important thing you can do is return and not give up! Keep coming back. Practice makes... permanent. It's not always easy: the same day we started recycling in the 'hood, I drove by a house who was pitching two relatively new looking twin mattresses! Ugh. Stay on YOUR path, keep doing what you're doing. It's worth it (the Planet told me so).

Once you slow down, you can see the folly of fast. This fall I have made a conscious effort to slow down. When I slow down, becoming mindful of each choice and savoring each moment, "smelling the moment" to quote my Nia teachers,I am greener.

Laundry is a perfect example. My mother always tells me to check the pockets - who has time for that?! Sunday I dump the newly-dried laundry on the dining table for folding (later, of course) and begin to see brown flecks on the clothes everywhere! On white collars, my blue sweater, dad's underwear - and there's the offending object: a pack of halloween three whoppers that I confiscated from my four-year old (I have to call out my husband here - he brought these home)! Chocolate specks abound. So I pull out the bio-kleen and my bleach pen that I keep in a far-away closet for emergencies of this type and have to rewash the entire load. You can see where I am going here - if I spend the seconds it takes to clean my pockets, I wouldn't have to spend the minutes and the resources of trying to repair it!

Shopping. The same goes for grocery shopping, now that the farmer's markets have ended and the CSA season is done, we are back at the local grocery stores, searching in vain for local, organic produce. So it takes a bit more forethought and planning and pace. Rather than donning the mentality of "I'll just grab something for dinner on the way home" like I did last week (I had 10 minutes before I had to be home to meet the school bus so I grabbed Salmon and Broccoli - cost of that one in carbon footprint terms: thousands of miles and complimentary color added), make a menu, and take a seasonal approach (with Simply in Season or a similar cookbook's help).

Mail: What do you do with the mail after you've checked it? Taking a couple of minutes to call the catalog that for some reason wasn't taken off the list (even though you've followed Betty directions on the website and sent all your letters) is worth the trees. Also, you can recycle those envelops with the film screen (this was news to Betty from UVA's recycling guru "Sonny" Beale) rather than "toss" them in the landfill.

My car: There is no single object I own that gets the worst of me when I hurry, rush, speed through life as my car: the tires need pumped up - who has time for that? Well-maintained tires save you money at the pumps. I also use my car as the ultimate storage unit: container of trash, clothing, equipment, books, where things get lost and things get spilled. So for two months running we are trying on a friendly relationship with the family car. Kids, don't RUN out of the car leaving everything in. We slow down and bring things in.

I 'm really starting to get it: if you treat your stuff nicely, it will last longer and therefore you won't have to buy another new one!! (Especially helpful with the no-new-buying pledge)

Exception to the pace tool: water use. Please don't slow down when it comes to the dishes, shaving, showering, etc. Short, but sweet is in order here.

PRAGMATICS: Streamline your home, work, school strategy for recycling and reusing and donating. Designate a place for these things in your home. If it's not working, change it. Give yourself a deadline. Make a weekly or monthly date for distributing your donated items or hire Cville Concierge to do it for you!

I hope these 3 P's can serve you in the ways of green!

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