Thursday, April 24, 2008

Easy Green #5- Be an Environmental Super Hero

I started this series because I wanted to give people some simple tips to live greener. I stopped writing this series because, frankly it bored me. Switch to CFLs. Yawn. Like you haven't heard that a frajillion times.

After giving it some thought, I decided that I do want to go back to this series because you know, I have been on this green journey for almost eight months, but some of you are just starting out. So look for some more simple tips in the future.

But for today's "easy green" tip I'm going to offer you a bit of a curve ball: think big.

I'll be honest with you. A lot of people tell you to try living more greenly by dipping your toes in the water. But I didn't do that. Eight months ago, I recycled only when it was very convenient, I liked to eat a lot of Top Ramen, and I drank almost exclusively Fiji bottled water. That's right, folks. Plastic bottles of water from across the WORLD.

So what did I do? Well I'll tell you what I didn't do. I didn't immediately stop eating Top Ramen and other packaged food. Nor did I stop drinking Fiji. Some might think that giving up bottled water was a pretty easy change, but it just wasn't. Not for me.

Instead, I gave up buying new stuff. For a whole year. No toe dipping for me. I dove straight into the deep end of the Eco-nut pool. And I barely knew how to swim.

But I figured it out. I used Ebay, and bought used books at Amazon Marketplace. And as the months wore on, I found I was even buying fewer used things. I just no longer had much of an appetite for shopping.

The point is, sometimes it's easier to make the big changes than the small changes. Sometimes it's easier to change your whole way of life, than to give up plastic bottles of water. (Yes, I did eventually give them up.) I think bigger changes allow you to feel like you're accomplishing something. Changing your lightbulbs is nice and all, but it's hard to feel like you're doing anything meaningful. By contrast, when I stopped shopping, I felt like I was Doing Something. I felt like I was kicking down doors, and taking names. In short, I felt a little like a super hero.

So, today, I'd like to encourage you to think big. Think crazy. Think "my sig-o will kill me." And then try it out. For a week. Or a month. Or a year. You might find that the bigger changes are the easier changes to make after all.


hgg said...

I think that strategy is a good one but one really need support from people around. If one's partner isn't as keen on the super hero thing I think it can be pretty difficult to follow through.

ruchi said...

You're right. Ideally your change will cause your partner to freak out, and then they'll slowly get on board.

Anonymous said...

Frajillion. he. he. :-)

pink dogwood said...

I know exactly what you are saying. I wanted to get fit, so I signed up for a marathon - got a lot of grief about it for my family. Whatever..

I envy what you are doing, but is it easier to do it when you are by yourself (I am assuming that about you) and harder to do when you have a spouse and kids (and stubborn parents) to convince? Don't know - no impact man did it somehow, so why can't I? I get what you are saying, but I am still trying to start out small - like no plastic bags. My next things is to learn to live without paper towels - that's a tough one for me.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, kids are easy, especially the young ones. They take what we give them and they learn what we teach them. So that leaves the spouse.

I think aiming big is way to go when it comes to personal changes. Starting small maybe a more effective approach to bringing on board the involuntary participants/unknowing victims :)

The end goal - The Incredibles!

ruchi said...

Pink Dogwood, you're right. It is more complicated when you have a spouse, and children. However, many of the big changes I made were personal changes. Your spouse isn't really affected if YOU stop buying new stuff. He doesn't have to stop. (Though as the months go on, he might decide to.) Or if you decide to take public transit to work. Or if you decide you want to grow some of your own food. In fact, sometimes it's the little stuff that causes more rifts (like the paper towels.) But I think Cindy makes a good point. For personal changes, you can think big. If you want to bring along your spouse, gradually bring about the change.

Sam said...

So I have to ask the question I've been dying to ask fuji bottled water drinkers. What is the attraction that fuji bottled water had over you? I'm convinced its the shape of the bottle. Is it the shape?

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

If you want a big change that will make a big difference, quit eating meat. It is one of the biggest green steps we can take. And it is a big step toward relieving the issues behind world hunger as well. I have written about it and reference a couple of excellent articles at but there are lots of places to go. Just Google 'environment meat'

Anonymous said...

Is it weird that I've actually found the big changes easier? Going 90% meat-free...simple. Not buying stuff this month (Crunchy's challenge) sweat. Hell, after April ends I'm even getting an electric bike for my 20-mile commute to work, so cutting way back on the driving will be a cinch.

But trying to shake the fast food monkey off my back? Oi. Still chipping away at that. And I still forget to shut the fridge door while refilling my water pitcher - unbelievable but true.

Green Bean said...

I hear ya. I came at this mostly through a series of small steps but with a massive shift in paradigm. Some big changes are probably easier and it is easier to remember one major thing - okay, I'm not buying anything for a year - while you chip away at the small things.

As to a spouse and kids, I'm with Cindy. My kids will mostly go along with what I do. As to my spouse, there are a number of changes that he embraces. He loves eating local, freshly prepared food and would never want to go back. Even the reluctant spouses get used to most things - the crunchy jeans from line drying, the single CFL bulb on at night, the heat turned down. It is just an adjustment and a change in habit.

I will say this, Arduous, though I didn't start with a major change, now that my life as a whole is totally different, I walk around every day feeling like a super hero. People blather on about what can one person do, what real difference will it make, blah blah blah. Who cares! I feel like freakin' Wonder Woman - ain't no one can stop me! I am living in accordance with my ideals. That alone is priceless.

Theresa said...

Big changes can be easier for sure! Paradoxical, but true! It seems like they're easiest when a "eureka" moment of some kind happens and then things just aren't the same anymore, and you aren't the same anymore and so you do different things. I became a vegtarian this way. I made eye contact with a sad chicken in a transport truck and I stopped eating meat.

The good part is that small changes and big changes both help!

Anonymous said...

I promise I'm not trying to be anyone's super hero, but I gave up my car (donated it) a year ago and it was the most liberating thing I've ever done. The rewards became bigger as the year went on. I enjoyed the challenges of thinking creatively, how to plan my day and errands. True confession - I live in a city w/ public trans, no kids, no spouse to negotiate with. But there are still so many choices everyone can make that are empowering - we are not victims to the "you better buy it" brigade. We get to find fun creative ways to not bring plastic into our lives, eat healthier - anything we want or don't want. Yeah for us!

Joyce said...

Green Bean hit the nail on the head; it's living true to your ideals (heck it's figuring out your ideals to begin with!) that really matters. And you're doing it.

pink dogwood said...

Ardous - listening to you and other people here is really inspirational. I guess green bean is right about kids.

My husband can be supportive of a lot of stuff. Like, I don't let him spray any chemicals in the yard for weeds ( I actually like weeds - clover being my favorite) - so he was a real sweetheart and bought me some nice tools that I can use to dig the weeds out:)

This year I am also trying to grow most of my vegetables - I bought lots of organic seeds and I have about 250 seedlings waiting to start their fruitful journey- I am really excited about that.

Not buying part is hard for me - I went without it for most of the month - but then I was at home depot and saw this really cute pink dogwood tree and I had to buy it - it was only $28.97, but still. Well, other than that I haven't bought anything other than groceries.