I honestly cannot convey my supreme excitement that 2011 is here, at last. Oh, 2011! I’m so thrilled to write you down and lay claim to the fact that nothing but newness lies ahead. I’m feeling renewed, re-energized, and re-motivated to grasp the opportunity of this brand new year to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle even further and to make every day a conscious pattern of decisions, big and little, that are greener and more responsible than before.
To tell you the truth, my fears and hesitations about fully embracing the said “greener” lifestyle have always stemmed from a worry that I simply couldn’t afford it. My bank account is by no means overflowing and there is simply no way that a new battery-powered, gas-saving car will be sitting in my driveway any time soon (okay, likely never). Even slimmer is the chance that I’ll be living somewhere with a full roof of solar panels. Heck, I can’t even promise that every piece of fruit I will buy in 2011 will be organic.
However, there is still room to live greener. No matter what you may have previously thought or been told, the green lifestyle is not just for the “wealthy” and frugalism and green are not mutually exclusive. If you’re afraid you can’t afford an eco-friendly lifestyle yourself, I’m here to tell you that this idea is just plain false. If I can do it, you can too. And for some inspiration to get me (and you!) extra motivated, here are some basic tips to start with:
If money is an issue in your endeavor to go green, than the first thing you need to start doing is prioritizing. You don’t have to sell your car and start walking everywhere (though if you could…!). That is likely just not practical. You also don’t have to go buy the newest, fanciest version of the “greenest” car out there. But, what can you do? Can you downsize to one that gets better gas mileage? One that produces fewer pollutants? Can you drive less by combining all your errands into one trip? Better yet, can you walk to a nearby grocery store? Jog to visit a friend? The added bonus will be getting your exercise, another common New Year’s resolution.
Okay, so you can’t afford to buy all organic. Me neither. Go online and print out a list of the fruits and veggies that are grown using the most pesticides and make it a priority to buy those ones organic. Buy local as often as you can, and do your research on where fruits in your stores come from. Buy organic/local those that would otherwise be shipped from some far-off place across the globe.
As a general rule, the less you have, the less you will continue to consume. Consider getting rid of your TV. You’re going to save electricity for one thing, and that, combined with no longer paying for cable and movie rentals means that you can use the extra money for things like, say, more organic, locally grown fruit.
Get rid of expensive magazine subscriptions that use copious amounts of paper and travel across country in expensive, polluting planes and trucks. Almost every magazine and newspaper is now online and what isn’t can be read at your local library!.
Ready to go even further? Reduce down from two cars to one. Turn the heat down and the air-conditioning up a few degrees. Turn off all the lights not in use, as well as anything that stays in stand-by mode (think computers). Start timing your showers, getting in and out in 5 minutes. Ditch the dryer and start line-drying your clothes. The same goes for the dishwasher. Bond with the spouse or the kids while doing the family’s dishes together nightly.
3. Start Growing
Start a garden. You’ve got the perfect opportunity now in January to start reading and planning if that idea is foreign to you. Plus, if you can really grow a large amount of food, you can try your hand at canning this fall and make your food as green as possible for next winter! If you don’t have a backyard, look into getting plot in your town garden, starting a window sill garden to plant compact crops like lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, or even a small herb garden or just joining a Community Supported Agriculture program to ensure that your vegetables are as fresh as possible.
4. Mindful Choices
Sure, you could go track down eco-friendly clothing and spend large amounts of money on certified “green” clothing. Or, you can choose to recycle by visiting your local thrift store for your next outfit.
You could go purchase pre-made eco-friendly meals, or dine at the hottest new organic café, or you could vow to dump take-out food – and the emissions associated with its delivery or pickup — and cook at home. (The bonus? Leftovers for lunch!).
5. Shopping Smart
See if your local store gives a discount for bringing your own bags. Visit online “swap-sites” that allow you to trade items with others in the same position.
Most importantly, when you do make a purchase, buy quality items that will last. Electronics, appliances and clothing should not be disposable. Spending more for a higher-quality item often means you can stretch its usefulness a bit farther.
6. Focusing on What Matters
When it comes down to it, you do what you can. By being smart and investing some time into research, you’ll see that really, it can be money-saving to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Focus more on people in your life, not the things, and you’ll be amazed at how much money you start saving.
Lastly, reuse, reuse, reuse. My mom is the queen of reusing everything, and let me tell you, she saves a ton. And, when you’re investing in green products, this matters!
Have fun with it, get inspired and let us know what you come up with. It’s a challenge, sure, but the rewards are rich.
Tara Alley is a freelance writer — native to Montana, now living in sunny Orange County, CA — who endeavors to live a greener, more fulfilled lifestyle. She currently promotes coffee makers for Coffee Home Direct.