Saving the planet. What a huge challenge. I do my part as best as I can, but saving the planet falls along a spectrum and some of us do it privately and some of us do it publicly. Personally, I skitter anytime I'm approached with a petition and someone cheerfully saying, "Do you have a minute to stop global warming?" Honey, it's going to take more than a minute.
1. Buckets in our showers. I really need to get a bucket for everyone I know. When I warm up my shower in the morning the water has to run from the tap for a little bit. If I had a bucket I could capture that water and then use it to water my plants or flush the toilet. Nice. Gotta get a bucket.
2. Tupperware for take-out. How dorky do you feel carrying Tupperware in your purse when you go to out to dinner or lunch? Really nerdy. But I cringe when I'm handed a Styrofoam container, one I know that I can't microwave. So why not bring my own containers? If you bring a large enough purse it shouldn't be a problem. Restaurants: how about a discount for bringing your own take-away containers, some coffee shops do this if you bring your own mug and some grocery stores do this if you bring your own bags.
3. If it's yellow let it mellow. Um. Yeah. This is a challenging one because seriously I just don't want to know. But when you think about it, it's just pee, and maybe some paper. No biggie. Really. Just keep saying that to yourself. And when you're done put the toilet lid down. And mellow out, you.
4. Compost! This is so much fun. Really. I live in an apartment and don't have space for my own compost and I didn't want worms because they turn into pets who you have to feed, rather than worms who work for you. I wanted working worms. Luckily, the nice ladies across the street have a great compost pile and they are happy to let me dump the goods on the pile. I'm actually feeding their chickens, but I don't mind. I just keep a plastic container with a lid under my sink and when it's full I walk across the street. Composting is fun.
5. Buy local, seasonal and second-hand. Garage sales are the best things ever!! Granted I wind up with things I don't "really" need sometimes, but other times I furnish my whole apartment. And buying local and seasonal is hugely rewarding. Again, grocery purchasing falls in a spectrum (are we really going to give up coffee?). Buy what's in season, no matter how badly you want a peach in January,buy organic over conventional, buy USA over foreign produced whenever possible, and by local versus regional if you are able to. Better yet go to the farmers' market and meet your growers. My apple guy is named Steve. He's a little crazy.
6. This was an airport bathroom epiphany. Now a days the taps in airport bathrooms, like the soap dispensers, are motion sensitive. This means water won't run until you put your hand under the faucet. This saves water from running down the drain without touching your hands (in theory, some faucets are more sensitive than others, it appears. Here's how to try it at home. Use liquid soap, lather up, THEN turn on the water. If you want to know how much water you use to wash your hands try this experiment. 1) stop up your drain 2) wash your hands how you normally would 3) observer how much water is left in the sink when you're done. Now, try this: 1) stop up your sink 2) using liquid soap, lather up your hands 3) turn on the water and rinse 4) observe how much less water you now have in the sink. I would only try this experiment when your hands are dirty because otherwise, you know, you'd be wasting water.
7. Dish washing. Again with the running water. We should all have a dish tub in our sink. Even those fancy deep farmhouse sinks, even the stainless steel sinks, even if we use a dishwasher. Get a dish tub (*sigh* yes, a plastic one). Fill it with water, add soap, wash your dishes, rinse your dishes or put them into the dishwasher (do you really need to wash a dish before the dishwasher does? Think about that one). Now walk away from the sink without draining the tub. Let the water cool. When you come back introduce yourself to the grey water (that's what diluted soapy water is commonly known as). Now introduce your plants to the grey water, or your lawn, or your toilet if there's something mellowing in it. And better yet, make sure to use a gentle biodegradable dish soap. Your plants will thank you.
8. Lawnmowers. I remember mowing the lawn as a kid. Once I tried doing it barefoot, not such a bright idea. But here's a good idea: buy a push mower. Not only will you save on having to buy gas, not to mention decrease emissions, but you'll get even more exercise than you already are. Bonus!! And while you're at it, get rid of the leaf blower. Use a rake. Better yet, have your children use a rake.
9. Bag lady! That's me. Gotta take my bags to the grocery store. I'm picky now, even. I know which ones are best for which purchases, and I like to bring them in all different colors. Be a bag lady or bag dude. Take a bag to the grocery store.
10. Say no to receipts. Some day all stores will be like the apple store where they email you your receipts. Until then: just say no.
None of these ideas are new ideas. We've all heard them in a million other places (blogs, news, TV, etc.) They point is: we still can do more, and hearing about them (and writing about them) helps. While we might argue that using an energy efficient dishwasher is better than hand washing, or that buying things to be more eco-friendly is counter productive, the point is ultimately the same: use less of everything, recycle, re-purpose, re-use. And know where your resources are coming from, what it takes to get them to you, and where they go when you're done. And let it mellow, people, let it mellow.