Polar bears are drowning.
It rained in Antarctica.
There will be no glaciers in a decade in Glacier National Park.
These are some of the inconvenient truths I was exposed to while watching a Melissa Etheridge video that promotes Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth, which I have not yet seen. And, I don't feel compelled in the slightest way to get in my SUV drive to go see it either. That's not because I don't care about the environment - I certainly do. It's just that I'm already in the choir so preaching to me won't change by watching the movie. I did visit the website and counted my personal carbon impact by aswering a few questions about my energy consumption here. I came in 33% below the average. How well do you do?
Now, if the movie actually has concrete take home suggestions for personal action after an impactful call-to-arms message for those who need a kick in the pants, I would watch it. But don't tell me something I already know. It'll only make my anger and resentment grow. I might come away feeling hopeless and helpless rather than empowered.
At this point, I've heard the message and I want to know what I can do to reduce my personal impact on the income that my family has. I add the income part because if you look around, it actually costs something to make immediate green changes to your lifestyle that take a while to 'pay off.'
For instance, we could sell our house and have a totally green one built. Geothermal heat pump. Solar power. Composting toilet. Xeriscape yard with organic garden. It would be within walking distance to work, groceries, banking, the vet, doctor, and the post office. I'd have a second car that is a hybrid for trips to visit family and get out into the remaining wilderness. That's my dream life.
For now, I resolve to think globally and act locally.
Here are a few things I already do and that you can easily do too in order to minimize your impact:
1. Shut off the lights you don't use.
Be an Energy Ant. You should install efficient fluorescent bulbs in high-use spots.
2. Turn up the thermostat in summer and down in winter.
Put in good insulation and seal cracks around windows, doors, in the attic. Open the windows at night and shut them in the morning to trap the cool air inside. Don't run the AC/heat while you aren't home.
3. WALK or bike everywhere you can.
It takes longer so plan ahead. You may have to trade driving to your gym for walking to work, getting groceries, etc. It's excellent exercise. If you have to drive, plan ahead so that you run all of your errands in the order that amounts to the least driving. Better yet, combine with a friend or more so you use one car rather than more. Incorporate walking into your family together time.
4. Water at night.
There's no reason to let the sun dry it up before it makes it into the ground.
5. Install a low-flow showerhead.
We found one for less than ten bucks and it didn't reduce the water pressure. It does the opposite.
6. Reduce the amount of stuff you buy.
Use the things you already have longer. If it's broken, fix it first.
7. Recycle everything you can.
Buy products that come in recyclable containers. In my town curbside recycling only takes #1 plastic. I haven't heard of a curbside that doesn't take glass so buy products that come in glass (peanut butter, jam, etc) rather than plastic you can't recycle.
8. Re-use stuff.
You can clean out jam jars and use them for drinking cups. You can use yogurt cups to start seeds for your garden. Dust with used dryer sheets - they are fantastic for picking up pet hair. Wash your windows with newspapers. It really works. Seriously.
9. Use Seventh Generation products.
I love their lavender dish soap. They've even got a line of products for your baby. Think about the environmental impact of diapers. We've had the debate about cloth vs. disposable and we don't even have kids yet. With cloth, you've got tons of washing and chemicals. With plastic you've got plastic, the stuffing, and landfill accumulation. Which is better? I have no idea but I will figure it out when the time comes.
10. Ask other people what they do to conserve.
You'll get ideas and you'll force people to think about the impact of their actions.
On that note, what do you do to reduce your impact on the environment?