Going green or cutting off the power line completely are not easy tasks. We are accustomed to our routine conveniences and live in a world that is loathe to advertise the actual costs of the products we consume. When viewed in its entirety, the global environmental crisis we are facing is so daunting that many people fail before even beginning by despairing at the enormity of it all and then lapsing into apathy. Obviously this is the largest waste of creative capacity imaginable on our planet. You get it, so you’re smart enough to do something about it, yet you don’t. So don’t let yourself become one of those people. Do something today. Maybe you already are. The thing about “Do something today.” that is so great is that when you take that approach you tend to set realistic goals, more on the level of an hour or two’s commitment than the nebulous grand ideas that tend to live largely on paper and never in the real world. And you set a pattern that defies apathy, even if you eventually change the depth of your commitment. And one day, you will find yourself hitting your stride and it will become natural part of your life instead of a scheduled task.
There are a million ways to break a habit, and only one to make one: practical application. You can read every book in the library about art, for example, but until you create something, you cannot call yourself an artist. Your friend’s kindergartener who brings home finger painted pictures daily is. Which should make potential artists feel better about the quality which one considers art (Isn’t art, in the end, really largely an issue of attachment?), but it usually doesn’t.
What it all means? You don’t have to be a maestro to get involved. Just pick something and implement it in your life. Chances are, no matter what strategy you pick, it will be an improvement over the standard. Many people spend a lot of time wondering which choice will be best for them, and in the end, don’t get anything, because the spark of ingenuity has faded which led them to that point. Do your research, but understand that the energy revolution is not a plan for tomorrow, but for today. You’ve heard me say it before. In the spirit of kindness, I won’t leave you all pumped up with nowhere to go.
Here’s a little inspiration for you for things that won’t take more than a few moments:
Plant a tree. The EPA estimates that a mature tree provides the same amount of air conditioning as five AC units. You can take cuttings of most plants and root them, or simply plant a sapling or seed that you find in your surroundings. Of course, if you then take care of it, making sure it has enough water to survive the first crucial year or two, then you can count that as doing something in the future too. But by then you’ll probably feel so good from doing that, you’ll have a whole colony of trees somewhere. Estimated time: 10 minutes, and time spent finding a tree to plant (or cultivating stem cutting in moist plastic bag).
Buy recycled shopping bags. It’s no accident that reusable shopping bags are popping up in stores these days. What used to be the exclusive realm of whole foods has become big business. And when you think about what you’re saving in terms of landfill space, and add in the fact that most large retailers give reusable bag discounts, you really can’t argue against them. Of course, you’ll need your shopping bags if you take the next step and start shopping at the local farmer’s market once a week instead of a comparable grocery store trip. Local farmers supported, all for the price of a little gas. Estimated time: under a minute.
Hydroscape your yard. Print a Google map of your house and yard and draw on it the places where water tends to collect when it rains. These are the low points, and when planned right, you can save a lot of money on property maintenace just by regulating the flow of water across your land. Create a conceptual path through your area, create a path for water flow, and raise beds surrounding this natural flow to minimize your need to water. This also gives you the opportunity to have a larger variety of plants, because you create tiny climate zones specific to each bed. Estimated Time: a few hours planning, 2 hours per bed.
Freecycle something. Find something in your house that you don’t use and offer it to the local population at large for free at http://www.freecycle.org . If you’re feeling generous, offer to post the item through the mail to the lucky recipient. It really IS a good way to keep things out of landfills and it fosters your non-retail community. Estimated time: ten minutes, including finding something to post.
Buy at least one solar light. These days, you can buy a set of solar lights for $10 -15. The nicest ones I’ve seen are floating pool lights which change color, but there are also lots of varieties of solar yard lights, and also solar Christmas lights. I particularly like the Lampion, pictured above. Try leaving these lights outside during the day while you are out of the house, and then using them to replace a light you use at night. Carbon free power and mood lighting might prove the perfect combination for your evening. Estimated time: half an hour on eBay and a minute a day.
Use greywater to flush your toilet. Unscrew the pipe below your sink and place a bucket under the now-open pipe. Use this water to trigger the toilet’s automatic flush response. Combine it with the old “milk jug in the tank” trick and you’ll use a lot less water. This will save you however much water you use at the sink by recycling it at least once. Estimated time: fifteen minutes, and a slightly altered routine.
Visit your local library instead of the bookstore. Similar selection, better price. And since you share the book with your community, you save resources and encourage further government spending in future libraries. How many books do you read more than once anyway? Donate the ones you own (outside your core library) to the local library so others can learn too. I hardly have to explain the benefits of that! Estimated time: Twenty minutes to clean out your closet.
So there you have it, something you can do today. One last freebie: write a suggestion below, so that others can learn about your own great action idea. =)