Last June I wrote a blog post about my personal Green Guilt. The post detailed my eco-sins, and at the end of it I promised that I’d try and make some meaningful changes and work towards reducing the negative ecological impact I was causing with these actions. In the 9-months since publishing that post, I am happy to report that, all-in-all, I’ve done a pretty good job at changing my behaviors and lessening my impact on the Earth. So without further ado…
1. The first item on last year’s list was the fact that I was driving 500+ miles per week. Between my 70-mile daily commute and trips back and forth to visit friends, I drove 26,000 miles? in just one year’s time! And while I do drive a relatively fuel-efficient VW Jetta, keep its tires properly inflated and get the oil changed regularly, I drove more than double the national average. According to the EPA’s Household Emissions Calculator, my driving habits in 2008 produced a whooping 8.3 tons of CO2 last year – 3.7 tons more than the average driver!
Since the beginning of 2009, I have made an effort to reduce how much I drive, and so far I’ve stuck to the plan. While I still have the same commute, I work at home 2-3 times each month, and I visit my far-flung friends less often during the week. I’ve also been taking fewer trips to visit my family (who live about 50 miles from my house), and am staying longer (often overnight) when I do visit. In making these minor changes, I’ve shaved off 500 miles a month from my total – and am producing 1.92 fewer tons of CO2 annually.
2. Next on my list was my lack of recycling at work. Because my workplace does not participate in mandatory recycling (on any level), I would often toss my plastic bottles and paper into the garbage bin beneath my desk. Since June, we’ve not yet implemented an across-the-board recycling program in our offices, but I have started recycling more and more on my own. And having cut down on purchasing beverages packaged in plastic bottles, I’ve reduced the overall volume of what I consume. In terms of work, I also essentially stopped printing anything, started turning off my computer more often, and do more lunch-time carpooling with co-workers.
3. My next sin was the fact that I threw away all kinds of food. This one killed me. I would buy beautiful fruits and vegetables with the highest intentions, only to let them rot in the fridge while I ate with friends, in restaurants or not at all. Since June I’ve gotten a lot more careful about not wasting food. I’ve started buying smaller amounts of food, cooking at home, and making sure that my veggies are chopped up and ready to eat when I load them into the fridge.
4. When I would go out on the weekends, I used to leave NHPR playing on the radio (for the plants perhaps?). Now I simply don’t!
5. Another of my previous guilt-inducing actions was that I didn’t always being a reusable mug when filling up at the local coffee shop. I am proud to say that, since June, I’ve probably filled up with reusable mugs 95% of the times I’ve enjoyed java from my local coffee shops! If I leave the house without a mug I go back and get it! And in an effort to further reduce my waste, I try to reuse the paper bags that come with the scones that I so love (thanks Popovers!).
6. OK, so I do sometimes (though not as often) buy coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. When I do however (and it’s really only 2-3 times a month that I do), I have started going into the stores (instead of using the drive-through), and filling up with my reusable mugs.
7. Number 7 on my list was the fact that I liked to drive around with the windows open and the air conditioning on when it was hot outside. Honestly, it’s been cold for so long now that this seems like a moot point! And while I honestly can’t remember if I was still doing this at the end of the summer – I’m pretty sure I wasn’t. Most of my driving is on the highway, and it’s nearly impossible to be comfortable while doing 70 with the windows open.
8. The next item on my list dealt with my purchasing less-than-green clothes. In addition to the fact that I bought clothes made from synthetic fabrics, I would also buy goods manufactured by companies with sub-par eco-policies and processes. I’ve made some improvements in this area of my life, but my actions still aren’t as green as they could be.
My winter coat, ski hat and ski-pants are made by ecologically-conscious companies (The North Face, and Obermeyer), and about 50% of the clothes I’ve purchased since June have been second-hand. I will admit that I’ve bought a few Van Heusen shirts however, and their messaging on Corporate Responsibility includes one sentence on the preservation and improvement of the environment. I doubt the adorable Marc Fisher heels I bought last week are eco-friendly either!
9. Purchasing pre-packaged organic meals was another eco-sin on my list. And while I have reduced the amount of pre-packaged meals I’m buying (in large part because I’m cooking more), I still love Amy’s Kitchen organic meals – especially the Mattar Paneer! All I can say is, at least it’s organic!
10. Last but not least on my list was my love of Polar Seltzer and the countless plastic bottles produced through my freakish seltzer consumption. And while I am enjoying a bottle of the Black Cherry Seltzer as I type this, I have gone from drinking 2 bottles a day to about 2 bottles a month. The build-up of plastic bottle induced guilt was just too much, so I did what was right and put the bottles down.
While I can’t say I’ve changed all my bad habits and rid fully rid myself of green guilt, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of making changes that make a difference. I’m driving less, recycling more, reusing whenever possible, and remaining consciously aware of what I buy and how those products are sourced. My recycling bins have fewer plastic bottles kicking around, my closet is filling up with more second-hand treasures, and my plants seem perfectly content even though they no longer listen to NHPR when I leave the house.
Hope you’re having luck changing your habits too, and I would love to hear about the changes you’ve made for the planet!