The New York Times had an excellent article a week ago Sunday (7/8) that I have to share called “Buying Into the Green Movement”. We all know the good ol’ recycling phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, but rarely does modern America adopt that first part of the phrase into daily habit. Most of us are aware that going Green is becoming just as much of a cultural identity as it is an honest decision to reduce our strain on the earth’s natural resources. But leave it to the fine writers at the NYT to explain it all so simply and elegantly in one nice article.

Although mass America may be adopting organic food, fluorescent light bulbs, and hybrid cars, we are not going to make any large dent in saving the world by continuing to consume at the level we are currently. I love the part where they mention someone builds a 10,000 sq ft “green” home, which is a complete contradiction. Being “green” means leaving a smaller footprint, and this most certainly doesn’t fit the fill.

We have an addiction – an addiction to stuff. The author has an optimistic turn towards the article’s end that I share as well: as mass America continues to consume “Green” they will have more awareness in general about the earth. These days, mass America is learning that buying organic doesn’t make you a dirty hippie and driving a hybrid doesn’t make you a fanatic (not that anything is wrong with that…). As the notion of conserving the earth’s resources becomes more familiar to us all, perhaps the next evolution will be conservation through less-consumption.

It’s hard to change your behavior overnight, but small steps lead to larger steps. Let’s exchange some small steps we can take in our own daily lives that can lead to bigger steps. Here is a list of small steps I have been making:

  • Transit – to and from work
  • One car – sure we could not own a car at all, but sharing a car is a good step and forces us to be more thoughtful about our car trips
  • Buying in bulk – eliminates packaging that would end up in the recycling bin/trash can
  • Recycling – we recycle whatever we can, although we try to “reduce” before getting to “recycle”
  • Reducing personal water consumption – showers every other day
  • Utilizing Garden mulch – less watering of the plants outside
  • Installing Rain barrels – almost complete! This will get us through the dry months in Portland without using water from the city.
  • Machine washing on full loads – when we use the dishwasher/laundry (which are energy efficient) we make sure it’s a full load so we are not wasting resources
  • Air dry clothes
  • Buy local – whenever possible
  • Chain driving – running multiple errands out of one car trip
  • Walking/Bike riding
  • Secondhand – thrift stores, estate sales, freebies, etc. for clothes, our car, etc.
  • Gadget-phobia – we hate buying electronics because it seems like things aren’t made as well these days and in a few years they will be replaced with the next great thing and older versions get sent off to landfills.
  • Composting – we compost our food scraps (well, the ones that don’t go to the chickens) which feeds our homegrown plants and reduces what is sent to a landfill. I don’t know why the whole world doesn’t compost. It’s such a win-win situation.

Obviously we could do more. We could not own a car at all. We could grow all our own food, wash dishes by hand, etc. I am proud of ourselves though for having a comfortable, urban lifestyle with only moderate changes to reduce our impact. Someday I want a greywater system, swales in the yard, 4-season food garden, etc. but the small steps we took early (like reducing personal water consumption) led us to slightly bigger steps (like building a rainwater harvesting system). I only expect to make bigger leaps in the future.

I would love to hear what steps you are taking that have led to bigger leaps! It’s inspiring to hear others success stories and realize that what seems like a big task is not so daunting when you just get out there and do it!

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