Let's be honest? How many of us actually understand the concept? I did, on a very superficial level. However, after recycling for over ten years, I moved out to the country and discovered that their idea of recycling is separating the trash into bins and then dumping it all at the landfill anyway. Oy. I stopped and just threw stuff away, and waited for the folks in the sticks to catch up to the rest. I got lazy and then just did not care anymore, because with soon to be four kids and one full grown man in the house, not to mention myself, it really seemed to be more work than it was worth. It was unsightly, it was a pain to do, and in the end, I was using up my own gas and time and money to run things to the bins in a local town. Does that sound like green thinking? No, not really.
I am a strong supporter of recycling. Its important, it really is. Ever visited a landfill? I highly recommend it, if for no other reason than sheer perspective of what NOT recycling means. But, some folks really have no idea what is and is not recyclable. Well, on some level just about everything is. Recycling creates jobs (transportation, sorting, and processing the materials), saves our precious land for farming and other uses instead of HUGE areas of waste disposal and rot, and gives us options over continually using new products when recycled products will do.
However, it bears to mention that most things made with “recycled material” are actually very little of that. Governments around the world have yet to come down on Corporate World Affairs and make them pay attention to the global situation. There are no mandates for recyclable material other than a few lighthearted rules that really are more suggestions than rules since they are not enforced. Some countries do better than others (Belgium, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands to name a few), with the United States managing to recycle and otherwise sort through around 28% of their produced waste (with some products being recycled more than others like paper [42%], aluminum cans [55%], steel packaging [57%], plastic soft drink bottles [40%], and appliances [52%]). It does pay to mention that in other countries, putting out the trash costs A LOT of money, and in the areas of the United States where this is the case, recycling goes up drastically (huge shock I know, hit the American public in the pocket book and watch them react).
Corporate Global Mindset is also roughly this same way; hit them in the pocketbook and suddenly they are interested. The corporate waste production far outproduces the normal folks, so it pays to pay attention to how they dispose of their waste. However, most states in the United States are unwilling to treat the Corporate Monolith any differently than the local populace. Oddly, a simple incentive to the Corporate Machine has produced startling results in cities where waste is a huge issue. Why not play that card? Most states do not want to “upset” the large producer of jobs and tax revenue, and the lobby for the Corporations pay big money out in incentives and re-election funds to keep the government off their back in this particular issue. The same is said for the pollution that the Corporate Machine produces, but that's a whole different article.
So, the Corporate Monoliths aside, what can we do, as the normal citizen, to help our country and Mother Nature in general? Well, its not all that complicated in the general sense.
You can recycle easy or hard. Obviously its not that difficult to recycle the simple things: paper, plastic [milk jugs, disposables, water bottles, soda containers], glass [all kinds, broken down in color], aluminum [soda cans, tin foil], packaging stuffing like “peanuts” and such, cardboard [boxes, cereal boxes]. The more complicated things are able to be disposed of in special places (at certain locations: a call to your city manager will answer that question): batteries, paint, used oil [automotive oil(s), cooking oil], appliances [just about all of them], computer waste [monitors, computer parts], electronic waste [stereo components, televisions, radios, any form of electronic gadget]. All that is required is sorting at the time of disposal, and a trip to the recycling center now and then. In the countryside where I live, we tend to store up for some time, then load it into the van and drag it all at once. However, in the city one can make shorter trips and store things shorter times. Some centers require everything be cleaned out first, but most do not do this. However, its not difficult and keeps bugs and other nasties away, so its something recommended even within your own house. It's not all that difficult: rinse out when you remove the paper from the can, rinse before you toss into the bin at home.
The most complicated and lets be honest, irritating (and smelly) part of recycling is green waste, or compost. Food item waste and vegetation such as grass clippings etc. are put into a bin and mixed, and let to rot. You can buy powder to mix in and help with the process, but the bottom line its there. And most of us wrinkle our noses and shake our heads, however, its easy to do and better for the environment. You most likely know someone who gardens, and many city areas offer green waste composting for the whole city, making money from selling the stuff once its done. Win/win.
The next more complicated form of recycling is that which you -reuse- rather than throw away. Donating your used clothing, your items that still work but you do not use anymore, even some of the plastics that you might otherwise throw away. The concept is simple... if its not destroyed, don't throw it away. Cans can be reused as a holder for oils and other hot-at-the-time things [invest in a can opener that removes the top, rather than -cut- it off]. Plastic bottles such as what water was in (not soda or milk jugs), can be reused for filtered water, or even to free water in for camping trips or in replacement of ice packs. Glass jars can be cleaned, sterilized, and reused for anything your imagination can come up with. Crafters use them, as do cooks and other folks, such as those of us that make our own shampoo, soap, perfumes, and lotions [to come]. Avoid reusing items that have had toxic ingredients, or ingredients that spoil to toxic levels, but keep your eye open for anything else.
2. Green out your Life
What does this mean? Simply: avoid products and items made with non-reusable, non-replenishing (non-renewable) ingredients. What are those? Items made with petroleum, for starters. What's made from petroleum? Far more than you think. Petroleum jelly is in a lot of our cheaper items, such as shampoos, lotions, soaps to name a few. If making your own is not your cup of tea, buying products made ONLY with renewable resources (and/or recyclables) is a great way to accomplish this. While you might think using paper is bad, paper can be reused and recycled. The same goes for aluminum, which once recycled and processed cannot be distinguished from virgin aluminum (the same can be said about steel, by the way). Always spend your consumer money on items that are made with recyclables, or without ingredients that are non-renewable.
Wear cotton, linen, and wool blends, and avoid fabrics that are created, such as polyester. Wear silk instead of satin. The cost you spend up front will do one of several things: it will give you clothing that is top quality and will last over time; it will be easily donated for others since its far more durable and lasts conventional washing better than the “fake” fabrics; you are using real fabrics made by renewable resources rather than petroleum and other sources.
Green products are available mainstream these days, making it even easier: peroxide instead of bleach; non-toxic laundry detergent with low sudsing agents; cleaning products that you could drink, if you were so inclined, without suffering dire or fatal results (they make them these days and they work great) [avoid the hype and ask questions, test, talk to friends about what works best]; natural laundry softeners instead of sheets and other toxic and non-natural options; avoiding any body product containing poison or non-renewable resources [you put that on your SKIN folks, and it absorbs.. always.. think about that]; organic foods are grown without hormones or pesticides and far healthier for you overall [well worth the slightly elevated costs]. In essence, giving your time, money, and support to products made with the Mother Earth in mind, instead of making as much as possible in the shortest span as possible... and to hell with the long term costs to the human race and this planet we live on. You do not have to be some kind of extremist to support this planet and sensible living.
Cars make more pollution on a grand scale than anything else in this world. We in the adult world know that cars are a necessity, particularly if you have kids, or live out in the middle of nowhere like I do. If I lived in the city where there were more serious options, I doubt I would drive much; simplicity be damned, we all need to walk more anyway, right? However, most of us know that cars are necessary and own one, even if it spends half its life in the driveway. I live an hour from anything worthwhile, including specialized doctors and decent chinese food. The closest grocery store is 10 minutes away, and if I want anything but mainstream I have to drive 30 minutes in the opposite direction. However, we work hard to keep our trips consolidated, so that all we need done gets done in one trip. Our trips to the main cities involve a lot of coordination to pull off, but we tend to get get a lot done at once. If we are going to spend the gas and time, we make sure its for good reasons.
There is a lot we can do to reduce our carbon footprint: park and walk; use the public transportation whenever possible; take a train, not the airplane or your car; walk, bike, and find alternative transportation; carpool; buy an electronic car or a hybrid; push your politicians to advance alternative fuels; make your life where you live instead of keeping a life far away [don't commute].
Yes, these are all grand ideas, and yes, I am aware how hard all them are. It's a pain in the ass [or the feet, if you are messed up as I am] to walk everywhere, and I think it would be sheer comedy to put my fat ass on a bike. However doing these things would go a long way to helping not only the planet, but my own health. Something to consider, mm?
More and more people are working at home, or part of the time staying home and doing their work there. It saves money on childcare, gas, wear and tear on the car, and gives them more time with their families. Many employers are more open to this concept than they were 20 years ago, and its worth talking to your boss about the options, particularly if you work with a computer or on administrative things. Obviously if you work at a factory putting labels on shaving cream bottles, or building cars, working at home is not an option. However, its something to consider for some folks.
Consider making your own soap, lotion, shampoo, and other home products. Its easy and less expensive, and much more environment friendly than buying the same thing in paper and plastic wrapping that you then must recycle. You can reuse various glass jars and bottles, and readily available renewable resources.
Make your own liquer and spirits. Its fun, and again, more economic than buying it from some other country. Its fun, and in most places, legal as long as you don't sell it. Be careful, follow the rules, and make sure you take your time. I heartily recommend the link below, even if you do not plan on making your own booze. Its a good read and quite amusing as well as amazingly informative.
Some people I know make all their own clothes, and are stunning at it. Me? I would probably stitch my fingers together and sew up my shirtsleeve in the process. I do not have the patience. However, I wish I did. It would be a fantastic savings for me and my whole family. If you have a knack for such things, consider it.
It is a huge savings for most families to cook their own food. Its not a simple undertaking however, particularly if you have rather fancy tastes. If you are like me and mine, we like simple recipes that I excel at. Meat, potatoes, rice, vegetables, bread, biscuits, etc. Basic food. We save hundreds per month by simply cooking our own meals, buying in bulk for ingredients rather than processed foods. I have a family of five currently, with one more on the way (surprise! -.-), so food frugality is important. For those single or small families, cooking for your family or yourself can be rewarding financially as well as personally as you can take pride in your ability to produce restaurant quality food. There are far too many recipe sites to link, but needless to say google it and take a look. Its nowhere as hard as you may think. Most common foods take about a half hour of prep and anywhere from a half hour to an hour to cook at most. You get better quality, less chemicals, and less cost for the satisfaction of being self-sufficient. If you are like me and live in the middle of nowhere, use the internet to get your specialty items delivered to you directly for not much more than if you had to drive 2 hours to a grocery store that carries what you want.
If you are requiring a specialty diet, or you are in a diet in the first place, it is especially in your best interests to cook your own food. Being a celiac's person myself, with a housefull of people that cannot eat wheat either (1 out of 3 children cant eat it, neither can my hubby; so thats 3 against 2), I have had to up my normally skilled cooking abilities to a new higher notch, excelling in creativity and a lot of “oops” and “dammit” in the process.
For those who need or want lower fat or chemicals, invest in organically grown or locally grown meats. Ask questions, find out who raises their stock without hormones, drugs, and pesticides. The result will be far better meat than you can buy from your grocer, and the taste cannot be compared. The cost is usually less or equal, and well worth the work. We buy local chicken, turkey, eggs, and bison. Yes, bison. Its lower in cholesterol, fat, sugars/carbs, grass raised, clean of hormones and drugs, and higher in protein (read: you use less). While the prices seems higher than beef, you use less so you actually break even. Its worth a look. The taste is the same other than texture, which you quickly adjust to and come to prefer. Beef is over processed and full of hormones and fat. You can order it over the internet or usually (surprisingly) you can usually drive an hour or so from just about anywhere that carries it.
Link 2: http://www.bettycrocker.com/
Link 5: http://www.organicfoodinfo.net/
Link 6: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/
Link 7: http://www.glutenfreemall.com/
Growing your own foods is really the way to go if you have anyway whatsoever to accomplish this. Anyone with a small yard can do this, using boxes instead of flat ground, and a small greenhouse. If you live in the country like I do, its even easier: plow, plant, and harvest. No, its not really that easy. It's hard work, and I mean hard work, but on the other side of things its hugely satisfying. You get food that you KNOW whats on it, and its far more tasty than what you buy in the store since you harvest when it's ripe instead of when its still green. If you spend your energy growing the things that you use the most (vegetables, canned or frozen), you can find yourself a very happy camper when you check that pocketbook. Yes, you can spend a small fortune gardening, but its also simple to do and doesn't take anything fancy to accomplish.
So there you have it. A beginners look at “Going Green” in this busy hectic world. Me? I am going to be actively working to these goals starting this year. How about you?
Take care, and think about it! :)