Living green is about the mindset, not resources. Of course, it is easier to buy an electric car or install solar panels if you have a lot of money, but slim resources doesn’t stop you from living green. Actually, it is quite the opposite. Rich people often have much larger environmental footprints than poor people.
In the “1 %” perspective, I am far from rich, but on an international scale, I am definitely rich. I own my own car and my own house (well, I own it together with my husband, and in reality the bank owns most of it), but you get my point. I am simply privileged, so this post will reflect a typical middle class lifestyle. Having plenty of resources also mean that I travel more, buy more stuff, drive more, and in general consume more. I probably run the air conditioning and the heat more than necessary.
But because I am privileged, I see it as my moral responsibility to put an effort into living green and to promote a green lifestyle. I have solar panels on my roof, drive an electric car, eat local food, buy second hand, and I race the world’s fastest electric motorcycle. The computer I am typing this text on is powered from my solar panels.
OK, you may say, that is kind of green, but it would be even greener to not have a car and not have a racing motorcycle. You could buy cheaper food and skip buying stuff at all and save a lot of money. Then you could donate all the money you saved to a local shelter and help homeless people. That would really do a lot of good!
Well, that’s correct if you look at a short-term perspective, but likely not in a long-term perspective. By purchasing locally produced food (bison and elk are my favorites in the meat department), I create local jobs that will help decrease homelessness. I will also reduce transportation. And by choosing game meat rather than industrially produced meat, I will reduce emissions from feedlots and farms.
By purchasing an electric car, I will help drive the development of the technology. Electric cars are still too expensive for many, if not most, people. My purchase will help drive the cost down so all people can benefit from this technology. Combined with the solar cells on my roof, my car is truly zero-emission, and will make everybody in my neighborhood healthier, and it will have very little climate effect.
Well, what if you are not in a position to buy an electric car and what if live in apartment where you cannot install solar panels? Is there anything you can do? Of course there is! Remember, it is about a mindset, not resources.
Start with simple things:
- Turn off the lights:
Turn off the light in rooms when you are not there. Unused electricity is the best kind of electricity!
- Turn off the water:
Don’t you even dare to let the water run while you are brushing your teeth! It is so wasteful that it actually makes my teeth ache (and my blood boil). I have never done it, and I cannot for my life understand why somebody would do it. Turn off the water! Water is a scarce resource in many areas, and it takes both energy and chemicals to treat water.
- Install LED or CFD lightbulbs:
Replace incandescent lightbulbs with LED or CFD (compact fluorescent). This is particularly important in hot climates (like Colorado in the summer time) because the heat from the light is a double loss: it takes more electricity to create light, and it takes more electricity to remove that heat from the building with the air conditioning.
- Buy local and seasonal food:
Locally produced food means less transportation, but watch out: green house vegetables can have a large environmental footprint. If you live in a cold climate, skip the tomatoes in the winter. You don’t really lose out on anything anyway, the greenhouse tomatoes are typically quite tasteless.
- Buy second hand:
Re-use is the ultimate way to save resources. I love a bargain, and there are no better bargains than in the second hand store. Some people think it is disgusting to use something that someone else has used. I ask them if they bring their own fork and spoon to a restaurant, because other people have had the forks and spoons in the mouths! All the silverware has been washed, and you can of course do the same with your second hand purchases before you wear it. Personally I prefer second hand items because they have been typically been washed several times, which means they will likely contain less irritating chemicals than brand new clothes.
- Donate to thrift stores, sell, or give away unwanted items:
Before you throw something away, stop for a moment: Can somebody else have use of this item? Can you sell it? Can you give to a charitable thrift store like the Salvation Army, or can you give it to a friend of a neighbor? In some areas you are even allowed to put out things in front of your house and mark it “free”. I often do that with large items or things that the thrift store doesn’t want. It is possible that somebody actually wants your broken kitchen chair because it can be repaired and used. If it is allowed in your area, try it!
- Purchase carbon offsets:
You can easy your guilt and reduce your carbon footprint by purchasing carbon offsets. I offset my airline travel through the United CarbonChoice program. There are likely better programs out there (I would love to hear your opinions), but I chose to use United’s program because I can buy carbon offset with my airline miles.
- Organic and fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate:
Vote with your wallet and show that you care both about the environment and other people by choosing organic and fair trade labeled coffee, tea, chocolate and other products.
Advanced green living:
- Solar panels to make your own electricity:
We bought ours through Solar City, but there are many suppliers these days.
- Electric or plug in hybrid car:
The ultimate solution if your life situation requires you to have a car. It is even better when combined with solar panels.
- Hybrid or alternative fuel car:
A hybrid or alternative fuel car might work better for you, but make sure you can actually fill it up before you purchase one. There are several apps and website that show where the alternative fuel stations are. Here is one from EVworld.com.
- Produce your own food:
Food cannot be more local than if it comes from your own vegetable garden. I would love to have chickens as well, but I travel too much to have pets at all.
- Choose a profession focused on sustainability, or bring your sustainability mindset to your workplace:
You can bring your sustainability to your workplace is different ways. You can choose a profession where you work with sustainability, which can be so many things that I don’t even know where to start. If you are an engineer like me, you can of course choose to work with obvious things like energy efficiency or environmental production, to mention two areas. But you can also just bring your sustainability mindset to your workplace and turn off lights when not needed, save water, or purchase fair trade coffee for the lunch room. Saving energy, water and material will often reduce cost, which typically is very popular. You can also consider starting a business with a sustainability focus, which can be anything from locally produced organic vegetables to sustainable fashion. They sky is the limit!
Do I do all of this?! Yes, I actually do! And if I can do all of it, you can certainly do at least some of it! 🙂 And I run an electric racing team with the purpose to show that low-emission vehicles can be fast and fun! More about that under under “About”.