|I mean, who wouldn't want to save something that looks like this?|
Can it be done? Some say no. Some say we're in too deep. We've gone too far. To this I say pish posh. Of course, I just so happen to be one of those super annoying idealists who thinks that every little change we make counts and that starting small is the best way to integrate a leaner, meaner and greener way of life into your 2016. So, what say you? Want to be tree hugging, organic cotton wearing, SUV forgoing, alternative power touting hippies who not only make their own soap, but eat it too? (I have no idea if people actually make edible soap, but in this crazy world I'd take a wild guess and say yes... yes they do.)
Here are three simple ways to green your 2016:
Think Before You Buy
|This just makes me so sad... and strangely hungry.|
A 2014 study estimated that Canadians throw away $31 billion dollars of chow per year according to this Global News report. The implications go far beyond the fact that wasting food is, well, wasteful. Food waste means not only is the discarded item being wasted, but all the resources used to produce the item have now also been wasted. And don't forget about the additional resources required to dispose of the food.
And what about the packaging? You ever notice how much cardboard and plastic and paper ensconce our food items? Why do so may brands of cereal need to have both an outside box and an inside bag? That's twice the waste right there.
Have you ever thought about those plastic produce bags you likely use every time you go shopping? I hadn't until I came across some washable fabric produce bags awhile back. Now I use them all the time. If for some reason I do end up using the plastic ones, I reuse them too.
|Not so super anymore, huh?|
But enough with the doom and gloom. I promised "simple" solutions to herculean-sized problems. So... what's my solution? As the title of this section reads... Think. Before. You. Buy.
That's it. Take a moment to think before you add something new to your shopping cart and ask: What am I going to do with this? If it's food – will I eat it? If it's clothing – will I wear it? For how long? Do I already have something similar and thus don't really need another one? If it's for the home – where will I put it? Is there something I already have that it's going to replace? If so, what am I going to do with the old one?
Once this pattern of thought becomes habit it will literally require zero effort to quickly ask these questions as you stand there with item in hand.
Well, maybe it'll take 0.1% of your effort. 0.5% tops. But the planet is at least worth that, am I right?
Clean with Care
|David Suzuki, rocking a moustache since 1936...|
assuming he was born with one.
While we may not all agree on whether scrubbing the floor fuzzies behind the toilet can be described as "fun," I think we can all agree on one thing – chemicals are bad. And if you also disagree with me over my chemicals equal badness statement, let's – once again – take a look at the dirty (pun definitely intended) details, courtesy of the website belonging to my second favourite moustachioed man (after my dad), Mr. David Suzuki.
Phosphates, which are found in dishwasher detergents, laundry soap and bathroom cleaners build up in our water systems and promote harmful algae blooms leading to decreased oxygen supplies, which in turn kills fish. Certain algae blooms also produce chemicals that can be toxic to both animals and humans (oh no – that's us!).
Sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate, which is used in toilet bowl cleaners, deodorizers, surface cleaners and disinfectants is toxic to aquatic organisms and may cause long-term disturbances in aquatic ecosystems.
Did I also mention that the above chemicals, as well as a host of others (with lovely names such as 2-butoxyethanol, quaternary ammonium compounds and trisodium nitrilottriacetate) can cause skin, eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, may cause cancer, kidney damage, liver damage and reproductive defects, while also interfering with the function of hormones? And that's just the short list, my friends.
And, because there is no requirement in Canada for manufacturers to warn us about the health and environmental hazards associated with the chemicals in everyday cleaning products, we are likely being exposed to compounds that linger in the air of our home for days, weeks, months, years, ever.
So, once again, what's my solution? Why, it's clean with care, of course! As an example, here is a photo of the cleaning items I keep underneath my sink...
|All my cleaning supplies on one toilet seat:|
Nature Clean All Purpose Cleaning Lotion, baking
soda, vinegar and Dr Bronner's Tea Tree Soap.
Here are a few easy recipes I found online that you can use to make your own cleaning supplies:
Homemade Baking Soda Tub Scrub (there's a whole bunch of cleaning recipes on this page, but scroll down for the bathtub scrub)
Homemade Baking Soda and Vinegar Drain Cleaner (you could also use this recipe to simulate a volcanic eruption)
Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaners (three different recipes, depending on the level of disgusting your toilet has reached)
And don't worry, you can just whip these up when you need them, taking only a minute away from your precious cleaning time!
Eat Less Meat
For example, according to this Time article, livestock production uses one third of the world's fresh water (and, as we now know, water is not necessarily a renewable resource).
And though it's hard to an make accurate estimate as to how much meat production contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, some have stated it's about 18% (a number which has been called both way too high and way too low, depending on whom you ask).
Worldwide meat consumption is also unequally distributed, with Americans eating an average of 270 pounds of meat a year and residents of Bangladesh eating 4 pounds.
Let's be more like Bangladeshis and eat less meat. I'm not talking about becoming a vegetarian here (but if you think you can do it or would like too – go for it!). I myself am not a vegetarian, though I have tried before. The difficulty I had was that if the people in your life are meat-eaters it can be incredibly hard to avoid it entirely. So my solution to that problem has been not to banish meat, but to instead reduce mine and my family's consumption of it.
I don't cook with red meat ever and I only buy two small chicken breasts a week, which I then divide up into four small portions – each portion being a part of one meal. Thus, you can still have chicken in your strifry, just a really small amount. And who needs a lot of chicken in your stirfry anyway when there are so many amazing veggies to be had!
|Oh... dear... god... Is this what steak tartare really looks like?|
If the whole "eat less meat" movement intrigues you, but you aren't sure how far you can take it, you could start with Meatless Mondays, which – as the name suggests – means you cook one meatless meal a week.
I mean, we're talking about saving the planet here – I think you can forgo your steak tartare for one night.
Did you make any green resolutions for 2016? Is there anything you already do on a daily basis that's environmentally forward-thinking? Did you make any other resolutions for the New Year? To try steak tartare, perhaps? Please don't. Just... don't. Instead, consider making "commenting more on Of Houses and Trees" one of them!