With about two weeks of green living under my belt, I decided today would be a good place to pause and look back on how this green living project of mine has progressed so far.
Heading into the project, I knew that some of my environmentally friendly, sustainable lifestyle changes would take off, that some results would be mixed and that others would outright fail. And, indeed, that seems to be the case, though it's fascinating to see why some ideas have caught on and others have stumbled.
Here's a look at the some of the eco-friendly changes I've written about so far, and how I've fared in integrating them into my daily routine.
Easier said than done
Writing about going green is easy; putting those words into action, I've quickly learned, is a bit more challenging.
It's not that unplugging my appliances when I'm not using them, or washing my laundry on the "cold" setting, or limiting myself to 10-minute showers is terribly difficult. Rather, it's that my previous unsustainable, wasteful habits are just that -- habits. And breaking old habits is more difficult than it sounds. I'm forced to be more conscious about everything I do each day, right down to the seemingly insignificant behaviors that, in fact, have a large cumulative impact. All the small things really do add up.
I didn't start my month of green living on all that great of a note. I flew several thousand miles to and from southern Florida, and while on break, drove between Fort Lauderdale and Naples -- the width of southern Florida -- on four separate occasions. So not a great start.
Though a majority of my green lifestyle tweaks since then have gone well, I still catch myself slipping back into my old, mindless habits. Like leaving my computer and lamp and phone charger plugged in all day and night, which I continually do despite my best intentions. I've yet to devise a system for remembering to unplug everything when I'm done or when I leave the room -- if you've got any helpful ideas, please send them my way.
There are plenty of little slip-ups, too, instances of early-onset senility on my part. Sometimes I'll walk into the kitchen, turn on the lights, take some food to the dining room, turn the lights on in there, too, and then when I'm all done, head back upstairs to my room without turning any of those lights off. I'll leave entire floors of our house illuminated and not think twice. It's not that I'm intentionally wasteful; sometimes I'm thinking of other things and will simply forget.
Thankfully I have my roommates holding my feet to the fire with these sorts of slip-ups. Last week, when I left the kitchen and dining room lights on, one of my roommates, Mike, jokingly yelled up to me in my room, "Hey Mr. Carbon Footprint! You left all the lights on!"
So I'm forced to be much more conscious now about how I go through each day -- what I'm doing, where I'm at, what kinds of things or resources I'm using. Ultimately, I think this awareness is much needed. So much of our energy expenditure each day comes from small things adding up, but if we're more conscious of these things, the difference is significant.
That said, I like to think I've stayed mostly true to my green mission these first two weeks.
I've significantly cut my meat intake (as much as it pains me to say that). My on-the-go coffee mug goes where I go now. And I'm slowly but surely phasing out my profligate printing habits and instead planting myself in the desk chair in front of my Mac when reading time arrives.
Not that these are huge, life-altering changes. They rarely take up that much time, and in the case of the coffee mug, they save me money as well -- a major upside for any college student. The all-natural, organic laundry detergent continues to keep my wardrobe (in the loosest sense of the word) clean and smell-free, and my house dishwasher does much the same for the house dishes as well.
Moving forward, my lifestyle changes are going to be more intensive, for those who want to scratch beneath the surface a bit more. My compost pile was supposed to kick off this new phase -- and it will, just as soon as the erratic Michigan weather calms down. I'll also be experimenting with new means of transportation (goodbye car, hello bike/bus/carpool/Zipcar), and even overhauling my grocery shopping habits.
So there's plenty more "Going Green" to be done, as well as more videos and longer reported stories on the way. Again, if you have any questions or suggestions on how I could better live green, don't hesitate to send them my way with a comment here on the site or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.