A friend of mine once said, “Man, you’re so green, I wish I could be more like that.” When I asked why the defeatism, she explained that she felt her living situation wasn’t conducive to living sustainably. Naturally, I was envisioning a million rebuttals, and I wanted to share.
My first rebuttal is this: Green living doesn’t happen overnight- it happens in baby steps, with one choice at a time. I started to live sustainably when my daughter was about a year old- and she’s turning 9 this month. The first step I made? I started shopping at my local healthfood store. At first it felt really intimidating. In the words of my mother, “It’s like being in a foreign foods market- you don’t know what half of the foods are and you don’t recognize any of the labels.” HAHA! But think of it as an ADVENTURE! Green living is a lifestyle choice that you might not have necessarily been taught, so this might take some learning. Furthermore, expect to get some criticism from people who might not understand- it’s natural for people to criticize things they fear or don’t understand. Be gentle in your approach to correcting them. If you’re looking to start making greener choices RIGHT NOW, here are a couple ways to start:
- Find out where your local farmers market or farmstand is and pay them a visit. You might even buy some fruit or veges. If you want to try something new but are unsure how to prepare it, simply ask the farmer!
- Also visit your local healthfood store, and if you haven’t one, search online for some mail order suppliers and look at their availability.
- Buy a reusable shopping bag- they’re usually a dollar, and can even be bought at the dollar store. Sometimes getting in the habit of remembering your bags is difficult, but I find that I’m more likely to use them if I keep them in my car. You always have the option of paper as well, which is more easily recycled.
- Get a reusable water bottle, or find a glass jar. At my local natural living store, I found a neat little topper than can be put on a mason jar to make it into a travel cup!
- If you don’t have one already, consider getting a bike. Salvage bikes are fun and nostalgic. You don’t necessarily have to start biking everywhere, but it’s very good for your health.
- Consider growing something- I am VERY intimidated by botany, but I started with a cactus. From there, get an aloe. And from there, try a flower (DO NOT GET AN ORCHID. You have to be a freakin rocket scientist to keep those damn things alive…but I digress).
- Visit your library and check out some natural living periodicals or some green living books for ideas.
- Buy one thing you normally would buy new, used. This might afford you the opportunity to check out some local consignment shops.
- Practice turning off lights and unplugging appliances you’re not using right now.
- Try going meatless one day a week- instead of pepperoni pizza, try some veges on it, or try meatless spaghetti.
- Get a recycling bin and learn how to participate in your local recycling program.
- Start learning how to cook so you can stop buying so much prepackaged food- this can be as simple as learning to make pizza!
- Research the dirty dozen and the clean 15 and make moves to replace harmful non-organic foods with organic ones.
- Give up soda and replace at least one a day with water.
- Learn to read an ingredients and nutrition label.
- Learn about a vegan and vegetarian food pyramid and healthy serving sizes.
- Read or watch about other cultures and ways of life different from Americans. Not only will this teach compassion and breed understanding and tolerance, but it will teach you about alternative living practices.
Not so bad right? Don’t try to do everything at once- remember, this is a process. Once you have a handle on these things, consider doing a little research. Some of the things that got me going were documentaries on netflix! Here are some places to look:
- Videos: No Impact Man (my favorite), Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Food Matters, Beautiful Truth, Tapped, Bag It, The Business of Being Born, Collapse, Waiting for Superman, Raising Cain, King Corn, Gasland, Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price,…..(you can watch SuperSize Me or Michael Moore films if you want a good laugh) Just check out your documentaries section on Netflix
- Books: The Omnivore’s Dilema, The China Study, The Vaccine Book (Dr. Sears), The Hand Sculpted House, The Kind Life (or Skinny Bitch), Meat is for Pussies (or the Engine 2 Diet), Minding the Body Mending the Mind, Alternative Medicine, Back Rx, Moosewood Cookbooks, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, any book on container gardening or green living, etc.
- Other: Vegsource.com, Happyherbivore.com, Natural Home and Garden magazine, Natural Health magazine, Yoga Journal (or yogajournal.com), treehugger.com, motherearthnews.com, apartmenttherapy.com
Now, once you have a hang of it, you can start doing things like minimizing your consumption, ridding your home of toxins, container gardening, etc.
Things to avoid:
- While I think a trip to Whole Foods Market is occasionally a necessary evil, I recommend against going there or shopping there. Their prices are through the roof without due cause, their selection isn’t mostly local, they carry many commercial (non-organic) products, and their size is VERY overwhelming.
- Avoid processed vegan and vegetarian foods like fake meat- they’re very high in sodium and almost nutritionally void. If you’re going to start changing your dietary habits, get a book on it like the Forks Over Knives book or Happy Herbivore.
- Don’t throw away a bunch of your things- even if you decide to banish your entire Rubbermaid collection, it shouldn’t go in the landfill. Recycle it or give it away.
- Don’t proselytize. No one wants to hear about how you think you’re better than them. Approach subjects like bottled water gently and compassionately. Remember that not everyone is educated about everything. And remember the old adage about flies and honey 😉
- Organic food doesn’t equal health food. There is such a thing as organic vegan sugar, but it doesn’t mean you should go bonkers eating it. One of the first mistakes I made when switching to organic was to buy a bunch of organic pre-packaged food. Pre-packaged and prepared food usually isn’t as healthy for you as whole foods like beans, veges and fruits, or nuts.
- Check your source. I used to think Dr. Mercola was the bee’s knees, but soon realized that not everything he said was well thought out. There are many good doctors working through the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and you can run things by their site, or Dr. Sear’s site.
- Avoid extremism- I went out and saw Earthlings on the recommendation of Ellen DeGeneres. I’m still having nightmares. It didn’t take 3hrs of watching animal cruelty to make me stop eating so much meat- I was already interested to begin with. PETA is one of those you have to watch out for too. Trustworthy organizations are such like Salvation Army and ASPCA.
- Don’t fall prey to fear tactics. Your teeth won’t rot without fluoride, you won’t die of a b12 deficiency, protein deficiencies are only known in 3rd world countries, nursing your baby wont’ make your boobs sag, your child won’t be socially awkward from homeschooling, GMO’s won’t solve world hunger, everyone has different expert advice on anthropological opinions on the history of eating meat, the CDC and the pharmaceutical industry ARE getting paid, and no one is going to die if you give birth at home. Research ignorant opinions.
Most importantly of all, give yourself a pat on the back! Going green is a noble cause, and its the first step to contributing to the health of your family and your community ❤