The post below is the reproduction of a recent Facebook status by our Outreach Coordinator, Dana Gerber-Margie. This list was intended for her friends and family to use as individuals and families. It’s a different story for our profession, our conferences, and our institutions, but thankfully the REDUCE committee is working on that!
From August 30th, originally posted on Facebook:
Shower thinking brought a lot of ruminating on climate change/global warming and people’s engagement with it, or lack there of. It is so easy to become irritated, judgmental, and so frustrated, but it also so unhelpful to be all of those things. My mind pictures families in houses too big with cars too big for commutes too long, wanting too much stuff and too much new. I see the AC or heat up too high, lights on too long, too much food gone to waste, and an incredible amount of focus on entertainment that does not matter, educate, expand, only lets us pass the time.
But this is focusing on the negatives, and not the reasons: the intersectionality of the American dream, companies & governments that want more hours without more pay, a desire to feel comfortable in a sanctuary of home when the outside world is all about shootings, insane politicians, and oppression. And cities all over the country are increasing in size but not in width; rent is getting higher, the jobs are still downtown, and at the end of the day it is a very rational choice to live away from the luxury apartments, craft cocktails, and crowded restaurants.
So how do we step away from anger and judgment into something actually helpful? And how do we get out of the echo chamber that is educated liberal guilt (which includes knowledge of the issues without much action)? A future with bigger storms, wilder fires, and rising sea levels is a terrifying one. A future with less water, food, and energy is just as scary. There are other people working on policies, technologies, and discovery plans, so let them just handle it, right? We have enough to do. I feel this daily, but I also feel such a strong pressure to make the future better for our children, for the impoverished, for the under-insured, for all of the other countries that will be unfairly impacted by our society’s consumption and drive for progress.
And so below I offer some things we do in our home and in our lives to do our part, even if it feels small and insignificant. Sometimes I don’t do these in the best way, or I end up doing it out of guilt, or (the best times) I do it because I care. I do them because these actions will add up, and they can add up exponentially if you do them, too.
What are some actions for the environment you take?
- Don’t see “reduce, reuse, recycle” as a phrase, but as a priority list. First, reduce. Then if you must, try reusing. And then if neither of those work, lastly recycle.
- Don’t buy it. Really, you don’t need it.
- Okay, you need it, but look at local stores, local materials, local food to ease the cost of transportation of goods.
- Don’t buy things just because they’re on sale.
- Understand that production of goods and use of resources comes directly from our consumption of them
- Buy groceries in small batches so food doesn’t go to waste.
- Eat a vegetarian diet. My husband Derek eats meat, but at home eats mostly plant-powered meals. Our next time is a more vegan friendly diet.
- Bring our own bags to the store, including big box stores like Target. Derek forgets his bag in his car a lot when he’s at work, but we save all the paper and plastic bags he gets, and reuse them when we need them.
- Never buy bottled water. I have a stainless steel water bottle at home and at work. I fill both up with water from the tap (purified at home with a filter on our faucet).
- Use a reusable travel mug for coffee & tea. If I have the coffee “for here,” I make sure to mention I’d like it in a mug, not a paper cup. If I forget the above, I wash out the paper/plastic cup before recycling it.
- Purchase fair trade coffee, tea, chocolate, clothes, etc.
- Utilize the farmer’s market.
- Lights off if you’re not in the room. Lights off during the day because I just open the curtains.
- Unplug the microwave when not using it.
- Turn off electronics and appliances if not using them.
- Always check the energy use stats for all appliances/electronics. Since I’m a renter, I don’t always have this option, but I did look at the specs for our computers, printer, and air conditioner.
- Use CFL lightbulbs.
- Don’t keep chargers plugged in all day; it uses up energy. My phone thankfully has a little alarm that tells me when it’s been charged.
- Don’t fall prey to the next new neat gadget; Derek and I both have solid, great desktop computers. I bought my computer in March 2010 and it’s doing just fine! Same goes for our cell phones; I’m due for a renewal but since it’s working fine, I’m keeping it.
- I don’t buy a lot on Amazon, partly for their labor practices and other reasons, but also because of shipping. If it’s offered, I get items packaged together.
- Complain when a company over-packages an item. Yes I’m that customer. 😦
- Shop at thrift stores — it’s fun!
- Purchase the green energy option through our energy company. In Madison, that’s MG&E, and they have a sliding scale of what you can afford: as little as $5 towards renewable energies.
- Elect politicians that care about the environment (this can obviously get very complex and weird, since it involves politics …)
- Ask for no silverware, napkins, or extra sauces you won’t use when ordering take out or delivery. You have napkins and silverware!
- Run the dishwasher when it’s totally full. Air dry the lighter loads.
- Walk, bus, or bike to work.
- When we moved recently, we didn’t move with our minds set on how much square footage the space would take up, or cool amenities like a pool or marble counters, but with a walk score in mind. We have our minimum requirements (we knew we wanted a 2-bedroom place for less than $1000 that took cats, etc), but only searched within a certain vicinity of the area. This ensured I could walk, bus, or bike to work and that Derek’s commute would be less than 1015 minutes. I also realize, though, that this is a privilege that we have since our city hasn’t been completely gentrified yet … but a good walk score will be a priority for me in the future too.
- Drive with a consistent speed. Don’t brake or start too quickly; it uses up more gas.
- Donate small amounts to agencies I support. $5 a month doesn’t hurt me, nor does giving $5-15 here and there.
- Throw on a sweater and socks before turning on the heat. Once we do use it in the dead of winter, we keep it as low as possible. When we leave the house, we keep it just high enough so the pipes don’t freeze.
- Choose lighter clothing in the summer. The same thing as above goes for using the AC: keep the temperature reasonable, don’t have it on when we’re not there. If it’s SO hot that the temperature will reach above 80ish inside, we’ll keep the AC around 78.
- Ask your city for better recycling programs.
- Do all of these things at work too! I keep computers off when I don’t need them, I keep the printer off, I turn the light off when I’m leaving the office for a while, I print on both sides, I recycle, etc.
- Use stuff that can be refilled, like purchasing a soap dispenser and then large bags of liquid soap.
- Ask elected officials for updates to infrastructure, which can lead to lots of good things like not dying on a collapsed bridge, smooth roads, and improved energy efficiency.
- Bring lunch to work in reusable bags, including sandwich or treat bags. Etsy has them everywhere.
- Purchase carbon credits for every flight we take.
- Relax on a train instead of taking a plane.
- Don’t take cruises, or if you do, research the impact they have on the environment and ocean. Some cruise lines bill themselves specifically as environmentally friendly.
- On the same note, don’t always take environmentally friendly advertising as truth. Greenwashing for increased profits is very real!
- All of these actions matter when I’m traveling, too. Do your best to reduce, reuse, and recycle while on the road.
- Look into eco-travel or responsible/sustainable travel, and tourism that doesn’t decimate the local region.
- The TV is off if I’m not watching it.
- Keep that shower short.
- Garden! I’m a black thumb but trying my best.
- Join or start an awesome group like projectARCC.
- Ask others for more ideas!