We are making a mess of our planet. Whether you are a “believer” in the so-called ‘settled science’ of Climate Change or one of those heretics that the Movement derisively refers to as a ‘denialist’, most people would agree, however grudgingly, that we need to change how we use the world if we want to survive as a species. (Note: The world itself will survive. The question is whether or not we will, and what species are we going to take with us to extinction.)
Among the Believers, there is often an assumption that this is a binary issue: one either subscribes to the preachings of the moneyed Climate Scientists (which apparently includes agreeing not to question the “science”), or one is under the influence of Big Oil (lead, no doubt by Hexxus, made famous in Ferngully).
Some of us do not wish to be associated with either group, thank you very much.
As a scientist, ClimateGate, as it is fast becoming known, makes me ashamed for modern Science and for the Academy.
On the other hand, our P.M. gives me the creeps. I certainly did NOT vote for him and will be thrilled when he is out of power. I have NEVER been a fan of Big Oil and am ashamed at how we, as a country are handling (or rather mishandling) the OilSands.
So where does that leave me?
I think humans are little better than chimps who fowl their beds and leave a mess where ever they go. We have the potential to do much better than that though, and in spite of the feeling that the entire world has gotten meaner in the last decade or two, there are many things we can (and sometime do) do to lessen our impact, which brings me to the point of this post.
What follows is a partial list of what I and my family do to try and lessen our impact. Much of it is minor but it all adds up. Some of it will maybe even leave the world a little better than when we found it. Understand that I am NOT talking about radical self-sacrifice. I enjoy life and am very comfortable. Feel free to add some of your own ideas and suggestions.
- Combine errands that require the car. We live in the country, so public transit, cycling, or walking is rarely an option. I make lists of things I need to get and do and when one of them actually requires me to drive into town or the city (like a Dr.’s appointment), I run the other errands at the same time.
- Recycle. For YEARS we have cleaned and sorted paper, plastics, metals, and bottles and taken them to a recycling depot. (Again, living in the country means we do not have the luxury of home pick-up.) We give clothes, furniture, media, etc. away if it’s still usable rather than throwing it out.
- Turn the heat down at night or when you’re not home.
- Use cloth instead of paper products. Those commercials that push the use of paper towels really tick me off (I don’t CARE how absorbent they claim to be). I used cloth diapers with my kids, we have cloth hankies and napkins (though I will admit to using kleenex to blow my nose and pretty paper napkins on movie nights), and we have a generous supply of old sheets, towels, shirts,socks, etc. that get used, washed, and used again for everything from spills to polishing shoes, to sick pets. If it is REALLY icky, then the cloth, being a rag, gets thrown out. How many people throw out old towels and sheets without even a second thought? The last time I bought paper towels was well over a year ago.
- Use plain, simple toilet paper. We have a septic system. That means everything we pour or flush down the drain STAYS on our land. That fancy stuff that won’t stick to that bear’s but? It won’t break down in the septic system either. You end up needing more chemicals and energy to break them down to go with the higher energy cost to make it in the first place.
- DO NOT USE sanitizers, or at least, use them VERY sparingly. All you are doing is helping the germs get stronger.
- Almost ALL food waste in our house is fed to some critter. We have dogs, chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese. We get some of back in eggs from the birds. Now THAT’s recycling. Whatever my critters don’t eat gets taken by the ravens, crows and magpies.
- We use water sparingly (with the possible exception of water for the animals – which stays on our land anyways). We still do the dishes by hand.
- We have a small hottub (in the house). This may not sound like a ‘green’ idea, but hear me out. It holds the equivalent of 3-4 normal bathtubs full of water. Under normal family use and when properly maintained the water in our tub needs to be changed about once every three months. It was designed for outdoor use so is extremely well insulated – the water stays warm with minimal help and there is virtually no evaporation. There’s a shower right beside it (with a reduced flow head, of course). Since getting the hottub, we have reduced the number of baths taken in the house to nearly zero.
- We keep most things (like large and small appliances) till they wear out.
- We put used (good one side) paper in the printer whenever possible.
- We re-use lumber and hardware as long as possible. I have some 2X4’s being re-used for the 4th or 5th time. The nails get taken out and the piece gets used again. I usually use screws these days – it makes things easier to dismantle.
- We raise some of our own meat. Any parts we don’t eat ourselves get fed to the dogs. Nothing is wasted.
- We use Livestock Guardian Dogs to protect our livestock: rather than trying to get rid of the local wildlife, we try to live WITH it.
That’s a start. I’ll add more as I think of them. It turns out to be harder to list the things we do than I thought it would be. Some things have now become so ordinary for us that we don;t even consider it as ‘green’.