A Month of Being Green

Food in Mason Jars

A few types of food that I now buy in a more environmentally friendly way (in bulk, in my own re-used containers). From left to right: Oats, Sliced Almonds, Chickpeas, Sunflower Seeds, Lentils, Quinoa, Sesame Seeds.

In August I decided to learn about the state of the world from an environmental perspective, and also learn what changes I could make myself to have less of an impact.

There are a ton of environmental issues, but I ended up focusing primarily on two of the major ones:

Climate Change:  We’re in a lot of trouble if we don’t change the trend.

Waste (specifically plastic):  The problem with plastic is that we produce a huge amount of it (just look down an aisle in any grocery store) and it never goes away. This month I learned that unlike glass & metal which can theoretically be recycled indefinitely, plastic usually either:

  • Doesn’t get recycled (a lot of the plastic that you put in your recycle bin simply takes a more expensive route to landfill because there’s no market for it), OR
  • Gets “downcycled” into other products like polyester which itself never breaks down and ends its life in landfill or the environment.

We’re producing a never-ending quantity of plastic on a finite earth, and poisoning the planet in the process.

To educate myself about these issues, I watched a few documentaries & other online videos, and read articles online as well as two books. Rather than listing off all of the material that I consumed, I’ll just mention the items that I found most worthwhile.

Documentaries:

Global Warming – What You Need To Know
Bag It
The Majestic Plastic Bag  (4 minutes)

TED Talks:

Al Gore: New Thinking on the Climate Crisis
Allan Savory: How to Green the World’s Deserts and Reverse Climate Change
Jonathan Foley – The Other Inconvenient Truth

Other Videos:

David Attenborough on Population
Pumphandle 2012: Time history of atmospheric carbon dioxide

Books:

Plastic Free by Beth Terry
Ecoholic by Adria Vasil (I didn’t read this entire book but it’s a useful reference, although not focused quite enough on waste reduction in my opinion)

Here’s a list of the changes that I made. Many of the changes happened during the month of August but manuy also came afterwards (it’s a lot of work to change everything at once so I’ve been doing it gradually).  I’m only listing changes here that have “stuck”:

The Changes

Item

Before

After

Mail

Snail Mail (for bank statements etc)

Online mail (canceled as much snail mail as possible).

Laundry Detergent

In plastic bottles, with questionable ingredients.

No packaging, green ingredients (Local store Terra20 allows customers to bring in re-used bottles to fill with eco-friendly detergent).

Chickpeas

In metal containers lined with plastic.

No packaging (I now buy them in bulk in my own reusable containers).

Compost Bags

Sealed them closed with plastic tape.

Close them by just folding them (a minor change… but everything counts!).

Garbage Bags

Plastic garbage bags.

No garbage bags. Now that I’m composting all food waste, everything that goes into my garbage can is dry… and when the garbage can is full I dump it directly into a dumpster).

Produce Bags

Disposable plastic produce bags provided by the grocery store.

Carrots

Baby carrots in a plastic bag.

Full size carrots in no packaging (except for a twist-tie).

Garlic

In a plastic mesh wrapper.

Loose garlic heads in no packaging.

Dried Seaweed

In a plastic package.

Quit eating seaweed because I can’t get it with no packaging.

Lentils

In plastic bags.

No packaging – in bulk in my own re-used containers.

Salmon

I’d cook only what I’d eat right then.

I now cook a few days’ worth in advance (uses less energy for cooking) and store it in the fridge.

Tea

In plastic packaging, and with staples holding the bag & string together.

In only paper boxes & with no staples (and when I run out of my existing tea I’ll buy it loose in my own re-used containers).

Plastic Cling Wrap

I’d use it to cover food.

I now store food in mason jars & re-use the lids.

Dove “Soap”

In excess packaging, including plastic.

I’ve found Dove in less packaging in some stores, and with no plastic.

Shaving Cream

In a disposable aerosol can.

I now use soap instead of shaving cream – soap that comes in no packaging. Soap works surprisingly well!

Paper Towels

I used paper towels often.

Quit paper towels completely. I use re-usable dish cloths instead & wash them in the laundry. Why didn’t I think of this before? Paper towels are crazy!

Drinking Glasses

I used glasses that were built for drinking. But my city can’t recycle them.

I now drink out of mason jars, because they’re recyclable when they break.

Receipts

I’d recycle them.

I put them in the garbage because they contain BPA which gets into products made from recycled paper (i.e. toilet paper).

Berries

In plastic containers.

Quit buying berries since I can’t get them with no packaging.

Grapes

In plastic bags.

Quit buying grapes since I can’t get them with no packaging.

Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar in a plastic bottle.

Switched to other types of vinegar that come in glass bottles (rice, red wine, white wine).

Bulk Foods (oats, sunflower seeds, quinoa, almonds, sesame seeds, etc)

I’d put them into the disposable plastic bags provided at the bulk food store.

I put them into my own re-used containers.

Books

Bought physical books.

Got a Kobo and will be buying electronic books from now on.

 
The result of this month is that I now care more, and do more to try to preserve our future. It has taken about 4 billion years for evolution to produce life as we know it. And now, in the evolutionary blink of an eye, we’re destroying it. I hope we can find a way to stop before it’s too late.

Comments

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