It’s Earth Day Everybody! My second favorite holiday!… second to Cinco de Mayo, of course.)
Being “green,” as they say, can be expensive. Last time I checked, completely transforming your lifestyle requires at least a little effort and/or a lot of money. Neither of which is very much fun to spend, and is probably why you don’t see everyone driving Hybrid cars or riding their bike to work (expensive AND sweaty.) The good news is that I can relate, so much so that the teller at the bank laughed at me the last time I asked for an account balance. That’s how much I can relate. However, that has not discouraged me. Oh no, in fact it has encouraged me to make some changes… because sometimes being green means being cheap. And that I am. Get ready you future green peace members because I have blazed a path in the eco-friendly world with this list of cheap, easy (& socially unacceptable) changes to make in your everyday life that require way less effort than tilling your front yard into an organic vegetable garden, but (literally) next to nothing financially. This is a non-exhaustive list of things you may or may not want to try that I have implemented into my daily routine in an attempt to live simply, consciously and slightly unorthodox-ly. (You can at least do these things till you get those solar panels installed, right? Am I Riiight?)
*All of the following statements are true. These are actually things I do… and don’t even expect me to talk about saving water by not washing my hair because I’m SO not going to humor you and tell you how often… or not often that I wash.. or don’t wash my hair. Yeah, nice try.*
Ahhh look at me being all one with the earth and stuff.
Wear your clothes multiple days in a row.
The Space Test: (no one is looking so just do it.)
- Begin by raising your right arm and placing your nose on your armpit. Inhale deeply. -Take your breath away? Maybe so, but don’t throw that shirt in the laundry bin just yet.
- Once again raising your arm, place your nose 2-3 inches from your armpit. Inhale deeply.-Still a little musky? Cleanse your palette and continue to step 3.
- With your arm still raised, tilt your head only slightly in the direction of your exposed armpit and inhale deeply one more time. With this breath, assess the damage.
From here make your assessment. If at any point before step 3. your deep inhale produced no recognizable stench then you need to air that sucker out and put it back in the closet. It’s your duty as a citizen of the earth to reuse it without washing it.
Here’s the long and short of it- Somewhere along the way in our Western culture someone (probably someone eating crumpets with a monocle) made it socially unacceptable or at least socially awkward to see someone wearing the same thing they wore the day before. Where did that come from? You crazies. I wear the same thing multiple days in a row without washing it and look at me! Baha!
I seek simplicity and this seems like a perfectly sensible solution. What’s better than getting to wear your favorite clothes every single day?!? Chances are unless you went for a run in that shirt, it’s not THAT dirty. I guess you could always put it back in the closet and wear it non-consecutively… but that takes ALL of the fun out of it if you ask me.
Reuse your slightly damp, slightly dirty, mini paper towels.
The ugly truth is, sometimes using a paper towel once is stupid. The efforts made by paper towel companies when they began to perforate the normal sized sheet mid-way to make two smaller sheets is commendable but still… how many times do you wash your hands and grab one of those mini sheets, give it a half-hearted crumple & then toss it? On further investigation you might find that even using those smaller sheets you’re not using it to it’s full potential. They were made for more. More than saving the planet, I’m concerned with self-esteem of those quilted little guys. Imagine how it must feel to be ripped from your home and paper towel friends, only to be slightly saturated then thrown next to the old bread (that you should have composted.) This is another one of those things that seems to have social connotations attached to it based on our culture’s underlying value system that is really just silly once you consider it further.
So, here’s the options as I see it-
- Rinse those hands, grab that mini sheet and dry em off!… annnd then straighten it out, fold it up and set it in a designated spot next to your sink for the next time you need to dry your hands (it’s only water, it will dry. Just like new!) or at least leave it to wipe of your counter top in the event of excess spillage or an occasional spot clean.
- Stop using paper towels at times when a dish towel will suffice. To clean spray from the sink, for example. (Seriously, water evaporates.)
- Air dry! If you can’t stomach the thought of rinsing and reusing, then suck it up and shake it off. (Seriously, water evaporates.)
No one will even notice the stack of used paper towels sitting next to the sink. Just fold them up nicely like me. Anyway, people are usually too distracted by the unbelievably tall stack of cardboard boxes that you hoard and the fact that you only own one plate. (Yeah, that is probably only relevant to me again.)
NEVER let your trash end up on the ground & never walk past someone else’s trash again.
This one is actually torturous. Somewhere along the way, in all of this “having convictions” and “caring” stuff I picked up this inability to walk by trash on the ground without picking it up. What’s so torturous about that you ask? HAVE YOU SEEN HOW MUCH TRASH THERE IS ON THE GROUND? Obviously not, or you wouldn’t have had to ask that question.
Warning: Following this practice actually does take some effort and mental energy. It’s easy effort, but it is effort. For one thing, it seems so small. It can actually take more mental energy to do small things than it takes to do big things because sometimes it’s hard to see what difference it makes and therefore takes much more convincing yourself that it’s worth the effort. It might look something like this, you’re walking along, walking along, you spot some trash in your peripherals and you keep walking along and then somewhere deep down inside of you there’s a voice that says, “hey you jerk, go pick that up.” (Ok, maybe that’s just the voice inside of me.) So then you have to turn around, pick it up and carry it till there is a proper place for waste. Sometimes you end up carrying trash around because you’re not near a trash can or sometimes you have to stop conversations you’re having so that you can say, “Excuse me, I have to go chase that snickers wrapper.” But most times it’s not hard. You just see trash, and you pick it up. One small step for the planet, one giant leap for your character.
The truth is there are a lot of things that we do as a society, not because it really even makes sense, but because at some point in our history or perhaps over the span of our history we have developed certain beliefs about things that are ‘unacceptable.’ Like the idea of having to wash something because we’ve worn it once. Without thinking about it that would seem fine and even logical but on further inspection we realize that most citizens of the Western world own enough clothing to wear a different thing without washing it everyday for at least a month, yet somehow our washing machines stay busy. More than saving water, changing our mindset about how often we launder something produces an awareness that we may not understand as well as we think we do. There’s no finger pointing happening here though. We’re all the product of our surroundings and let’s face it- we’re blessed. Why would we naturally feel like conserving when we’ve always lived in a land of plenty? Coming to the realization that our truths as a culture may not be the truths of the rest of the world begins to produce the ability to see the huge gap between many of us and the millions of people who wear the same clothes every day because it’s the only set they have. And slowly, as we change our perspective we begin to change our thought processes and then habits and eventually what seemed so logical is a distant memory of a life we used to live and we’re hanging our clothes back up without thinking about it and we’re high-fiving all the time because we’re all so happy that we get to wear our favorite pants again! That’s how we will reduce our waste and save our planet… the earth part & the people on it.
HOORAH! Now, to celebrate- here’s some of my favorite images that I’ve taken of our beautiful Earth and Earthlings in some of my travels. GO EARTH.
[Images from top: Kara Standing on Huayna picchu Mountain at Machu Picchu in Peru; Zambian Village; My travel buddies and I, taken with timer on the beach in Essouria, Morocco; Reflection of building on the water in Florence, Italy; Crab on the beach of Cabo Palonio, Uruguay; Iguazu Falls, Brazil; My camel at the ruins of a hotel frequented by Jimi Hendrix outside of Essouria, Morocco; Reflection of boats in Rocha, Uruguay; Oh, you know… just being cool, Andes Mountains, Peru]