Monday, June 22, 2009

Environmental Action Step One: Intention

"Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink" ~ S.T. Coleridge

The ice caps are melting, the earth is getting warmer, and yet the amount of drinkable water is shrinking to the poing that it is being dubbed: blue gold. In fact, by 2030, if we don't reduce our emissions, "hundreds of millions of people are expected to become water stressed by climate change" (John Vidal, the guardian weekly, June 5-11).

I'm not an expert but the impending global water and environmental crisis strikes me as extremely significant and one that we need to address. In fact, when the same article listed above quotes Kofi Annan as saying, "The world is at a crossroads. We can no longer afford to ignore the human impact of climate change. This is a call to the negotiators to come to the most ambitious agreement ever negotiated or to continue to accept mass starvation, mass sickness and mass migration on an ever growing scale," I couldn't agree more.

So what on earth should we (ever so guilty, over-consuming Westerners) do to help? Most people I know want to help, but don't feel like they can afford to make a difference because being green is all about costing more, right? Wrong. And who the hell really knows where to start? I mean, for myself, my green actions are so muddled up that I can't even begin to make heads or tails of them.

One place to start is with David Suzuki's Green Guide or check out his website by clicking on the image on the right.

Need more? Try watching the film HOME by Yann-Arthus Bertrand (don't worry, it's free for all to see on YouTube)

And, because I'm overly ambitious, I am going to propose my very own step by step, Green Action Plan. So without further ado:

Step One: Intention

Start by taking a look at your life and at the products in your kitchen and your bathroom. Look at the food cans stored in your cupboard and the clothes that have been sitting in your closet since forever. Just take some time to look at what you've already bought. Don't buy anything new. Don't immediately go out and buy yourself "green products" because being advertised green doesn't always a green product make. Contrary to what media and companies would like you to believe: green consumerism doesn't solve the problem.

What do you clean with? What do you have stored in your cupboards that you never use? Don't worry, I'm not asking you to throw anything out. Yet. But if it's toxic it, finish it. Use it it up by giving your home a good cleaning. Scrub like you've never scrubbed before. Tilex, Mr Clean, Comet... clean away and be done with it.

Once you've started observing what you have in your home, start looking for areas that you can clean up and reduce your impact. Here are some very simple ways that you can start:

1. Replace dying lightbulbs with energy efficient CFL bulbs. They're not perfect but nobody expects you to live without light! These bulbs are everywhere, and are now available in multiple styles, colours (warm and cold), and sizes. If you don't have them yet, it's time to make the change.
2. Replace your toxic cleaners with more enviro-friendly options. I'm not asking you to make the switch to soap nuts just yet (but don't worry, when you're ready, I'll be here to sell you on the idea), just to start looking at the detergents you are using for things like laundry and make sure they are phosphate free and biodegradable. Look at your laundry, dish, and shower soaps. Does it clearly indicate that it is free of phosphates? That it biodegrades? Cause these features sell, so if it's not on the package then it ain't doing it...
3. You may not like this suggestion but it's worth giving some consideration: reduce your meat intake. (I'm not trying to turn everyone into vegetarians, I swear). Although we technically produce enough grain to feed the entire global population, over 60% of grain produced around the world goes to feeding cattle. And I haven't even touched on the amount of energy that is consumed to produce livestock.... Cutting meat out of your diet 1, 2, or 3 days of the week has a significant impact.
While none of these suggestions will solve the pending environmental crisis, we all have to start somewhere. Taking the time to look at what you use, consume, and store in your closets might surprise you, particularly when the alternative options aren't really any more expensive or time consuming...

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