I mostly live by example, share what I can and hope that others see the environmental, physical and spiritual benefits of living mindfully.
Every decision I make is a conscious one—sometimes I opt for the not-so-green option out of convenience and I am not too proud to admit that but I am willing to share with you all a comprehensive list of things we can do to live our fabulous lives with a little less impact on the planet.
My top ten tips to go green.
1. Go vegetarian. If not for ethical reasons, do it for the planet.
I speak of this scientifically and mathematically.
For example, a chicken needs to eat five pounds of grain to create one pound of meat. If you cut out the middle chicken and simply eat the five pounds of grain we diminish our impact on the environment. As you go further and further up the food chain, the sun loses its energy so to speak as animals expel said energy on breathing and other life sustaining bodily functions.
A cow, needs nearly triple the amount of grain to make one pound of meat. So, if we’re not willing to go full vegetarian or vegan opt for chicken over beef.
2. Cut out alcohol. *Gasp* I’m certainly guilty of not doing this one balls to the wall, however I’ll explain the environmental benefits.
It takes a lot of time, space, resources and energy to brew delicious beer, distill liquor and make mouth watering wine.
If you’re like me, you love a good cabernet sauvignon but one thing you can do to cut down the environmental impacts of your alcohol consumption is to buy from local wineries and microbreweries.
This at least cuts down on the carbon footprint of your favorite spirit by eliminating shipping emissions. It might be hard at first to say good bye to your favorite pale ale but there are tons of microbreweries popping up all over the nation and most of them offer refillable growlers. This earns us added green points, because it cuts down on bottles/cans and is reusable.
Extra green points awarded if you use your empty growlers as home décor, which brings me to my next tip.
3. Mean Green Home Décor! Lucky for us rustic/shabby chic style is in so these tips kill two stylish green birds with one stone.
Instead of shopping for your home décor items at big box stores opt for flea markets, antique stores and even grandma’s attic. Not only can you find one-of-a-kind pieces for your home, they have not been shipped all around the world and the earth will thank you for reusing instead of buying new.
Also, antique items have already withstood the test of time and will not need to be replaced as frequently as something cheaply made that can be purchased at aforementioned big box stores.
4. Grow your own organic veggies (using no pesticides and non-gmo or heirloom seeds). There are so many reasons to start your own garden. The simplest is that instead of driving the 5 miles to the grocery store for a tomato you can walk into the backyard and pick one yourself. One thing that tends to go unnoticed or unsaid about home grown veggies is when you have your own garden your typical meal menu depends on what is ripe that day so home growers tend to waste less as well.
Newbies often think they need a ton of space to garden—for years I simply had some container plants like tomatoes, strawberries and potatoes.
Every little bit counts when you’re trying to live mindfully!
5. Greenscaping. This is a huge one! When choosing your outdoor plants always do your research. Yes, a Japanese maple is pretty, but in many areas it’s considered an invasive species. If you don’t know what that is, in short, they choke out native species, disrupt ecosystems and bring in pests from other areas to where there are no natural predators and so on.
So, when choosing your trees and scrubs always choose native to your area. I cannot stress this enough! Do the same when choosing flowers and try to pick things that attract bees and butterflies! You can also choose flowers that can be used as potpourri like roses, or edibles like mint, sunflowers and herbs.
Oh, try boiling lavender and other herbs over the stove to freshen up your house, you won’t regret it.
To keep down your gardening costs, choose perennials or self-seeders over annuals. Team up with your neighbors too—you can exchange cuttings of your larger plants to keep your landscaping ever changing from year to year.
One other thing to do with gardening/ landscaping that can help you keep your energy consumption down due to heating and cooling is to look into shading sunny parts of your house with deciduous trees. During the warmer months the trees will have lush foliage to block the sun and in the winter months when the tree drop their leaves it will allow sun to get in—maybe some fruit trees, see where I’m going with this?
6. Green hair. This is also a big one believe it or not, but your body and the planet will thank you!
Opt for a low-maintenance hair style—the more you put on your hair and the more you style your hair the more resources you are wasting. I’m not suggesting everyone shave their heads, or get dreadlocks (like me) but think about your daily beauty routine.
Shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, the blow dryer, hot rollers, root lifter, the straighter, serum, hair spray, more hair spray. You remove the natural oils in your hair with harsh detergents and dyes then spend the next three steps trying to get the moisture back in your hair, then the next two trying to remove it, then the next three trying to replace it again.
So many chemicals!
When choosing your products go all natural, go organic and go cruelty free (this goes for any beauty product). Say no to the blow dryer when you can, avoid the hair dye. Some simple tips—coconut oil makes a great frizz reducer and straightening serum and salt water spray does wonders for volume and curls. There’s also a whole no-poo movement you should probably check out.
7. Mindful shopping. Is there such a thing?
Absolutely. Buy local, buy handmade.
This is as green as it is ethical. Buying from local stores not only supports your local communities and puts money into the pockets of local business owners instead of fat cat CEO’s, its ecofriendly.
If you’re an online shopper (guilty as charged) consider finding your item online and then looking for local retailers. When you purchase something from a store online the warehouse will ship you that one item, in one oversized box with a pound of unnecessary packaging materials whereas a local retailer will order a truck load of things that will be shipped in bulk. I hope that doesn’t seem too farfetched, site to store is the way to go, it can often save you on shipping charges too.
Another example, I love Etsy.com. Even in a case like that I try to find items from sellers who are local to diminish the carbon footprint of shipping.
8. Mindful shopping (part 2). Spend the extra money. There tends to be a mindset of brand shaming saying items from brand name stores are overpriced.
Well, it’s taken me 28 years to realize this, but spending the extra money on one well made piece of clothing or furniture is worth it in the long run. As a teenager I’d rather have 10 shirts that fell apart in a month than one shirt that has lasted 10 years but my mentality has certainly shifted.
The reason brand names are in fact brand names is that someone somewhere was making a durable quality product that consumers realized was so, then that product grew and now they’re able to charge a premium price for their merchandise.
Many of you at this point may be thinking
“so, vegetarian, hippie girl with dreadlocks wears brand name clothing?”
Yes, yes I do. Because I can promise you I’ve had half of my clothing for 10 years and it still looks brand spanking new. Not only does it save me the trouble of throwing out torn and tattered crap, it saves me money and I’m sure Good Will appreciates the stuff I bring them, because it might be out of style and 10 years old but it’s still in good shape.
9. Compost. Yes, compost.
Please, if this is the one thing you take away from these tips mother earth will be so thankful. Throwing out food waste is a horrible thing—this great organic matter everyone throws away is destined to sit in a landfill, not biodegrading, with its nutrients never to be returned to this beautiful earth.
I’ll tell you what we do as an example. We live in the city but have a small yard. Inside the house is a container with a green lid, we put our banana peels, egg shells, coffee grounds and whatever else in there until its full then we take it outside to a cat littler bin. We also built three sided compost bin out of recycled cinderblocks and that’s where we dump the bin when it’s full. In the spring we put all the ripe compost in our small veggie bed and turn it under with the roto-Tyler (my fiancé and a hoe).
An added benefit is that we rarely have to take out our trash because it never smells, so we save plastic garbage bags as well.
10. Electricity. Other than stating the obvious, turn off unused appliances and change out your incandescent light bulbs.
Here’s some you probably haven’t thought of. Reconsider your exercise routine. Do you go to a gym where you run on a treadmill and use electricity to do so? Consider running outside instead.
It always baffled me how people use electricity for that. Electric candle warmers? If this is a necessity in your house for some reason, consider putting them on a timer so they are on for an hour then off for two or three, you can get the programmable timers pretty much anywhere and the wax stays warm long after the light switches off.
Or, you can boil some herbs and flowers from your garden as I mentioned above!
Also, consider downsizing. If you have multiple TV’s or computers considering donating or selling some, you’d be surprised how much you don’t miss them when they’re gone, and yes there might be a scuffle over the
remote, but living mindfully is worth it in my book.
That wasn’t so bad was it? Even if you choose to follow some of these in order to save money it’s a step in the right direction. Once we all start making conscious decisions about our lifestyles with regard to others and the planet anything is possible.
Live green fellow earthlings. Namaste.
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Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock