I have been thinking a lot about sustainable lifestyles… namely, how to make a smaller environmental impact than I do at the moment. I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to resources, I use half or less of what I did in America (probably way less, actually - my lifestyle is dramatically smaller and different since I emigrated) but considering that the UK is second in line when it comes to ruining the planet, I guess that’s a bit like ordering a diet coke with my supersize meal, you know? I try to imagine what my life here could look like if I were to use half or less of what I use NOW, and I don’t even know where to start.
Things I do here that I didn’t do in america:
- Recycle. My Chicago suburb didn’t offer or mandate a recycling program, so even things like glass bottles, cans and paper went right to the landfill. Knowing how much we recycle here (both at our house and at the local dump, which is awesome about recycling) I am more than a little ashamed by this now.
- Drive less. We didn’t even own a car when I moved here, for a few years, and now that we have one, we probably only drive it once or twice a week, ten minutes or less. (Like someone’s granny.) It’s still more than we really need to, though, especially if it’s raining and we’re being lazy.
- Heating and A/C. We don’t have air conditioning, so that’s a no brainer - it never gets turned on. And our heating only runs a couple hours a day during even the coldest weeks of the year - at night we pile on blankets, and we know it’s time to get up again when we hear the heating kick on at 6am.
- More appropriate house size. I won’t lie - I hate living in a shoebox sometimes, but I also don’t miss gigantic American houses, either, which cost a lot more to run and maintain than my tiny house does. I can heat my little house in under an hour with just a few logs - something I don’t take for granted.
So these are all relatively big things. I do a lot of little things, too - I always bring a tote bag when I shop so I never have to get a plastic bag, I try to never buy water in plastic bottles, I re-use jars and containers. Our milk comes in glass bottles that get re-used by the dairy, and are delivered via electric car (very cute electric car, actually.) Our veg comes from the local farmers market and we bring it home in reusable mesh bags and totes (again, no plastic. My mom is laughing if she is reading this, because she thinks my hatred of plastic is borderline insane.) We have leftover picnics a lot so we don’t waste food, and when we go out to eat, we normally end up at an independent place that does locally grown food. (We are spoiled for choice in that department - I live in farm country.)
I’m working on some small things, too: shorter and cooler showers, buying more things second-hand and using things until we wear them out, making things whenever possible (dude, baking soda is the best exfoliator ever, no joke), putting my clothesline back up and being generally more conscious of how often we’re wearing things before we wash them, how many lights are on, and if we’ve left the water running while we wash the dishes. Etc., etc., etc.
It still never seems like enough, though, especially when I think about everyone in my hometown just chucking out 24 packs of Coke cans every Thursday. I’m new to owning a home, too, so I suspect I’m overlooking things I could be doing there. (Or can’t afford it, in the case of solar panels and new windows - two things I’m sure would help but just aren’t an option at the moment.)
What things do you do to help you get the most out of what you have? Can you recommend any good sources for someone like me, who is already doing a lot of the big stuff and is ready to level up into more specific ways to go green?