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Published on October 21st, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans

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Green and Sustainable Living

Reconciling good intentions with action isn’t always easy, yet people all over the world are managing the task just fine.  Five years ago, the term “carbon footprint” might have been used to describe a scrapbooking technique, not the responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  At one time, ‘going green’ was something radical—a movement reserved for the anti-establishment population.

These days, it’s the exact opposite.  In a world of constant “breaking news” and larger-than-life drama, it might seem pointless to focus on the nitty gritty solutions of everyday life. Yet, that’s exactly what has to happen in order to affect real change.

Green Living in Your Personal Living Space

Entire communities have grown accustomed to sorting and recycling glass, plastic, paper, etc., but is recycling really enough? Not according to Rene Belliveau, Education Coordinator of Waste Check, a not-for-profit organization designed to help meet its community’s waste management strategies.

“Both reducing and reusing are linked to people making good decisions and exercising frugal behavior,” says Belliveau.  “Some ways to reduce or make less waste include buying bulk food, purchasing quality items that will last a long time (like cars), using energy efficient lighting, etc.”

While any lifestyle change made in the name of the environment is a good thing, the focus now needs to be on our personal living spaces.  What’s a personal living space? Anywhere you are at any given time.  That’s your space.  The hardest part is in knowing where to start and not feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of changing the world.  It’s no longer good enough to use the carbon offsetting mentality by saying, “Well, my neighbor does my share of the work; therefore I don’t have to.”

Green Steps to Take Inside the Home

The David Suzuki Foundation is a good starting point for people with an affinity for challenge.  The Foundation, having researched the 10 most effective ways to conserve nature and improve quality of life, has established The Nature Challenge.  It’s an innovative way to get people thinking about the impact of everyday decisions.  One suggestion includes buying locally grown produce to reduce the amount of fossil fuels burned transporting the food from grower to market to table. Besides, locally grown food is fresher, tastier and more nutritious!

For some people, gardening evokes images of dungaree-clad individuals stooped over flowerbeds, engrossed in the monotony of plucking weeds. Yes, gardening can be a daunting and sometimes tedious task, but the rewards extend beyond the backyard into the community and inevitably into the atmosphere that sustains life. Produce, such as tomatoes, peas, carrots and cabbage, can be grown in small spaces (sometimes even in large containers) right on the front step, balcony or rooftop. Shy about asking for help? There are plenty of online gardening forums, clubs and associations willing to share words of wisdom.

For some people, gardening evokes images of dungaree-clad individuals stooped over flowerbeds, engrossed in the monotony of plucking weeds.  Yes, gardening can be a daunting and sometimes tedious task, but the rewards extend beyond the backyard into the community and inevitably into the atmosphere that sustains life.  Produce, such as tomatoes, peas, carrots and cabbage, can be grown in small spaces (sometimes even in large containers) right on the front step, balcony or rooftop.  Shy about asking for help? There are plenty of online gardening forums, clubs and associations willing to share words of wisdom.

Visit every room in your house and take a personal inventory of ways you’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  The kitchen is a great place to start.  Check the refrigerator to make sure the seals are intact, make a mental note not to run the dishwasher until it’s full, take a look under the sink and read the ingredients on common everyday household detergents.  If it has a “poison” or “corrosive” symbol on it, chances are it’s not so great for the environment.  Vinegar, a natural by-product of fruits, vegetables and grains, makes a great substitute for many household cleaners and can be used for cleaning countertops, glass, chrome, removing soap scum and scale from showers and bathtubs and even for removing stains in clothing.

Next stop: the family room.  Is there a desk or table piled high with bills, notes and junk mail? Put an end to the paper war by registering with the Mail Preference Service of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).  They might not be able to completely stop the flow, but they can help eliminate a large portion of unwanted junk mail.

Try to ignore the pile of dirty clothes and step into the laundry room for a quick peak around! Forget dryer sheets and use a wad of aluminum foil to get rid of static cling.  Not only does it work, it can also be reused.  An even better alternative is to hang clothes to dry whenever possible.

Is the trashcan in the washroom full of soiled, disposable diapers? While the thought of cloth diapers doesn’t appeal to most people, the cloth diapers of today are nothing like the ones of yesteryear.  Now, babies can sit comfortably in lined, contoured cloth diapers.  The lining can be disposed, reducing waste in the landfill, while the diaper itself can be washed and hung to dry.  It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.  The environmental impact of washing diapers is more desirable than filling a landfill with them.

Green Steps to Take Outside the Home

Enough of the indoors, let’s take a walk outside to assess the backyard.  This should be a place of fun and mystery, not just a place to stick the compost bin. Kids play here, pets frolic and romance buds within the folds of a backyard oasis.  The plants and lawn look great, but do they need so much water?  Not if you plant drought-resistant plants and use mulch, which reduces water use by reducing evaporation and runoff by 75 percent to 90 percent.

It takes more commitment than money to invest in green living; in fact, the financial savings and carbon emission reductions are easily measured by taking any number of the “one-ton challenges” offered online.  Another opportunity involves government rebates and tax breaks for purchasing fuel-efficient cars, installing solar panels in homes, etc.

Personal living space isn’t something found at any one location, it’s anywhere you are at any given time.  Take care of your personal space and you take care of the world.





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