I am “Woodsy the Owl”. Or I thought I was because I recycle everything in sight: the cardboard rolls in toilet paper, the plastic that sheathes wrapping paper. Recycling for me is a game, the more I pitch into those red buckets, the more likely I am to win a healthier planet. Not a bad trade, I figure. It is also, for me, a cultural lifestyle. I grew up watching my Mamacita compost, feeding and bathing pigs on my grandfather’s farm in Puerto Rico, and having my Mamacita make my clothing. What we do affects the Earth; I get it.
And so, inspired, like I do every year on my birthday, I sat down last November to write my goals and to-dos for the coming year. With pride, I wrote down Reduce My Carbon Footprint, thinking that I probably already had the footprint of a junior high schooler. Right after I wrote it down, I emailed my sister with a special birthday gift request: a package of Envirosax: environmentally friendly grocery bags that I can reuse at each visit. Just like that, I could feel my footprint shrink to the size of a sixth grader’s. Next, I logged on to my bank’s web-site to inform them that I didn’t want any more paper statements. And, finally, an afterthought, really, I decided to measure my carbon footprint, the amount of greenhouse gases I produced as I went about my life. And what I found out was that I am not Woodsy. Nope. Because of the amount I flew to do workshops on beauty, body image, and ethnic identity last year, my carbon footprint was mammoth. Specifically, I put out 23,337 kg of carbon dioxide last year. The average American’s footprint is 19,000 kg per year. The average per person for all industrialized nations is 11,000 kg. The world-wide average is 4000 kg. I was an excessive consumer of the Earth’s resources, and I was mortified.
So, what can a girl who is not in the market for a new car, doesn’t live in a city with a subway, doesn’t even have a farmer’s market nearby do? I decided to find out. And with St. Patrick’s Day approaching, I thought that I would share a few tricks from my own lil’ bag o’ green…
1. My Envirosax bags rock. Five reusable, water-resistant, mad grocery lugging bags wrap up into tiny little rolls and squeeze into a lil’ sack that fits in my person. When I check out, I whip those bad boys out and stuff my groceries inside. The straps fit easily on my shoulder for a comfortable walk home from the grocery store (another lil’ thing I am doing… walking to the grocery store since there is now one in my town).
2. My Sigg waterbottle that sports a whale and says Live Simply is always by my side. I love, love, love my water bottle and the Brita water filter that cleans all the antibiotics and antidepressants out of my tap water for me. We used to be a big bottled water family and always recycled every bottle, but recycling them wasn’t enough to erase the impact of creating so many bottles. Here is what I have since been broken-hearted to find out: in 2006, 22 billion plastic water bottles were added to our landfills just in the US. These bottles take THOUSANDS of years to break down while demanding a boatload of fossil fuels to be created. Aye.
3. We joined a CSA—community supported agriculture farm. As farm shareholders, we help our farmers—a young, vibrant couple who live about 10 miles from us—make a living on a family farm in exchange for weekly “shares” of crops. It is sort of like going to a farmer’s market but there wasn’t a local farmer’s market (except since this is me we are talking about, a Farmer’s Market was announced the week after we committed to the farm with our farm being the primary farmer being brought in to anchor the farmer’s market. At least, I know I have groceries coming and won’t have to wake up at the crack on farmer’s market day to elbow my way to the spinach).
4. I am unplugging. I learned that vampire plugs (items that stay plugged in all day even though they aren’t being used) still suck electricity out… and so we can save even more electricity when we aren’t using something by unplugging it. These are just a few of my new behaviors— I’ll share more soon (like buying carbon offsets) and would love to hear any of your suggestions.