The main reason most Americans dont live more sustainably? Many see it as either too hard or too expensive. Sure, it is easy to say buy solar panels and eat only at restaurants who have direct relationships with localfarms, but we dont all have that kind of cash. On the other side of the coin, going full-on zero wasteisnt a realisticoption for everyone either. So, how can the majority of us go greenwithout surrenderingto either extreme?
1. Take baby steps.
Baby steps are key to changing any habit, including our most ingrained, less-than-sustainable ones. For instance, instead of giving up all animal products cold turkey, choose to eat all-vegetarian meals for 3 or so days a week. Odds are, you can stick with this lifestyle change long-term, unlike an extreme experiment with avoiding all animal products, which 75 percent of people give up after a stint. If you do that calculation, a subtle, long-term change is more environmentally effective than an extreme, short-term one.
In your house, instead of worrying about not being able to afford solar panels, try making your house asenergy efficient as you can by replacing bulbs, reprogramingyour thermostat, and addressing excessive water usage and waste. Rather than deciding to only bike commute to work, start off by riding in on sunny, warm days and work your way up. Instead of going to the mall for new pants, make an effort to shop secondhand at places like ThredUp. You want your sustainability to become a integrated lifestyle choice, not a burden.
2. Support causes over products.
Great, you buyless-toxic, eco dish soap. That’s a good thing, but youll be disappointed to hear that those types of purchases dont really shrink your carbon footprint or offset climate change in any meaningful way. By all means, keep buying greener productsif you canthey are certainly healthier for your body and your immediate environment. But, many of us become content and complacent after buying green products, thinking we have done our small part in the challenge to salvage the environment. That couldnt be further from the truth.
Rather than solely using your purchasing power to try to evoke change, you are better off going straight to the source. Donate to causes and organizationswho are pushing the regulatorsthe FDA, the USDA, the EPAto make big changes that will improve health and environmentalregulationsnationwide. Continue to buy cleaner, organic products when you can afford to (they are usually a little more expensive), but make it a priority to educate, donate and push for change in our food system, environment and manufacturing procedures as much as you can.
3. Get involved locally.
Yeah, we love our glorious national parks, but dont you also want to keep your local environment clean and beautiful? Pay attention to what is going on in your community. It may be time to –gasp– go to a town hall meeting and pay attention to the initiatives and politics in your neighborhood. It may be a little less romantic than fighting for the great wild places of the West, but you can be most effective in creating change at a local level. Of course, if the national or state parks need your attention, by all means, they deserve everyone’s support.We need regulations and protections for all our environments.
You aren’t going to become a green machine overnight, but if you make it a conscious part of your lifestyle, it’s really not that hard. And maybe down the line you can buy solar panels and you’ll shop only in the bulk aisle and you’ll have a commuter bike and drive a Tesla. But, just because you don’t have these things shouldn’t stop you from embracing more a sustainable way of living. Every single one of us has a real responsibility now that climate change looms overhead, but moderatesustainabilityisn’t as overwhelming and difficult as you may think.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.