Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Dreaming Of Being Green

by Gavin @ The Greening of Gavin

How do you make the transition from just dreaming or thinking of being green to actually doing something about it? It has often been said that every great journey begins with a single step. That is how I found my journey towards a sustainable lifestyle started out.

My journey started with a jolt into a place that I had dared not to venture. That place was reality! The reality of the world around me and I finally saw what a sorry mess we had made of it all. Sure, the city I work in looked nice enough on the surface, but under that thin veneer was a behemoth of an energy guzzling machine, spewing millions of tonnes of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and trashing the natural environment around it. Some awakening, and this was not new to me. It had been going on for decades. It seemed like no-one cared (even me up to that point in time) except a handful of kindred spirits who cared and dared to take action.

So what can one person do to lower their impact on the environment and turn a lighter shade of green? Well, the first step my friends is to do a self assessment, or in other words, take a good hard look at your own behaviours and spending habits. You may already be a little bit green and not realise it! if you already practice some frugal habits that you have learnt from reading essays at this Co-op, then you have already taken your first step. This is because I believe that being frugal = being green. A simple life is a green one in disguise.

Let me give you an example. You go to a op-shop/thrift store and buy some second hand cookware. Firstly, you have not used any new resources such as steel, oil, or aluminium for the pots and pans, including the energy required to manufacture, transport, and store them before sale. Secondly, you have rescued that resource from landfill, and have given it a second life and a good home for a bargain price. So by purchasing second hand goods or reusing materials you have around the home, you help to reduce your carbon footprint.

So what else can you do? As I mentioned, spending habits are easily formed in today's society. You have probably heard the term 'Retail Therapy'. Have you ever felt excited about buying something new, purchased it on credit with money you don't really have, only to return home with said item and then get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? You suddenly realise that you have to work harder to pay it back, and that you probably didn't really need it anyway! Not a very nice type of therapy if you ask me. If I had to go to therapy it would be to heal, not to help me suffer more.

How do you change this behaviour/habit? Well the only way I know how is to assess your needs verses your wants. Needs are usually items, goods or services that you purchase or make yourself to survive. Things like shelter, food, water, hygiene, love, clothing (up to a point), and transport. Wants are essentially the opposite. Wants are things that people desire that do not really enhance their lives or happiness levels above and beyond their basic needs.

Here are a few examples;
  • You have a small appartment that serves your shelter needs, but you want a McMansion out in the 'burbs to be like everyone else.
  • You have a functional TV that your parents gave you, but you desire a massive wall mounted Plasmas/LCD TV to watch sport on all weekend.
  • You have a basic wardrobe with basic items of clothing that mix and match well throughout the year, but you absoloutely would die for that latest designer jacket and matching handbag so that you can dine out most evenings.

All of these types of wants are destroying the environment! Here is why I believe this is true. The more we consume, the more we have to manufacture stuff. The more manufacturing, the more raw natural resources we have to use. Things like wood, water, oil, minerals, etc. We cut down rainforests in other countries to make way for plantations and mines to feed our wants. The simplest way to start your green journey is to reduce your excessive consumption of stuff and make your way back to basic needs. That is how our forefathers managed to live fruitful lives. Less excessive consumption = less resources utilised = less greenhouse gassess emitted in the process. You can also be assured of treading lightly on your part of the planet which we only have one of.

It is not an easy task, but certainly a worthwhile one. When you consider that the future of our children, grand children, and all those humans who follow, not to mention every other species on the planet, is what is really at stake. We may or may not see the full impact of the last few decades of our present behaviour in our lifetimes, but rest assured, our decendants certainly will if the majority of scientific evidence is to be believed.

All food for thought, and no better reason to take that first step. You may never dream of where it may take you. I never did, and our family have not only stopped needless consumption, but we have saved a fortune and some of the environment in the process!