We all like to say we’re pretty green – we recycle, we save on electricity, we buy sustainable and responsibly sourced products, and make sure that we don’t waste stuff like water. In general, we’re all good people who care about the environment.
But how many of us are more than a little prone to bad behavior when it comes to a simple matter of convenience? Are we that green when no one is looking?
After all, it’s hard being green, all the time. According to journalist Elizabeth Rosenthal, this could be peculiarly American trait that has developed over a good few years:
Part of the problem is that the U.S. has had the good fortune of developing as an expansive, rich country, with plenty of extra space and cheap energy. Yes, we Americans love our national parks. But we live in a country with big houses. Big cars. Big commutes. Central Air. Big fridges and separate freezers. Clothes dryers. Disposable razors.
That’s not to say, of course, that other countries don’t have their problems and a hard core of the community who don’t know or won’t behave in a more sustainable way.
If you like to think you are a child of the planet and green living is your raison d’être then take a look at the list below. We reckon that if you answer yes to more than two, you’re not quite as green as you thought you were.
You have inefficient heating. Technology has come a long way in the last ten to fifteen years and today’s boilers and heating systems are a lot more energy efficient. If you are hanging onto old technology to get the most out of it, you could be doing more harm to the environment than you think. You could also be adding to your bills and paying way more than you should to the big utility companies.
You haven’t checked your insulation in a long time. How you insulate your home is another issue that many home owners forget about. You can also save a lot on your utility bills if you have the right level of insulation across the board. That doesn’t just mean your walls and roof but also opting for more eco-friendly floors.
You concreted over your garden to make it look neater. Okay, so you were never a sucker for the outdoor world but that doesn’t mean you have to make your garden look like a car park. Providing a space for local wildlife, including birds, promotes a healthier environment and gives important insects like bees a place to thrive.
You threw away that shirt. We love to shop as a nation whether it’s for the latest fashion or that sharper look for the office. You need a new dress for that party or you want to make sure you look just fine on holiday this year. In the US we have a throw away mentality. That shirt or skirt could be repaired and last a lot longer if you made a bit more effort.
You drive when you should walk/cycle. How often have you had a trip of half a mile or so and jumped into the car to save time? Could you walk or cycle to work instead of guzzling gas? A few simple changes to how we get around can make a big difference but many of us just don’t think about it. Not only is getting to your destination under your own steam healthier, it can help save on gas and keep the planet healthy too!
You like to light up the front of your house at Christmas and Thanks Giving. We don’t have to say much on this. A picture will suffice. Yes, it looks nice. But if you want to boost your green living credentials it’s a big no-no.
You buy plastic packaged food. Plastic wrapping around food is not a green living favorite. We can’t avoid it all the time but buying loose vegetables and unpacked food can make a difference. The same can be said for water bottles – keep the one you bought the other day and fill it from the tap.
You don’t recycle leftovers. Once you’ve eaten that microwave meal, you throw the packaging in the bin and forget about it. Most of us are keen to make sure that things like this go straight to recycling but there are still a few of us who sneak it out with the rest of the garbage.
You leave lights on when they aren’t needed. Leaving lights on in the house or office when they are not being used is something we all do. You’d be surprised how much of your electricity bill you can save by simply switching off. If you are forgetful then try installing timer switches that turn off after a while. If you have the money invest in motion sensitive technology that knows when a room is occupied.
You have to buy the latest gadget. Do you know how much energy goes into making smartphones, tablets, cars, or even your mp3 player? We have become attuned to wanting the latest gadget when it does nothing to enhance our life experience at all. If your current iPhone still works and does all you need it to do, then why change it? We’re not talking about investing in new technology here, which can be a good thing, we’re talking about updating when you don’t have to.
You’re idea of saving the environment is to send a Tweet. Go on a social platform like Twitter or Facebook and there’s always a campaign to save the planet. They’re highly popular – after all it’s pretty easy to retweet something, even if you don’t really plan on changing your own lifestyle. Rather than assuaging your conscience with a tweet, try doing something more tangible like planting a tree.
You print way too much. One of the good things about technology is that we can all access information at the touch of a button. But there are still plenty of us printing out and wasting paper when we could just as easily save and view that information on our mobile devices. This goes especially for businesses that haven’t yet quite got the hang of modern technology. According to Think Before You Print:
Every day, people hit the print button without really considering why. Often it’s because we’re used to seeing things on paper we have some irrational desire to hoard information “so we’ve got it to hand”, but so often this spontaneous compulsion to print is unnecessary.
We can’t completely negate our impact on the environment, either as individuals or as a collective species. All we can really do is reduce our impact as much as possible. For that, each of us has a responsibility to do their best.
Sometimes green living may mean sacrificing convenience for a slightly difficult choice, such as walking to work rather than getting in the car or grabbing a cab. If we all do it, the collective impact will be remarkable. If most of us pass by this challenge, and perhaps many of us will, then we won’t make any difference at all.
Our big tip of the day: Small changes can actually save the planet. Let’s all get on board and start a real green living revolution today.