Jasmin Malik Chua is one of the guiding voices behind the informative and earth-transforming blog Planet Green. I love the site because it provides practical advice about ways to help the environment without being preachy or overly touchy-feely. We thank Jasmin for being a part of our month of sharing, and we hope you take a few minutes to check out her site after reading her motivating words.
If I had a penny for every person I’ve met who has told me “I’ve always wanted to go green,” well, let’s just say that I’d be writing this from the deck of a solar-powered yacht floating on Lake Como, while George Clooney squeezed a couple of organic oranges with his bare, masculine hands to sate my thirst.
You may not always hear it spoken aloud, but one word always dances at the end of that phrase: but. As in, “I’ve always wanted to go green, but.” But what, exactly?
But I have no time.
But I don’t know how to.
But I’m easily overwhelmed.
But I don’t want to appear like a hippie.
But I’m afraid of change.
Just because you’re concerned about the type of world we hand off to our children, however, doesn’t mean you have to live in a yurt in outer Mongolia, strap yourself to a whaling ship, or use yourself as a human shield against bulldozers that mow down old-growth trees. In fact, you’re probably already doing your part to save the planet, even if you don’t know it.
Unclutterers are tree-huggers
A person who abhors clutter — and knows that it saps energy and detracts from the more important things in life — already has the first and most important of the three “R”s down pat. Reducing your personal consumption also reduces the amount of “stuff” you’re contributing to the waste stream. Without all that excess baggage, maybe you won’t need to move into a power-guzzling McMansion to house your worldly goods.
If you’ve launched your own personal blood feud against junk mail, you’re helping save some of the 100 million trees that are felled to produce the 100 billion pieces of junk mail that Americans receive every year, as well as the equivalent of 3.7 million cars in global-warming carbon emissions.
Getting your paper clutter under control by viewing and paying your bills online isn’t insignificant either. If all U.S. households swore off paper bills, the reduction in paper would save 16.5 million trees a year.
Here are some other ways you can unclutter your life, while giving the environment a fighting chance to support life on earth:
- Get your money’s worth. By choosing quality over quantity, as well as longevity over novelty, we’ll not only be able to spend more for something that is better-constructed and long-lived, but our purchasing habits will also have less of an impact on the environment.
- Live virtually. Avoid creating something in meatspace if you have a digital option available. You can upload files instead of burning them to discs for distribution, for instance, or use tree-free online faxing. With electronic signatures, you can even send contracts through the digital ether, without having to print a thing.
- Be Zen. As previous guest poster Zen Habits wisely preaches, less is more. To live minimally means being satisfied with just meeting your essential needs — everything else is just “stuff.” In other words, simplify, simplify, simplify.
- Just say no. While this mantra applies to accumulating items we want but don’t need, it’s the little things that we need to be aware of, as well. Most of us ask for a printed confirmation, almost by rote, for example, when we withdraw money from an ATM, or purchase a ticket from a subway machine. More often than not, the receipt vanishes into the folds of our already-overstuffed wallets. Multiply that by 8 billion, which is how many ATM transactions happen each year in America, and that’s a lot of unnecessary waste. Review your ATM transaction at your bank’s Web site, instead.
- Get rid of it. Taking inventory of your possessions, and culling what you don’t need by selling or donating those various odds and ends, means that someone else gets to make use of something that was only collecting dust at your home. And, because the recipient of your preloved goods purchased used, no new resources were expended to create something entirely new.
How has uncluttering and green living intersected in your daily living? Feel free to expound in the comments below.