The Big Girl Chronicles: Earth Day 2013
Each day I awake I go through my daily hygiene routine in somewhat of a robotic subconscious trance. I brush my teeth first because I abhor that pasty morning mouth. I wash my face and proceed to cleanse and dress myself. After I’m donned in the day’s apparel, I climb into my luxurious, fully-loaded family sedan and go on about the day’s business. Any given day will include a visit to my local Starbucks to get my morning fuel, traveling hither and fro for “retail therapy” and perhaps patronizing the local bookstore to catch up on some good reading or pick up a magazine or two. By the afternoon, I’ll have lunch and prepare to receive my children from school. They’ll do their homework in the living room with the television on to keep them company while I prepare their snacks of bottled beverages and boxed goodies. Throughout the evening, the kids will spend time watching television or entertaining each other while I prepare dinner. After we eat, we’ll continue piddling around until we begin to end our day with nighttime routines of oral hygiene and cleansing. I’ll crawl into bed and read with the television on for company, satisfied that I’ve had a productive day. I’ll marvel at the magnificence of the world and fall asleep feeling extremely lucky to be who I am, ready to do it all over again tomorrow.
The snapshot that I’ve described above seems like what would be considered a productive day, but is an irresponsible one. You might wonder why. I’ve taken care of those things for which I’m responsible safely. Yet, I’ve neglected the one thing that sustains us all. That one thing to which I’m referring is our world. Environmental responsibility is likely to be considered one of the most neglected priorities that we “earthlings” misuse, ignore and abuse. The earthly population is astronomical. What if each individual that shares our world acted as I do each morning? How many gallons of water would we have wasted because we don’t turn the faucet off while we brush our teeth or wash dishes? How much pollution would continue to dilute quality oxygen because my luxurious, fully-loaded family sedan isn’t fuel efficient? What number of plastic and paper goods would be disposed of daily? How much energy have I taken for granted because everyone in the house is doing their own thing with all the lights on?
It seems tedious to have to be conscious of every small detail of my daily living habits. Seems kind of like too much to think about. Too much... of an adult concept for a big girl like myself. The fact of the matter is that I’m too selfish to want to discipline myself enough to make a few small changes that can quickly become habit. Besides, the Earth is colossal and I’m only one person. I can’t possibly make that much of a difference. I guess that’s what most everyone else is thinking also. I’ve heard it exclaimed that we make time for those things that we find of enough importance. And it’s been a proven fact that until consequences of your actions manifest, you continue to do things that can be self-destructive.
So, The Big Girl is making some changes to graduate into womanhood. I’ve done some research about the topic and found that the changes I’d have to make to exercise more environmental responsibility aren’t much of an inconvenience at all. That seems absurd - environmental responsibility as a matter of convenience. The truth is that everyone is responsible for creating and preserving a world that will welcome future generations. These are what I’ve found to be small improvements that together can become a collective effort to have a huge impact on our single most important natural resource.
Making a habit of being environmentally responsible isn’t that difficult. All I’d have to do is be more conscious of my actions for a while until I’m subconsciously making the changes that I’d like. Reprogram myself, so to speak. To begin with, instead of allowing the water to run endlessly when I brush my teeth, turn the faucet on only when in use. Doing this was surprising. I found that I didn’t need nearly as much water as I was allowing to run while scrubbing my pearlies. Just enough to wet, rinse and wash. Small detail, enormous difference. Makes a difference when washing dishes and preparing meals also. Another area I can maximize energy conservation is to limit my showers. On those stress-riddled days when I know I’ll want to relax, bathe instead.
Should wear and tear on that luxuriously, fully-loaded family sedan cause it necessary to replace it, I now have more to consider than if it has heated leather and satellite radio with a usb port for my iPod. What about fuel efficiency? What good does this automobile do toward reducing the amount of hazardous chemicals that are released into the atmosphere? It seems that the environmentally-friendly models aren’t as stylish as the more established but less “Earthly” vehicles. It is necessary to make that sacrifice now and have the automobile manufacturers meet my demand for more responsibly made vehicles with my buying power. “If you spend it, they will come.” And to further my efforts toward minimizing pollution while driving I now plan my “therapeutic” excursions so that I’m taking the shortest routes and spending less time on the roads.
Another important step in helping to manage environmental waste is to either form or begin to participate in a recycling program. Those items that can be repurposed to help reduce waste include metal, glass, plastics and paper. Setting up a recycling center in your home isn’t difficult to do at all. Depending upon how frequently you’d like to make deposits to your local recycling program, you can nicely decorate a few inexpensive wastebaskets to set up in your garage and place recyclables there until the day of drop-off. It could also be a good idea to contact your child’s school. Their savvy educational flair and leadership has probably prompted the school’s PTA/PTO to establish a recycling program there to teach the children how to conserve resources. You never know. Your child could get extra credit for participating.
Becoming knowledgeable about what Earth-friendly programs are already available in my area was also necessary. As much as I participate in retail therapy, I was unaware that some mega-retail chains offer to recycle plastic bags. Surprisingly, the local public library also accepts plastic bags for recycling, making those two designated drop-off locations.
Taking a second look at things that would normally just get trashed and replaced has become profitable for those who specialize in repurposing unwanted items. Stores like IKEA sell those recycled metals, glass, paper and plastics that have been transformed into furniture and other useful products that are both appealing and modern. I intend to capitalize on this trend as well. Rather than toss my dresser with the unsightly scratch in the mahogany stain, I’ll sand it down and repaint it. Not only am I lessening waste, I’m also saving money. And when it’s time to replace the tires on my luxurious fully-loaded automobile, make certain that the tires are repurposed rather than dumped.
Once I’ve committed to the idea of waste reduction I find that there are even more ways to remain conscious of the environment and get discounts as well. Some are as simple as bringing my own bags or containers when patronizing stores. Remember that Starbucks that served as my morning fuel? If I take my Starbucks tumbler instead of using their “already made from recycled cardboard” cups, I not only reduce waste but get a small discount off of my environmentally friendly habit. Same for bringing your own bag at some grocery and retail chains.
When building your home or remodeling, opting in favor of the recycled glass countertops and reclaimed floors instead of the popular but more costly alternatives can give your home a more personalized touch, put you under budget and add to the overall satisfaction of having made responsible choices. Other ways to modernize your home with an energy efficient make-over include choosing energy-efficient appliances and lighting.
If nothing else, one small initiative to begin helping manage the environment responsibly can include opting to enjoy books, magazines and newspapers online rather than purchasing the hardcopy. Each effort that you make towards reducing consumption matters. After all, you’ll want a world free of clutter left behind from past generations for your children and future generations’ enjoyment. I know I do.
The above seems as though if put into action can effect some positive changes. However the challenge doesn’t end there. It’s important to teach children how necessary it is to preserve our environment and not take it for granted. Practicing environmental responsibility with your children can be a starting point for instilling in them habits that will have lasting results. Choose this Earth Day to begin a family effort toward reducing waste. Happy Earth Day!