I promised a post about my efforts to go clean and green, so here’s what I’m hoping will be the intro to a long but successful road toward cleaning up my environmental act. So what does that mean? Well, for me, that means several things which I’ve broken down into several categories:
1. Reduce(reuse, and recycle) my use of everything – Especially plastic and water! I want to use less stuff in general, but especially things that are derived from non-renewable resources. Some of these changes are easy, like bringing my own travel thermos instead of using paper cups (which are lined with plastic) when I buy coffee. Some will be harder, such as challenging myself to wean my buying habits down to absolutely no brand new stuff purchased. Obviously, this one will be challenging and there will be exceptions (such as medical equipment), but I can try!
2. Eat smarter – I’m coming at this one from several angles. First, I want to eat lower on the food chain to reduce the amount of energy require to produce my food, especially water. Did you know it takes an estimated 2,500 gallons of water to raise 1 (one!) pound of beef? That is insane! Thus, I’m giving up all meat with the exception of wild Alaskan fish caught by my friends and family in sustainable fisheries. Second, I’m trying to consider where my food comes from and minimize not only the impact of growing the food itself, but also transporting it to remote Fairbanks. Third, I’m trying to consider how my food is packaged, and what is in it. As my crew mate Rose once said, “My body is a machine. The better I fuel it, the better it will function.”
3. Be active in living close to my clean/green values – That means not taking a break, not allowing myself to get lazy or slack off, and not letting what other people think of my values get me down. This also means taking every opportunity to learn more about how technologies and habits are changing, and keeping up with what I can do to be more effective in my goals. Finally, this means voting, eating, and spending by my values as often as possible. I’m proud to be part of Occupy Fairbanks for these reasons and others, and feel that the movement has given me the courage to pursue these choices.
This may sound extreme, a little on the crazy green side, but from where I stand I feel that it’s not really an option anymore. As someone who has spent the last six years involved in the environmental sciences (especially arctic sciences) I feel that it is impossible to ignore that the consumption rate of humans of all our planet’s resources is simply not sustainable. Eventually, we are going to eat, drink, and burn ourselves out of house and home. I feel like I’m standing on the deck of a ship hurtling toward an lethal iceberg, frantically trying to get the attention of the captain to change course! To avert certain disaster! And somehow everyone seems convinced that the iceberg will just float away, or that it’s not our fault that it’s in the way and so we shouldn’t feel responsible for avoiding it. Not a good feeling, and so I feel the only thing to do is to metaphorically start inflating my own life raft and encourage others to do the same. Okay, okay, so a little dramatic, but I think it makes the point: the best thing I can do to change the situation our species is in is change myself and my own habits. Thus, these changes.
Now readers, I don’t want you to feel something I’ve felt for a long time when considering these issues: guilt. I fully anticipate that I will trip, stumble, and sometimes utterly fail at my efforts, and I promise to be as honest (and entertaining) as possible when this happens. Most of all, I want this blog to be encouraging and educational, not guilt inducing. If you read about something that looks interesting to you, please try it! If it works for you, great! If not, then please keep trying. We can all be part of making a big, big change in how we and future generations live our lives. If all of this is news to you, then I encourage you to keep reading, educate yourself, and see the impact your life has on all the planet’s life. I’ll bet you can make a bigger difference than you think.
So, what I doing? I’ll break it down and keep it quick for this post, and talk more about the progress of my various efforts in more detail later.
1. As mentioned earlier, I’ve taken inspiration from my sister and become a pescetarian. That means only eating wild caught, sustainable, Alaskan fish for meat, and everything else being of the plant variety. I don’t eat much red meat anyway, but giving up bacon and chicken (not red, but still meat) will be tough. My biggest reasons for giving up meat is because A) I simply cannot abide by the treatment of factory farmed animals, and I’ve read enough to know that labels like “natural”, “free-range”, etc. are usually more than misleading; B) raising meat takes an insane amount of resources (remember how much water goes into a single pound of meat?) that could be better used in my opinion. Thus, no more meat.
2. Cutting down on my personal use of personal products – My main focus thus far has been my shower products since I am notorious for my long showers and have been guilt of excessive product use in the past. Thus, I’ve cut my hair short and given up all my showering products except for one bar of biodegradable, plant-based bar soap. This has cut my shower time way down, and so far I’m feeling really great about the change. It’s exciting to not use all the plastic bottles, douse my body in smelly chemicals, and save the money on expensive products. Yes, there has been some adjustment, but there have also been rewards. I’ve also given up perfumes, make-ups, and am on my way to greening up my deodorant and toothpaste. More on this in another post.
3. Cutting down on my use of non-renewable products – I’m attacking this goal from the vantage point of my shopping habits. Food in Alaska usually has to travel a long way to get to our grocery stores (especially in rural areas), and I’m fortunate to live in a community where I have more than one grocery store to choose from. Thus, I’m trying to make the most of it by making food choices based on their packaging, their ingredients, and their overall impact on the environment and the people who bring them to me. Thus, no more fruits and veggies with harsh chemical coatings (bad for people, bad for bugs, bad for me), no more foods wrapped in multiple layers of plastic (usually for little to no good reason), and no more foods with ridiculous chemical ingredients that I can’t even spell, let alone pronounce (and are often petroleum based). Obviously their are some limitations (organic = more expensive, and I’m on a budget!), and it’s hard to visit several different grocery stores just to find particular products when it’s -50F. Still, I’m making an effort to cut down on unnecessary waste. My eventual goal is to become a zero-waste household, but I recognize that it may be a long road.
4. Finally, I aim to be inspired instead of guilt-ridden by other people making similar efforts, and to reach out to others with honestly shared experiences. I think we can be more successful if we work together rather than picking apart why things won’t work, are weird, are “too green”, etc.
If you have any ideas, please share them with me! Otherwise, thanks so much for reading. I’m making an effort to build my readership, so if you know of anyone who would be interested in my topics (or maybe that I would be interested in reading!), please share this blog with them (or theirs with me). Thanks again and have a great week.