Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We have the power!

Let's love our planet more...   In light of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and what is likely to be the largest man-made disaster, it is understandable that many people feel overwhelmed about how to change how we live on this planet. This wake up call, is really a turning point I feel... an opportunity for each of us to become more aware, and to make more earth-honouring choices ahead. Like every really big challenge, I find it's helpful to focus on a day to day practice, and retain a sense of hope and wonder about life on this beautiful planet! : )

Perhaps most simply, every day think about the consequences of the choices you make - what you eat, what you buy, how you live, how you go about your day. Start to reflect on how your choices may affect nature, other people, and animals on this planet. Little by little, as we begin to tune into this, we foster a greater awareness of our interconnectedness, and how our choices impact the planet.

This is not an easy shift, since it is the shattering of an illusion... the successful North American/western life was really based on oil-dependency and a model of excessive consumption, limitless growth, and an appropriation of nature. Everything was 'used' to serve our growth and security. And in spite of 'having it all', many people seem drained, unhappy, and disconnected from each other.  So, this shift will be humbling in a good way... one that takes us on a personal and spiritual journey to simpler roots, more connected to the circle of life. I feel very inspired that by choosing to live more harmoniously on the planet, we will become healthier, happier, and more connected. 

Just to share my personal story, here are some of the choices I've made to live more gently on this planet over these last few years. Of course, we each have the freedom to make choices that best suit our lives and circumstances... this is simply food for thought : )
  • Transportation: I sold my car about 3 years ago, and now walk/blade/run/ride or take public transit. I've also joined an Autoshare group for the rare times I use a car. If I do own a vehicle in the future, I feel I'll be more judicious in it's use (eg., to visit family on weekends)... I've grown to enjoy moving more on my own power : )
  • Heating/Cooling: Surprisingly, as I've become more of a year-round 'outdoor animal', I find I use less heating/cooling year round. As it stands, I haven't used air conditioning in over three years : )  I find I'm now more naturally tuned to the rhythms of nature and the seasons.
  • Shopping locally: Being outdoors, walking in community, I find I connect more with people (and have some great conversations : ), and support the local store owners and growers.  I also like to support the local farmer's markets when they're 'in season'.
  • No TV: I gave up TV a few years ago. Although there are amazing things on television, for me I found I could surf on my laptop or read : ), and reduce my distractions/energy use overall.  I find I feel better and also sleep better now.
  • Food: I eat primarily fruit/veggies and food as close to source as possible. I buy organic whenever possible. As a former vegetarian, I do eat some meat now, although only about once a week. I rarely dine out, which saves both money and energy. And I like to use a stainless steel bottle whenever possible, for water or tea on the go.  I compost all organic waste, and try to buy food with as little packaging as possible, and recycle the packaging I do have.
  • Home: A minimalist by nature, I've further simplified and decluttered my home environment, to reflect my priorities for space, light, movement/creativity. I find this 'clarity' of living, reduces my unconscious buying/acquiring of stuff, and reduces any maintenance time.  In terms of cleaning, I like to use natural cleaning agents (like vinegar).  I've gone to an essentially paperless system in my home office.  I use compact fluorescent bulbs to save energy.  And, I let my hair dry naturally : )  Overall, I've found keeping things simple in the home, gives me more time to play : )
Below are some basic tips for living more gently on this planet... many of these environmental tips you've heard before, gleaned from various sources. Why not start today, friends, and make a 30 day commitment for a couple small changes?  Through each of our daily choices we can make a big difference, step by small step...

FOOD: Understanding the resources that go into producing our food as well as what it takes to store and transport it, can make us more aware of the link between food and climate.
  • Eat meat-free meals a few days a week (at least one : ). There are so many healthy veggie and meatless alternatives these days.
  • Eat locally grown food whenever possible. Read labels to find out where your food is coming from, talk to the produce manager where you shop. Grow some of your own food. And support a community garden/farmer's market. The average meal in the United States travels 1,200 miles from the farm to your plate. Buying locally will save fuel and keep money in your community.
  • Eat less and eat 'real', as close to source as possible : ) This will be healthier and less costly (as we eliminate excess and junk, snack foods) and support a more balanced body and planet.
  • Take care of your trash. Compost all organic waste — and recycle paper, cardboard, cans and bottles — will help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with landfills. Avoid heavily packaged products.  Also reduce your purchases. This will save you money and reduce 'stuff clutter' and decrease the amount of garbage and recyclables being generated.
  • Buy fresh foods instead of frozen. Frozen food uses 10 times more energy to produce.
  • Buy organic foods as much as possible. Organic soils capture and store carbon dioxide at much higher levels than soils from conventional farms. And the nutrient and taste advantage of organic food lends itself to a better quality and healthier eating experience.
  • Walking and cycling (and other self-powered alternatives) are the healthiest, greenest options for commuting.
  • Use public transportation - buy bulk passes to save money.
  • Start a carpool with your coworkers, neighbours. provides a free national service connecting commuters and travelers. 
  • Try car sharing. Community car sharing organizations provide access to a car and your membership fee covers gas, maintenance and insurance. Examples are & ZipCar.
  • Keep your car tuned up. Regular maintenance helps improve fuel efficiency and reduces emissions. Apparently when just 1% of car owners properly maintain their cars, nearly a billion pounds of carbon dioxide are kept out of the atmosphere. Check your tires weekly to make sure they're properly inflated. Proper inflation can improve gas mileage and every gallon of gasoline saved keeps carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere!
  • Choose hybrid rentals and taxis where possible.
  • Telecommute from home, if possible. Telecommuting helps drastically reduce the number of miles you drive every week.
  • Fly less. Consider options:  Video-conferences for meetings. Companies now use video-conferencing to reduce business air travel. Employees also avoid the stress of travelling and time away from home and family.  Vacation closer to home. You'll save money and avoid the stress of airport security. Consider taking a holiday in your hometown or region and find out what it has to offer.  Use trains and buses, which are much more energy efficient than airplanes. Even cars can be more efficient than planes, especially with more than one passenger.  Use webcams/Skype to keep in touch with family and friends who live far away.
  • Plant a tree - A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. Shade provided by trees can also reduce your air conditioning bill by 10 to 15%.
  • Eliminate all use of pesticides. Choose natural ground cover suitable for your climate, soil conditions. Let nature run its course : )
  • Change your lightbulbs - Replace a regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (cfl). CFLs use 60% less energy than a regular bulb.
  • Move your thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer.  Almost half of the energy we use in our homes goes to heating and cooling. You save money and conserve energy, reduce greenhouse gases with this simple adjustment.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats will automatically lower the heat or air conditioning at night and raise them again in the morning. They conserve money and energy.
  • Go smaller : ) Small is beautiful... in an era where everything from cars to homes to meal portions have gotten bigger, consider downsizing your home and making life simpler and healthier for the planet. Also consider community living arrangements.
  • Clean or replace filters on your furnace and air conditioner regularly. Cleaning a dirty air filter can keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
  • Ban bottled water - use a stainless steel or glass commuter cup.
  • Turn it off, If you're not using it — lights, computer monitors, television, DVD player, stereo, and computer when you're not using them will save thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year per household.
  • Unplug electronics from the wall when you're not using them. Even when turned off, things like hairdryers, toaster ovens, cell phone chargers and televisions use energy. In fact, the energy used to keep display clocks lit and memory chips working accounts for 5 percent of total domestic energy consumption!
  • Only run your dishwasher when it is full and use the energy-saving setting.
  • Choose energy efficient appliances when making new purchases. Look for the Energy Star label on new appliances to choose the most efficient models.
  • Wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket.  You can save $ and energy.
  • Use less hot water every day.  It takes a lot of energy to heat water. You can use less hot water by installing a low flow showerhead and washing your clothes in cold or warm water instead of hot.
  • Use a clothesline instead of a dryer whenever possible.
  • Insulate and weatherize your home. Properly insulating your walls, windows, ceilings can save 25% of your home heating bill.
  • Buy recycled paper products.  It takes 70 to 90% less energy to make recycled paper and it minimizes the loss of forests worldwide.
  • Get a home energy audit.  Many utilities offer free home energy audits to find where your home is poorly insulated or energy inefficient. You can save up to 30% off your energy bill and conserve the environment (reducing carbon dioxide contributed to the atmosphere)!
  • Go paperless wherever possible.  Go electronic instead of using hard copies: phone or email, use overheads and power point presentations, get e-subscriptions, and use web resources.
  • If you must print, set 'double sided' as the default setting on your printer(s), and recycle.
  • Get rid of toxic cleaners and personal products in your home & office. Make your own cleaning products, naturally.
  • Add air-filtering plants to your home or office space.
  • Share your home power tools, equipment, lawnmower with your neighbours, friends. Having one of everything is unnecessary & expensive... sharing can be more sociable and fun : )
  • Explore community living housing developments that provide a healthier, more sustainable living model on this planet. They're springing up in more and more places... Speak up for them in your community.
  • Switch to green power.  In many areas, you can switch to energy generated by clean, renewable sources such as wind and solar.  In some parts of Canada, consider:   Also, consider retrofitting your home or cottage with alternative energy sources (eg., solar, wind), or designing 'off-grid' from scratch. There are many architects, service providers who can assist you in this.
And last but not least, call for leadership. Speak out against oil and gas exploration. Speak out for creative alternatives that support living more harmoniously on this planet (like community living developments, solar power initiatives, bike lanes, alternative vehicles, legislating 'green' building practices).  Social media communities like Facebook are helping to mobilize large numbers of people, and spread a message globally, influencing companies and politicians.

Remember, all great change on this planet started with a simple, grassroots movement... Keep the faith : )  We can make a difference!

To learn more, join a group like:
(among many others in your community).

Please join me friends... we absolutely have the power! : )