Saturday, July 26, 2008

Baby Steps

A couple days ago No Impact Man posed a question: 

Since Monday, over 120 people have responded to the question with their advice and opinions.  It took my a while to decide, but finally I contributed:

"Re-evaluate the word 'need' and shop accordingly."

Other contributers offered more extreme suggestions like "go vegan" and "stop using your car for journeys less than 2 miles- walk or bike" and I'll admit that those actions might have a more immediate impact than mine.  But if you're brand new to making green lifestyle choices, I think it's better to start basic.  In order to make your green habits last, it's best not to over-commit yourself if you're not sure how much you're willing or able to do. 

So for a first step toward going green, I would encourage someone to just sit down and think long and hard about the word NEED.  A few things to start with:
  • What does 'need' mean to you, and how does that definition differ for other people around the world? Or just a few generations ago? 
  • Make a list of everything you truly need. Compare that list to what you actually own.
  • From the list of true needs, how are those needs met?   
  • Pay attention to what advertising is telling you about needs.  How often does the word come up in ads?  Or the concept?  (Think planned and perceived obsolescence!)
  • Before you started thinking about it, who defined your needs for you?  Where did you concept of need come from?
  • An important part of this transition is watching your language.  You can curse all you want, but watch your use of the word 'need.'  How often do you say it?
  • What do you mean when you say need?  Strong desire?  Entitlement? True necessity?
  • Think about what it feels like when a true necessity isn't met.  
When you're able to separate your needs from your wants, you are already doing something good for the environment.  It makes you think twice before buying anything frivolous.  It makes you appreciate things in a different way, and it's hard not to act differently after such a mind shift. There's a difference between not wanting something in the first place because you understand that you don't need it, and pining after something intensely but resisting because you're told that refraining is better for the environment. If you're only holding out for the environment, you'll eventually snap and go on a spending spree.  But if you can evaluate needs and wants and differentiate between the two, eventually you start prioritizing differently, and you start wanting less.  Trust me.  It's a liberating realization.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Getting to know you....

Thanks to some of the blog directories that list Sincere Green, especially Best Green Blogs, I'm getting a little more traffic lately, and that means that a lot of my readers are strangers. And with the help of other great sites like RSS hugger, which helps bloggers promote their sites through an RSS directory and the wonderful world of viral marketing, I'm hoping for even more readership. Otherwise this feels a little like talking to one's self.

So, for the sake of being optimistic that I'll start getting new readers with the help of all these bloggers' aids, I thought it might be nice to introduce myself to those of you who are new, and give you a little insight into why I'm here.

I'm 24. I live in Washington DC now, but I grew up in New Mexico and went to college and most of high school in California.

I moved to DC after I graduated from college and have been working at the international headquarters of a large environmental/conservation organization. In college I created my own major combining sociology and environmental studies to study the cause/effect relationship between media, consumerism and the environment, and that topic continues to be my passion today. My life goal is to address the social and environmental problems with over-consumption and mis-consumption, but I'm still figuring out how best to do that. The trendiness of the green movement started just after I graduated, but boy would that have been a great thesis topic.

What am I doing personally to address my environmental concerns? Well, in addition to working for a good cause 40+ hours a week, and spreading the good word through this blog, I try to make lifestyle choices that let me tread lightly in every way I can. When I moved from Southern California to Washington DC I gave up my car (I donated it), and I rely on the DC metro system to get everywhere. So I don't own a car, and I live in a lovely little apartment with my charming boyfriend Mike. When we do need a car, we try to always get hybrids from Zipcar. We don't own a TV and we took out the AC units from our windows to enjoy DC summers al natural. No small feat, I assure you. We use homemade science projects involving vinegar to clean the apartment instead of store-bought cleaning products. We bring our own bags to the grocery store, we recycle everything that can be recycled, and we reuse everything that can be reused. Our drinking glasses are old salsa jars and the vast majority of our furniture was used when we acquired it- all but two items, in fact. We're serious packrats, and we tend to fix or find new uses for broken items instead of throwing them away.

We're not perfect, and there are many life changes I have yet to make to be even more sustainable. Some of my green goals include:
  • To be better about shopping for only locally-sourced food. I go to the farmers market a couple times a month, but I don't go as often I could or should, and at the grocery story I could be much better about the things I buy. (I do buy mostly organic, but organic food from Chile or Australia is probably ecologically equivalent to non-organic food from Delaware based on the carbon footprint of getting the food from producer to consumer. I think.)
  • Growing my own food. I've got a tomato plant, a small fig tree, and several chili pepper plants growing in the apartment, but so far they don't really produce much, and it's quite challenging to do more than that without any sort of outdoor space of my own. I am on the waiting list to join a community garden near my apartment, but I know that won't materialize for a a few years at least. I would love to have a yard.
  • Tied to the point above, I wish I had a place to compost. I know there are apartment composting kits out there and I've tried homemade makeshift equivalents, but in the end I had no use for the end product, so it was a moot point.
  • Eating out at restaurants and air travel are the two biggest contributors to my carbon footprint, so I need to cut down on both. I'll be posting more about these in the near future.
  • Eat less meat. I was raised by a vegetarian so I've never eaten a lot of meat, but I still eat some and I know its not good for the environment.
  • I'm planning to go back to grad school next year for environmental science and policy. I'd like to understand the science behind my environmental convictions, and I think being more informed in that way will make me a more effective environmental steward, so there's a goal.
Ok, that's all for now... it's nice to meet you, and welcome to Sincere Green!


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Kudos to Credo

Working Assets, the friendly do-gooder phone company that sends you Ben & Jerry ice cream coupons for your business, has evolved its wireless franchise into Credo Mobile, a do-gooder cellular offshoot.  Naturally, I'm intrigued.   At the risk of sounding like an ad for Credo, allow me to divulge what I've learned thus far.  

First of all, they're making an irresistible offer: switch to them from your current cell carrier and they'll pay your early termination fee, up to $200.  Then they'll send you a new phone for free. AND you can keep your current phone number. They also have a free recycling program to deal with your old phone. Hot diggity!  And of course, the biggest bonus of switching to them is that 1% of your bill goes to good causes and progressive nonprofits.  

1% might not be a lot, but it's way more than all the other guys will give you.  And from what I could tell on the Credo website, the same plan I have at Verizon is actually cheaper at Credo, so I'm paying less and donating more.  Cool.  I do wonder, though, if Credo does well for itself going forward, will the 1% perhaps increase to, say, 2% some day?  Or 5%?  I'd very much like to see that.  

I would also like to see them encourage people to use their phones longer than the standard 2-years that people do now.... it's such a waste to get rid of a perfectly good phone after only two years, just to upgrade to new unnecessary bells and whistles or a sleeker style.  So I sincerely hope that in their effort to be progressive, Credo points out to its customers that if your phone isn't broken, it doesn't hurt to hold on to it as long as you can for the good of the planet.  

I'd also love to see them address how cell phones are made and what goes in to them.   I'm not sure if there is a way to avoid the need for Coltan in new cell phones, but you should know that mining Coltan is a serious threat primates in western Africa according to the Worldwatch Institute.  I first learned about this problem at a talk by Jane Goodall videographer, Bill Wallauer that I attended a few months ago, and Bill convinced me that this is a huge problem.  If anyone is in a position to address this problem, it's Credo. Rather, if there's anyone that gives me hope about addressing this problem, it's Credo.  

In both of the mailings I've received about Credo (one via mail directly from Credo and the other via email from Co-op America) they called out AT&T for being particularly bad for having links to Dick Cheney and his cohorts.  Well I have Verizon, and there was no mention of how Verizon stacks up.  Does anybody know anything to good or bad about them?  I've got some research to do.  


I'm back!

Sorry that I've been a neglectful blogger for the last (eeeak!) month. I've got a collection of excuses I could list here, but I'll keep this brief and just say that I'm glad you're still here, and please know that I am too.  I am now home with time to spare and without bloggers block.  Yes, I've got some things to say, and I'm once again excited to say them.  So I'm gonna get started on those posts, and beg your forgiveness for neglecting my readers the past few weeks.