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Green Living: Making Changes That Last

June 24th, 2009


The best way to live green is to make small changes that last. Some people approach environmentally-friendly living with big, admirable plans, but most lack the motivation and capability to make these changes last for a longer period of time. It’s easy to think big, but actually delivering on green promises can take some doing. Instead, breaking efforts into smaller, more manageable tasks leads to winning results.

Baby Steps

Making small steps is the best way to develop long-term progress. Some people approach new calendar years with plans to lose weight or to stop smoking, but without a concrete, workable plan, most resolutions wind up left behind after a few short weeks. Creating real, sustainable green living change works the same way.

In order to start taking small steps to live in a way that is more sustainable and mindful, a little self-examination is in order. Determine food consumption habits, transportation habits, and energy spending by taking notes. This will help establish true problem areas, focusing the plan for green living in the most pressing areas first.

Food Consumption Habits

Start by thinking about daily food consumption by assessing personal habits:

  1. During work lunches, walk to a nearby restaurant and dine-in or save take-out containers by supplying containers from home. Skip plastic utensils too, and bring a set from home along with preferred, tasty condiments.
  2. Read ingredient lists when shopping and purchase products made locally where possible. Stick to foods with natural ingredients and purchase local produce from farmer’s markets.
  3. Check out local area compost bin options in order to curb the amount of decomposing food clogging landfills and prevent the spread of additional methane into the environment. Try a local recycling centre or community garden for several options.
  4. Try switching one usual food staple to an organic alternative. This can be done progressively, switching out conventional eggs for organic eggs one week while making another swap the next. Check out local farmer’s markets for greater options, too.

Transportation Habits

Consider transportation habits and how personal habits can be improved:

  1. Take note of each vehicle trip on a piece of scrap paper. By getting a clear, written picture of each trip, it is simple to calculate a percentage of trips as being preventable.
  2. Try to eliminate one or two car trips a week by combining them with other trips or choosing other transportation alternatives, like walking, running, biking, or using public transportation options where possible.
  3. Keep track of gas purchases, taking special note of the cost per week. This is a precise way to establish just how much of the budget is dedicated to vehicle operation.
  4. Checking tire pressure regularly, at least monthly, can help ensure that tires are properly inflated. Properly inflated tires improve gas mileage a great deal (by as much as 3% according to Bridgestone Europe), making a significant difference in the amount of carbon dioxide released.

Energy Spending

Determining energy spending is among the most important ways to make long-lasting green changes:

  1. Schedule an energy audit to supply a list of energy reduction suggestions. This can be arranged for free through local utility companies or from energy assessment professionals. Suggestions may range from weather-stripping to choosing resourceful heating and cooling systems.
  2. Set aside one day a week, preferably on the weekend, as a “green day.” Arrange to have family members perform changes from the energy audit, turn off the television and computer, play board games, and eat outside if possible. Learning to enjoy time outdoors without continuous media noise is one of the finest byproducts of making green changes.
  3. Use “setback”, the process of turning off or reducing heat during sleeping hours or time away from the home, to reduce energy costs. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy suggests that a twice-daily eight-degree setback can save as much as 32% on heating bills.

Lasting Changes

Making green changes can be a daily occurrence, as the smallest and most insignificant lifestyle alternatives eventually add up. It is amazing to see how much the smallest change, such as a reduction in home energy consumption, can impact the world and, on a more practical level, the cost. Living green isn’t just for hippies and health nuts, as real change impacts the whole world.


Jordan Richardson is a freelance writer from Vancouver, BC, Canada. He currently writes as a music and film critic for Blogcritics Magazine, reaching audiences in the millions each month. In addition to writing about green living, Jordan also operates a hockey blog, providing up-to-the-minute news updates and opinion pieces.


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