Working Environmentalism In

For a long time, our ways on this planet didn’t cause too much harm because there weren’t so many of us and we could just tromp through whatever however we wanted and there was always more of it to be had.

Well, it did cause harm, actually, to the forests and wildlife that was removed. But to us as a species, it didn’t cause immediate harm (other than to our psyches) because there was always more nature to go into, more to exploit.

Many of us in our relatively short lifespans have operated within a margin of what we see as normality–we have taken the sample we’ve seen as normality–and thus have missed the big picture of what has happened and where the species might be heading unless we really improve our manners on this planet.

Fortunately, a lot are starting to really see the big picture. The prevalence of social media–the availability of just getting some kind of knowledge of what areas used to look like versus what they look like now in terms of species, tree coverage, etc., helps. And the recommendations that are being made to people by parks institutions, health institutions, environmental institutions help. More and more recommendations come out, and thus we get more of a sense of how everything we does matters and we should work on having a light footprint in terms of harmful environmental impact.

Interestingly, in the “olden days” we might have been operating even more in an environmentally friendly manner in some ways. We didn’t have so much product packaging, we didn’t have plastic micropellets in our shampoo, we didn’t eat such a high percentage of meat in our diets. We tended to eat foods that were produced more locally.

It’s a mish-mash, this reality.

I feel that as we examine our behaviors, we can take some approaches to make changing them more tolerable. We don’t have to freak out about it.

For me, the algorithm is something like this:

  • Learn if there is something that I should change or remedy in some way.
  • See if there is an easy way to rectify the issue without too much harm to my pocketbook & time.
  • Do it as I can fit it in.

So, I’m volunteering in a handful of environmental organizations, etc., but also I am working on my day-to-day practices. One doesn’t have to feel overwhelmed–one can gradually work these things in.


Use more natural ways of grooming rather than using products with harmful chemicals and packaging. Baking soda for deodorant (just powder your underarms–it works); shampoo bars or other friendly methods for hair, toothpaste made with less harmful chemicals (made without plastic microbeads). Tom’s of Maine doesn’t use them, so that’s pretty good. The micro particles are made of polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polymethyl methacrylate and nylon. The sewer system has not able to filter these out so the particles have gotten into lakes and rivers where some fish have been eating them.  To be investigated (by me at some future point): environmentally-friendly haircolor, highlighter and cosmetics.

Car & Travel

Have to get new car? Please consider getting a hybrid or electric car (I bought a Prius, a great deal used). Even though electric cars tend to be charged up in 2013 from electricity generated at coal plants, we are going to generate more and more of our electricity from wind & sun, making these friendlier & friendlier as time progresses.

Double up on duties to minimize the amount of gas used–if you are going out to see family or friends, maybe plan shopping on the way or maybe pair the visit up with some cultural thing you’re also planning on attending. A two-fer.


Buy local and organic as best you can, don’t buy drinks in plastic bottles, buy food without too much packaging (stop getting those single-serving yogurts) and don’t eat meat. Farm shares are a great way to get organic produce affordably. On my agenda: learning how to can fruit so that I make more use of local fruit throughout the year. Eating out? Keep a washable container in your car for leftovers so that you minimize use of new packaging.


More and more are now offered the ability to obtain electricity from wind and power. I am now happy to be part of First Energy’s renewable power program, one of 60,000 initial households in Cleveland. If you don’t have this available at the moment, ask your power company for it, and it can help let them know people really want it and are willing to pay for it.

Avoid getting the fluorescent light bulbs and invest instead in LED light bulbs. They don’t have the harmful mercury that most fluorescent light bulbs have. I buy one LED bulb a week and am planning on giving them out as gifts at Christmas. One can now get a 60W-equivalent bulb by Phillips or Cree for less than $14. These are available at Home Depot (but of course if your locally-owned hardware store has it, that’s better.)

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