Like my 8-year-old son, I am always asking the question, "Why?" Why should I turn off my lights in my house? Why should I recycle? Why should I, as an environmentally conscious freak of the universe, really care about any of the things that I am being told make a difference? And why are diapers being poised to destroy the world?
With all these questions I was asking myself, I also started to look at my daily behavior. Then, I took a step back and looked at all of our behavior; all of the small things we do every day—how we move through our daily routine. For example, when I trudge my garbage cans to the sidewalk every week—the blue for recyclables, the green for yard trash, the black for garbage—and I see my neighbors doing the same, we realize that we are all good citizens out of habit. But what would happen if we took it a step further? I think with a bit more information, recycling may take on a whole new light and you might actually start skipping to the curb!
Well, with the all the questions I kept asking, I realized I had to find some answers. Answers that would be easy, accessible and show that if we all started to make small shifts in our everyday habits and routine, we could become part of the solution—answers for the simple things. So I started to think about what we all do every day and why we do those things and what kind of changes—small changes—we could make that would add up to big change.
I found some answers to my questions, to the "whys." RECYCLING
If everyone in America simply separated the paper, plastic, glass and aluminum products from the trash and tossed them into a recycling bin, we could decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills by 75 percent. Currently, it takes an area the size of Pennsylvania to dump all our waste each year.
The more I started to know and answer my "whys," I saw that not only was this information power, but it was so simple and environmentally friendly, while at the same time it allowed me live the life I wanted to live. I didn't and don't have to make big sacrifices in my daily life. None of us do.
TRY TO FLUSH ONE LESS TIME PER DAY
You'll save about 4.5 gallons of water—as much as the average person in Africa uses for a whole day of drinking, cooking, bathing and cleaning.
I think people have been waiting for this type of perspective, which shows that you can have it all. You can work, run a home, play and make simple shifts in your daily habits and make a significant impact on healing and helping this planet. I know that's what I was so desperately looking for. How can we give up the least, have the most in our lives and make a difference? TRY TO BUY PRODUCTS WITH MINIMAL TO NO PACKAGING If just one out of 10 products you bought had little or no packaging, it would eliminate more than 50 pounds of waste per household per year. This small reduction could also save you at least $30 annually, as $1 of every $11 that you spend at the supermarket pays for the packaging of products you buy. If every household did this, 5.5 billion fewer pounds of waste would enter landfills. This is enough garbage to cover all of New York City's Central Park to a depth of 27 feet.
As a working mother, finding easy and effective ways to be helpful and make an impact is key. I don't have time, nor am I the type, quite honestly, that is going to the green-extreme. You won't find me hugging a tree anytime soon for a cause (although I did try it once on a hike, and it did feel good!), and I don't have a stationary bike in my closet to power the electricity for my house. Nothing wrong with doing that—it's just not the way I get things done in my green-world. I like to make changes that make it possible for me to not only save time and money but also make it easy to lead by example, especially as a mother.
PACK A WASTE-FREE LUNCH
Try to eliminate plastic bags, plastic utensils, disposable containers, paper napkins and those brown paper bags. Instead, use a reusable lunch box, reusable drink containers, cloth napkins and silverware. You could save $250 a year and as much weight in waste as the average 9 year old (which is about 45 pounds)! GET VOICE MAIL SERVICE FOR YOUR HOME PHONE
If all answering machines in U.S. homes were replaced by voice mail services, the annual energy savings would total nearly 2 billion kilowatt-hours. The resulting reduction in air pollution would be equivalent to removing 250,000 cars from the road for a year!
TURN OFF THE TAP WHILE BRUSHING YOUR TEETH
You'll conserve up to five gallons of water per day. Throughout the entire United States, the daily savings could add up to more water than is consumed every day in all of New York City.
You will find me trying to shift a habit every day and trying to add in something new every day that will make a difference. The good news is that we're not alone anymore. Every day I see another business going green and making it just a little bit easier for us, the consumer, to move through our daily routines that much more efficiently and effectively. When I started, I had to write a book to find my own answers. Now, you can actually walk down the aisles of almost any supermarket and see several "more good" choices for the planet on the shelf. And we are just at the beginning of this thought process and starting to show people how easy and important being green really is. How can you say no when it's just as easy to say yes to the right choice? That's why.
Elizabeth Rogers is co-author of The Green Book and the creator of the environment- and money-saving program, Shift Your Habit.
Printed from Oprah.com on Friday, December 6, 2013