One of my new year’s resolutions was to be more intentional about conserving energy, reducing the amount of waste that I create, and making better choices regarding my impact on the environment. While I’ve gotten into a pretty good habit in recent years of bringing reusable bags into stores and using cloth napkins at home, I’ve been wanting to do more. I truly believe that the seemingly small, individual choices that we make matter, especially when we live in a highly consumer-driven culture. How and where I choose to spend my money matters, and it matters even more when I’m not the only one motivated.
On a scale of easy to pretty damn easy, here are a few practices I’ve adopted in 2017.
- I bought two super cute reusable travel cups. I drink iced coffee every morning – and sometimes in the afternoon, too. And because I frequently pick it up on my way into work, I wanted to cut back on the number of plastic cups I was throwing away each day. I got two so if I don’t run the dishwasher, there’s another cup clean for the next morning.
- I replaced my toothbrush with one that was made from recycled #5 plastic, and can be recycled in turn. Excepting the bristles, of course. I’ll also be investing in these for my kids and my husband when it’s time to replace theirs.
- I bought a menstrual cup to replace the pads and tampons I was going through every month. I won’t go into great detail for squeamish readers, including my husband, but I’ll say I should’ve done this a long time ago. I am nerding out so hard about how much I love it.
- I invested in reusable snack and sandwich bags and a set of stretchy, silicone lids to replace plastic wrap. Throwing away these items has been a regrettable but ultimately avoidable part of keeping house as an adult. Stoked about these alternatives, though. And they’re cute, which is a big motivator for me.
- I reset my thermostat. After researching some optimal temperatures online, I am keeping the house a little cooler than I would have in previous winters (even given the unseasonably mild January we’ve had). I know that this is going to be a lot harder for me come summer time when I don’t get to crank up the AC like I like to, but as I’m freezing out my husband some nights right now, I think I’ll owe him.
- I scheduled a free energy assessment of our home with our local utilities provider. Our house was built in 1946 and there are rooms that don’t heat or cool as well as others – it’s my hope there are some things we can do to make our home more energy efficient, and if I need to start saving to address some of the repairs that may necessary, I’m hopeful that I can do that, too.
- I offered to begin recycling plastics for my office. The office where I work doesn’t have recycling pick up, and while staff regularly volunteer to collect and drop off aluminum cans, we haven’t had a way to recycle plastics since I began working there. When I discovered there was a Gimme 5 recycling drop-off location convenient to me, I decided I could add my office’s plastics to the ones my family and I are already recycling.
And there’s something I haven’t added to this list yet, because I need to bite the bullet and just make it happen. Thanks to a motivated and an awesome friend I discovered that my bank is funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, so as soon as I can take the time I need to open a checking account with a local credit union and withdraw my money and close my existing account, I’m going to do it. This won’t be easy – the app that I use for my banking is slick and intuitive and I like it. I’ll have to change my direct deposit, and I have a number of accounts set up to automatically pay bills that I’ll have to take the time to update, too. But, though it may not be much, my money talks. And if it’s going to be used for something, I’d rather it were used to bolster investments in cleaner, alternative forms of energy that aren’t having a detrimental impact on the environment.
While I can’t solve all of the world’s problems, I can make choices that will hopefully shape policies and create consumer demand for a world that my children and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren will want to live in. I don’t have to buy into the system because it’s the only one, or the easiest one, there is. Because I have the hours and the dollars to spare, I have the privilege to decide how I spend them.
ETA: I’ve since opened an account with my credit union and updated my direct deposit. I shared about it on social and my plans to quit PNC, and within a week, I’d received a courtesy call about banking with them. This has never happened in all of my years with the bank, and a friend who also left PNC also received a call. So, they’re watching. They’re listening. It matters.