This weekend, Sante raced with the number plate 33. I told him he had a good number: it was the product of two awesome numbers (3 and 11), which also both happen to be prime.
Ever since I was little, I’ve looked for meaning in numbers. I could find something special about the house number I lived in, my phone number, the license plate on my car. But for whatever reason, the number 32 has always eluded me.
Multiplication came easy, except for that pesky 8×4. (It is 8×4, right? *gets out calculator*) And even though I love my birthday and consider it long before the day arrives, I couldn’t think of anything that 32 meant.
For a minute that bothered me, but not for as long as it would’ve a few years ago. (I guess I’m growing up.) Instead, I decided that 32 is a reasonable number of things to list.
Since Earth Day is right around the corner, I’ve decided to use my birthday wish for our lovely little planet.
I wish that each and every person who read this post would pick one (or two or five) things from my list below and implement them for one month (or one year or forever) in their own life.
For me, I’m going with #18. It’s almost always about food with me, isn’t it?
1. Improve your recycling karma. Most people probably already know to recycle, but what about those times you’re carrying a plastic bottle and want to toss it? All you see are trash bins. Why not take it home with you and recycle it there?
Or what if you see an aluminum can sitting in the trash? Why not grab it and toss it in the recycling? One can never go wrong with a little extra good karma.
2. Wash your hair less. Most stylists I know (including my sister) say washing your hair everyday is unnecessary and can even damage your hair. You don’t have to be a dirty hippy to pull this off.
After reading this tutorial, I can go for more than a week without washing my hair and still pull off business-casual if I have to. You use less water, less product, and less energy. Win, win win!
3. Compost. You’d be floored by the amount of food you throw away that could easily turn into mulch in a few months for your garden, shrubs, trees, etc. The less trash your garbage truck hauls away, the less energy is used. And your plants will be happy. Bonus!
4. Buy compostable trash bags. These are expensive, no doubt about it. But if you’re recycling and composting, you’ll probably use about one bag a week (for two people). Forget about how long it takes plastic to decompose … when it does, it breaks down into poison. Better to buy bags made of potatoes. Mmmm…french fries.
5. Shop at the thrift store. The materials have already been made and energy has already been expended. Make it go further and save some cash. Trends are always recycling so why not your clothes too? Or be a style diva and make them your own.
6. Make your own clothes. So I’ve only just started the whole knitting/crocheting thing, but I do know that making things yourself gives you a much greater appreciation of the craftsmanship and labor involved. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to buy a blanket for $19.99 at Target from Bangladesh after seeing how much work goes into making one. If you buy locally sourced materials, you’ll reduce your footprint even more. Solid!
7. Bike or walk for trips less than a mile. Yes yes, you say. Blah blah blah using less gasoline. Let me tell you what, do you know how great your butt is going to look after a year of doing this? The Earth is going to be a better place because your ass is so fine 😉
8. Reuse. Everything. I’m not sure why I always think of old grandmas being cheap when I reuse my salsa and butter containers, but I do. But why am I buying plastic and glassware to store my food when I’m tossing these same types of containers in the recycling every week? So I embrace my inner-Depression-era miser, wash out the containers and reuse, dammit! Reuse!
9. Shop the bulk section. What do I need all those containers for, you ask? If you’re not familiar with the bulk section in your local grocery store, learn about how to use it, save money and reduce waste. Plus you start to get adventurous with food. I can’t tell you how many times I end up in the bulk section, Googling an ingredient I’d never heard of and it ended up being a staple in my diet.
10. Slow down. Driving is part of many people’s lives; I know it’s not easy or fun to use public transit when you’ve got four bags of groceries. Fuel economy in most cars tops out around 60 mph. Every 5 mph you drive over that is like paying $.31 per gallon more for gas.
11. Use reusable bags for all of your groceries. Reusable grocery bags are awesome. But have you seen the reusable produce bags? *in an opera voice* They’re amaaaaaazing!
I finally just caved and bought about 20 of these bad boys and threw them in every reusable grocery bag we have. Now I can buy loads of mushrooms and baby spinach and come home without any plastic. Sweeeeeeet.
12. Bring your own lunch to work. It’s not just about how much money you save, think about how many different energy sources and people have to come together to make going out to eat possible: the food delivery, the supplies delivery, the gas and water to prepare the food, the cooks to create the food, the dishwashers to wash it, and you to drive there. I get we need a break from the office, so how about pack a picnic and …
13. Get outside. The more you appreciate nature and the beauty of clean air and lovely scenery, the more likely you’ll be to want protect it. Treat the Earth like a good friend: spend time with it!
14. Substitute local(ish) ingredients. I wanted pesto the other day but pine nuts were $30 a pound. And they were from China. Yeowch! So I grabbed walnuts from California at $6/pound. It was still pesto-goodness and my food footprint was so much smaller. Yay, tiny footprints!
15. Grow your own food. Speaking of tiny carbon footprints, I’ve read this is one of the best ways to reduce yours. Start small and grow what you love to eat all ready. And get ready to get addicted. There’s nothing more satisfying than needing an ingredient while you’re cooking and heading to the backyard to grab it.
16. Get a good reusable water bottle. Please do this. The amount of single-use water bottles sold in the U.S. is staggering. When you consider the waste and oil used just for manufacturing it just makes sense to skip single-use plastic anything if you can help it. And then…
18. Eat more vegetarian cuisine. Until pretty recently, I didn’t know eating meat put a strain on our environment. And lamb is the worst? *sigh* I was just getting into rogan josh. But there are some seriously good veggie meals out there. Participate in meatless Monday! Your body (and Earth) will thank you.
19. Wash out and recycle/reuse all your plastic bags. Again with the plastic, you say. But seriously, the stuff is everywhere. There’s a continent of plastic in the ocean. Let’s work on taming this beast.
20. Staycation! Or at least close-cation. Explore your fair corner of this earth. Skip the flights more often and opt for driving, tour bus or train. If you must fly, fly coach (you use less space) and try to get direct flights (save fuel). The wanderlust in me gets a bit sad at this, but it does help you make every trip you do take really count.
21. Use natural cleaning products. Lots of chemicals in your cleaning agents might make it seem easier to clean, but it also goes into your water. Not impressed with the natural stuff you’ve found? I’ve started making some of my own, and so far it’s worked impressively.
22. Wash your clothes in cold water. Use less energy (up to 90% less!) without heating up the water. Plus your clothes last longer.
23. Line dry what you can. When it rains, it’s almost impossible to dry towels in our house, but other than that, we line dry everything. Again: less energy used and your clothes live a longer life.
24. Buy organic whenever possible. Less scary pesticides in our soil and on our food and in our water is good for everyone, and I’m not talking about just humans here.
25. Carpool. Y’know all that traffic you sit in? Every day? To and from work? Get in a car with two other people and that’ll get two cars off the road. And it’s less stressful because only one of you has to drive and you have company. Or better yet …
26. Use public transit. For those who scoff at the idea of losing the independence of your car, let me tell you that every person I know that got rid of their car in favor of this option (even those in the U.S. where public transit is largely a joke) have reveled in their new-found, carless freedom. Try it once a week. Google Maps has an excellent (and fairly accurate) transit option.
27. Use and consume less. It may sound like an odd concept, but it is part of the 3 R’s right? Reduce, reuse, recycle. When Sante and I stopped drinking for more than a month, our weekly recycling was cut by more than half. That was a side-effect I didn’t expect.
28. Get creative! Reuse birthday cards or make your own. Spend more time creating art that requires your energy and less time on the computer. Art isn’t frivolous; it’s soul-feeding goodness and it helps us see things differently: like how an expired bag of beans and an old T-shirt can be a cute door stop, not just trash.
29. Use what you have. So many of us have food in our pantry that just sits there or travel toothpaste we’ve accumulated from the dentist in our cabinets. Use that stuff! The energy has already been used to create it. Leaving it to sit and expire is like leaving your heat running while you go on vacation.
30. Turn down the dial. Keep the heat a little lower and put on a sweater or get cozy under a blanket. Experiment with your water heater to find the lowest temperature you need to stay comfortable in the shower.
31. Share the love: Donate what you don’t need. Giving clothes, toys and furniture another life by giving them to thrift stores, church rummage sales and other organizations is another form of recycling. One man’s trash is another’s treasure.
32. Be a good example. Kids learn by imitating. If our lifestyles are more Earth-friendly, it’ll be that much easier for the next generation to make even bigger strides toward an impact-free life on our amazing planet.
I hope you’ll give at least one of these a try, if only for 30 days. I mean, c’mon! It’s my birthday after all! Got more ideas? Share them with me in the comments!