For me, getting greener has been a gradual process. It's not like one day I just decided to start conserving and stop polluting. It's happened over the last decade. Here are some of the things I consider to have been catalysts for it.
1. I attended an earth day festival in Memphis with my girlfriend.
2. I stopped eating meat. This was a direct result of befriending a guy vegetarian. It's possible that I was trying to impress him but it stuck. So did he!
3. I joined a hippie gym full of awesome people who taught me tons of great stuff.
4. I quit smoking. Come on! Who ever heard of a smoking vegetarian? Besides, the guy vegetarian made me do it...
5. I moved to Chicago and discovered whole foods. They make it so easy!
6. I was diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer which made me question everything I put in my body.
7. I planted a vegetable garden and started a blog about it.
8. I had "the talk" with a dear friend about chemicals on lawns.
Steps 1-7 happened sporadically between 1999 and 2007. Step 8 was the light bulb moment for me. Since then, I've gone "balls to the walls" with getting green. I had planted my veggie garden and at that point I had made sure to buy organically grown plants simply because they were there, right next to the non-organic ones at the big box store. Why not, right? Anyway, I was on the phone with my very dear friend J and we were talking about gardening. She was telling me about how she was working hard on trying to get rid of the weeds in her grass. Here's a snippet of our conversation...
J - "my sister says if I just let the grass grow longer it will choke out the weeds"
me - "why don't you just call *well known chemical lawn company*, they are actually very affordable"
J - "*well known chemical lawn company?"
me - "yeah, I actually had them come out one year and treat my grass it it looked awesome!"
J - "sorry but I don't want anything to do with anything that's got 'chemicals' and 'lawn' right in the name of the company....I've got a little boy that plays in that yard and I don't want him hosed down with poison."
All these years, it had never even occurred to me that we pay some company that proudly advertises that they spray chemicals on our lawn just to keep out things we think are uglier than the grass around it. At that moment my life changed. Well, not actually at that moment. At that moment I was thinking BOY IS SHE UPTIGHT! But shortly after I got off the phone with her it hit me HOLY SHIT - SHE'S RIGHT!!!
Since then, I've taken many actions to help my family reduce consumption of resources and to stop adding to our already polluted planet. I drove a Hybrid. I didn't buy one yet but I'm working towards it. In the next year I will definitely be downsizing in the car category. I want something that uses less fuel. I bought a Brita water pitcher. I began landscaping my yard organically and cheaply. I signed up for freecycle.org and regularly surf craigslist to find stuff I need for my gardens that other people are looking to get rid of. I grew my own food. I haven't bought a tomato in months and I've even been giving them away to friends. I've done lots of other small things. I have no idea what I'm doing. It's not as if my family taught me this stuff. I'm from the south. My mother just got a brand new deep fryer a few months ago. She fries everything, even fresh veggies. Almost every person in my family smokes - we are not a healthy people. I learn from reading stuff on the internet and watching TV shows designed to teach people like me how to make simple changes for the planet.
I'd say by far the biggest impact on my green-ness has been gardening. Just getting outside did a lot for me. Focusing on growing things is a great way to be more mindful about the planet. I can't really explain way - it's like magic. Digging and planting and sweating has made me be more aware of other people's hard work on their gardens, something I've ignored for the last 39 years. Reading gardening blogs has introduced me to wonderful strangers all over the world who have been so helpful to me which has renewed my faith in the human spirit. Buying bags of dirt this summer really gave me a new perspective on recycling food. I don't want to continue throwing away things that can work magic in my garden and help preserve the planet. This is the reason I've asked for a composter for my birthday.
I'll be turning 40 this Saturday. According to my genetics, my life is at or close to being half over. I'd like to spend the second half trying my best to undo the damage I did to our planet in the first half.
If you are reading this blog or any other blog participating in Blog Action Day, I implore you to pick one thing to work on this year that's good for the planet. Plant some vegetables or make the commitment to buy more local food. Make the choice to buy environmentally safe chemicals to clean with - they are better for your family - need I say more? Discontinue your lawn treatment service and look for ways to maintain it chemical free. Get a rain barrel or start a compost pile. Filter your own water or at least be sure to recycle the plastic water bottles. Any of these small changes will help more than you can imagine. And, they make you feel so good that you'll want to do more - that's what happened to me...