Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Benefits of Eco-Friendly Living...
for the Cheap and Lazy

--Feature Column: "Greener Days w/Geoffrey Gordon"--

If greener days are ahead, they will be shepherded in not just by governments with global initiatives that reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants, but by small adjustments made on a grand scale by individuals like you and me. So how do we proceed, those many of us who are not experts or full-fledged ecologists, but regular folk who want to move from feeling like part of the problem to becoming part of the solution? It starts with a simple decision, not out of guilt or fear, but resolve. Take the pledge: I want to help, maybe not to radically redo my lifestyle, but to bring myself along toward the new paradigm of sustainability that lies at the core of the green movement.

One thing that helps me is I’m cheap. I like replacing my old light bulbs with CFLs; it saves me money and time, since they need changing less frequently. Being cheap (call yourself ‘frugal’ if it feels better), I naturally try to wrest every last bit of value out of my purchases and adopt a waste-not-want-not attitude, which fits the greener days bill perfectly. Composting cuts down on how many bags of garbage I drag to the dump. Not starting my car until I am belted in and shutting it off when having to wait (a few more minutes of down time here and there do add up), cruise-controlling and coasting in neutral whenever possible, saves gas, and gas, you may have noticed, costs money. Long and infrequent baths (that feel luxurious when you have the time), short showers (that help jump start mornings when you don't have the time), a little less heating and cooling at home (because who wants really likes paying for heat and AC) and cutting back on the number of times per week that we shop (freeing up time for the rest of life's pleasures, including just doing nothing) are all doable alternatives to the unsustainable status quo that so many of us have established.

For me the key has been a kind of mindful living that entertains the eco-friendly perspective as often as possible, while reaping the incidental benefits (less money spent, more free time, less hassle). I am training myself to bring a canvas bag when shopping and I have noticed people noticing, who in turn may be positively influenced by my small but progressive action. This might inspire others, but it also rids me of all the useless plastic shopping bags that clutter up drawers. Not only can we make the adjustments that are needed to save the planet, but in so doing we can become role models for each other while getting some perks in the process. Let us remember that sustainability is a long path and we are all imperfect travelers striving for greener days together. Take small steps, take them frequently, and take notice of the unexpected benefits that come to you along the way.

Geoffrey Paul Gordon grew up in New York City and attended the Ethical Culture Schools, Columbia University and New York Universities. He is an award-winning playwright and has been teaching in the Arts and Humanities since 1980. Geoffrey is a junior partner in Greener Days (founded by his wife, Sara Gordon), a New York based coaching and consulting firm helping companies and individuals "go green."

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