In resolutions and sustainable consumption, keep the big idea in mind but go after it one step at a time.
Did you make a resolution for the New Year? Was it to buy lots of new stuff, online or otherwise? (Didn’t think so.)
We’ve got a hunch, dear Living Green 365 reader, that your hopes
for 2017 include keeping our air and water clean, and not using up finite natural
resources. Those are big goals. Psychologists suggest
that people keep the big ideas of their resolutions in mind, but break them down
into manageable steps they can tackle through the year.
Let’s start with reusing
a little more. According to one poll, 91% of Americans think the way we live produces
too much waste.
Even the greenest among us have room to improve when it comes to our
The idea here is easy – keep what we have
longer, get what we need by borrowing or buying secondhand, and not end up burdened with the
kind of stuff that makes us feel both cluttered and empty.
Reuse does all sorts of good things. It:
- Fosters green, reuse-related jobs like repair
and consignment and keeps dollars local.
Prevents waste, conserves natural resources
and reduces greenhouse gasses. (How? Keeping
it in use longer slows our use of virgin resources and creation of waste. You
can find out more on reuse and the circular
Reuse is easy to love, but it can be hard to do when
one-click-shopping is so tempting. So try committing to just one or two of these
tips to help you reuse more:
Keep things longer
Tip 1. Practice gratitude for
what you have. The first step to keeping things longer is to value them. Be
mindful and grateful for an item, and you will find it easier to treasure.
of happiness says that happy people are grateful for what they have, and
don’t compare themselves to others.)
Treasure meaningful things. Do you remember that mug from your
grandfather’s workshop? That’s meaningful. Why get a generic new mug to replace
the one that reminds you of your grandpa?
Try something simple, like sticking a post-it
that says “nature is here” on a closet door. Everything in that closet is a little bit of nature – it’s mined out of a
mountain, or grown from a plant or animal, made with energy from oil, sun, or
wind, and with the labor of a real person somewhere. If you can envision the mountain, the plant,
the animal, the person, you might find yourself holding onto that sweater
fondly and not feeling the pull for another.
- Use it often. The more you use something, the
more it becomes deeply yours. Me? I’ve been
using the same glass, mug, bowl, and plate at work for 8 years. Each has a
story. Don’t need any others, I reuse these every day.
Tip 2. Buy it right the
first time. We talk about buying durable all the time. But how do you
know if something will last? Let your experience and intuition guide you. That $5 t-shirt that you can see through when it’s new? Won’t last. That
cheap freebie water bottle offered at the community event? Don’t take it. You
know it’ll leak the first time you use it.
an antique. You can be pretty sure it’ll
last, because it already has!
Buy a high quality item with a guarantee to fix
it. Tara Button has done a lot of the leg work and found things that are made
to last more than one lifetime by companies that will fix them if they break. Check
Show it some love. There’s a reason
you’re supposed to vacuum out the dust from the back of your fridge once in a
while. I know. I didn’t do it. And my fridge died. Once you’ve invested in
something of quality, or have something you value – treat it well. And if it
needs a little repair – great! There are
so many options for fixing these days. We wrote about it here: Fixing. I recently had my old leather purse redyed; it’s
as good as new.
Tame the “buy it new,
buy it now” impulses
Tip 1. Take a photo instead
of buying. We are hard-wired to
respond to novelty. But that buzz of having a new thing wears off after just a
few days and we often regret we spent the money. Next time you’re tempted, try
taking a photo of the thing that caught your eye. Look at the photo enough times and the novelty
might wear off. You may find you no longer “have to have” it.
Check out this fun video
to remind you of all the great reasons to get less!
Tip 2. Commit to trying at least one second-hand option before you jump to online shopping sites. Check ReUSEmn.org’s new directory to see if they
have a store listed near you. Or ask if a neighbor has one they are getting rid
of – Next Door is great for this.
Seek access over
The average electric
drill spends only 15 minutes of its life actually drilling holes. The rest of
its sad life is on your garage wall, taking up space. Many toys are the same – a child may love it
for a year and grow out of it. For
things like this, we only need access to them when we need them, we don’t need
to own them. It’s already happened for
music (Pandora, iTunes), and movies (Netflix).
Tip 1. “I’ve got one you can
use.” Help someone else reuse. Offer to lend something you have. The offer
will probably come back to you. Acts of
kindness and creating community relationships will
increase your happiness while you increase reuse.
Tip 2. Use or start a toy
library, or a tool
library. The Northeast Minneapolis Tool Library and the Minneapolis Toy Library lend tools and
toys the way traditional libraries lend books. So simple and powerful. These can be small and simple – with just a
few members in your neighborhood, or larger and more ambitious.
My first step in 2017? I hate remodeling, but my bathroom needs fixing. I’m resolving to explore the great building
and architectural salvage businesses around the Twin Cities to find the
fixtures, cabinets, and hardware I need.
Which tip will you start with?
Community events and resources
Where Do We Go From Here? The science, policy and politics of addressing and adapting to global-scale environmental change. Wednesday, February 1, 2017, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Camp Bar, St. Paul , MN. Everything has an impact on the environment. Climate change is top of mind for many, but our carbon dioxide emissions are only the beginning of the story.
The ecological outcomes of our activities take myriad forms and have far
reaching implications. Join us for a wide-ranging discussion about the science, politics and
policy driving our complex relationship with our planet’s systems. Sponsored by U of M College of Biological Sciences. Part of the Petri Dish series, which explores how biology affects our lives and what it means for our future. For information or to register: http://petridish.bpt.me/
Wild Ones 2017 Design With Nature Conference—Planting
Matters. February 18, 2017. Anderson Student Center, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul Campus. Sixteenth annual Native Plant conference hosted
by Wild Ones chapters in greater Twin Cities Metro, featuring keynote
speaker Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home. Register here.
Send questions or comments about living green to the address
Madalyn Cioci and the Living Green Team