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Sustainable Living: Moving Small Mountains with Our Individual Decisions

Posted by Caroline Fong  September 27, 2013 10:00 AM

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By now, I’m sure everyone has seen the Chipotle industrial ad, featuring a lonely scarecrow, who labors away for a company called Crow Foods. If you haven’t seen it yet, I have no idea where you found a rock big enough to live under. Watch it now:

Its message rings clear -- we should care about what we eat, and as individuals, we can make a difference. And it’s the second part of that message that really resonates with me. We can make a difference with our personal choices.

It’s been a somewhat slow, but interesting shift in the never-ending fight for a more sustainable society. The public relations campaigns of big companies used to focus on whatever green initiatives or corporate responsibility efforts were being reportedly implemented by the company.

Now, I’m tempted to say that the call for change has landed on the shoulders of individuals like ourselves. It’s not so much what companies “should” be doing (although they better have had an eye out for the environment already); it’s more of us telling companies what we want.

This is aligned with the concept of Citizen Commerce, the belief that we should seek, buy, and share products that reflect our own personal values. As consumers, there is power in our personal choices. And those choices can go towards supporting our values, including a more sustainable environment.

If helping the environment is important to you, here are three small steps you can adopt in your daily routine:

1. Walk More

If you must use the car, plan out your chores for the smartest route to save time and gas. But by staying off the road for just two days out of the week, you can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,590 pounds a year (source: EPA).

Your travel alternatives not only save gas money, they’re good for your health. Try taking public transportation, riding your bike, or walking, starting with one day a week and then upping it to two days a week.

Biking to work collage.jpg

For biking to work or for a day trip: Quivvers ($39.95) for carrying the essentials hands-free, PackIt ($19.95) for keeping the perishables cool, and the Peterboro Basket Company Large Bicycle Basket ($39.95) for transporting things via bike.

2. Stop Buying Bottled Water

Bottled water actually generates a lot of waste. Our landfills are overflowing with 2 million tons of discarded water bottles and they take over 1,000 years to biodegrade (source: The Water Project).

By purchasing a reusable water bottle instead, you help prevent more plastic bottle waste and still get the same quality of water -- because tap water is actually subject to more stringent federal safety regulations than bottled water. Another upside? You save money. If you buy a five-dollar 24-pack of bottled water every two weeks, that’s $120 you could’ve saved in a year by just drinking tap or home-filtered water.

Water bottle collage.jpg

For durable, BPA-free reusable bottles: Bubi Bottle (Starting at $14.95) and Vapur (2-pack at $17.95) for collapsible and lightweight bottles, or Eco Vessel ($24.95) for a stainless steel, triple-insulated bottle for cold or hot drinks.

3. Carry Groceries in Reusable Tote Bags

No, not just when you remember. According to Tree Hugger, you must use your reusable canvas bag 171 times or more to break even with the environmental impact of plastic bags. Or, if you use a reusable bag made from organically grown materials or recycled plastics, the usage number may drop to 10-20 times.

Still, not using plastic bags can help prevent the litter that finds its way into our landfills and the ocean. This means making an effort to place the bags in the car as soon as the groceries are put away or carrying extras in the purse or pockets.

Shopping bags collage.jpg

For sturdy shopping bags: MIXT Studio Tyvek Reversible Tote ($38) for machine-washable and recyclable, Torrain Large Tote ($32) for natural and recycled fabrics, or 24-7 ($12) for lightweight nylon easy to carry in the purse.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Caroline Fong
Caroline hails from a tiny tropical island originally, but calls Boston home. A curious bird, she spent a spring trekking all over Ireland, has been an Air Force Junior ROTC cadet, and worked at Disney World as a merchandising intern. With a love for all things interesting, she found herself at The Grommet, where she gets to eat, sleep, and breathe innovative undiscovered products. Say hello to her on Twitter.