earth day: pick your battles

Today is Earth Day, so lots of attention is being paid to earth-friendly efforts. Fortunately, the interest in energy-saving and CO2-reducing efforts is increasing every day.

But really, isn’t it Earth Day every day?

Since the topic of this blog is “Everyday Sustainable”, I want to reflect on what is truly sustainable, everyday. It’s true that until we get systemic changes in energy-source options and transportation options, there are limits to how much we can affect change. But I’m an optimist and believe that even small changes count. At the least, they can affect the quality of our own lives.

Which brings me to picking your battles. Sure, if every person in the country recycled, stopped eating meat, walked or biked everywhere, dried their clothes on a clothesline, and never flew in a plane, we can only imagine how much cleaner and less toxic the air and water would be.  But let’s get real. That is not going to happen. So we have to each make individual decisions about where we are willing to make behavioral change or invest in a structural change that we can live with, or better yet, thrive on.

For example, at a Green@Home home energy audit this week, the homeowner told me she wouldn’t give up her twice-weekly bath to help ease lower-back pain. Even though she knew it used more water and gas to heat the water, the baths are important for her health. So, in her case, she made the decision not to change a behavior. However, she did decide to call for a water audit, to make sure her yard irrigation system (which is usually the greatest residential water consumer) is optimized. Pick your battles.

I met a bike salesman yesterday who has been commuting to work on his bike for 25 years. His current commute is over 50 miles daily, mostly on El Camino, a heavily trafficked surface street. As much as I’m a fan of cycling and not driving a car, I doubt that I will ever make such a commitment to bicycling. Frankly, I am a scaredy-cat when it comes to riding in traffic. Therefore, I choose to ride my bike where and when I feel safe enough. Otherwise, I’ll look for alternative options, like taking public transportation — bus or train — or at the last car-pooling. Pick your battles.

What can you live with? What improves your quality of life? What introduces new ideas and options to you? Experiment, see what works:

  • Try carpooling to work with a colleague. You might be surprised about what you can learn during your chat into work.
  • Walk whenever your destination is within a mile or 15 minutes or whatever length works for you, for a week. See what you see.
  • Don’t eat meat for a week. If that’s too much, cut out beef for a week, since raising cattle is the most energy-intensive and polluting. What new foods can you try?
  • Say no to plastic bottled water for a week. Carry around your own water bottle. Could it become a habit?

Some things will work for you. Some things won’t. Pick your battles.

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This entry was posted in bicycling, conservation, energy saving, environment, everyday, health, sustainable, utilities, walkability, water and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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