“Being green” is a journey

What exactly does it mean to be “green” anyway?

Being green is making conscious decisions that benefit your environment, your health, and your local economy.

Environmental consciousness is awareness of what we put into the air, water, and earth. One way to measure the "greenness" of environmental decisions is to know the size of your “carbon footprint,” or the measure of the amount of carbon-based fuels it takes to maintain your lifestyle. A smaller footprint is better.

Health consciousness in the context of “being green” is the concern for what we put into our body and how this affects you and your family. One way to make green health-conscious decisions is to look at how your food is grown—is it organic or is it grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers?

Economic consciousness is about asking the question “am I keeping my money in my own community for longer term benefit?”

In order to link all three of these green considerations together, consider the phrase, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” This is the concept that everything we do individually can have an impact globally. This consciousness begins with the question “how is what I am doing affecting myself, my community, or my world?”

“Being Green” is not a switch that you flip, but a journey you take one step at a time, beginning with with asking these questions. Ghandi said “you must be the change you want to see in the world.”

It’s easy to be green! Start with your own interests. For a healthy home, buy earth-friendly cleaners or make your own (techniques at www.ecocycle.org/hazwaste/recipes.cfm). To save energy, change to energy-effcient light bulbs or hire a local green-conscious contractor to evaluate and update parts of your home. For better health, plant a garden, go to the local farmers market, or join a Community Supported Agriculture group.

Doing all three knocks out several things on the list with one step. For example, eating food that is locally grown reduces your “carbon footprint” because the amount of fossil fuel that it takes to grow the food and then transport the food is greatly reduced. Second, it is healthier. We can find out how “organic” that tomato is because the farmer who grew it is most likely standing there selling it to you. There is a more direct connection to your food. Third, you are keeping your money in the community. It is more likely that that farmer could come into your place of business and spend his money with you sometime in the future.

One common misconception is that being green is expensive. Most everything we can do by making a minor lifestyle adjustment and reprioritizing what is important. In the case of food, buy less food but better quality. Look for the “made in” label to make sure you are buying products made in this country. Buy your electricity through a cooperative that produces “green power.” All of the little things add up on the journey to “be green.” Don’t be overwhelmed. Take the first step.

Scott Castor is an “Eco-preneur” living in Cleveland Heights. He is the Greener Home Handyman and the owner of a new franchise called Greener Home Services, LLC. Scott just planted five fruit trees in his yard, has a vegetable garden, and heats his home and hot water with wood and solar. He can be reached at scottcastor@greenerhomehandyman.com.

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Volume 2, Issue 1, Posted 7:09 PM, 12.19.2008