Sometimes it’s the smallest, most insignificant things that get in the way of our good intentions. Most of us want to lead healthier lives and do our part in protecting our planet. So why, when we learn that making small changes could help us accomplish those goals, don’t we? If you’re honest with yourself—it’s probably because in this busy, harried world we all live in if it isn’t easy, and I mean really easy, we don’t have the time or the energy to change our routine or go that extra mile. In my case I realized I was having trouble going an extra few feet…
When I learned that appliances and cell phone chargers if left plugged into the wall when not in use are still using energy, I started thinking about all the things in my home that were wasting energy when I wasn’t even at home: the TV, stereo, DVD player, printer, hair dryer, camera battery charger, cell phone charger, toaster, blender, the list went on and on…. I promised myself I would start unplugging whenever possible.
Things went well at first, but slowly as time went on, I stopped unplugging. I still managed to unplug the kitchen appliances and hair dryer after each use, but for some reason I just never seemed to remember to unplug my cell phone charger whenever I removed my phone and I couldn’t seem to be bothered to turn off the TV, Stereo, DVD player and my office equipment before I went to bed at night. When I stopped to think why, I realized I was just being a bit lazy.
The kitchen appliances and hair dryer were plugged into sockets above counters within easy reach. While the cell phone charger, TV, and office equipment were plugged into sockets near the floor so I had to lean down to unplug. Furthermore, to reach those sockets near the floor I had to maneuver my arm behind furniture. So I was willing to be green, if it was convenient.
I shared my realization with friends and was somewhat relieved to know I wasn’t alone. One friend wouldn’t switch to non-toxic cleaning products because they didn’t have that “bleachy” smell she associated with cleanliness. Another friend had bought reusable, cloth grocery bags, but kept forgetting to bring them to the store. We all had good intentions—we just needed some help following through.
For me that meant moving my cell phone charger to a socket above a counter in my kitchen and grouping all office equipment and entertainment center plugs into power cords that I could easily reach. The power cords had the added bonus that I now only had to flick one switch to cut power to everything I didn’t need plugged in all the time. For my friends it meant taking a little time to search for a non-toxic cleaning product that had a strong odor (tea tree oil did the trick) or placing a basket with grocery bags near the front door.
Next time you realize you’re not following through with a plan, see if there is anything you can do in your home to help. A little extra time spent organizing or researching in the beginning will make it easier and save you time in long run. Here are a few ideas:
– Use power strips to plug in all entertainment center equipment and all office equipment that can be turned off when not in use—this way you only have to hit one switch to turn off power to all those appliances. Use a separate outlet or power strip for things that need power consistently, such as a cable box, which may tape shows while you’re out or asleep or a laptop that needs to charge.
– To break old habits sometimes it’s helpful to leave yourself a reminder. Place a post-it on your dishwasher reminding you to only run when full, or on your washer and dryer to use an energy efficient setting. Once you’re in the habit, you can throw away the note.
– Create a system that makes recycling more graceful. Depending on your town’s recycling policy this may be easy or take a little more work, but at least begin with creating an area in your kitchen or elsewhere in your home with suitable containers.
– Do something. You may not be able to go green overnight, but just because you can’t do it all doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. Start small by committing to make one simple change. There are many things you can do that don’t require much effort, such as using energy efficient settings or buying organic or locally grown foods when you have the option. Hopefully, starting with something simple will inspire you to try something new the next time. No one goes completely green overnight, but over time a few little changes to your everyday life will soon become habits—and make a difference.