Living “Green” - What Does That Mean?

July 11, 2011

The use of “green” is everywhere these days. I am not talking about use of the color in fashion or the summer pallet of the trees, but the use of the word to describe a way of living - “Green Living."

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to finding time to “save the planet,” I struggled to get to this momentous task as part of my day. After getting through my list of things to do, I feel truly accomplished if I actually have time to read one of the magazines siting in a decorative pile on my coffee table.

But I wanted to do something to help out the planet. These days, you hear so much about how the climate is changing and there is an island of garbage floating in the seas and how the polar bears don’t have solid ice to stand on. I am even struck by how things have changed during my lifetime. I look at the kids playing in our neighborhood and wonder what things will be like for them when they are my age? But what can I do? What does it mean to live “green”?

Those are the exact questions I asked myself for almost four years, and it finally launched me and my family into an exploration into answering them.

What I will first tell you is that there are lots of things you can do, but not every “green” solution is for everyone. I have tried a lot of things and some just don’t work for me. I will also confess that it can be a struggle to get started. There are advertisements and articles everywhere telling you what you should, or should not, do. It can be overwhelming and intimidating.

So I set out to live a “sustainable” life versus a “green” life. I call it “sustainable living” not only because our actions hopefully contribute to a better life for us and ultimately the planet, but because they are things we can sustain doing in our everyday lives.

The best analogy is that it is like being on a diet - you are more successful when you adopt changes that work and you can sustain over your lifetime. Ultimately, these modifications shouldn’t feel like you are sacrificing anything. For example, any diet that deprives me of chocolate is not going to work for me. But if I find other things to balance this indulgence, then I don’t feel like I am missing out.

My approach to sustainable living follows a similar philosophy. I try out a bunch of solutions and what works, I stick with. And I know I will have my “indulgences”. For me, my “sustainable living” indulgence is my hot tub. Trust me, it sustains me in other ways!

We experiment with many sustainable living solutions and try to classify them on a scale. Light Green solutions are easy things you can do, such as making a different purchase decision next time you are at the store - sort of a beginners level. Dark Green solutions require more time, energy or money - a more advanced level. You can start off by trying “Light Green” solutions and when you are ready, try out some more “Dark Green” approaches. Over time, you’ll find the right mix of “greens” to meet your lifestyle.

Now, as a go through my daily list of chores, many of them have a sustainable living element woven into the activity. I make a positive impact on my family and the future, without really even thinking about it. Your approach may end up looking different than mine and that is fine. It is all about finding something that works for you.

So what does sustainable living look like for you? I will share what we have found through our trials and share what has, or hasn’t, worked for us. You can follow our adventures but you are free to pick and choose what works for you. I would also love to hear what you are doing, so that we can try out too.

At the end of the day, we can all take steps to live more sustainability and that is what matters - not exactly how we choose to do it.