I focus on the big things a lot. Here, in my thinking, in my life. It is what it is. And there is always the balance between the big and the little. The big things are really just an aggregate of little things, so sometimes it is helpful to take stock of the little things – both what we do now, and what we could do, because change is very often easier than we think.

Take the environment. Wow, global climate change, the pollution, the species going extinct, the rainforests being cut down, how can we stop it, affect it, change enough to make a difference?

Well, everything we does makes a difference, and so every choice we make has an impact, however small. The changes we make can be small, and still add up. I feel that we should never stop looking for ways to make those small changes in our lives, because every step in improving our impact is one step closer to where we want to be. And when we make small changes, these tend to ripple out, and other people might adopt them as well.

For instance, I spent a summer in a small fishing village in Mexico right after I graduated from college the first time. We were doing research, living in a biological station, and we didn’t have running water. We had an ocean right outside our door, and we would drive the truck into town with our giant jugs of water and purchase water to fill those jugs. One for cleaning and one for drinking. You really learn conservation when it takes a lot of effort to get the water, and when you can see the levels of the jugs go down directly. So I’d brush my teeth with exactly as much water as I needed, spitting the “used” water on the ground near whatever plants were around. They can still use it, after all!

Coming back to the states was a shock. Some habits changed, permanently, with regards to my water usage, and I actually influenced a friend in this regard back when we first became friends 8 years ago. I didn’t realize this until he told me just a few months ago! This change is that when I wash my hands or brush my teeth, I don’t let the water run. I turn it on, and get the toothbrush or hands wet, turn it off. Do what I need, and then turn it back on for the rinsing. It drives me up a wall when people let the water run unheeded! So I must have ranted about this once (or many times, knowing me) to my friend, and he changed. So that’s both of us, conserving water in this small way, for 8 and 12 years. Not bad!

Of course there are so many other things we can do, which are just as easy. So I’m going to list the ones I can think of, and I’d love to hear any ways that other people reduce or reuse, because I’m always looking for more of these small steps I can take:

  • already mentioned, but turning off the water while brushing teeth and washing hands
  • the only paper products (other than paper itself) I have in my house is toilet paper. I have a variety of towels for everything else, cloth napkins, and recently purchased some recycled handkerchiefs from etsy.com so I don’t even have to use tissue while leaking my way through therapy
  • cloth menstrual pads
  • I’ve helped a couple friends get interested in and started with cloth diapers. I know more about diapers than I ever imagined I would, especially considering I plan on having NO kids, and have never actually changed a diaper myself! But if you want to know more about cloth diapers, I can help you navigate the confusing-at-first terms and choices. And while it might sound incredibly gross, my friends who use them say it is not gross at all, and that it is much less gross and less stinky than the disposables!
  • I use BioBags for trash bags – they’re 100% biodegradable and compostable, not plastic at all.
  • I use public transit when I can. Unfortunately this does not include to work – while feasable, it would turn a 20 minute car ride into a 2 hour trip, which I’m not willing to do. I need to look for a new job, and part of my criteria will be more reasonably accessible via public transit and/or have a work-from-home option for at least some of the time. I do take public transit to the airport, which is sort of ironic, because plane rides are horrible for the environment. For now, I am not cutting air travel out of my life.
  • I take the bus to NYC when I go visit.
  • I recycle as much as I can. I have even been known to grab things from the trash at my condo complex (if they’re sitting on top) and walk them the 10 steps to our recycling bins.
  • I plan on, but have not yet started, composting. I do use the discards from my veggies to make soup stock though!
  • I have replaced most of my light bulbs with the energy efficient fluorescent ones. They’re expensive, but they save money on energy bills and last longer.
  • I got a programmable temperature thingy so I can conserve some energy while I’m not home.
  • I avoid buying plastic as much as I can.
  • Cloth grocery bags!
  • I try to buy things made with recycled materials as much as I can.
  • Sigg water bottle!
  • buy as much local grown food as possible
  • tried growing food in my small patio and was marginally successful. I have some basil growing nicely on my windowsill now, and will attempt more food plants in the spring!
  • any household cleaners I have are a) not tested on animals, b) contain no animal products and c) are “earth friendly”
  • I went vegan. I had to come back and edit my post to add this in, because I (ironically) almost forgot! But being vegan is much much less damaging to the earth. My reasons for going vegan were ethical, the positive health and environmental impacts are extremely nice side benefits!

Okay, these are just some of the things I could think of now. The list can grow quite long when you think about all the small ways you can make changes in your life. They do add up. There are so many things I want to get better at. There are some bigger changes I want to work up to, as well.

So, what do you do? What can you add to my list? I’m very interested in ideas on reusing things, too. I also end up with a lot of those handy plastic round take out containers. They accumulate. Anyone want some? I have more than I need, more than I have room for!