No wonder environmentalists are often depressed – we can make things so complicated!  I realized this while talking to my therapist about my stress level.  She asked me to describe my day, listened politely to my litany of motherhood demands intermingled with self-imposed sustainability extremes before conveying the typical response – “no wonder….”

Green Living TreeIrony of paying a professional to discuss my reuse obsession aside, it did occur to me that it’s time to prioritize – the additional carbon footprint accumulated just driving back and forth to therapy certainly outweighs that of buying the occasional packaged good.  So I created a recipe for doing just that: a Viva la Green menu if you will.  With this short list of greener alternatives which are based on actual effectiveness, we can pick and choose from the overwhelming gamut and focus instead on those options deemed most impactful.

When you can’t do it all, research reveals these simple everyday efforts can most effectively minimize your impact on the environment.  Choose what works for you from the list below, knowing these changes really do make a difference:

Buy local and keep your community green. Opt to keep 25% more of your money circulating within your community by buying locally grown or manufactured whenever the choice is available.  You’ll keep carbon out of the atmosphere by reducing the fossil fuel energy required to transport goods from afar. Discover the many benefits of local living here!

Reduce your meat consumption, and opt for free range and hormone-free over factory farmed meat whenever possible. Livestock is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire global transportation network, accounting for approximately 18% of all total emissions.

But diehard carnivores need not convert entirely; red meat is the real culprit to avoid.  One pound of beef is as damaging to the environment as driving your car for 160 miles. So make beef the luxury it always has been. Save it for special occasions, and choose grass-fed, free range when you splurge. A visit to Paul McCarthy’s Meat Free Monday website is a great place to start!

Vote with your dollars. Take a little time to learn about the companies you patronize and their environmental and social policies.  Sounds time-consuming?  It doesn’t have to be.  Betterworldshopper.org has created a reference guide, available both online and as a pocket-sized book, which makes it easy to check out thousands of national companies before you buy from them.  You’ll be surprised at what you’ll discover, and will be able to make choices that support your value system.

Buy previously owned goods. Join a growing trend and shop resale.  It makes sense both financially and environmentally, especially while the slow economy is keeping inventory high in most places.  Local consignment stores, Craigslist and EBay are all great options for saving money and reducing your impact on the earth.

Choose reusables. The raw materials, chemicals and transportation energy required to produce an item that will be used once then disposed of simply doesn’t justify the need. And recycle’ is the end of the line as far as the 3R maxim goes. The free pass option is misleading – that telltale triangular symbol on so many plastic packages shows that they’re recyclable, not that your township actually recycles that material, which often ends up in the landfill in despite the fact that they’re collected separately.

It’s so easy to carry reusable bags, drink containers and utensils with you to use over and over again.  You’ll be amazed at the difference you’ll make simply by being conscious.  Keep them in your car, and if you forget, just make a mental note to remember next time!

Earth conscious changes are important, but they don’t have to be overwhelming.  Our consumer oriented society assures that a bit of relearning is required starting out.  By taking it one step at a time, you’ll learn how to live in health and harmony with the planet while working toward a cleaner, greener future.