If you want to green your life, the possibilities are limited by a number of things. At this moment, you have a place to live that has certain features, you have access to a particular type of vehicle(s), and a job (or not) in a certain location.
Unless you are willing throw it all away and start fresh (and power to you if you are!), you can only do what you can with what you have right now. Want to start composting? Tricky, if you don’t live in a house with a yard. Want to have a green roof? Pretty tough if your roof is slanted.
So the question becomes “Given where I am right now, what can I do?” And generally, there are some things you can start with. No matter where you live or work, you can do small things like not leaving lights on unnecessarily. Wait, I take that back – our last workplace had funky wiring and we couldn’t turn of our office light without also turning off several other people’s lights (it drove me crazy…). But you can always start recycling – if there are programs in your community. Or you can drive less – if you don’t live too far from work or if your city has a transit system. Or you can buy things with little or no packaging, made from recycled products, or made with non-toxic materials – if these items exist and you can find them.
Sensing a pattern here? Everything we do is subject to things that have already been set up, essentially past decisions, either ours or someone else’s. The building you live in someone else (most likely) designed. They decided what materials to use, how to orient it, roof type, how much insulation and a host of other things. Sure, you can try to change some of those features after the fact, but the truth is, it is usually simpler, cheaper and more effective to make those decisions at the design phase than it is to try and modify later.
Key decisions that affect your planetary impact (now why does that sound like you’re colliding with the earth and making a big hole?) are the ‘big’ ones – where you live, in what you live, what you drive, how far away from work you live, what major appliances you use. We don’t make these decisions every day and whatever we decide locks us in for a while. Here’s your chance to make a big difference.
But what if all the vehicles produced were fuel-efficient? What if all new houses were so environmentally advanced that they generated, rather than used, energy? What if all products had minimal, recyclable packaging and the products themselves were made from non-toxic materials, and could be recycled? If this were the case, no one would have to make green living decisions because the designers, those people in the sweet spot, would have made them for us. They make decisions for us anyway, with every product that they design, and those decisions have serious consequences for the planet.
So make the little decisions, take notice when the key decisions arise, and as for the sweet spot – if you’re in it, make it count!