Taking Care Of Our Environment

On a recent trip to Alexandria, Virginia, which is a wonderful walking city with a great downtown, I discovered a book I am so enjoying, Sustainable Minimalism, published in 2021 by Stephanie Marie Seferian. The book has me making some small changes in my daily life. While these small changes will not in and of themselves solve our environmental problems, if we all made some small changes, they would add up to large changes.

One change I have consciously made is to refuse receipts, which are not needed since the charge is on my credit card, and why do I need to accept more paper, just to throw it away? This change relates to receipts for gas and all other purchases. Since I am paying more attention to what I am spending, I am recording charges on my phone as soon as they are made.

The overuse of paper towels is so wasteful. I have cotton cleaning rags that I use for most things I previously used paper towels for. Spills can easily be cleaned up with cotton cloths which can then be washed. In fact, cotton cloths can be substituted for (almost) any chore that we normally use paper towels for.   

Mike and I travel a lot, and most of that since COVID has been driving. So, we are using public restrooms quite frequently. Whereas I do not like the noisy hand dryers found in many public bathrooms, I have finally decided that using them instead of paper towels makes perfect sense when one considers the positive impact on the environment. When I do use paper towels, it is only one, whereas previously I would pull several off without giving that any thought at all.

One of the most negative impacts on our environment is travel, whether by air or car. Think of the amount of fuel used, and what that does to our atmosphere by the buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, resulting in climate changes. Reducing our travel would be a major lifestyle change for us, and I am not ready to make that drastic of a shift yet. What I have done, and this is not a recent change, is not make unnecessary vehicle trips to stores and/or backtracking. I “bundle” my car trips and travel the most efficient route possible.

Changing our overbuying behavior is one important aspect of sustainable minimalism. Too many possessions lead to clutter. We need to have less, not organize more. Now, this is a hard one for me. While I am not as guilty of overbuying as I once was, I have entirely too much stuff from years of overbuying. Moving from an almost 5000 square foot home into a less than 2000 square foot home and attempting to find room for many of our possessions, has been a significant challenge. While we reduced much of our furniture, we have not reduced much else. The cabinets and closets in our new home are overflowing. This is my next growth area. Casserole dishes, measuring cups and spoons, and linens beware; you are next to go! 

What should we do with items we plan to let go? One option is to donate them to Goodwill or other agencies that accept slightly used items. While in doing so we rid ourselves of the immediate clutter, this option does not necessarily positively impact the environment. Many of the items donated are not able to be sold or given away to others and end up in landfills. A better option is to donate items to people who need them or can use them now. While this takes more effort than just taking a carload of stuff to a donation center, our effort is better spent. Our new neighborhood has a list serve where people who have items to sell and/or give away can post those items to the 1200 homes in the neighborhood, and the items find a new home fairly quickly.

Making conscious decisions is key to making any of these changes. While it may be easier short term to go through life mindlessly, failing to worry about the environment, longer-term that choice can create significant problems for our children and grandchildren. I choose to make some changes now that can result in a safer world for those I love.

How about you?

About Patti Fralix

Patti Fralix inspires positive change in work, life, and family through Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching in three specialty areas: Leadership, Managing Differences, and Customer Service. Her leadership firm, The Fralix Group, Inc., has been helping clients achieve practical and tangible results for twenty-two years.
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