How To Go Green Without Going Crazy: 3 Simple Steps

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If you are reading this, chances are that green-living ranks pretty high on your to-do list.

You probably recycle, there may be plans for a rain barrel or a compost bin in your backyard, and conversations about the tiny-house movement or living “off the grid” might be a regular feature in your home. But regardless of the scope of your environmental lifestyle, you probably still feel like you’re not doing enough.

In recent years living an Eco-friendly life has morphed from an earnest attempt at reducing one’s environmental impact, into a bizarre sort of competition. Your neighbors have solar panels? You need solar panels. Your co-worker buys a hybrid car, and you are on the lot looking at a Prius that same afternoon. Mothers compete over the organic contents in their kids’ waste-free lunch boxes, and increasingly, green living has become about one-upmanship, guilt, and what you buy rather than what you do.

I am here to liberate you. Here are my three best tips for going green without going crazy – ‘how to go green‘ if you will.

1. Starting slow means sustainability. We have all experienced the rush of starting something armed with good intentions and enthusiasm, followed swiftly by crushing disappointment when we realize we have dropped the ball. Again.

As with anything in life, the process of creating Eco-friendly change has a far greater chance of sticking it out for the long-term if you take baby steps. Rather than making sweeping changes all at once, tackle one thing at a time – if you run out of window cleaner, replace it with vinegar and water.

When you have gotten the hang of cloth diapering and are getting more than three hours of sleep in a night, then tackle a backyard compost. Allow each change to settle in and become routine before you attempt a new one. This is less dramatic, yes, but far more sustainable.

2. Not being able to do everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. So you can’t afford to buy organic, and using a clothesline simply isn’t going to happen in your fifteenth-floor apartment. Not being able to do everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt to enact change where you can.

There are hundreds of tiny ways you can create a greener life, from using public transportation to shopping secondhand. Many cost nothing at all, and take very little time. Shift your focus from what you’re not doing, to celebrating the positive change that works for you – and ditch the guilt!

3. It’s not what you buy, it’s what you DO. It truly doesn’t matter if you have the latest trendy green gadget, or if your closet is full of fair-trade, up-cycled, gluten-free clothing. It’s fantastic that these options are there if you need them but the simplest and most effective way to create a positive environmental impact is simply by reducing your consumption, period. Buy less.

The effect of this change is twofold: It reduces the amount of stuff that you have to pay for, store, maintain and dispose of, but it also shifts the focus of your efforts away from outward displays of Eco-trendiness, and frees up your time and money to enact real change instead.

An Eco-friendly life doesn’t have to be – and I would argue, shouldn’t be – expensive, time-consuming, or filled with guilt.

Remember these three tips: Start slow and start small, focus on what you can do, and remember that being green will always be infinitely more than the contents of your shopping cart.

Feature image courtesy of Jeremy Levine

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Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.