Technical Support Help Desk Analyst at GE Healthcare.  Sounds thrilling and rewarding, doesn’t it?  Forced into working for “the man” out of financial necessity, that was my title this summer at my job back in Western Mass.  I admit that I needed a break from politics and working for my values after many months of hard-fought campaigns at Brandeis, but something was missing.  It was hard to live without living my values daily, so I took the opportunity this summer to look inward to reform my own habits and lifestyle choices.  Looking back at all of my accomplishments, I feel pretty confident that I made my lifestyle significantly greener.  Interested in how I did it?  Follow the jump.

  • I gave up plastic bags.  I bought one lunch bag and two tote bags, in 95% recycled cotton.  I carry one tote bag in my messenger at all times so that I never have to use a plastic bag.  One thing that’s important to remember is that cashiers love to give you bags, so you need to be prepared to refuse one.  Just ask nicely and (although they may give a very confused look) you should be fine.
  • I switched to CFL bulbs in my room at home.  I put this one off for a long time because I’ve got those dimmable recessed lights in my ceiling, but I took the plunge and spent $12 per bulb (yikes), replacing all four.  I went from using 65w per bulb to 16w, effectively using 75% less energy.  I also replaced the two bulbs in a lamp I have, going from 60w to 11w.  I actually use the lamp now, putting it on at night instead of using the full power of the main lighting.  Added bonus: having two different sources of light helps make a better ambiance.
  • I started measuring my electricity use.  I picked up this thing called a Kill-A-Watt.  You plug it in between the wall and whatever you want to measure and it tells you how much power (in watts) you’re using.  It’s helped me a lot in figuring out my impact and thinking about how to reduce it.
  • I switched my hair, skin, and other personal care products.  I went to the Cosmetics Database created by the Environmental Working Group, where found out how bad some of my normal CVS-bought products can be on my health and on the environment.  I bought some replacements from brands like Toms of Maine, Jason Natural, and Beauty Without Cruelty.
  • I started recycling more.  My office didn’t have a recycling program, so I brought items home to recycle.  Brandeis recycles pretty much everything (up to number 7, which is really high) so this one is very easy to do on campus.
  • I changed my driving habits.  Thankfully my car has two great tools for measuring fuel economy.  I have a MPG display I reset every time I fill up and glance at it while I’m driving to monitor my consumption.  I also have a turbo gauge in my Saab that goes from white to yellow to red.  I used the accelerator so that I rarely went into the yellow part.  I went from getting 23 to 28 mpg on each tank, a 20% improvement.
  • I started walking and bicycling more.  The pharmacy and bank are within a half mile of my house and the library is around 2 miles away, so I walked or rode my bike.  It’s so much more rewarding to get out into the community, socially and aesthetically.  Cars are much like mobile caves.  It’s also great for your health to walk and bicycle!
  • I bought biodegradable, non-toxic cleaners for the apartment I now live in at Charles River.  I found some Seventh Generation brand laundry detergent at Target one day, looked the company up, and found that they sold all kinds of cleaning products and even 100% recycled toiled paper.
  • I invested in an environmentally-sustainable, socially responsible mutual fund.  Instead of putting my summer earnings directly towards my tuition bill, I invested in the New Alternatives Fund in a Roth IRA and will use the money (with interest, hopefully!) to pay off some of the loans later.  It’s a myth that socially responsible investments don’t produce good returns.  Over the past 3 years, New Alternatives averaged a 13% annual gain.
  • I stopped my junk mail.  Sign up with GreenDimes, a website that gives you the information and tools needed to unsubscribe from a bunch of promotional service companies’ lists.
  • I’m printing less.  I use this free program called PrimoPDF that lets me save web pages and documents to PDF format rather than printing them out.  It’s also easier to find documents on your computer than in some random folder somewhere.
  • I’m planning how to get my dream “green job” in a few years.  I expect to go to graduate school for Community and Regional Planning.  I want to create environmentally-sustainable housing and communities.  I found that many universities have the program, even UMass-Amherst, which is very close to my home.  There are some excellent programs at Tufts, Harvard, and MIT.
  • I experimented with solar power.  I followed the instructions on this site to make a small solar charger that hooks up with a cell phone or iPod.  I need to work on it some more to get it fully functioning, but it was a valuable educational experience.  Renewable energy is the way of the future and we all have the ability to generate it at home.

You can make an impact too!!  Whether you take one, two, or all of my tips, you will be making smart, green choices to reduce your environmental impact.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments or email me at placombe AT brandeis DOT edu.

4 comments on “How I Greened My Lifestyle–and How You Can Too!”

  1. Sahar Says:

    this… this is awesome!

  2. Ron Robins Says:

    Great to see your green initiatives! I like the one especially about putting money into a green fund.

    You might want to look at my site. It uniquely covers the latest global green investing news and research. It’s at http://investingforthesoul.com

    Best wishes, Ron Robins

  3. Dan Estabrook Says:

    What a great list – I plan to link to it from our GreenDimes blog (http://news.tonic.com/) – I hope you won’t mind.

    Thanks, too, for the shout out on GreenDimes. We have two services — a free do-it-yourself service (Basic), and for $20, our Premium service is the one where we do all the work to get you off junk mail.

  4. Jessica Says:

    Big applause for the lifestyle changes! It’s important for people to see that it really is all about small changes and conscientious consumerism.