I am worried about the weather. It is weirdly mild. Still no snow. We’re wearing anoraks instead of coats, seeing spring flowers nosing out of the soil and having autumnal temperatures. While I’m happy not to be freezing, I’m uncomfortable with the strangeness of the weather and not entirely sure what I can do as an individual. Newsweek recently published ten achievable tips for green living, and because I can’t help being derivative and can’t think up my own memes, I’m turning their tips into my own Green Meme. Feel free to play too.
1. What do you for the birds and the bees? According to the report, we need to plant a pollinator garden to counteract the effect pollution, pesticides and habitat destruction are having on birds, bees and insects. Bees, for instance, like yellow, blue and purple flowers.
Hmm. I’m a fairweather gardener and prefer to tend my herb pots in summer and ruthlessly ignore them in winter. The bees definitely like my lavender and roses. They love the daisies that grow in the lawn when “we” are too lazy to mow it.
2. Household products. Chemical or organic? Household chemicals contribute to indoor and outdoor pollution.
Thus far, chemicals. It’s obviously time to buy those scarily expensive organic products or get handy with the vinegar, lemon and salt.
3. Do you junk?
Junk mail has not only broken the latch to our postbox, but it also kills trees. I pledge to buy those “no junk mail” stickers for the postbox tomorrow. As for catalogues, I’ve stopped the paper versions and only use online ones.
4. Air-dry or tumble-dry? Line-drying saves money and stops carbon emissions.
In winter, I almost always tumble-dry, but in summer I’m quite good about hanging clothes out. I love the smell of clothes that have dried in hot summer air – it reminds me of my African childhood. We do have an eco-friendly drier that doesn’t pump steam out of the house, but requires frequent emptying.
5. Old gadgets. Recycle or toss ’em? According to the report, we have to find a way not to fill up landfills with electronic objects.
Here’s my current solution: fill up the cellar instead. Germany has pretty good recycling schemes and if I were organised enough, I’d fill out an online form and have the recyclers come and take the gadgets away. We can take batteries to one of the local supermarkets and we’ve done a great job of filling a packet, but haven’t got any further. I have even kindly provided a home to unwanted electrical goods when their owners are leaving the country. That’s recycling, isn’t it?
6. Lightbulbs – incandescent or fluorescent? Fluorescent light bulbs use 70% less power and last ten times as long.
I’m so pleased to be able to say that my green credentials are finally shimmering here – we are busy changing over to fluorescent light bulbs. Yay us. However, being Africans used to sunlight, we are bad, very very bad, about switching lights off. And worse about our computers, frankly, because we love being
7. Meat or veg? Meat production is energy inefficient. It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.
Okay, we do meat in this house. But scientists say that if every household had one or two meat-free days a week, it could have a huge environmental effect. We could do that. It’s also important to eat local, so keep an eye on the labels of the food you buy and go to markets. Check, check. We do that.
8. Loo paper. Virgin or recycled? The paper industry is the third largest contributor to global warming. If every U.S. household replaced one toilet-paper roll with a roll made from recycled paper, 424,000 trees would be saved.
When it comes to bottoms, we are SO green. It’s recycled all the way. Our only recent exception was a house-guest buying us some virgin Christmas-tree bedecked bog roll by mistake. While we all found it a LOT more comfortable, we’ve stuck with our tree-friendly paper. However, my household of aspiring artists draw on lovely virgin paper. Note to self: find recycled drawing paper, if I can.
9. Tap or bottled water? According to Newsweek, it takes a lot of oil to make and ship water bottles, and most end up in landfills.
We buy six bottles of mineral water a week, and recycle the plastic bottles back at the shop. When those are finished, or for those who prefer it, there’s tap water. Germany is excellent about recycling bottles – there’s the once a month glass collection and every supermarket takes returns. Green halo shining here.
10. Dating – metrosexual or ecosexual? Newsweek says two recyclers are better than one.
Well I’m already married to a tap-water drinking, fluorescent-lightbulb installing, daisy-friendly, vegetable-loving ecosexual who takes the bottles out. Between us, we’re doing our best not to further overpopulate the planet. (And I even know someone who met her partner on a vegetarian dating board!)
I see I have room for improvement, especially on the chemicals and electronics front. My green halo could still do with a bit of a polish, but it has not completely rusted away.