10 things I didn’t know about ‘going green’ until I finally took the plunge

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1) I SUSTAINED NO PHYSICAL OR EMOTIONAL WOUNDS!

Oh, the trauma, oh the sacrifice – at least that’s what I initially thought. When we first weigh the pros and cons of greening up our act, there are all sorts of emotionally-charged thoughts that dart through our minds. Things like: “Life is challenging enough as it is – this is only going to add an extra layer of responsibility on my already burdened shoulders.” “Why should I make changes when no one else I know is lifting even a pinky finger?” And yet several years into the whole process, surprise-surprise…I’m not hyperventilating in a corner or popping pills just to cope with my lean green ideals.

That’s when it hit me – human beings are remarkably adaptive. When push comes to shove, we adjust to new jobs, new responsibilities, and new lifestyle choices, oftentimes without batting an eyelash. The greatest obstacle in our way is self-defeating thoughts, so what we really need to do is just go for it and resist the urge to second-guess our decisions. Living a planet-friendly lifestyle is entirely possible without dragging your soul or guts all over the floor -- it's truly a blood-free process!

2) MY LIFESTYLE HASN’T SUFFERED!

It’s actually no big deal to finally make an eco-commitment and stick with it. Sure, it may sound daunting at first, but I assure you that once you jump start your plan of action, everything will fall into place and you’ll quickly realize that ‘going green’ doesn’t mean that you’re reverting back to a stone age way of life. Yes, you’re ‘allowed’ modern conveniences. Of course you can drive a car to the grocery store. No one is disapprovingly shaking their finger at you and suggesting that in order to be a true-green citizen, you have no choice but to give up grooming, a big screen TV, Twinkies and occasional jaunts at the shopping mall. It is a highly personal decision – only YOU can (and should) choose what eco-commitments you are comfortable with.

3) I AM HEALTHIER IN BODY, MIND, AND SOUL!

Once you make an intentional effort to live more harmoniously with the environment, a cool thing happens along your journey -- you begin to realize that your decisions positively affect Mother Nature as well as your entire well-being. Suddenly, choosing organic BPA-free groceries becomes a nourishing exercise in conscious consumerism that has a lasting effect. In addition to doing your body good, you end up supporting smaller, ethically-minded companies that strive to offer responsibly-produced items. While this is just one shade in the entire green spectrum, it demonstrates a relatable reality -- the eco-snowball effect of your responsible consumerism is yin, yang, and everything in between.

4) CARING MORE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT HAS ENGAGED MY CREATIVITY!

If you embrace a reuse-recycle-repurpose frame of mind, every item that passes through your hands becomes ripe with upcycling potential – not because you’re ‘cheap’ or hard-up – but simply because it’s totally cool to create something nifty with bits and pieces that would have otherwise found themselves wallowing away in a garbage can. Before long, you’ll find yourself trying to top previous eco-creations by morphing into a supreme uber-idea meister -- even Martha Stewart's ace team won't be able to touch your green glory.

5) I’VE SAVED A GREAT DEAL OF MONEY!

The stigma surrounding recycling and repurposing – that it’s only what paupers and grannies do – has really got to stop. It may seem a little kooky to wash out zip-top plastic bags or dry paper towels that you’ve only used on freshly washed hands, but seriously folks, we’ve got to break ourselves of the one-time-use mentality that has become our cultural norm. There is no good reason why any of us should throw items away…unless, of course, they’re mangled beyond recognition or incapable of being repurposed. Keeping things out of our waste stream is obviously good for the environment, but it’s even more beneficial from a budgetary perspective and absolutely nothing about that sucks.

6) MY DAILY ‘GOING GREEN’ ROUTINE IS ON AUTO PILOT!

All of the little things that I do throughout my day to make a positive impact on the world are no-brainer efforts. I honestly don’t even give them a second thought – I just do them and get on with my life. That includes recycling, shopping for as many organically produced items as possible, conserving resources…you get the picture. Has any of this compromised my lifestyle? Not in the least. Living with a greener frame of mind hasn’t caused me to obsess over all the extra things that I’ve got to do because they’re just a part of me and who I am. I make the effort because I really care.

7) I’VE BECOME A FAR MORE INFORMED CONSUMER.

Before I committed to ‘going green’, I’m going to be honest – I was totally clueless about what I was exposing myself to and how my choices impacted the environment. Now, I actually take the time to read labels, research the smartest choices for myself/the planet, and think before I consume. The result of all this extra learning and eco-contemplation is that I’ve actually grown a few extra brain cells and now recognize that I am no longer powerless. I have become the change that I wish to see in the world. So can you.

8) MY FRIENDS REALLY DON’T GIVE A HOOT, AND THAT’S OKAY.

Just because this way of life has clicked inside of my brain doesn’t automatically mean that my circle of friends will jump on board. That’s easy for me to say now, but at the beginning of my journey, I was perpetually frustrated that no one seemed to care, especially when I took the time to itemize all of the compelling reasons why I believed that they should fall in line. It took a while for me to realize that I should be embracing a green lifestyle because I know it’s the right thing to do – NOT because I’m trying to convert everyone else along with their cousins, uncles and nephews. People will be people and here’s a reality check -- what’s good for you may not necessarily be perceived as good for them. They won’t exactly appreciate you pleading your eco-case, either, so just do it for your own personal reasons and (quietly) feel good inside.

9) CHANGING THE WORLD IN MY OWN BACKYARD REALLY IS WORTHWHILE.


I may not be able to temper climate change or hatch a brilliant plan that will save endangered wildlife species, but I can certainly act on a local level to make a positive impact. If that means toting reusable containers to restaurants (when I anticipate having leftovers or just want to order take-out) or spending a few hours every weekend removing recyclable containers from garbage cans at my local park, then so be it. I am a firm believer that doing something is better than shrugging my shoulders and passing the buck.

10) I’M STILL THE SAME OLD ME...ONLY WITH A MORE PURPOSEFUL DIRECTION.


Okay, to be more accurate, I’m a somewhat improved version of the same old me. I still love art, music, literature, animals, and exploring other cultures, but instead of living solely for number one, I consider how my pursuits help or hinder the environment, trying whenever possible to choose eco-friendly alternatives. Just because I ponder the impact of my choices before I pursue them does NOT mean that I've become a hyper-eccentric eco-freak. I have not -- I repeat not -- abandoned conventional forms of grooming, nor have I become so obsessed with organic eating that I opt to graciously sip on water in lieu of dining on my mother's conventionally-produced cuisine. In my own household, I take the extra steps to follow a conscious lifestyle because I believe that it helps in the grand scheme of things. It may not be much, but knowing that I can affect change -- even on a minor level -- is empowering. I highly recommend it.


Elizah Leigh | @elizahleigh
Elizah Leigh's master's degree in education combined with her passion for the written word and deep-seated interest in environmental issues has proven to be the ideal trifecta for her present status as a green journalist. Currently commissioned to write a reference book on vegetarianism, Elizah hopes to inspire people through her words. Follow Elizah on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn

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