Living the “Green Life”, Living the Good Life

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Living_GreenActions speak louder than words and it is our actions that first become visible to others. Therefore it is no good “preaching” to others about going green, about reducing, reusing, etc., when yourself you do not or only halfheartedly do it.

This is something that I have always believed and believed in and this I always bear in mind and I have for that reason decided to live my life, as far as possible, as an example, especially when it comes to presenting an alternative way to consumerism and such.

It is our actions that first become visible to others. Though our actions we can inspire, educate and motivate others. But if our actions do not match our rhetorics then we, and the entire story we are trying to present, are seen as fraud.

When it comes to consumption, to consumerism, even some people in the “green movement” seem to believe that they can make a difference and effect change if they just buy they “right” stuff and this or that “green” gadget.

There are many, alas, who have all the talk, all the rhetoric, and can even quote chapter and verse of the appropriate books on the matter, but seem to believe that the action must all come from governments, corporations and that if they just buy “green”, ethical, and fair trade and recycle all is going to be fine. Well, it is not and those of us whose actions do not speak loud enough are at least partly to blame for this too.

You cannot “preach” green living to other while at the same time engaging in consumption, even if it is greensumption, beyond that which is necessary. You have to to and live what you are talking about and go beyond even that which is necessary to be seen as green; to be a shining green beacon in the desert of consumerism.

Don't think for once that just because you buy recycled products while tossing out things you could easily reuse, often for the very same things that you buy, makes you “green”. First see what you can make yourself before looking to buy even if the goods and products you are looking to buy are “recycled”. It is, actually, much easier to do than most people think but it does require a change in and of attitude and mindset.

Living the “green life” is more than just looking at whether something you buy – or intend to buy – is recycled, fully recyclable, ethically produced, or fair trade, etc.

While that is important the far more important thing is to reduce here and I am not talking in this instance about reducing our waste, even though that, again, is important also, and by not all the time buying something you are doing your part there.

The most important thing is to reduce our – your – consumption of the unnecessary things such as buying a new computer or cellphone just because it is the latest on the market while the ones that you own and currently use work still perfectly fine and do the job well.

To live the “green life”, especially also as an example to others, it is important to learn to differentiate between needs and wants and to know when a want is masquerading as a need, for instance.

One important change we must all consider and undertake and that is to transition from a consumer to a producer (no, not making movies, necessarily).

What does it mean moving from being a consumer to being a producer?

It means just that. Namely to consume less ready-made things and to make things and to grow stuff ourselves.

I know that it is not feasible to make absolutely everything we need and want for ourselves nor is it not possible to grow absolutely all the food that we need ourselves (though it all is a question of economy of scales, of commitment and of input). However, the aim should be to at least produce more and as much as possible ourselves and one can start small.

It starts with changing the mindset and attitude and seeing a reuse potential in anything and everything and to use what we have and what comes our way, and that includes many of those recyclables, such as glass jars, cardboard packages, one-side printed pages, and what-have-you.

All too often people empty a glass jar and even go the whole hog – as we are supposed to do – of removing the labels and cleaning the jar only to toss it into the recycling bin. And then they go out and pay good money for a set of “recycled” glass storage jars.

In the time of our grandparents and their parents no such jar would have ever been tossed out (OK, they did not, necessarily, have a recycling process then but there were times when they could be given back to the stores to be reused) but were made use of for storage. Glass jars were also reused as drinking vessels in lieu of glasses, especially among the poorer classes, such as peasants and workers, as drinking glasses were expensive in those days, and they still were in the 1960s.

Our grandparents and their parents also reused as tin cans for many things, whether it was to store pencils in, or as scoops for chicken feed, and much else and if you need a pencil bin for your desk there is no better statement to make of a “green life” as to reuse an empty and cleaned up tin can.

Backs of envelopes were used for notes and other paper also was reused in a variety of ways and newspaper even became wallpaper, often even left unpainted. In most cases, though, it was used as lining paper and the wall then would have been painted.

I am sure that will all the wasted packaging materials today – well, with at least a great number of them – our grandparents and their parents – would have had a reuse field-day.

Thus, if we but employed a percentage of their mindset and attitude many purchases would become unnecessary and we could live a much greener and more frugal life and at the same time do our wallets and the Planet a great deal of good.

Many things that we may need and want can be made by reuse, upcycling and simple do-it-yourself rather than having to buy them and much of the raw materials for this we actually consign on a daily basis to the recycling bin or even the trash can needlessly.

Do not for one minute think that just because something can be recycled you can thoughtlessly toss it into the recycling bin and you are saving the Planet. It does not work that way. Recycling still requires a large energy input and while it may be smaller than creating something from virgin raw materials the collection, sorting, reprocessing and everything else associated with the recycling process it is still phenomenal. Much better to reuse and upcycle than send to recycling. Sure, once you have reached saturation point for your reuse and upcycling and other DIY activities recycling of those items that you cannot use is the only viable alternative.

There is still a great deal more to living the “green life” and living the “good life” but that shall be the subject of a booklet on this matter by the same title.

© 2014