In my last post, "Green Is the New Punk, I promised to share some sustainable living tips to help us car- and status-symbol-loving Angelenos to reverse our fate... or at the very least make us feel better about ourselves. Again, I welcome reader feedback and suggestions, as I'm sure I'm just scratching the surface.
1. Take Recycling Seriously - The city of Los Angeles has made curbside recycling remarkably easy. No sorting required; simply toss your paper, junk mail, plastic bags, glass, aluminum, cardboard, Styrofoam, etc. into the blue bin and city workers will do the rest of the work for you. If you're unsure about which items belong in the blue bin, bone up with this guide on the City of LA Sanitation website.
2. Try Zero Waste for a Week - Did you see WALL-E? If not, please Netflix it. If so, treat yourself to another viewing. Hopefully, that will get you in the mood to start generating less trash. Practically speaking, it's not that hard. A lot of the food we prepare at home can be purchased in recyclable containers (eggs, milk, yoghurt, cereal, soda, pasta sauce... many frozen foods are even packaged in cardboard or plastic than can be tossed in the blue bin -- please refer to the link above for more info). Avoid individually packaged items, bring reusable bags to buy produce at a farmers market, and familiarize yourself with your nearest bulk bin mart, and you'll be pretty close to golden.
3. Composting! Not Just for Hippies Anymore - Our fair city doesn't only facilitate our recycling efforts; it subsidizes composting as well. Twice a month, the composting facility in Griffith Park sells bins regularly priced at $80 for just $20 to LA residents. Once a month, they even offer a composting workshop. The larger bins work best if you have a decent-sized backyard because they're quite big and should be placed directly on top of dirt. If you live in a condo or apartment, you're better off with the compact worm bin sold for $5. Don't worry; they'll explain how to do it so it isn't gross.
4. Speak Loudly and Carry a Big Bag - Now that I've become more self-conscious about creating waste at home, I find myself cringing every time I take home leftovers in a disposable container or forget to order my coffee in a mug instead of a paper cup. My solution is to keep an empty Tupperware container and a metal water/coffee cup in my bag so that I'm always prepared. The Little Miss Perfect in me also likes to make a big show of it so that other patrons take notice; maybe they'll think it's a cool idea and start doing it too. (I know this one's tougher for the fellas, but you guys can still keep a little "eco to-go" kit in the car.)
5. Make Meat a Treat - You may have heard of Meatless Mondays. Why not take it further with Meatless Weekdays? Or simply limit your flesh consumption to one meal a day? You don't have to deprive yourself completely of bacon and burgers, but replacing all that animal protein with more vegetables, grains and nuts will absolutely benefit your wallet, your waistline and, eventually, the planet. Your colon will thank you, too.
6. Get Into the Swapping Spirit - Many of us have been conditioned to think that something needs to be shiny and new to have value. This is our disposable culture at work. Buck the trend and embrace pre-owned items, from clothing to furniture to toys. The most obvious benefit here is that you'll save a lot of money. Less obvious but even more valuable is the connection to other people and sense of community fostered by this approach. I myself have had great success (and lots of fun) hosting a clothing exchange for my girlfriends and a "toy swap" birthday party for my son.
7. Go Solar - We Angelenos are blessed with abundant sunshine, so put it to work! If you own your home (or business), consider installing solar panels. This is the most costly of the tips included here, but can easily pay off over time in reduced energy costs and increased property value. Plus, there are plenty of rebates available to make it worth your while.
8. Roll With It - This tip comes courtesy of Westsider Monique Escamilla. "I bike to the park with my son, for light errands and trips to the beach. Fortunately, I live in a part of LA that's not too congested. Biking lifts my spirits and tames the worst toddler tantrums." Visit BicycleLA.org to find maps of bike panes and paths in your area.
9. Gas-Powered Blowers Can Suck It - I'm pretty sure everyone hates the noise and pollution caused by gas-powered leaf blowers, but that doesn't stop us from using them in our own backyards (or having our gardeners use them). Consider an electric blower instead; they're less noisy and don't spew exhaust. Ask your neighbors to do the same. You can even pool your resources to invest in a really great electric blower that's shared between your households -- that's the community spirit! Check out electric leaf blower reviews here.
10. Adjust Your Attitude - Tom of Green Knack may have summed it up best with this suggestion: "Change is all in the mind! Get control over your mind and decide your life will now look different. Don't get a 'green car' because it is trendy; get it because it's right to do so."
Follow Erin Mahoney Harris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ChillOutLA