By Rachelle Carson-Begley
My father was an ardent admirer of the mother of the environmental movement, Rachel Carson. When it when his turn to name his newest baby girl, he chose to name her Rachel. My mother wanted a name with a little more flair, so I became Rachelle. Rachel Carson, a marine biologist, was author of many books and essays, including her most famous tome about the dangers of pesticides and pollution, Silent Spring (1962), which widely credited with launching the environmental cause in the United States. My connection to that cause was limited to our shared name and not littering.
When I moved to Los Angeles 20-some years later to pursue a career in acting, I envisioned a big, shiny life, complete with all the trappings of fame. Little did I know my life would soon more closely resemble Green Acres when it intersected with that of the most ardent believer in conservation and sustainable living, Ed Begley Jr. Needless to say, I wasn't a duck in this water. I had to take the bus, because we couldn't drive around in a gas-powered vehicle, and everything we consumed had to be recycled. The goal was to have zero contributions to landfills, and I lived in terror I would be caught with garbage! I gained a valuable education in what can and cannot be recycled, and was schooled in the ways of thermostat control, timed showers, and the art of unplugging (even the curling iron I was about to use for my audition!).
It was a steep learning curve for this fledgling Los Angelian, but we made it through those early years. Now, with the advent of new technology, hybrid motors, more efficient solar power, more biodegradable packaging, and a global awareness of "zero footprints," life is a bit easier. The biggest lesson I've gained over the years is simple: If I can do this, anyone can. Here are my seven tips for those reluctant to adopting a green lifestyle.
Set your intentions.
Make a commitment to take a simple step each day to "green-ify" your life. This looks different for each person--perhaps you set up a recycling bin in your kitchen, transition from more chemical-laden cleansers to more earth-friendly products, or incorporate one simple task, such as cleaning your windows with vinegar and newspaper, into your daily routine. The point is to do something.
Think "transition," not "transformation."
This mindset involves easy things you can do to transition into a green lifestyle, such as swapping your light bulbs with LED lights, purchasing healthier, natural snacks instead of processed foods, or starting a small vegetable garden (I started with one lone tomato plant!) and incorporating those foods into your meals. When you run out of any product, trying replacing it with a healthier, eco-friendly alternative.
Start reading labels.
Everything from our food to our personal beauty products contains pesticides, chemicals, and words we can't even pronounce. My rule is this: If an item I am going to digest or put on my body contains an ingredient I can't pronounce, I don't buy it! Once you start becoming conscious of what's inside the personal items you are purchasing, you'd be amazed and how soon you'll want to put them down and pick up something that is good for your home and body.
Plastic bags are outlawed in cities such as Portland and select stores in San Francisco for good reason: they end up in our waterways and endanger our wildlife and don't break down in landfills. In order to get away from this un-biodegradable substance, try using glass or reusable water bottles, installing a water-filtration devise, such as Britta, in your home, and saying no to "paper or plastic?" at the grocery store by bringing your own canvas bags. Wrap sandwiches in wax paper instead of plastic wrap or choose snack bags made from recycled content.
Stop consuming new things.
Besides being chic and environmentally correct, it's fun to obtain (either through purchase or barter) things that already exist. Instead of buying a new end table, repurpose your neighbor's. Have fun shopping for someone else's discarded wares at thrift stores and garage sales, take an item off of your friend's hands because it doesn't fit in her living space anymore. My latest, greatest recent find was an old 1920s deco chandelier that I picked up at an estate sale for $40! We use my mother's antique Southern teacups at breakfast instead of buying new mugs at the local home-goods store. Try cleaning out your garage or closets and donating anything you haven't used in more than a year to a nonprofit you admire.
Get out of your car.
Try traveling on foot more, get on a bicycle and bike around town with a friend or family member, or try running errands by train or bus (which use natural gasses). You'll get more exercise and fresh air, and you may even meet a few new people along the way. You spirits will be boosted because you won't be isolated in your own traveling space.
Pass it on.
Commit to sharing at least one tip that works for you with a friend or neighbor. Support each other in living a green lifestyle. Get involved with a green organization or forgo your monthly massage for a one-hour volunteer spot at your local conservation group. Take a walk on the beach with a friend and bring along a bag to pick up trash, or hand your elderly neighbor a recycling bucket for her garage (and offer to pick it up once a week and recycle it for her).
Don't complain. Don't think of any of these steps as a chore. Embrace them as a fun and effortless way to make your living space a healthier place for you and your family--one step at a time.
Actress, speaker, and author Rachelle Carson-Begley is one of the most recognized names and faces in the environmental world of Hollywood. To learn more about her and her tips for an eco-friendly world, visit www.rachellecarson-begley.com.