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Thinking a Little More Green

It’s hard to escape the sustainability movement. If you have children, they’re coming home, almost daily, with a message of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” or some other resource-conscious mantras they pick up from school, friends or media. Even if not in your own household, there’s the good friend, brother- or sister-in-law who preaches clean and green living, veganism or zero-impact lifestyle. While we may not appreciate being called out on our own wastefulness, I think we can agree that we all have room for improvement.

As Neighborhood Alliance partnered with OG&E and Oklahoma City’s Office of Sustainability this year on the Create Great Neighborhoods program, we thought about just how much effort we can expect from a neighborhood when it comes to shifting behavior toward a more sustainable lifestyle.  Certainly, sharing stories about saving money on SmartHours or finding savings through the Home Energy Efficiency Program (HEEP) would be great incentives for neighbors to follow suit, but what about the smaller changes that don’t have obvious immediate benefits? We find that these changes require a new way of thinking about how we use energy and visualizing that use.

Try the following strategies that we employ in my household, and see if they inspire you to change the way you think about using resources:

Trash: I look at everything we put in our trash and try to visualize it going into the landfill. Sometimes it hurts, and that’s a good thing. It makes me think about every single thing I throw away. I consider each thing carefully, asking myself if it can be composted, repurposed or recycled.

Compost: My “compost” isn’t exactly recognizable as such. It’s more a pile of organic waste that gets kicked around once in awhile, but by the end of the season, I have a small bit of luscious soil I can use. I do have to think a little bit about the balance of green (vegetable scraps, grass clippings) and brown (paper, leaves) but other than that, it’s very little effort, and I can feel good about all that waste not going in the landfill.  If you want to learn more about composting check out bit.ly/osucompost.

Water:  Whenever I run water in the sink or shower, I plug the drain. It gives me a better sense of how much water I am using. In addition, watching all that water go down the drain at one go is a very effective incentive to use less water.

Lights and Electronics: I try to imagine our energy use the same way I do our water: I look at appliances, lights and electronics as big drains with money circling and going down. With that image in mind, I try to restrict the flow. If screens are on, lights are off (or dimmed). And I try to contain the flow to one area. If we’re in the living room, there’s no reason for the lights to be on in the kitchen. (It has the added benefit of concentrating my family in one room and forcing us to interact.)

None of these strategies puts a great burden on the household, and none of them has the immediate benefit of savings like SmartHours or HEEP. But at least I can feel like I’m a little further along that continuum toward being a true hero for the planet, and I can hold my head up at family gatherings when the ”Sustainability- Nazi” is in town (Brother-in-Law, you know who you are.)

To learn more about the Create Great Neighborhoods program, go to CreateGreatNeighborhoods.org

–Jennifer Meckling, Neighborhood Alliance