Waste, man. I never realized how much of it was in my life and how much of it negatively impacted our environment. I also didn’t realize how many of my choices could be avoided. I had no ill intentions – I never proactively sought out products because they were packaged in plastic or begged to hop on a flight due to my affinity for emitting more carbon into our atmosphere. However, my actions and behaviors were leaving a footprint I was not content with.
So, thanks in large part to my wife, who helped educate me and make living a climate-friendly life a priority for her and for us, here’s my story on how I’m just getting started at living a life that is less harmful to our planet. Why change my outlook? I want generations to come to enjoy and experience life without extreme fear of climate change, food shortages, natural disasters and other consequences that lead to the further destruction of our natural resources.
While COVID-19 has rightfully limited or put travel at a halt, and especially for me, work travel, I began paying closer to attention to my footprint before this pandemic hit our society.
To start, I stopped seeking out hopping on flights for work conferences or meetings unless absolutely necessary. I simply asked myself questions. In this day of technology, why should someone fly to “HQ” for one meeting? Do we really need to send me, my direct report and another teammate to that conference on the other side of the country? Can I get there by train or car? In addition to convenience, can we find direct flights to at least minimize emissions? Just asking Qs like this helped me travel less this past work year than prior years.
My journey has conflicts, too. My wife and I love to travel and experience culture around the world. Once it is safe to do so again, I don’t see myself never hopping on a plane again. But some of the Qs above will help us travel more smartly. Do I have to be somewhere for a work trip? If so, can my wife meet me in that part of the country/world and we tack on a vacation? What is the least amount of flights we need? How walkable is the destination so we don’t rely on cars once there? A recent example of this had me in Europe for work last summer and my wife and I met up and spent a week in Copenhagen – a very bike-friendly and walkable city.
One of the many reasons I have always lived in cities – from Philadelphia to Jersey City to San Francisco to Manhattan and now to Brooklyn, is the walkability. I no longer have a car and I walk everywhere – to shop, eat, run errands and even to work when my office was open. I never understand those that are physically able hopping in a car share, cab or train to go such a short distance. Walking is also free exercise!
Speaking of exercise, I have a newfound affinity for biking. Brooklyn being bike-friendly has helped offset some of the fears of biking in car-ridden city streets. My wife and I now bike for pleasure to various parts of Brooklyn and I’ve even biked into Manhattan a few times.
FOOD, WATER & SHOPPING
BYOB certainly meant something else in my younger years! Now? It means I’m bringing my own reusable bags everywhere – to the grocery store, local farmers market and anyplace that may put my purchase in a plastic bag. And if you insist on using plastic bags for veggies and produce, bring the same ones back each time.
The amount of waste coming from plastic drink bottles is also mind boggling. From my frequent travel to playing pick-up basketball, I was always buying water bottles or sports drinks on site. Such waste. Not to mention, most of the places I bought these rarely had proper recycling bins. So now it’s simple for me – I bring my own reusable water bottle everywhere. On planes, to the gym, to work, when on long walks, etc. This also helped me cut out the calories of those sugary sport hydration drinks.
The double BYOB – for bags and my own water bottle – have now become second nature for me. In fact, I now preemptively get upset if an employee at a store is about to place something in a plastic bag before I boast with pride – I got my own bags! If fruit comes in a crate or plastic, I always choose the crate.
Going out and about without a plan? I still bring a backpack or a tote just in case. It’s my new norm.
FOLLOW THE LEADER
There are a few more things we are doing in the household thanks in large part to my wife. We no longer line every trash can with a bag, we use reusable napkins and wash them, we buy laundry detergent that comes in a paper box and my wife makes our own hand soap and cleaning products and refills the plastic containers that the last ones we ever bought came in. Seems like a lot, but it’s not and I can’t think back to how we used to do these things.
ONE SMALL STEP…
I’m really proud of the aforementioned changes in my behaviors and consumption. And nearly all of this has not been difficult – a few hiccups come up along the journey and will continue. The biggest one for me now is take out/delivery food from the wonderful local restaurants in Brooklyn – far too many still package in plastic and throw in unnecessary plastic utensils wrapped in what else, plastic. But hey – it’s all a journey and every small change helps protect the future of our planet for generations to come.
I challenge you to join Gen E’s desire for all to lead a climate-friendly life. I’m doing a few things with ease that have barely disrupted the way I live. To make it your new norm, start with one or two changes and see how they make you and our environment feel.