Posted on October 6, 2011 by
Sadly, I’ve come to the realization through extensive experiential research that unemployment makes for a very green lifestyle. No commute, I can wear the same clothes for days on end and if it’s yellow… yep, I can just go ahead and let it mellow. Of course, all this is true if you are lucky enough to work from home, but that dream has yet to come calling.
Still, I wasn’t complaining when I got a job recently after quite the lengthy period of, ahem, very green living. Unfortunately, my new job is a forty-five minute drive away in a different county, a trip that, while technically possible using public transportation, would probably require several bus changes on two different systems and miles of walking. I’d have to leave for work as soon is I get home from work.
So now I’ve joined the other stop-and-go weekday warriors, spewing my greenhouse gases and burning fuel by the tank-full. And I’m earning a paycheck, a deal I was more than happy to make. But what can I do to reduce my workday footprint now that I’ve left my little green income-free utopia? Of course I realize that I can’t do anything to truly make up for my 36-mile daily roundtrip, but my conscience requires me to at least try. These are the admittedly miniscule actions I’ve taken so far:
1. Everybody knows this one: BRING YOUR OWN MUG! At my workplace there’s a stack of styrofoam cups by the coffee maker, but most people seem to have their own drinking vessels. So easy, even an office drone could do it.
2. Single-use items bug the crap out of me (see above) and that goes for paper towels, too. You wash your hands in the restroom (I hope) and then you dry them. Unless your workplace has hand dryers, you grab a paper towel, probably more than one because one never even comes close. Me, I keep a washcloth at my desk. I don’t dry my hands with paper at home, so why should I at work? I keep my towel dry by hanging it from a desk drawer and I just stuff it into my back pocket when I go to the john. It’s really not that weird.
3. I eat in. Everywhere I’ve ever worked I saw the majority of my coworkers leave every single day to go buy lunch from a restaurant (with the exception of my time as a park ranger where our relative isolation precluded being able to pop out for a quick anything.) Not only is eating out expensive and generally unhealthy, but unless you work in a strip mall it will require driving. Just bring your lunch.
4. When you do bring your lunch (which will be every day, I’m certain,) pack your food in reusable containers. I prefer my meals to create almost no trash, aside from maybe a banana peel. Even for foods like yogurt you’re better off buying in bulk and portioning it out into individual reusables. And don’t even think about plastic baggies or utensils.
5. Since I have to drive to work anyway, I maximize my mileage. Most people don’t realize that it’s not just the car, but how you drive it that determines your vehicle’s efficiency. Check out this article from Salon. I do everything described there and routinely get 25% better mileage. That’s the environmental and financial equivalent of teleporting one out of every four trips to work, except I still have the chance to listen to a podcast and curse at other drivers.
I’m all too aware that none of this is the impact equivalent of sitting around in my pajamas with the windows open and the plumbing idle, but I’m doing what I can (and I’m getting paid, hallelujah.) Any other ideas?