Small Changes/Big Impact

Not too long ago, I left my career in hotel management and found myself working for an environmental non-profit organization.  I have to admit that the reason I wound up there had less to do with my passion for the environment than my need for a steady gig to support myself. However, when I read the job posting working as the executive assistant to an environmental “power player,” I thought that perhaps I might benefit from exposing myself to a little green culture. Boy, did I have a lot to absorb!

I’m an L.A. local who recently moved back after living in San Francisco for about 15 years, so I am at least ahead of some people in the sense that I believe in the reality that is global warming. I believe that we, as humans, have contributed to this predicament. (And the fact that there are some who don’t believe that – including one former VP nominee who shall remain nameless – leaves me speechless!) I am proud of the fact that I had previously worked for a hospitality company (JDV Hotels) that practiced green policies and practices designed to “…educate their employees and guests, reduce waste and toxins, conserve natural resources and partner with local and environmentally-friendly businesses,” and I manage to always throw my plastic water bottles in the nearest blue recycling bin. Beyond that I am [in my newly formed environmentally conscious opinion] woefully behind in my responsibility to our planet.

So what does a single woman who can’t afford a Toyota Prius or Honda Clarity do to help the climate? First, I replaced the bulbs in my home with energy-efficient light bulbs. According to The Nature Conservancy “…they reduce the amount of fossil fuels that utilities burn. You will save 100 pounds of carbon for each incandescent bulb that you replace with a compact fluorescent, over the life of the bulb.” I even got a few free ones from my utilities company! Next, I continued a practice that I picked up from living in San Francisco, and I walk to my destinations whenever feasible. I specifically moved into a neighborhood where I have easy access to my local grocery store, museum and other shops. Since I live alone, my grocery runs are never that huge, so I can easily walk to my neighborhood market and carry my groceries home. And speaking of grocery shopping, I absolutely adore the kicky canvas shopping bags that I purchased to replace using plastic or paper. (Not only do plastic bags take hundreds of years to decompose, but plastic bag manufacturing adds to the tons of carbon emissions each year.) I replaced my multiple [plastic] bottled water purchases with a cool reusable zen-patterned aluminum Sigg water bottle. Next on my list is to check my tires on a monthly basis to see that they are fully inflated so I’m burning less gas.

My minor efforts might not seem like much, but it’s a start. And, most importantly, it was easy to do. I don’t think I’m alone in sometimes feeling like I’m powerless to do anything to help counteract the effects of global warming. So many people just do NOTHING when they feel powerless, but hopefully they too will realize how easy it is to take these first simple steps.

So, after making these minor lifestyle changes, I calculated my carbon footprint and found that my estimated greenhouse gas emissions are 11 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per year, which is below the U.S. national average. (Interesting fact: the world average is only 5.5 per person.) Not bad for someone who’s still saving her pennies for a hybrid car!