Mini-Me Could be a Powerful Force for Sustainability
Do you ever worry that our oceans are becoming a giant plastic trash bin, the bees are disappearing, and climate change too big to tackle? How can one person turn things around? If we changed our perspective just a little, each of us – no matter how small – could be a powerful force for sustainability.
Remember Mini-Me? In Austin Power’s comedy series, he was the tiny clone of Dr. Evil. Although small and looking somewhat edible to giants, he packed a lot of punch. With tenacity he silently wielded his power through hand written notes and ferocious outbursts. Mini-Me showed his superpower strength by lifting weights many times the height of Dr. Evil, survived a launch into space, and withstood a thrashing in a pillow case.
I believe that each of us has a silent Mini-Me just waiting to come out and tackle the challenges plaguing our planet. Stacked one on top of the other, our Mini-Me clones could make quite a splash.
One person carrying out a Mini-Me act of conservation each day for an entire year (in addition to what we might normally do) would add up to 365 new planet-saving actions. That’s not such a big deal, but what if we multiple that one action by everyone in our sphere of influence. Family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.
Let’s just say there are 100 people who each agree to do one simple act of conservation per day for the next year (including you and me). For example, put on a sweater instead of turn up the heat, take a bus, ride a bike, or carpool to work, turn off a space heater, use a travel coffee mug for buying coffee, or carry a reusable water bottle. Together we would be 36,500 actions closer to our goal (365 days x 100 willing participants).
I’m not proposing a multi-level marketing scheme. What I am suggesting is that we begin looking at our impact on a wider scale – as a contribution to something much greater – and see how it all adds up. If 10,000 people (for example 10 communities of 1000 champions) carried out one act of sustainable conservation daily for the next year we could hit the jackpot and accomplish 3.6 million planet-saving actions (365 days x 10,000). Now try multiplying this formula by 100 communities. I’ll let you do the math (and repeat in Carl Sagan’s voice).
When we begin to consider our Mini-Me actions in aggregate, the effort suddenly seems more than doable. Together this powerful force for sustainability could avoid fossil fuels, reduce energy, and conserve water on a massive scale. We could do away with plastic waste, cut pollution and carbon emissions, and save bucket loads of money while we’re at it. Are you with me?
Mini-Me Is a Powerful Force for Sustainability
If you’re willing to turn your inner Mini-Me into a powerful force for sustainability but don’t quite know where to start, there’s loads of helpful information at your fingertips. I found this guide – 50 Ways to Help the Planet. Focusing on climate change and reducing your carbon footprint, David Suzuki Foundation lists the top 10 here. U.S. EPA also has some simple tips: What you can do.
If you want to keep it simple, how about starting with just one small change a day? We’ve all heard this mantra before: reduce, reuse, and recycle (or if possible do without). Here’s three simple steps, using this mantra, to try at least once a day for the next year.
- Go beyond recycling by reusing containers every day (this uses less water, resources, and energy in the process).
Consider using your commuter cup or water bottle for more than just commuting. Think about all of those opportunities to save a disposable cup and plastic bottle during the week: coffee meetings, rendezvous for tea with friends on the weekends, or thirst-quenching trips to the minimart while traveling. Here’s a tip: a mason jar with a lid works great for taking cold or hot drinks with you while traveling.
We love our food carts! Have you considered the amount of waste take-away containers contribute to landfills? Avoiding disposable packaging keeps unnecessary trash from the waste stream (and landfills contribute methane, a potent greenhouse gas). Take along some reusable containers when you go for take out. A big bowl or large plastic container with a lid works great!
Even though it seems just about everything can be recycled these days think about ways to reduce the recycling stream. Recycling takes energy, and producing new plastic packaging requires water and precious resources. Is there a health food store in your neighborhood that sells liquid detergents and shampoo in bulk? Consider switching to refillable containers for purchasing things like dishwashing liquid, clothing detergent, shampoo, and conditioner.
Regarding water. Who needs all that grass anyway? Drought-tolerant gardens can be pretty amazing in addition to saving lots of water.
- Turn it down, turn it off, put on a warmer sweater in the winter, or take it off in the summer.
Turning out the lights may seem obvious but reminders are good. Consider making a practice of turning off anything not in use when you leave the room: lights, TVs, computers, electronics, and electricity-sucking gadgets.
Have you done everything you can to weatherize your home or office and reduce energy consumption? There are low-cost measures you can start with that like replacing all light bulbs in the house – including holiday lights – with CFLs or LEDs. Did you know that LED light bulbs use only about 25 percent of the energy and last 8 to 25 times longer than incandescent light bulbs?
If you like wearing ugly sweaters in the winter here is your chance! Wear it all winter long and see if you can stand to turn that heater down a couple notches. Remember that in the summer it’s a good idea to take off that ugly sweater and reduce air conditioning use.
Check with your local utility for more ideas. Some states have organizations (like The Energy Trust of Oregon) dedicated to helping homeowners and businesses reduce energy by giving cash incentives to replace old inefficient appliances and air conditioners with more energy efficient one, and getting rid of that old refrigerator snacking on electricity in the garage or basement.
- Walk, rent a bike, share a ride, take the bus, and find ways to avoid fossil fuels.
If you can’t afford to buy a hybrid or electric vehicle, look for ways to stop driving alone in your car. Trains, buses, carpooling, bikes, walking – there’s lots of options for getting to work, to the store, to your nightly rendezvous. If too much of a shock to go cold turkey, how about trying an alternative mode two or three days a week?
Solar installations on homes are becoming increasingly popular but still out of reach for many on a tight budget. If you’re a renter solar is not totally off the table. There’s a growing movement for community solar that may soon be available in your neighborhood.
Let’s start a new mantra: reduce, reduce, reduce and together we can accomplish a lot towards using less energy, avoiding fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions. Try incorporating at least one new activity each day to your routine and let us know how it goes. Mini-Me can be a powerful force for sustainability (and his clones will send you a thank you from the future).
Author: Kathryn Thomsen
Founder of Hundredgivers, a nonprofit supporting and accelerating sustainability initiatives benefiting local and global communities. Kathryn is a social entrepreneur, consultant, researcher, writer and urban farmer. She collaborates with individuals, organizations, and businesses to develop climate change solutions, clean energy, and sustainability strategies and programs.