Going Green in Seven Days
Have you ever wanted to stand up for something you didn’t know much about? Early this holiday season, I gave myself seven days to save our planet.
Okay, maybe the pressure wasn’t that high. But with a lifetime of hearing about planet conservation from the media, school assemblies, and a father who grew up in Portland, Oregon during the 60’s, I at least wanted to become familiar with Greendom,so I could educate myself and hopefully help others.
The following are seven ways in seven daysI learned how and why we should work to protect our mutual home. I wanted the experience to be original both for me and you as the reader. Because of this, I decided to leave out facts and statistics gathered by other parties.
So, you might call my Green Experiment common sense.
Day One: Around the House
For Day 1, I wanted to see what I could do from the comfort of my own home. Most of my time at the house is spent either relaxing or getting ready for my job as a professional. Pretty normal. But until I took on the Green Experiment, I never realized how little attention I paid to things other than my own comfort and convenience.
Now, before I go any further, I should mention my dad. Dad is a small-town physician who lives rather than just preaches a green lifestyle. Since I was a kid, I would see him turning off lights, using less water, and even starting a compost pile in the backyard for our spring garden.
As a child who cared for nothing other than hockey practice and PlayStation, I didn’t pay much attention to what was important to my dad. It wasn’t that I couldn’t have cared—I was a youngster with an unusual amount of empathy. But I guess it just never crossed my childhood/adolescent radar.
Not so now.
Now, his legacy had my attention.
Before my head hit the pillow on Day 1, my fan was off and so were all my lights. I’ll admit, the quiet creeped me out, at first. I live on the beginning of a dirt road surrounded by acres of horse pasture. It’s not that I don’t trust horses. It’s only that I’m not used to hearing them at night whinnying and fidgeting through their pastures on top of a silent, nighttime background. Nevertheless, I went to sleep within a reasonable amount of time. My original unease was that I wouldn’t be able to sleep soundly without the use of my muffling fan. But luckily, I got a full-nights rest. The sounds around the house such as the heater vent and washing machine down the hall were relaxing in themselves. I fell asleep in little time and was ready for Day 2 by seven the next morning.
Day Two: Full-Blown Vegan:
Does anyone really enjoy an all-fruit, all veggie diet? I mean, I’m not saying it can’t happen. It seems like these days there are a plethora of health-nuts out there who swear by eating vegan. I should note that I am in no way a healthcare professional, so none of this article is anything but personal experience. But I wanted to see what all the jazz of a complete fruit and veggie diet was about so on Day 2, I tried it.
I’m a person who likes to plan ahead. You could say I just don’t like surprises. The night of Day 1, I went to the grocery store and stocked up on oodles of natural foods in case Vegan Day turned out to be tougher than expected. I set an alarm on my phone with the words ‘Veggie Diet’ typed in and was off to sleep. When I woke up, surprisingly, no craving for my regular foods.
In fact, the whole day was fairly easy. I stuck to my original plan and had only fruits, nuts, almond milk, veggies, and water. I felt healthy and thought about if I would adopt this diet long-term.
Some parts, I think I will.
Day Three: Recycle
In my neighborhood, Tuesday is garbage day. It’s obviously essential and I believe worth my appreciation. But growing up with my hippie dad, I was familiar with conservation and the power to reuse. So, getting together with a close friend of mine on Day 3, I had the opportunity of taking part in recycling.
My buddy owns a house up on the south hills of where I live, so as I arrived there on a cool, partly-cloudy afternoon, he asked if he could get a hand loading some cardboard boxes into his SUV to take down to our local recycling center. The process took a matter of minutes. The fun part was getting to throw the boxes into larger, steel bins to be reused. I was surprised to see the variety of items the center recycled. Everything from boxes, to newspapers, to aluminum cans. We finished the unloading process, hopped back in his SUV, and decided to grab lunch on our way back to his house.
Day Four: A Walk to (Hopefully) Remember:
Have you ever lived in the same place for a long time and then taken a walk, only to find that you notice things you never did in all your time driving? That was me on Day 4.
My residence has been in the same suburban spot for 15 years. If it had been my guess, I would have said there was nothing I didn’t know about where I live.
Think again, self!
The goal of Day 4 was to walk somewhere and get groceries instead of drive twice as far, spend more money, and use more gas.
The supermarket I’ve usually gone to is a good fifteen minute drive from where I live. But luckily, there is a tiny market down a short dirt road next to my house and then two blocks left on Clements Street.
That is, if you walk.
I wanted to see how far the walk would be, so I plugged it into my iPhone.
Then, I just strolled down the road.
The weather was a little overcast, but mostly blue sky. There was a mild, warm breeze and bright light from all the snowfall in the mountains surrounding where I live.
I felt in paradise.
Back to noticing things I only could on foot, to my right on the way over to the market sat a small, family-owned construction business with large, metal sheds, rusty tractors, and flatbed trailers.
My kinda family.
I’d never perceived it before and doubted it would be of any use. But then again, you never know.
About ten minutes later, I got to the market. I knew I wouldn’t be able to buy too many things because, well, I was on foot. But I did get a few vegetables and an iced tea.
The trip back to my house was even more pleasant than the trip there. The winter sun was beginning to set, and I could see long shadows stretching out from under pine trees. The only sound around me was the purr of neighborhood tires coasting across wet streets.
Finally, I reached my apartment. Looking at my cell phone, I saw that I had walked 1.06 miles and burned a little over 300 calories.
Wonder how many I would have burned driving to the regular grocery store.
I unloaded all the veggies, put them in my blender, and concocted a perfect vegetable smoothie.
Wonderful way of finishing up the day.
Day Five: I’ll Take the Bus
Misssoula, Montana is an environment-friendly nook in our state. We house one of the two largest universities here in Big Sky Country which may have something to do with that.
One of the ways my city helps the environment is by providing a free bus system to get around. I’ve lived here for almost twenty years, and, besides during college where I had to because of tough parking, I’ve ridden the bus next to none.
On Day five, that had to change.
I see the buses moving around our streets daily. In order to help navigate, I downloaded a bus app on my iPhone which mapped where the buses were and when they would arrive at particular stops. The first stop was about a mile from where I lived at a large city park. I drove over to the park, got out, got on the bus stop bench, and waited.
And waited. And waited.
Finally, shaking my head that I’d been too blind to do this in the first place, I took out my phone, got on my app, and found that the next bus wouldn’t be arriving at my spot for another four hours.
Time for a Plan B.
I was going to the mall! If any place in Missoula had a spot the bus was bound to stop at, it had to be the mall.
Again, I found the area where it would supposedly be arriving. But looking at my app, I saw the bus wouldn’t be there for another 45 minutes.
Not a huge problem. The mall was right next to me, and I was hungry.
I decided to eat at a little Asian restaurant I worked at in high school. So much had changed due to its remodeling that I hardly recognized the place, but hey, their food was still great!
After I finished, I walked back out to the stop to wait one final time. Unfortunately, I noticed something else I hadn’t planned for.
The bus was already leaving!
Shuffling through my pockets to get my phone and at least get one picture, I had the phone in front of my face and the camera set to go.
Then, my phone ran out of power.
Unbelievable! How do you spend all this time, failing repeatedly, and then having your last hope of getting something done met by a phone with no juice left to take a picture?
I stood where I was for a few moments, watching the bus drive away.
I’d be a liar to say this hadn’t been disappointing. Still, I did gain an appreciation for alternative transportation. Like I mentioned, I rode the bus in college. Looking back during the afternoon of Day 5, I mused the bus hadn’t only been a fantastic way to save gas, it also had given a lot of opportunity to mingle with fellow people who lived in my city.
It hadn’t worked out. But luckily, I knew that its availability wasn’t limited to the 7 Day Experiment and I vowed that someday, I will make it my priority to figure out how to take advantage of this alternative to wasting extra gas.
Day Six: Mug Shot
About two miles southeast from where I live sits Good Americano. A local coffee kiosk, it’s become my go-to place when I need caffeine. Any girl working there will tell you I’m a regular, and they often have my drink ready (white coffee iced americano, two-shot) before I pull up to the window.
During the Experiment, I thought of a method of saving plastic. Asking, one of their workers early in the day, she told me they are always willing to fill up customers’ mugs instead of using their own cups. Hours later, I dropped by a gas station on my way to see a friend, picked up a mug with a Sinclair logo on it, and voila!
It’s only been a few times using this method to get my coffee, so far, but it has proved convenient. No more having to throw away used clear plastic cups. Also, I have a new feeling that I am helping my kiosk and faithful caffeine supplier by saving for them. Being as it’s mid-winter, I do have to dump out ice from previous white coffees, but that’s generally easy.
The only downside is I can no longer get my drink the second I pull up to the window.
Day Seven: On the Other Line
Have you ever wondered what life was like before cell phones? Sure, it hasn’t been too long in the grand scheme of things since the smartphone got popular and many of us remember the good ol’ days of much lesser technology. But think about it: land lines, answering machines, cable television, and, gasp!
That was my final step in completing my seven days green.
No problem, I thought.
I thought wrong.
Part of the difficulty was that I picked a terrible day. It was the day my dad was having a small surgery. I should note that I was right beside my mom who had her cell phone throughout the entire procedure. I also had my iPhone turned off and in my pocket, just in case.
But willpower! Barring an emergency, this was no time for mobile nonsense.
The surgery went on for several hours. It wasn’t anything life-threatening. Just a patch-up of some muscles in his abdomen. I thought about going to get dinner in the cafeteria, but the surgery happened to fall on the one day per year there was a staff banquet and the cafeteria was closed. Desperate for blood sugar, I wandered downstairs. Reaching a small coffee shop, I found they were just closing, too. To my appreciation, though, a friendly young woman who worked at the shop told me there were two vending machines with snacks and soda down the hall. I followed her directions, body beginning to become mad at me for denying it dinner, only to find that the machines were out of order.
Time to go back to the waiting room.
I walked to the second level and reoccupied the spot I’d had near my mom.
Now, my thoughts were talking to me.
How did people do waiting rooms before cell phones, anyways? Mom, sitting a few seats over because the room was jammed, kept flipping through courtesy magazines.
I forgot they even made those things, anymore.
I don’t consider myself a technology sort of guy. I watch very little TV and most of the time I have a book in my hand. But five-plus hours of waiting room without a phone felt like a fate worse than death.
Finally, I found an excuse.
Hey, I reasoned.
I am doing an article on conservation and whoever reads it might want to see a picture instead of just imagining things I’m describing. I should at least get one picture.
Walking to a window outside of the room, I flipped my phone to on. It is a beautiful hospital and I felt that there were tremendous photograph opportunities. I took one photo, but that wasn’t cutting it. So, I took another, and then finally, somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty pictures later, I had my fill and it was time to put my iPhone away.
I’d done it! I now possessed the documentation to satisfy my readers.
Dad got out of surgery, Mom and I loaded him in my car. And I drove us home.
Looking back through Green Week, I’m glad I did it. I’ve never considered myself against helping the planet, but I also see now that there was a lot more I had to learn. I concluded my writing on Day 7 with a little bit of humor. But there’s a deeper truth in it, too.
I can only speak for my own life. But having spent seven days with a firsthand encounter with green, I can say that, to me, playing my part in helping our earth is important. I’m not planning to make drastic changes like moving into a hut in my backyard and eating nothing but grass clippings. But I figure that the least I can do is to make small changes here and there where I can. I was so surprised and relieved to find how satisfying and just easy it is to take steps toward taking care of this globe we all spin around. Doing this means more than mere responsibility and all that other stuff your mother preached to you.
It means taking care of each other and spreading love through simple, considerate actions.
I will never see the total repercussions of planetary change within my lifetime. But my ancestors will and that’s why I believe it is my responsibility to at least pitch in and help. I can feel fully proud knowing that staying green is in my bloodline.
I guess that’s one good thing about having a dad from the 60’s.
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