EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of our new monthly sustainable advice column.

DEAR GREEN PRESCRIPTION: What are a few things I can do that will lower my impact on the environment without completely disrupting my ability to get to work, get my kids to the places they need to go, and still have time to pursue my hobbies/interests?

— Tired, but game

DEAR TIRED: First of all, if you work full time, raise children and pursue hobbies, my hat’s off to you! I totally get it that sustainable living practices can seem like add-ons when one is already feeling overextended. But you don’t have to retreat to a tiny house off the grid and sew your own clothes to live more sustainably.

Just say no: Refusing to bring unnecessary items into your household may be easier than you might think. OK, so every so often the kid needs a balloon, but how many tiny plastic items that provide mere minutes of child satisfaction should we acquire? The same goes for adult acquisition: do we really need that extra t-shirt, pen, bag, or water bottle? Less stuff now also means less cleaning later.

When in doubt, choose green(er): If handkerchiefs and cloth napkins aren’t cutting it with your crew, seek paper goods like tissues with recycled content. The same goes for consuming items in containers: If you’re not buying in bulk, whenever possible select items that are either easily reused, like glass jars, or will likely be up- or recycled, like paper, cardboard, or cloth.


Bring your own: Investing in items like resusable water bottles, coffee mugs, and straws will not only reduce your family’s consumption of plastic and single-use items, but you may find yourself more prepared for that extra trip to soccer practice. Needless to say, bring your own bags wherever you go.

DEAR GREEN PRESCRIPTION: This summer I’m on the move. What’s your advice for maintaining sustainable living practices when I am traveling?

— Footloose

DEAR FOOTLOOSE: I have one thought for you: Make like a scout and be prepared. For many zero-wasters, this entails creating a travel kit comprised of a mason jar, cloth napkin, and, if you really want to go for broke, metal or wood utensils. The great thing about mason jars is that they can hold everything from ice cream to iced tea; if you’re hard core, you can even bring home your compostables. Cloth napkins can be receptacles for anything from sandwiches to donuts. Put it all in a reusable bag along with your bamboo toothbrush and homemade toothpowder. What else does a zero-waster need? Happy wandering!

Lisa Botshon is a professor of English at the University of Maine at Augusta, where envelopes are routinely reused. The child of back-to-the-landers, she lives in a household that is skeptical of her zero-waste efforts.

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