Smaller Footprints
Just one girl's dream of changing the world -

one smaller footprint at a time.

The First Few Steps

I'll happily admit it: I'm a tree hugger. I religiously recycle anything I lay my hands on with that cheerfully optimistic arrow insignia and cringe when I realize I left the lights on in a lonely room. I grew up telling stories about my pet caterpillar I raised to be a monarch butterfly and broke all conventional pet codes by naming it Ice Cream. I visit my mom to help her plant and harvest her mind-boggling and freezer-filling garden and take home some wonderful pesticide free munchies from her treasure trove. And yes, I love trees. (But really, who can resist running up to a quiet redwood and attempting to wrap puny little arms around a fraction of the trunk?)

With all of my tree-hugger-ness, I was surprised a couple years ago, when I read about a girl from a facebook article who creates no garbage. Zero. None. Zip. For two years, that story bothered me, once in a while cruising to my conscious with questions. How is that possible? How does one create no garbage? How do you buy ice cream without creating garbage? (What horrid hell could this be?) With all of my questions, I told myself it wasn't possible. I made myself feel better about my comparatively lacking tree-hugger-ness by coming up with ways this story had to be false. She must still create some garbage, she had too. What about food wrappers? She has to eat! What about driving? She can't possibly not drive anywhere. And what about everything else? What about dried up pens and dilapidated toothbrushes and empty shaving cream cans and snotty tissues and crusted mascara tubes? She has to use all these things! Obviously, it was a lie.

But in the last couple months, living in my quaint one-person apartment, I started to notice how much of my seemingly necessary material possessions turned into garbage, and amazingly, how unnecessary they actually were. I started paying attention to the countless number of items I used once, and then discarded into a trash can without a moments pause. Sure, I took my reusable cloth bags to the store to avoid plastic. But then I went home and used plastic wrap to cover a bowl. Sure, I ate vegetables from my mom's garden, but then I cleaned out the fridge and tossed out food I never got around to eating. Sure, I diligently used both sides of every paper, but then I carelessly tossed out tissues. Watching and thinking about the resources I use made me realize, I'm not as green of a tree-hugger as I think I am. More of an avocado tinted shrub hugger.

With all that in mind, I delved into a frantic google search to see how having less trash and minimal environmental impact can work. And incredibly, it's possible and lots of people do it. I won't tell you that it's as easy as pressing a magic green button and all of a sudden it happens. Not at all. It's hard work. You have to plan ahead, use some elbow grease, sport some sweat, and probably even get over some germ fears. But it's possible. The most incredible stories I found involve a family in California who produces a mason jar of trash a year. Another man in New York, famously known as No Impact Man, lives with his family in such a sustainable way they create a zero net impact on the environment. And many other shrub huggers like me just got sick of half-heartedly calling themselves a tree-hugger and went full on green.

After all this googling, I knew what I had to do. Give up ice cream forever. No, I'm kidding. I'm not giving up ice cream - but I am changing things. It's not an easy road to becoming a true green tree hugger, so it will take time. It will take small steps. I may not ever get to the point where I create a mason jar of trash per year. But if I can cut down the trash I create by half, I'm making a difference. I'm probably never going to give up driving to visit family, but if I can bike to work every day, I'm making a difference. I probably will never give up toilet paper (yes, some people do) ... but if I can use toilet paper made from recycled material, I am making a difference.

So here begins my journey. Over the next several months, possibly a year, I am going to document my steps and share them. And to be clear, I am not trying to shame or guilt anyone else into following in my crazy footprints. Everyone has to do what they need to do, and for me, a treehugger at heart, this is something I have to do. This is in no way a blog to paint everyone around me green, just my need to hold myself accountable, to prove to myself that I can be better than a shrub lover (no offense to actual shrub lovers). So here begins my path to green, just one girls dream of changing the world - one smaller footprint at a time.