Five Steps to a Smaller Footprint


Awareness about the need to guard our fragile environment from further harm is gaining a beautiful momentum around the planet. There’s no better time than harvest season to make positive changes in your own lives that will add to the growing synergy already in motion.


Rising gasoline prices aren’t the only reason to leave your car keys hanging by the door. As scientific evidence continues to point out, the continued use of fossil fuels just isn’t a sustainable or realistic approach to the health of our planet. It’s equally unrealistic to assume that everyone can just replace his or her existing car with a more environmental version. (Although Cash for Clunkers certainly did help!) Since we still have to get to work, the grocery store, school, and countless other destinations, try this: Whenever you can, walk or peddle. When you can’t, car share or car pool to work and when you have errands to run, try to consolidate them into a single car trip. Explore your options for public transportation, too. Many cities and communities have efficient bus routes that will get you wherever you need to go. When you travel as a group, emissions are limited to one vehicle rather than several. As a bonus, you’ll get to know other people in your area, strengthening a sense of community.

Trade Fair

Bartering for goods may not always be possible (or even practical), but the practice of trading services and unused belongings is gaining in popularity. You may have fallen completely out of love with your sofa with the flowery fuchsia print, but it could be exactly what someone in your town has been dreaming of. Check your community bulletin boards for messages from others trading everything from massages and gardening to furniture and appliances. Other great and highly effective places to list your own things, or look for deals:,,, and

Become a ‘Conservative’

At least when it comes to water and energy consumption. Adjust your thermostat by 3 degrees. You’ll hardly even notice, but you’ll be making a real difference. For each degree you lower your thermostat in winter or raise it during the summer, your energy consumption decreases by a whopping 10 percent. Hang your clothes out to dry when possible, and properly insulate windows and doors to keep heat and air conditioning from escaping. When it comes to water, repair leaky taps, limit your landscaping to native plants that require less of a water investment, and treat yourself to a reduced flow showerhead and pay attention to how much time you spend beneath it. Gauge your use by timing yourself during a typical shower. The next time you climb in, reduce your time by one-quarter to one-half by setting a kitchen timer. For other great ideas, check out

Restore Your Rhythm

Eating with the season isn’t just a catch phrase used by trendy chefs, it’s a philosophy that can help you get back in touch with the natural rhythms of the planet while making a positive environmental impact. Trucking asparagus or other out-of-season produce to your local supermarket in September contributes hugely to unnecessary fuel consumption for transport. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and in your town, or shop farmer’s markets that support local growers and celebrate the season’s crops. You’ll also likely have increased access to organic goods produced by farmers, ranchers, and others who value and practice sustainable, humane, and holistic methods of food production.

Ditch the Extra Baggage

Do you really need to put those apples in a plastic bag just to get them from the produce bin to the checkout counter? Chances are you do it just because it’s become a habit (it’s amazing how many times a day we go on autopilot). There’s a lot in the way of wrapping and packaging that can be done without, reducing the amount of waste that occurs both during the manufacturing process, and which eventually finds its way to landfills: dry-cleaning bags, plastic water bottles, gift wrapping, and shopping bags for everything from groceries to dry goods and department store purchases are just a few examples. Carry your own bags, a refillable water bottle, and say no (politely, of course) when store clerks start to get busy with that fancy wrapping paper. We know you can do without. See how much of a difference you can make at sites including,, and

By Debra Bokur

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