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Thrift Store Shopping for a Small Planet

Three small ways you can reduce your own consumption, to lead to big energy savings.

Amidst the exploration of macro-level energy improvements (solar, nuclear, natural gas, etc) there's an easy-to-forget factor in our country's energy discussion: our day-to-day decisions. Not a, "lets start using recycled grocery store totes instead of plastic" kind of analysis, but rather a hard look at simple everyday decision-making that wastes energy and resources.


Here are just three areas worth exploring. This isn't meant to be an all-encompassing actionable list, but rather something that spurs changes across your broader thought process.

Don't Default to New: Sometimes it’s laziness, conditioning or fear, but we don’t frequently enough think of buying goods used versus new. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else, but as I went from one second-hand store to another today, I realized just how many used items I could have bought instead of new versions from a local big box store. The glassware; the sneakers in great condition; the rad iPhone case. Not only could I have paid less for all these items than I did originally, I would have created less waste within the overall supply chain. Don’t buy new when it’s cheap and easy to reuse something that someone else doesn't want. When you are buying new, buy better quality so you have less to throw away in the future. With things like Amazon Prime and Target it's easy not to do this, but a little effort on your part goes a long way.

Personal Transportation: First of all let's just get one point out of the way. Biking is THE most efficient mode of transportation. If you CAN bike somewhere, you should. But let's look even deeper into transportation decisions if you are driving. When you're running errands and going from one store to the other, are you doing them in the ideal order in terms of location? Are you minimizing how much you actually need to drive or picking the best time of day so you don't have to run trips later or on a different day altogether? Looking at the act of driving on a microscopic level, every time you need to get your car moving from a stop, you're using a lot of energy. If you can plan your transportation needs around doing that less, you'll be helping save yourself and the world a bunch of energy.

Information consumption and distribution: Good job! You're already helping with this variable by reading GOOD. There are two places I would suggest thinking this through. In terms of, "the written word" there are so many tools for consumption that let us keep reading digital versus tangible. I can recall countless times that I've bought magazines at the airport to read on the airplane. But with mobile applications like Readability, Pristmatic, and Pocket, there are simple ways to create collections of written entertainment for yourself without encouraging trees to be cut down. Servers holding articles takes less energy than cutting down trees or recycling. Similarly, there are opportunities in the professional world to digitize work that often required paper. Signatures can be done electronically with apps like HelloSign and important documents can be easily PDF'd and saved in the cloud on systems like Google Drive. These tiny reductions not only conserve energy, but they save you time too (which guess what, is also energy!)

Drilling down to this level of thinking may seem a bit like a silly (hippy) exercise, but in aggregate, these actions can contribute quite a bit to your energy usage. Humans are creatures of habit and it certainly can be difficult to change certain behaviors we've deemed to be "the most convenient." But a little time spent pre-planning and evaluating our daily activities can lead to huge energy savings when lots of us take this approach.

This month, challenge a neighbor to GOOD's energy smackdown. Find a neighbor with a household of roughly the same square footage and see who can trim their power bill the most. Throughout February, we'll share ideas and resources for shrinking your household carbon footprint, so join the conversation at good.is/energy.

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