NBC / Universal had what they called “Green Week” all last week. What this meant was that most of their new original programming had some kind of content related to reminding you to doing more things for the environment. It was nice, but shouldn’t every week be green week?

A Good Start
You can’t blame them for trying – or can you? There’s a little cynical part of me that wonders if NBC’s decision to promote environmental awareness had more to do with promoting NBC rather than promoting environmental awareness. It’s a lot like how I feel that a lot of companies take advantage of the month of October to promote special products for breast cancer awareness which often end up being more of a promotion for the companies themselves. I was rather pleased with some of the green tips that NBC offered.

The thing is, environmental awareness isn’t just something we should keep tethered to one week every year. There are fifty-one other weeks in the year which require our vigilance in doing everything we can to make sure we are being as environmentally friendly as possible. Many of the things that you can do to help are delightfully simple and yet the impact is immeasurable. Without further ado, here are some things you can do to better the environment.

The Way We Get Around
Cars are one of the biggest causes of pollution on the earth right now – both of the noise variety and of the more physically toxic kind. Every car out there that derives its power from refined oil produces carbon dioxide, which has been shown to have a remarkably bad effect on the environment in the large quantities that we as humans presently produce. There are numerous ways to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide production, and I’m not even referring to electric cars or water powered cars or even cars powered by happy thoughts. I mean things that every person can do that can have an impact.

For one, there is car-pooling. Too many people work together in offices that live within a reasonable distance of each other that drive their own cars to work. If a person would take one or two colleagues in his or her car, it would mean that two fewer cars were being driven to and from work that day. The effect of one set of individuals might be minimal but as more people do it, the impact grows.

Another possibility for a lot of people that is frequently ignored is a vehicle that right now produces absolutely no carbon dioxide – and people already own this vehicle. What could this magnificent vehicle be that has no carbon footprint? It’s none other than the bicycle. More and more states have bicycle lanes and other means of encouraging people to ride their bicycles to work and other places. Not only that, but riding your bike can help with one of the other major problems facing many countries right now that I mentioned in the article Sloth! Apathy! Myopia! – the weighty issue of obesity.

Then there is the matter of the need to drive versus the desire to not walk. There are occasions – opportunities, perhaps – where we can choose to walk somewhere or choose to drive instead. There are a lot of excuses made when the choice leans towards driving – a person says that they’re not feeling well, or they are short on time.

Then there’s my favorite – they just don’t feel like it. I personally feel just the opposite, and not just because of the skyrocketing price of gas in the last few years. I really enjoy walking to the nearby marketplace to get some groceries. One of the nice things about walking and riding the bicycle is that there is a much better possibility of interacting with other people than when you are in your car.

Often enough, you can meet up with an old friend that you weren’t expecting to see – though I have learned that this wouldn’t be considered a coincidence because there is no such thing as a coincidence. When you are driving in your car you isolate yourself from the world. You are in an isolation tank – not that you are invisible to the world (discover the truth of this by picking your nose while driving) but you are separated from them with your metal tank.

Grocery Shopping Goodness
While the thought of grocery shopping is still fresh on your mind, perhaps it would be worth thinking about some green practices while grocery shopping. One of the easiest things we can do to help the environment occurs every time we leave a grocery store, supermarket, or just about any store where purchases are made. The cashier asks us if we would prefer a paper or plastic bag.

The best answer is that we want neither and that we have brought our own bag. Plastic bags are apparently considered so bad that in San Francisco they are considering banning plastic bags. A well made canvas bag can last for many years and when it is no longer usable it can be put into the earth and composted.

Another matter to be considered is the food that we buy. The further our food travels to us, the worse it is for the environment care of the way that the food gets from its place of creation to your local market. Where, you may be wondering, would be a better way to get more local food? I’m not suggesting that you go on a mileage based diet, restricting yourself only to food in a certain radius.

I understand that with certain food, like Nutella or Marmite (I understand that those are closer to condiment than food but you know what I mean) you can’t get away with a certain radius, unless you happen to live close to those factories. Nevertheless, just as with the carpooling, every little bit helps and it all adds up in the end. The United States Department of Agriculture has thoughtfully provided a directory of local farmer’s markets where you can find plenty of food grown and made in your very own state. At the moment I happen to live within walking distance of my local farmer’s market so I guess I get a twofer on that one.

If you can’t make it out to your local farmer’s market, consider buying food in bulk. There’s something to be said for the amount of waste that goes into the packaging of our food – not to mention the disturbing trend of putting a two inch electronic product in about twenty-five inches worth of plastic packaging. Since it seems that the latter is pretty much unavoidable unless you only buy electronics second hand, you can make up for it by getting as much of your food in bulk as possible. Take rice, for example – I speak of short grain brown rice, naturally.

Why get half a pound of rice in a paper box for two dollars when you can get a full pound for less than half of that money? The cost of the packaging hits you directly, whereas the impact of the need to make the packaging is a little more far-reaching. By getting as much food in bulk as possible we can avoid the packaging and the many costs associated with it.

There are many more simple things that we can all do to be more environmentally friendly. When we incorporate simple things like taking a canvas bag to the grocery store into our daily life, we can make environmental awareness not just something that we think about once a year for a week – we can make it something that we keep on our minds every day, all year long.