Living in New York and working in Schenectady has really made me more aware of my community, what I consume, how much I spend and the area in which I am working. My shift really began when I resigned the lease on my apartment this past June. For the first two years I was living up here I more or less perceived Albany as just a stop along the way, somewhere that I would live for (at most) 2 years and move on. However, this will not be the case. I have one more year of graduate school and I work full time for a company and in a position that I really enjoy. So I realized, I need to become more invested in my community, learn to like the area become more 'green'!
One reason for going green and becoming more sustainable is simple; everything is more expensive in New York. From gas and groceries to bottled drinks and the fact that all the major highways are tolled. When I go back to Virginia I am always envious of the price of gas (it is always $0.30-$0.40 cheaper) and the fact they do not have to pay a deposit on every can/bottle of soda or bottle of water bought. Another reason for going green is that it is just simply better for the environment and the community and since I have become more invested in the Capital Region I want to support the area as much as possible. While I do not believe Albany and the Capital Region will be my home forever (you can breath a sigh of relief now Mom) I am determined to like and support the area more!
So what major changes have I made toward becoming more eco-friendly? To many people these changes may seem like nothing or common sense, but to those who know me these changes are HUGE!
+ First and foremost I now recycle everything that is recyclable and return recyclables in order to receive a reimbursement for the bottle tax. (In NY each grocery store has recycle returns and you receive (around) $0.05 for every bottle returned. Upon completion you can then receive cash for the returns or use it as a coupon that will be deducted at the conclusion of your shopping trip).
+ Reusable grocery bags - all the time! Grocery stores also often taken off a couple cents from your total bill depending on how many reusable bags you utilize. I also use reusable grocery bags to store things around my apartment, carry things to work and occasionally I have been been known to use them as a gym bag.
+ Attempting to consume a more plant based diet. While I am not becoming a vegan by any means, I have found it interesting to read more about the philosophy of veganism and I am definitely recognizing some of the benefits. I am striving to eat a more plant based diet, meaning that I attempt to cook with more vegetables and reduce my carbohydrate and meat intake.
+ Farmer's Markets. This goes hand in hand with becoming more plant based! I recently began going to local farmer's markets on Saturday mornings. There is also one near my office on Thursdays which my coworkers and I often visit. I LOVE the market! It feels great to know that I am supporting local farmers and everything is fresh and often tastes 10x better than store bought when used to cook!
+ Reduced shopping at the 'big box' stories. Wal-Mart is out in my book! One year my mother made a New Year's resolution to not purchase anything from Wal-Mart for an entire year. I thought she was crazy! How could anyone go without shopping at Wal-Mart! But I can honestly say that I have not stepped into a Wal-Mart in months! (Side note - Albany is home to the largest Wal-Mart in the western hemisphere; two stories complete with a cart escalator.) Even though groceries are more costly at the Price Choppers or Hannafords in the region (when compared to grocery shopping at Wal-Mart) the quality is better and when combined with couponing I save 10x more than I would shopping and supporting a big corporation. Now this is not to say that I will never shop at the Wal-Mart again, quite the opposite, I am merely trying to reduce my dependence on major chain stores and focus more locally.
+ Packing my lunch everyday and utilizing non-disposable containers. This may seem like something little but it is a definite change for me. I now pack my lunch almost everyday (and dinner when I have class at night). Previously I was spending way too much money purchasing food, that was not only monetarily wasteful but it was also not good for my health. Furthermore, for Christmas my sister (Johanna) gave me these awesome usable Lunch Bots which I use everyday. That combined with a lunch bag and very little use of disposal plastic bags my lunches are healthy and environmentally friendly!
+ Exploring local restaurants and activities! 'Groupon' is one of my favorite sites and offers deals to many places and restaurants that I would not ordinarily know about or go. I recently purchased a deal for a family run Italian restaurant in Schenectady and I can't wait to try it out!
So those are some of the major changes in my life! I am finding that I learn and change a little more everyday so I am sure that there are more changes to come!