Friday, April 17, 2009

Living an Examined Life

"The unexamined life is not worth living"
These were the words spoken by Socrates at the hearing for heresy.

I have come to realize that I must examine my own life. I must self examine regularly and challenge my way of life. We live in a day and age where our choices aren't between living unexamined lives or death... we now have the option to self examine.

Living a self examined life has no definition. It isn't a set of rules one must follow... its a mere belief system that one must look into themselves and examine their life style, their way of thinking, their actions and thoughts in order to live a life they can stand behind.

For years I worked in an unhealthy environment littered with waste, negativity, and overwork. I now work in a company striving to be "green", help the community, encourage their employees to live emotionally and physically healthy life styles. This is a great thing in our country to find.

I read a lot of books and a do a lot of random research because my mind turns lazy and bored. Because of this I've stumbled accidentally across essays, non-fiction publishings, and websites promoted to making readers aware of their actions bigger picture. We've all heard of reducing our carbon footprint, we've all read the words "think before you print" on the bottom of an email, we've all watched films dedicated to making us aware of the receding ozone layer and its effects in Alaska, but sometimes we are unaware of the little things we can do simply which will leave large and lasting impacts on the environment.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Here are some things I've been trying to do and with some success over the past two years:

Reduce Paper Consumption:
Lets save our forests... they are depleting and we are ruining our earth!
Paper towel use: I've reduced my use of paper towels tremendously by using dish towels to dry my hands and wipe up spills whenever possible. This however increases my water consumption because of the extra laundry. I try and use the dish towels for a few days (if no meat product was used) before washing to reduce the water used. I've managed to save money buy reducing my paper towel purchases. I purchased a large box at Costco over 1 year ago and have used maybe only 1/2.
Purchase Recycled Paper and Recycle yours: Paul and I are pretty good about recycling our paper. And we hardly ever buy paper, but when needed I buy notebooks which are made from recycled paper and so does my office. I'd like to start trying to buy hemp paper (some stats: 1 Acre of hemp makes the same amount as 3 acres of trees. Hemp can be replaced in 100 years as opposed to trees which takes about thousands).
Paper plates and napkins: We never use paper plates unless we are having a lot of company. We do however use paper napkins... but when we go out to eat or order in and end up with extra, we SAVE them and USE them. I doubt we will start using cloth napkins, but we will definitely try to continue to be sensitive of how much napkin we do use.
E-billing: I receive all my bills via online and pay that way too. It's safer than ever and I don't get all that paper mail going through my shredder (saving paper AND electricity).
Downloading Music: This actually helps to eliminate paper and plastic waste. With the packaging so bulky and wasteful, whats the point... log onto itunes and with the click of a button its on your ipod... no fuss, no garbage.

I'm definitely working on not relying on Klenex as much for my runny nose, but I can't seem to let go of it. What I do need to snap out of though is purchasing my books instead of heading to the library. I'm so selfish to need that stocked bookshelf for satisfaction.

Reduce Petroleum Consumption: It has both negative health effects and is bad for the environment. It also costs a lot of money. The easy and simple ways I've begun to reduce my use of petroleum are:
Reduce Gas Consumption: car pool or take mass transit whenever possible
Reduce Plastic Consumption: When grocery shopping I try to use reusable cloth sacks rather than plastic bags. Additionally, when buying produce, if possible I do not put them in the plastic bags available and when I must I reuse them for storage or to bring lunch in to work with me. I try to never buy bottled water unless its my only option. I use a Brita filter at home and when I purchase a water bottle I reuse it by refilling it. I try not to use ziplock bags when possible and use reusable Tupperware (which I should switch to glass but while they are still here and working, I might as well not throw them out till their lifespan is complete).
Cleaners: This one has been tough for me. I am trying to begin eliminating non-natural cleaning products to clean my home. I'm having a hard time letting go of wood floor cleaners and Clorox though.
Polyester and synthetics: I try and buy natural fabrics more often... however I still fall victim to the $20 Forever21 dresses now and again. Its at least a start... besides lets face it, its not as cute - it looks cheap!
Fertilizers and Pesticides: I don't use them but also I'm trying to limit the purchasing I do of producers who use them buy purchasing organic and locally grown foods.
Paint: I use only water based latex paints

Reduce Electric Consumption: Living in a rented apartment doesn't leave us many options but we do take care to:
Windows: We make sure our windows are closed as tightly as possible during the winter, keeping our shades down. In the summer we keep our shades low during the day to keep the apartment cool and keep them open at night. This allows us to go longer without the AC.
Laundry: We only do laundry when the load will be full and try and use the cold water setting whenever possible (which is 90% of the time)
Dish-washing: I was our dishes in cool/warm water whenever possible, only using hot for hard crusted pots and pans and greasy items.
Energy Star: When we do buy new appliances (rarely), we try and buy energy star
Travel: When we travel we unplug as many appliances as possible, specifically the TV and Computer

Reduce Water Consumption: By far my biggest vice with buying books:
Laundry: As mentioned above - only on a full load
Food: Again - purchase locally grown foods!
Dish-washing: Fill up your sink, don't let the water run, and what I always do is soap and scrub everything and then rinse at the same time.
Brushing: My biggest problem - turn it off while brushing. I always fine toothpaste all over when I do that... so now I try and turn on the water only when spitting - its a start!
Baths: I don't take them, period. I'm a shower person - and a quick shower person at that... I don't linger.
Plant watering: Even though my plants are indoors, I water at night... to let the water stretch as far as possible without evaporation. When I finally live in a home, I hope to have a rain catcher which I can use to collect water to water my plants both indoors and out.
Fix leaky faucets: I don't fix them per say but Paul and I are quick to call the super with ANY and ALL leaks!

There are obviously MANY more changes I need to make in my life - and none of the above I do 100%

Read, Educate, Entertain

Aside from reducing my carbon footprint, I try to examine my life by reading, which I've spoken briefly about. I just enjoy doing it. Its a great activity, its entertaining, it keeps me away from the TV and I can do it anywhere.

Spiritual Awareness
I've begun reading the bible and other more spiritual works, trying to find a balance between spirituality, realism, and myself. It's been a success thus far. I don't think anyone needs to be religious to be spiritual and I think people who are spiritual seem to be more at peace with themselves. Everyone should give it a try.

I'm trying with great effort to simply relax. Not to say, sit down, do nothing, but more so, relax while you work, talk, act. While performing tasks that we do daily like work, eat, converse, clean... I try to keep my mind positive and try to relax.

Positive Reflection
My most obvious and terrible vice is my inability to stay positive especially when judging others. I am highly critical and have a hard time hiding it. I now try and take a step back, look at that persons good qualities and why I love them. I try not to dwell on the bad... and I try and enjoy my time reflecting on the situations and people around me. This is definitely a work in progress and sometimes something that feels completely hopeless but I won't give up.

Exploring my Creative Side
The heading basically says it all... These blogs are helping. I'm having a hard time reaching into my mind where the words used to flow endlessly in rhyme but at least I have this. I also have been trying to hang pictures, take some simple photos, and creatively think of new and fun dinner menus. I'm an accountant after all, how creative can I get?

Active Lifestyle
I am trying to maintain an active lifestyle which always seems to hinder after snowboard season. This summer I have already planned out 2 camping trips, which will include paintball and/or rafting. I plan on riding my bike often (which has only been once to date... we'll get there). I'd like to swim more, go to the beach, go on hiking trips upstate or to PA, and continue my active adventures. I did try Kayaking at the beach in Punta Cana and it was not as difficult as I thought. I still think a lesson or 2 is in order and maybe soon, I'll have a rack a top the ol' Malibu with a kayak and bike in the summer and the snowboards in the winter.

Oh and before I forget, I managed to bring lunch to work EVERY day this week ... and all in recycled containers!

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