Green Tip #25: The 90/10 rule

Some people are going to take issue with this, but when it comes to sustainable living I have a 90/10 rule. I feel like American culture is pretty all or nothing, so many people might feel like they have to be perfectly eco-friendly or there is no point in trying.

I’m fairly green, but not everyone was born with the fanatical sense of sustainablity that I have, bordering sometimes on sheer panic. I guess not everyone was raised on Severan Suzuki’s 1992 speech or Captain Planet (who can resist that eco-friendly mullet?!). But I certainly don’t want to give the illusion that I am perfect.


But I do think that if everyone was eco-friendly 90% of the time, we’d be in a much happier place. Here are some examples of my 90/10 rule.

– I buy local produce 90% of the time. Living near farms and utilizing an organic CSA, it is dirt cheap – literally. Once I found a slug in my lettuce, but that is how you know it is fresh! I pay a little more for lemons grown in Japan, rather than the US or somewhere else. But my 10% indulgence? Grapefruit and avocados. Not on a regular basis, but knowing that almost all my food is local means I’m ok with a little citrus or guacamole now and again.

– I buy local meat and seafood 90% of the time. It is so rewarding to go in and talk with the chicken and fish vendors, getting excellent (and very cheap) deals on more unusual cuts and parts. However, I buy beef from New Zealand, because it is completely grass fed, and I think all animals should be pasture raised and grass-fed. What we buy creates the world we live in. Japan has excellent seafood choices, but I will buy fish from other countries if I know it is more sustainable.

– Plastics. I abhor them. Plastic is great for modern medicine and all that jazz, but in terms of food and food packaging, much of it ends up in the ocean or as noxious gas once it is burned. Less than 5% of all plastic bottles are recycled, and most of them contain harmful chemicals. 90% of the time I buy whole foods in as little packaging as possible, using produce and tote bags. However, if I am traveling, I might get stuck without food and buy a salad in a plastic container from a convenience store. In that case I take it home, wash it, and bring it to the special recycling section at my local grocery store. I also routinely pick up trash in my neighborhood, so I feel that for every single-use convenience item I consume, I pick up at least 9 more off the street. 90/10, baby.

– Airplanes. I struggle with this one a lot. I love to travel, and Japan is blessed with incredible public transportation. I walk, ride a bike, take a bus, or take a train 90% of the time for my travel. But I fly. And flying has a huge carbon footprint. I do like to visit my family once a year though, so I guess my radical eco-friendliness may come from the fact that I am always trying to make up for my flying habit. I console myself with the fact that I don’t have a car, but there is going to be the day where I have to reconcile that too. If anyone has any good resources, please let me know.

There are things that I do 100% as well – I make all my own beauty care and home cleaning products from safe, sustainable ingredients, eliminating a lot of waste and saving horrendously damaging plastics and chemicals from landfills, lakes, streams, and water tables. I compost all my raw garbage, including my own hair (you can compost a crazy amount of things)! I buy fair trade chocolate, coffee, palm oil, and other high risk goods that do a lot of damage to the environment. I buy things second hand, and try to stay away from mindless consumption of needless items.

All of this contributes to making my life freer, simpler, friendlier, more caring, more healthful, and more connected to the world around me. It’s a wonderful feeling.

More info:

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