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Erika Rood
Do It Green! Minnesota

Annie Leonard’s movie, “The Story of Stuff”, points out that Americans consume 30% of the world’s resources and produce 30% of the world’s waste; however, the US has only 5% of the world’s population. We consume more than any other nation, and we work more hours in a week than most nations in order to buy more stuff. Yet, our reported happiness has been steadily declining since the 1950’s. Studies show that we buy more to make us happy, but we enjoy life less. Not only has our consumption made us enjoy life less, but it is also destroying our planet.

Here are ten ideas to help you enjoy life more by changing your consumption habits while reducing your carbon footprint:

Buy Nothing Challenge: For a month or two, challenge yourself, friends and family to buy nothing, using the rules from the original Compact at

Trash Challenge: Carry with you all the trash you create for a week or two to see how much waste you actually produce. This will help you to realize not just the amount that you consume during the day, but also the percentage of that waste that comes from packaging.

Establish Handmade Holidays: Imperfections are what make handmade gifts unique. If you do not think that you can make everything on your own, then challenge yourself by pledging to buy handmade goods at Then buy handmade gifts from local stores and artists or at the Green Gifts Fair in November.

Closet Shopping: Dig through the piles of clothes in your closet and rediscover long lost treasures!

Take Care of What You Already Own: Read the instructions on how to maintain everything from large appliances to your clothes to extend their life.

Start a Co-op: Why buy a nail gun when you are only going to use it once? Start a tool and lawn-care co-op with your neighbors or friends, or consider renting for one-time use.

Put on a Clothes Swap: Whether it’s with your friends, family, or your neighbors, host a swap for everything from clothes and accessories to furniture and appliances. Donate remainders to a local charity or host a joint garage sale.

Turn Old into New: There are countless ways you can make old things into new treasures. For example, turn your old bed sheets into pillowcases or sew your old clothes into a new look.

Buy Used: If you have to buy something new, buy a previously loved item from a thrift store or second-hand shop. Check local listings at and as well.

Buy Quality, Buy Local, Buy Organic: If you have to buy something new, buy products that are made as earth friendly as possible. Think about where it is made, how it is made, and whether it will last.

Read Up

Deep Economy by Bill McKibben. Times Publisher 2007.

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