When two vegetarians from Houston visited me in Denver this past weekend, I realized just how much has changed since I lived in Texas. For starters, after more than 16 years, I’m no longer vegetarian, thanks to a soy allergy. I know there are vegetarians who can’t (or don’t) eat soy, but I just couldn’t make it work. So, when I was teasing my vegetarian friends from the Lone Star State, it brought back memories.
I was 16 when I decided to be a vegetarian and, living in the panhandle of Texas, that was not a popular decision. The teasing – some lighthearted, some mean – was endless and peppered with “jokes” like raw meat in my locker. It didn’t help that I was one of the few students who knew about and celebrated Earth Day. But I was a dedicated (okay, some may say obsessive) Sassy magazine reader and determined to stick up for what I believed in, just like the “Sassy girls” I read about.
After Texas, I lived in Colorado and Seattle (and now back to Colorado), where vegetarianism is far more common. While living in downtown Seattle, I opted to go without a car. I loved those eight years of not owning a car. My commute to work was only one bus ride, which made life very easy. I also had a Flexcar, then Zipcar membership, so I had access to four wheels for grocery shopping and other adventures.
But I was surprised by the reactions of people. The most common question was, do you know how to drive? And when I’d mention a car-fueled trip, people would crack that I must drive like a Driver’s Ed student. Teammates and managers treated me differently, like I was young and fiscally irresponsible. These reactions were especially surprising because they frequently originated from co-workers at a company that prided itself for being more environmentally responsible than most corporations.
Now I own a car and am longer a vegetarian. So what do I do to help decrease my environmental footprint? Here are my top five actions:
- Take reusable bags to the grocery store.
- Use my car like I did the Zipcar: weekly grocery runs and planning errands rather than hopping into the car each day.
- Use rechargeable batteries.
- Avoid buying bottled water whenever possible. A reusable water bottle helps.
- Writing and editing for companies who are trying to educate consumers. One of my favorite projects was writing a newsletter about celebrities’ efforts to go green. The mission of that project was to show everyone the low-cost and easy steps they can take to decrease their environmental impact.
Happy Earth Day! What are your favorite green efforts?