<a href="http://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/julie#">Green challenges</a>

Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Don't sweat the small stuff: how I make the little eco-decisions easier

Man looking at juiceboxes

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When I first took an interest in environmental issues, I was focused on the big picture: endangered animals, climate change, pollution, deforestation, and so on. But like many of you, after I learned the causes of these problems it felt like I had new eyes when I looked at my everyday life.

I could see the impact of my paper napkins, my over-packaged soap, the zillion plastic bags I had stored in case I could find a use for them later on. I felt surrounded by evidence of my contribution to the problems in the world, and I wanted to fix everything all at once.

And then, like a lot of people, I found it very overwhelming to make these decisions all the time. Standing in the supermarket trying to figure out if coffee had more or less impact than tea, if local biscuits were a better environmental choice than the organic ones from further away... It was mentally exhausting. And that was just one aisle!

I know that not all of these decisions are equally important. I had to keep reminding myself that switching to green power and taking my electricity use away from a coal-fired power station was probably the most important change, and it had only taken me one afternoon and a couple of phone calls to sort out.

But I wanted to get the little details right too. This is where lifecycle assessments come in. These are analyses of the environmental footprint of a product, from it’s production to it’s transport to it’s usage to it’s disposal.

I’ve found G Magazine’s “Versus” articles really handy for settling these little competitions. The Ask Umbra column at Grist.org and the Tiny Choices blog are also very informative. I rely on them to get it right, so I can save my energy for the big changes.

And honestly, the stress of all these changes is only for the first few months. Now that I’ve sorted out my preferred brands and styles of product, I don’t even think about it much anymore, thanks to the people who’ve done the lifecycle assessments for me.

If you’re interested in learning more about life-cycle analysis, check out this basic life-cycle guide over at Re-Nest.com. For a more in-depth look, the Union of Concerned Scientists has a book called The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices. I’ve read it and found it was really good for helping figure out which changes in my life made the most difference.