Happy Spring, stylish men of the Lehigh Valley. You might be surprised to find that I’m not a big fan of April. I’m still wearing my winter weight, even though I’ve been in the gym relentlessly since summer. My skin tone is 50 shades of grey. And our days begin chilly and end up mild, leaving me and everyone else in the Valley with serious wardrobe challenges. Even though I struggle with my swagger this time of year, I have found a project that keeps me focused and rather obsessed. It’s my commitment to going green and living a cleaner and leaner lifestyle.
Now I know it’s a little cliché to jump on the green train now, but a few things have happened in the world recently that led me to focus on the planet. British Petroleum’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 (exactly two years ago) was the tipping point for my preservation and conservation obsession. I was just so upset everyday during the three-month ordeal. Witnessing the endless oil slicked animal rescues was heartbreaking. Watching the oil pour out of the sea floor on CNN everyday was horrifying. And observing gasoline prices triple before my eyes in a matter of days left me dazed and confused. In the blink of an eye we all had to begin making sacrifices to be able to afford to drive our cars, which caused me to realize that it was time to change everything. It was time to do everything possible to save our planet’s natural resources.
Changing one’s mindset and lifelong lifestyle behaviors can be so difficult. It was easy for me to start throwing plastic bottles in the recycle bin at home, but it took time to remember to stop throwing them in the trash when outside my home. I’d say my greener initiative took six months to become second nature and a year to perfect. And I do feel that watching the oil pour into the ocean on TV everyday made me more aware, more committed to doing whatever I could to help, and more upset. You could say that the best thing that ever happened to our global concern for our planet came from one of the worst environmental disasters in history. Is my glass half full?
Flash forward two years and Style Guy is downright obsessed with preservation, conservation and recycling. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I have developed some pretty hilarious behaviors in my mission to save the Earth for my great grandchildren. Here are the dirty details:
I have become a trash picker. Yep, Style Guy constantly pulls paper, cardboard, plastic and aluminum out of the trash in my home that friends and family put in there. It’s not like I dump out the trash and sift through it on the floor (although that’s probably next). When I throw anything away that’s not reusable I’ll spot stuff in the can that should go in the recycle bin and have no problem pulling it out and tossing it in the proper container. And yes, I have gotten pretty dirty “cleaning up” after my less environmentally conscious friends and family, but there’s no shame in that!
I have become an energy conserver. In fact, I keep the thermostat around 60º in the winter and won’t buy home heating oil after March on principal, so I am very chilly getting into and out of bed when my oil runs out every Spring. Truth be told, I also use the cold house technique to get more snuggling from Mrs. Style. Ah, how I love the warmth of body heat.
I have become a hoarder. I own about a thousand plastic to-go containers from years of takeout dining. I won’t even buy plastic wrap or zip-lock bags anymore, as the snap-tight lids on the 1 qt. plastic containers keep everything fresh for days! I only use aluminum foil for cooking.
I take faster showers utilizing warm water instead of piping hot H2O. Now this was a big adjustment for me. I used to spend 15 to 20 minutes luxuriating under a hot spigot daily for most of my adult life. It was my indulgence. I imagined that I was at a spa while showering each day. It’s a great fantasy escape for the stressed-out. I deserve one luxurious indulgence per day, right? Today, I’m in and out in 5 minutes. The trick is to wash your hair first and then condition, and leave the conditioner in while lathering up. I can actually shampoo, condition, wash and exfoliate in less than 5 minutes on most days. The time-suck that over extended my routine in the shower was shaving. Even though I can’t shave as close at the sink, I am committed to not having as close a shave for the sake of the planet. Going green is all about sacrifices, my friend. And I actually only shave every other day lately, so my sacrifice is actually a win-win. Have you ever met a man who loves to shave so much that they do it everyday? No way! I actually investigated laser hair removal for my beard, but it turns out that would be very expensive and require several painful treatments. I’m happy to do my part and shave less for the Earth. Feel free to use that excuse the next time your boss asks you why you’re scruffy.
I buy green every chance I get. Working in PR in Philadelphia, there’s no doubt that a green client makes my job easier. If I read about a business making something that I need with a greener and cleaner approach to the environment, I’m all over it. If somebody can provide me with energy from wind or water, sign me up. If I can make an investment that will help use less fossil fuel and save money in the long run, I’m on that. I’m currently considering installing solar panels on my roof, which I consider the biggest no-brainer in the history of home improvements.
I must confess that there are two areas where I can significantly improve upon regarding conservation. I love my gas-chugging sports car and can’t justify spending over $100,000 for a new Fisker Karma yet. If you haven’t seen one you can check it out online at Fiskerautomotive.com. The car is fast, electric, and has solar panels for a roof. I would trade my car and Xbox for one, if I could. There are Fisker dealers in Wilmington, DE, Grenwich, CT. and Paramus, NJ, and I’m certain that I won’t have the first one in the Valley if I bought one this year.
My second environmental shortcoming is my intense love of air conditioning. To quote The Who, “I’m an air conditioned gypsy.” I need my home and car to be freezing in July and August. I know, I suck, but Style Guy loses his super powers (and charm) when his face is shining from sweat and his armpits are sweaty. Gross! I do wear the lightest clothes I can find in the summer to help manage my disdain for sweat and stink, but that only helps a little during our typical high heat and 100% humidity-laden summer days.
I will admit I’ve adopted some pretty funny behaviors since committing to doing my part to save the planet:
I always give back the coffee cup sleeve when I get my Joe to-go from a coffee shop. I don’t need the protection, as my hands can take extreme heat due to many years working in restaurant kitchens. And I brew coffee at home every chance I get. It’s way cheaper, and you don’t have to use paper cups. Coffee in a ceramic mug tastes better than java in a paper cup, too!
I combine sports drinks in my refrigerator. Sometimes my wife and I will leave half consumed sports “-ades” in the fridge. I see no issue merging these drinks together. They all promise to help you “perform” better, and I can’t tell a difference when I mix them. Some combinations look or taste a little funny, but when it comes to working out I have adopted the “whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” mentality.
I pack small containers into big containers to ensure everything fits into the recycle bin. I don’t know if this helps or hurts the separation of materials in the recycling process, but it helps me recycle more, which is the main goal, right!?
I hand-wash the dishes more. I actually can’t stand running the dishwasher. I feel it wastes water, uses unnecessary electricity, and doesn’t get the dishes as clean as I can get them. I think I’m down to using the dishwasher once per month.
I only wash my car once per month. And I take the car to the carwash instead of washing it myself. Did you know that many carwashes recycle water? I found one that does!
I take my wine corks to Whole Foods Markets for recycling. I love drinking wine and Belgian beers that come corked instead of capped. I must have collected over a thousand corks over the past decade, and wasn’t sure what to do with them until I saw a cork recycle bin at Whole Foods last summer. Whole Foods’ recycling storyboard proclaims, “Cork recycling helps to reduce demand placed on cork plantations while maintaining the delicate ecosystem of the Mediterranean forests, and helps thousands of producers maintain a sustainable income to support their families.” That was all the inspiration I needed to bag up and drop off my cork collection the next time I went grocery shopping. I will admit I felt like a drunk when I showed up with several trash bags loaded with assorted corks, but the positives relating to preserving the environment outweighed my feelings of unnecessary consumption. I actually bought a few bottles of Chimay Cinq Cents on my way out of the store, so that I could toast my contribution to forests and farmers when I got home that night. I’m not sure if it was the Belgian beer or the feeling of responsibility that made that beer taste extra delicious that night, but you can be sure that I wouldn’t have even seen that sign if BP didn’t have that accident.
One thing I’ve realized in my pursuit of conservation is that everyone pitching in can add up to serious preservation of our planet. Conservation also adds up to decent emotional and personal financial gains, which can help justify purchasing those additional jeans, shoes or fantastic accessory that you can’t live without. I know, it always comes back to shopping with Style Guy.
I hope my story of obsessive conservation and recycling has inspired you, environmentally conscious men of the Valley. In hindsight, I think I might owe BP a debt of gratitude for opening our eyes to how fragile our planet is. My father used to say that “positive results often come from bad experiences”. I know in my case a great deal of good came from witnessing a terrible situation that I felt helpless about for months. I was sorry to see all those animals affected by the oil spill, and gas prices are still ridiculously high, but I’m certain solar panels and a sweet ass Fisker Karma are in my future. Here’s to a serious commitment to conservation and preservation, responsible men of the Valley. Here’s to us working together to make a difference for future generations. Thank you for pitching in!