One green lifestyle change every day for a year. That’s the eco-challenge Vanessa Farquharson, a 27-year-old arts reporter in Toronto, set for herself in March 2007. She switched to more eco-friendly versions of common products: biodegradable pens, paraben-free lip balm, organic cotton blankets, corn-based cat litter. She cut back on using energy, water and paper by taking shorter, cooler showers in the dark and replacing paper napkins with cloth ones. She stopped using some things (styrofoam, toothpicks, tape) and reused or recycled other things (envelopes, running shoes, corks). Each day she did something to reduce her carbon footprint and blogged about it.
Her book, Sleeping Naked is Green, strings together blog entries for about a third of the environmentally-friendly changes she made. Fifteen of the changes involved transportation.
She started by making sure her car tires were fully inflated. Then she turned off the air conditioning in her car and stopped driving on weekends (although she continued to commute alone by car).
Two months into her green experiment she confessed, “As I get hyperaware of every little detail in my life and how green or un-green it is, I’m starting to feel like a bigger and bigger fraud for owning a car.” Still, she couldn’t bring herself to sell her VW Beetle right then. As the owner of a pink cell phone and a fan of the TV show America’s Next Top Model, she feared it would be unfashionable to not drive, that she’d have to wear Gore-Tex and hiking boots. Owning a car, she said, is “one of those things where—a bit like tasting real champagne—once you get it, it’s hard to give up.”
But give up her car she did two months later. “Not even 365 eco-friendly changes are going to make up for all the driving I do,” she concluded. Throughout the year she also resolved to rent only hybrid or fuel-efficient cars, drive them no faster than the speed limit and get exact directions ahead of time so she wouldn’t drive around lost. When she needed a courier, she’d only hire bike or transit-riding messengers. She started taking her bike to a green-minded repair shop and stopped taking recreational rides on motorcycles.
Farquharson loved the financial benefits of not owning a car (more money for bamboo dresses!) and even found a glamorous side to bike riding. While she was interviewing American actor Jake Gyllenhaal, he pointed to the grease mark on her right shin and asked, “Is that a rookie mark on your leg?” He reached over and ran his finger across her leg and said: “It totally is. Cool.” She had never imagined that riding a bike could get a movie star to touch you! “Ride safe,” he said with a wink as they parted.
At the end of her green year, Farquharson went back to doing about a quarter of the things she had given up: shaving her legs, flushing every time, using a hair dryer, dishwasher and vacuum cleaner. And the car? “I’m definitely not buying a car,” she wrote.
Tempe, Arizona USA
Sleeping Naked is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009