I recently read two design ecology books and have done a fair bit of traveling, and what I have realized is that there is a disconnect between humans, their living spaces, and their communities. Many people say the environment (meaning cities, suburbia, towns, rural areas, and wilderness) is in peril, and many people also say that the individual can make a difference. These things are true, but few people offer any specifics as to how to make a difference, and invariably the one you hear, if you hear any, is “I recycle.” So based on my reading and a little common sense I have compiled this guide to leading a better life. Better for you, better for your place, and better for your community. I myself have not fully realized all of these points, but at least I know what they are, have a clear path, and am trying. There is a little adjustment in everything, just don’t let it last too long or get you down. It is important to remember that almost everything you are doing now can be done in a better way, so you are never done with this process. If you decide to try any of these things I find it helps to tell someone else that you are doing them. Make it a vow, say it with confidence, “I will never drink bottled water again.” Tell your friends, tell your spouse, tell your neighbors. This helps because you are now responsible to these people to maintain your vow. It also builds community.

• Focus on your food and those around you while eating. If you’re talking talk about positive things. Turn off the television and put down whatever you’re reading. Think about where your food came from and all the people involved in bringing it to your table.

• Reduce, Reuse, and then Recycle. Before making a purchase ask yourself whether you really need this, want it, or are just buying it. No matter the reason, it will not make you happy. Also think about this when buying gifts. I generally try to give gifts of food or experience now, to reduce stuff while building memories. Then reuse things. Remove all things from your life that can not be used more than once, except maybe toilet paper. Remove paper towels, tissues, paper napkins, to-go containers, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. Then recycle.

• Make compost happen.

• Between reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting bring your “normal” trash output to zero.

• Use a water bottle, over and over. You won’t get diseased, you can wash it. If you eat in a cafeteria setting, or somewhere with paper cups, refuse them, use your water bottle (it can hold other liquids besides water, too.)

• Refuse disposable society.

• Carry your own cloth napkin and utensils; don’t accept paper napkins or disposable plastic silverware when eating out. See Paper Versus Cloth Napkins.

• Remember, what may be convenient for you litters your streets, destroys the environment where it is produced, and creates a huge problem for your children.

• Buy local produce. Ask your grocer to stock local produce. You can start by buying USA produce and move into buying only from your region. This is not a political thing; this is an ecological transportation costs thing. Shop at farmers markets and farm stands. Buy food that is in season.

• The same applies to manufactured goods. Buy products made in the USA, and even better, products made in, and of materials from, your area. Not only will this build your sense of community, but will also help support your local economy. Think particularly about clothing and furniture.

• Stop driving. Bike. Walk. Take the bus or train. Ride share. Carpool. Don’t drive the car with less than 2 people in it. Know where you are going before you leave and do all your errands in one trip.

• If you have to drive a lot buy a hybrid.

• Bring your own Tupperware to restaurants to take home leftovers.

• Don’t eat meat. Seriously. Again, this is not a vegetarian thing; this is an ecological thing. See Environmental Vegetarianism

• Participate in or organize a community event. If an individual can make a difference, think about how much more a group of people could do.