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The Lifehack.org Guide to Green Living: 20 Green Ideas from Our Archives

The Lifehack.org Guide to Green Living: 20 Green Ideas from Our Archives
The Lifehack.org Guide to Green Living

This month’s theme at Lifehack.org is all things Green, but Green issues have been on Lifehack’s radar for a long time. Part of working efficiently and being productive is minimizing wastefulness, whether of our labor or our resources, and Lifehack.org is all about working efficiently. Here, then, are some of the best posts from our archives on how to reduce your environmental impact — while furthering your own goals and bettering your own life.

Consume less

You the Consumer: Written for Blog ACtion Day 2007, this post looks at the history of consumption in the West and the ways it has come to provide meaning (and in some cases, replace it) in our lives. (Dustin M. Wax)

How to Avoid Being Enslaved by Consumerism: If money can’t buy happiness, why do we spend so much energy chasing after it? More importantly, how can we stop?! (Scott H. Young)

Leaving the McMansion for the Small Life: Big homes demand big resources! Think about what your actual needs are, once you strip away the need to keep up with the Joneses with ever-bigger houses to show off and hold your ever-bigger collection of useless junk. (Mike St. Pierre)

Managing your magazine subscriptions: Magazine subscriptions seem to pile up, long after we’ve stopped reading the magazines. Take a few minutes to pare your subscriptions down to the ones you actually get value from. (Leon Ho)

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50 Frugal Blogs: Living frugally is a great way to save both resources and money; this post links to a list of 50 blogs (!) with a regular stream of tips on doing more living with less money. (Craig Childs)

11 Ways to Use Less to Make 2008 Your Best Year Ever: Living with less doesn’t mean living less. Here’s 11 ways to maximize your life while minimizing what you use. (Scott H. Young)

The Cost of Convenience: Getting it quick and easy might be great in the short-term, but favoring value means you’ll get more use out of the things you buy and do — and that’s better for you and the environment. (Rosa Say)

Go paperless

How to Go Paperless: Bury the Paper Before it Buries You: Tips and strategies for creating a paperless "mindset" (Peter Paul Roosen and Tatsuya Nakagawa)

Recycle

10 Ways to Recycle that Old Computer: With the Next Big Thing in the computer world always just around the corner, old gear piles up quick. Figure out what to do with it with these 10 tips. (Craig Childs)

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10 uses for plastic grocery bags: Put all those plastic bags around you to work with these suggestions. (Kyle Pott)

A Basic Guide to Thrift Store Shopping: One person’s waste may well be your treasure. Shopping at thrift stores is cheap and good for the environment, keeping perfectly usable goods out of landfills and incinerators. (Dustin M. Wax)

Get creative

How to Promote Resourcefulness in Yourself and Others: Be like MacGyver and figure out creative ways to reuse the waste that accumulates around you. (Lorie Marrero)

254 Uses for Vinegar: What is it about vinegar that makes it so useful? You can clean windows with it, sparkle up your dishes with it, help a cough with it — and even put it on salads! (Craig Childs)

Save $988/year by bringing your lunch: Bringing your own lunch to work saves money, but it can also saves resources. Restaurants — especially fast food joints with their paper and styrofoam packaging, plastic cutlery (often wrapped in plastic), and throw-it-out mentality — use a tremendous amount of resources to provide your meal. Save eating out for special occasions. (Kyle Pott)

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Blog Action Day Revisited: Blog Action Day was itself a creative response to environmental degradation — get thousands of bloggers talking up the issues to their readers. Here, the best posts from around the web are collected for easy reference. (Craig Childs)

The 10 Greatest Tools of All Time: Tips on using (and reusing) the tools you have — from WD-40 to empty margarine tubs — for all manner of household tasks. Why buy more stuff if the stuff you have is perfectly suited to the task at hand? (Reg Adkins; this post is a round-up of Reg’s 10-part series)

Eco-Friendly Bedroom: A Lifehack.org Howto Wiki entry on creating a bedroom that puts the environment and your comfort on equal footing.

Other sources

Lifehack.org writers have mentioned a few outside services to help you find more information on living Green. Here are a few:

Playgreen: Playgreen is a green living wiki, with community-contributed information for environmentally conscious lives.

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Green Maven: Kyle Pott recommended Greener, a green search engine, last year. Greener seems to be down now; Green Maven offers the same service, helping websurfers to find information, products, and services for a greener life.

25 cheap ways to keep your home cooler: With summer on its way and energy costs rising steadily, here are some tips to keep your air conditioning usage to an absolute minimum. That means less energy, and lower electricity bills, and there’s nothing wrong with either!

Let us know your own Green tips in the comments — or better yet, drop a link to posts about Green living on your own blog!

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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