Archive for the ‘lifestyle’ Category

you don’t need green to be green

September 6, 2008

The other day, a friend of mine brought up the common misconception that in order to be eco-friendly, one needs money. There’s really just one thing that I practice to live a sustainable lifestyle: mindfulness. And I think mindfulness in this case can be broken down into 3 actions: a) plan ahead, b) consume less, and c) do your research. Here are a few guidelines that I live by…

Plan ahead
(or, be prepared)

1. BYOE: Bring your own everything, everywhere

  • This includes, but isn’t limited to: reusable utensils, reusable drinking containers, shopping bags, and lunch
  • You don’t have to go out and buy special portable utensils, just borrow some from home
  • Buying a $20 reusable water bottle and filling it at home or at a water fountain is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a $1 bottle everyday (or even every week if you’re one of those people who refill disposable bottles).
  • Same goes for coffee and tea — brew it at home or at the office and drink it in a mug
  • Your shopping bags don’t have to be anything fancy, most of our bags were giveaway totes. Even just reusing plastic grocery bags will keep the garbage out of the waste stream for a little longer

2. Plan meals

  • If you know what you’re going to eat ahead of time, you’ll buy only what you need
  • If you go to the supermarket on a full stomach, you’ll be less likely to buy stuff you don’t need
  • Plus you’ll keep food out of the landfill where it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change (according to the EPA, methane is 20 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide)

3. If you can grow it yourself, do

  • You’ll save money, fuel, and carbon output
  • Plus, you’ll know where your food is coming from
  • If you don’t have your own garden, try a community garden

4. Compost if you can

  • You’ll keep food out of the landfill (see item number 2) and create rich food for your vegetable garden
  • Learn how here

5. Keep your car maintained, and hypermile

  • If you have a car, keep it clean and the tires full — both of these simple things can help save gas
  • Hypermiling is a tactic people use to save fuel. Find out more here

Consume less, live more

1. Buy less stuff

  • Especially new stuff, or stuff made overseas
  • I promise, life will be just as fulfilling without that 5th pair of sneakers or giant flatscreen TV or beauty product, or whatever it is you’re thinking of buying. I know, I’m a recovering shoe addict and impulse buyer myself
  • Of course there are times when you need stuff, or maybe you like collecting stuff as a hobby. Just use your judgment and buy used whenever you can. Shop at eBay, craigslist, or FreeCycle (this one’s free!)

2. Eat less meat

  • It’s pricey, has a huge impact on the planet, and isn’t all that healthy in large quantities
  • Greens and grains are healthier and generally cost a lot less (they also taste good once you get used to them — especially the fresh ones)

3. Eat and drink less junk

  • Junk food is highly processed, so a lot of energy and resources go into making it
  • And it’s full of bad stuff
  • Trust me, you’ll feel better in the morning if you don’t reach for that jumbo bag of Doritos and 32 oz Gatorade. It may seem cheap and tasty now, but just wait ’til you get those medical bills in 20 years

4. Think before you…

  • Print or copy: Can you read it on the computer? Can you copy double-sided?
  • Purchase: See number 1
  • Toss: Can that thing you’re about to throw away be reused or recycled? Maybe somebody else could use it if you don’t want it anymore. If it’s toxic, dispose of it properly (find out how at Earth 911)
  • Drive: Can you walk, bike, or take public transportation instead?

5. Use less water and energy

  • You’ll end up saving money if you conserve
  • Find 100 ways to save water, specific to your region, here
  • See my tips for summer energy saving

Do your research
(Find out where stuff comes from and what it’s made of. Here are a few things I’ve learned…)

1. Health and hygiene

  • Ingredients to avoid: parabens (methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, butyl-), synthetic fragrance, petrolatum, diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), sodium laurel sulfate (read more about ingredients to avoid)
  • Not sure if your products are harmful? Check the Cosmetics Database

2. Cleaning products

  • You can make your own non-toxic cleaning supplies with inexpensive household products, like white vinegar, washing soda, hydrogen peroxide, lemon, and oil (learn more at The Green Guide)
  • Use rags (old t-shirts and towels work well) instead of paper towels

3. Food

  • Eat whole, minimally processed foods
  • Read the label — avoid ingredients that you can’t pronounce or that have many qualifiers, like high-fructose corn syrup or enriched bleached white flour

4. Furniture and homegoods

  • Avoid furniture and paint made with off-gassing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals like formaldehyde
  • Skip products made with PVC, like shower curtain liners — opt for cloth instead
  • Choose napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, and tissues made from paper, not from trees. Go with these brands that are both high quality and environmentally friendly (Marcal, Seventh Generation, Green Forest). AVOID: Bounty, Scott, Viva, Kleenex, Puffs, Charmin, Cottonelle (they’re all made from trees!)
  • Buy in bulk to save money and packaging

Keep it simple…

Another simple way to live green is to heed the 3 Rs: reduce consumption, reuse what you can, and recycle what you can’t.

Find more eco on a budget tips at The Budget Ecoist

Why bother?

evo: a great source for everything eco

August 7, 2008

Lately, my short-term memory has been a little fried. This is especially true when I’m surfing the interweb — I often can’t remember how I got to a particular site or page. On most occasions, I’m looking for sustainable ideas, news, products, etc., so you’d think it would be easy to retrace my steps. Not so — believe it or not there are a multitude of resources out there for the environmentally conscious.

One great resource I stumbled upon is evo. It’s a comprehensive and customizable source for all things eco-friendly. They’ve got this fun tool for customizing the site: you answer survey questions about your daily habits (I’m a sucker for surveys), then as you answer questions a virtual tree grows more and more leaves. That is, of course, if your habits are green leaning. Once you’re finished with your tree, evo gives you suggestions on how you can live even more sustainably, based on the questions you answered in the survey.

If you’re not into surveys or customizing the site, you can just browse for products and tips through the various categories. From clothing to travel, they’ve rated over 2 million products.

Try evo out here.