One of Oprah's guests was Elizabeth Rogers, author of The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time. Sometimes I'm a sucker for a good how-to guide, but not this one. I don't need the simple steps like using fewer paper napkins and refusing ATM receipts. True, I could do those, but I still need to do some glaring basics. I already know I should avoid styrofoam and use the back of printer paper. I know I'm late to the game and I'm proceeding in baby steps, but I think I can do a little more. Besides, there's plenty on the internet and that doesn't use paper like a book...
Here's my mental stock -
- For big shopping trips I bring my own fabric tote bags. I've been doing this for years so it's second nature to grab a pile of them on my way out the door. The other advantage to using these is they hold more and have long handles. This is handy for hauling groceries across a parking lot, down several blocks, through a series of locked doors, and up several flights of stairs. I don't know what it is to park in a driveway (or garage, even!) right by my front door.
- Recycle plastic, glass, paper and metal
- Reuse ziploc and plastic shopping bags
- Use refillable water bottle from home instead of buying bottled water
- More as a consequence of our location and forced lifestyle than as any effort we're making, we use very little gas for the car, and walk or use public transportation for the most part. But hey, I can still claim we do that.
- Non-toxic household cleaners - I ordered Shaklee's Basic H2 Organic Super Cleaning Concentrate and some spray bottles. If I like the clean it produces I'm definitely willing to switch. We haven't had any problems with more mainstream chemical cleaners, but I know I'll feel better using non-toxic products, both for my family's health and the good of the environment.
- Eco-friendly detergent - I still have 1/2 a bottle of Tide I'm going to use up, but then I'm willing to try a new natural detergent like Charlie's, Seventh Generation, Allen's, etc.
- Non-chlorine diapers - I'm a Pampers fan myself but I just ordered a package of Seventh Generation non-chlorine diapers to try out. I found it leaked in the overnight trial but works great for daytime (shorter time span.) These are notably more expensive than other diapers, but I will continue to buy them when I can and maybe alternate with cheaper ones. Of course cloth diapers are the ultimate way to go green here, but I'm not quite there yet (at least not until I have my own washer/dryer.)
- This is kind of a general one, but I'm ready to consciously buy more organic food and maybe even clothes. I know it can be better for my family and the environment, and I want to support organic growers. Again, weighing the cost, and keeping practical. But I am looking forward to living near a Whole Foods again!
- Use fewer paper towels - I admit I use them a lot. But I've started more consciously keeping dish towels around the kitchen and on the table to wipe hands on, and old baby washcloths to clean faces and hands after meals.
- Cloth diapers - I feel like this could be my ultimate green contribution to the environment, considering how many millions of diapers our family uses. And they have come a long way since even Hazel was born - they are very user friendly these days. I just can't face it until I've got my own laundry, but that is only 6 months away. I should also consider cloth wipes.
- On Oprah's show, a family had their energy company come do an energy audit of their home, resulting in energy-saving suggestions like outlet gaskets, low-flow showerheads, and window weatherstripping. This seems like a great place to start conserving energy and energy bills...when I have a home.
- Energy saving light bulbs - I saw an Oprah a few years ago with Leonardo DiCaprio pushing these bulbs. It sounded reasonable so I got some for our living room. I kept them in for 6 months but couldn't stand the life-sucking flourescent light and switched back to energy-sucking incandescents. I don't know, I'm very particular about my mood lighting. That living room didn't have any windows (cheap dungeon basement apartment), so the light bulbs really affected things. However, I would use these bulbs in places like laundry room, porch light, garage, home office. I just don't have any of those rooms right now.
- Hybrid car - why wouldn't I? Our clunker is not getting any younger so we will be in the market for a new car, possibly two, in the next few years. There are several makes and models of hybrid cars and it's a smart and responsible way to go if you can find one to fit all your safety and other needs. A glaring gap in the market is a hybrid minivan, but apparently it's on the way. That's what I'm waiting for.
What do you do? What products or activities have you embraced in an effort to treat the earth right? What other suggestions do you have for me?