There’s a lot of pressure to be eco-conscious these days. But when it comes to the plethora of information (much of it conflicting) about “green living,” it’s difficult to digest it all and decipher what really matters.
I view green living as a continuum. You can make an infinite number of changes, large and small, to live a more sustainable, earth-conscious life. Simply recycling or composting is just as green as investing in new windows or solar panels to make your home more energy efficient. The key is to avoid getting overwhelmed by all the options; just incorporate what you can when you can. If you try to do everything at once, you might just find that your efforts to be sustainable aren’t sustainable!
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Just do it.
Don’t let green guilt get to you with thoughts such as, “Well, if I’m not going to drive a hybrid, why even bother?” Every step you take counts! One fewer plastic water bottle in the landfill makes a difference, so start now.
As parents we’ve all been convinced we need the latest and greatest baby and kid gear, but a lot of this stuff simply isn’t necessary. And what you do need can be borrowed from a friend or purchased second hand.
PAMP is an excellent resource for this. Use the classified ads on BigTent, and check out the annual Rummage Sale (coming up April 14). Three years ago, before I even had a child, I bought some equipment for the childcare rooms in my studios. I purchased a Pack ’n Play for $40 and have used it more times than I can count. I’ve gotten baby swings and seats secondhand, too. Although we all want to provide the best for our kids, they aren’t going to notice if their toys are slightly used.
Hand-me-downs are great for kids clothing, and they also work well for adults. Maternity and formal wear are good candidates for reuse. Do you have other pieces in your closet you never wear? Have a clothing swap party with some friends. It’s an environmentally and economically friendly way to freshen up your wardrobe.
Although I do believe it’s prudent to invest in a few products to reduce your use of others, don’t fall for buying the “new and improved” green product when what you already have is fine.
The best investment I’ve made is a cleaning machine called the lotus PRO. It uses tap water and electricity to create liquefied ozone, which is 50 percent stronger than bleach but is chemical free. Using it means my 2-year-old can safely help with household chores, and I don’t have to buy various cleaners for floors, bathrooms and windows. I use it on everything — at home and in the studios!
Along the lines of reducing, don’t buy something just because it’s advertised as eco-friendly. There is a whole industry dedicated to alleviating your green guilt, but, ironically, many companies don’t practice what they preach. Using a tactic often referred to as “greenwashing,” many corporations spend more time and money marketing being green than actually being green.
As a consumer, you can’t believe everything you read; unfortunately, the government doesn’t regulate green marketing. According to TerraChoice, an environmental marketing agency, only 2 percent of products labeled as green are legitimate. For example, Huggies sells a “Pure and Natural” line of diapers. But the diaper is only partially organic cotton, and the packaging is only 20 percent post-consumer materials. That’s not very green when you compare it to other companies that make diapers with unbleached cotton and use 100 percent post-consumer materials.
Beware of packaging.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, packaging makes up 31 percent of the total volume of household waste, which equates to more than 800 pounds of packaging waste per year for the average American..
Whenever possible, choose products with minimal packaging. You can even give feedback to companies who go overboard on packaging or use those gnarly Styrofoam peanuts instead of greener options. I recently took a picture of an item I bought with wasteful packaging and sent it to Amazon via its Packaging Feedback Program. It’s easy to do, so speak up!
Carrying your own reusable bags (always keep one in your purse and a few in your car) and buying in bulk are two easy ways to green your shopping. And if you’re buying something small, say “no thanks” when the clerk starts to pull out a bag. I hope that in time bags will become the exception rather than the rule. In the meantime, do your part to minimize their distribution.
You can reduce packaging at home, too. Pack your lunches, leftovers and snacks in reusable containers and bags instead of plastic wrap and foil. Also, avoid wrapping gifts in paper, and opt for reusable bags. It’s more time efficient, there is less waste and the gifts look great! One local cloth gift wrap company I love is LivingEthos.
Set an example.
If you develop habits that are healthy for you, your family and the Earth, you’ll likely pass them along to your kids. They’re always watching! It is our responsibility to provide a healthy environment; in doing so, we can help our children take those practices along to the next generation.
Erin Paruszewski is the owner of The Dailey Method in Menlo Park and Los Altos. Each studio space was completely renovated with a focus on creating a clean, healthy and environmentally friendly place to exercise. Erin believes that people achieve wellness not only through exercise, but also through the environment in which they do it. The Dailey Method is committed to providing a toxin-free environment for clients while minimizing its carbon footprint. In 2010 the City of Menlo Park awarded Erin an Environmental Quality Award in recognition of her efforts. She lives in Menlo Park with her husband and daughter.
Photo courtesy of Shannon Cassidy Photography