There’s something in me that needs to see green, something in me that I can feel go to peace when I’m surrounded by trees and hills under a big blue sky.Â Ralph Waldo Emerson wroteÂ â€œMan is the broken giant, and in all his weakness both his body and his mind are invigorated by habits of conversation with nature.â€Â It’s exactly that. I feel like something in me unwinds when I see trees. My lungs open bigger when I’m out in fresh air.
Once, I loved being surrounded by concrete, tarmac or pavement. But the older I get, the more I feel it. It’s more than a preference. It’s a pull. I need it.
Because it means that much to me, I try hard to be greener myself: It seems the least I could do, right? And I’ve found it’s not that hard. Some of it costs more than the traditional alternative, but some of it saves a lot of money, too, so it seems to comes out even.
- I’m as paperless as someone with a library can be. I recycle. I’m militant about canceling junk mail. I pay bills online and get online-only statements.
- Nice cheap white cloth napkins and tea towels replaced 99% of the paper-towel usage.
- My place gets a lot of natural light, but CFL bulbs are there when I need it – and I try to keep all “vampire” appliances unplugged.Â Once I made these switches, I really saw the electric bill drop.
- I gotÂ attic insulation addedÂ last winter. Even if it was built to code originally, it’s probably been updated to require more where you live now. I also had the massively built-up air ducts cleaned, and in the process they reattached leaky duct-work that was wasting air in the attic. I can’t tell you how much of a difference that made. Cozy!
- A Freecycled drying rack in the laundry room means I only use the dryer sometimes
- A lower-flow showerhead also blocks chemicals (and gives me better hair!).
- I use Freecycle to help me find free stuff rather than buying newly manufactured goods. I usually read books before buying them (yay for libraries!) and try to buy all books used.
- The programmable thermostat keeps heat and AC as low as possible, and doesn’t waste any. I’m also a fan of layers (I’m always cold). Yay for scarves and two pairs of socks.
- My windows are open six months of the year. Often your indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air – so if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere green and quiet there’s no reason not to have fresh air if it’s at least quasi-temperate. I even keep them cracked when it rains.
- You never see me without my Nalgene Everyday water bottle – no BPA, and no need for bottled water!
- Canvas grocery bags are washable and let you lug around way more than plastic anyway.
- Switching toÂ Tom’s toothpasteÂ helped me discover that regular toothpaste made me break out. Weird, right? And right alongside that, Thai crystal deodorant works better than Secret, and my skin is never irritated anymore.
- Some green cleaners just don’t clean, which is just money-wasting, but some – like MethodÂ – are fab. And you don’t really need specialized products for everything.
- I buy local produce from local vendors when I can. I prefer non-certified organicÂ to get the goodness without paying the passed-along costs of certification.
- Rechargeable batteries are a stupid-easy quick fix.
- I’d love to get more energy-conserving appliances – my fridge, washer, and dryer are great hand-me-downs, and thank goodness they’re still ticking, but they’re over a decade old and I know they waste heat, water, and electricity.
- I’m thinking about insulating my water pipes and hot-water heater, but those would be projects I’d need professional advice on to feel safe doing.
Note: one of the first energy-saving recommendations you find is to lower your hot-water heater temperature. Proceed with caution. I put mine at the suggested minimum, only to find when I called in a dishwasher repairman that it just wasn’t hot enough to clean my dishes properly. He was nice enough not to charge me.Â
Not Quite… Not Ever?
But I’m definitely not perfect
- I know it’s silly, but vintage textiles skeeve me out.
- Amazon Prime owns my soul (meaning I make lots of packaging and shipping necessary).
- I take long hot showers and baths, and if that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.
- I drive a lot.
- I’m not sure I could quit my OPI nail polishÂ (although only for summertime toes).
- Or Clorox (I love the smell!) and hot-water washes.
- I haven’t paid attention to buying organic fabrics, naturally made furniture, or using low-VOC paint.
So there are many improvements to be made.
For reference and ideas, here are some sites I use:
- Environmental Working Group. They’re a little militant and scare-tactic-y, but taken with a grain of salt, their research is wonderfully helpful. I try to make my makeup purchases using their Skin Deep database alongside the Beautypedia one (so I get stuff that isn’t too bad for me, and works, too.)
- Green Your. Is a good resource for practical ideas.
- Consumer Reports. Is always there to tell you everything you need to know about what you want to buy before you buy it.
- Daily Green. It’s Good Housekeeping’s green website. Definitely the most comprehensive of the bunch, without being over the top.
- Green Planet Directory. This is the brainchild of my neighbors, how cool is that? It’s a one-stop shop to find eco-conscious vendors.