When i was in my twenties and thirties, I was a school teacher. I lived and worked overseas. I had many great adventures, but looking back 2 decades later, I can see that what I most enjoyed about those years was the approach to life I had as a young mom in my neighborhood in Adelaide, South Australia. We enjoyed the best of a modern Western life without some of the “excesses” of 21st century life in the U . s . States-not too much driving, not too much “stuff”, not too much debt… You get the picture. I had a cute little car which was fuel efficient. I had a cute little house and lovely English style garden. I shopped in my neighborhood, because, believe it or not, there was not a supermarket or shopping mall within 5 miles of the neighborhood where I lived.
What I loved most about how my money was spent in those days was that it mainly supported local people and products. My food originated in small, family-owned fruit and veg shops, butcher shop shops, and bakeries. All of my vegetables and fruit were grown locally and sold in the shops in my local “high street” or in the year-round farmers’ market. Many things I skip over today like my machine and electronic shops arekere hair dryer, my living room furniture and my office equipment were far more expensive in Adelaide than these were in Seattle, for instance. But, we purchased from local merchants, bought quality to last and often recycled and shared. For months when my friend had a new baby, we shared the expense of a diaper service and we shared the use of my new appliance. When another friend moved to a new job in another state, we bought their antique home and chairs to furnish our cottage’s kitchen dining area.
So, why am I hinting this story of a past life internationally?
Because–I think we have forgotten that we have the power to shape our lives with the choices we make and how you spend our money. I assume we think we must give up things we find “necessary” to save our environment, when really we would find that new choices result in pleasant gains.
At the heart of a number of our environmental challenges today are the things we Americans buy and toss every day. Our economy is relatively stronger the more we buy and the faster we replace things. Living a more green aware lifestyle affects all facets of our lives, but none more dramatically than our shopping habits.
There are many ways to turn your buying behavior into a force that supports environmentally friendly businesses and practices:
Choose the shop around the corner:
More and more, we’re hearing that co2 fractional laser emissions from our cars are polluting the earth and contributing enormous quantities of greenhouse fumes to the growing climate change problem. To reduce your h2o and impact, choose to shop close to home. Need some new candles? Check out the local artisan’s class. Looking for some fresh veggies? Look into your community’s farmers’ markets. You get the idea.
By that, we mean “bring your own bag” when you’re heading for the store. Whether you’re in the market for household goods or a new pair of jeans, try to be sure you take your reusable shopping bag with you. This significantly reduces the annoying “paper or plastic? inch questions and will mean fewer resource-intensive bags entering your community where they either need to be removed in a landfill or burned in an incinerator.
Choose eco-friendly products:
Regardless of what you’re putting in your bag, whether it’s a new printer for your computer or some binders for your children’s new school year, there’s likely a more eco-friendly option available. Wondering what to look for? Here are few characteristics of earth-mindful options:
Look for second-hand or used items. These products require no new resources except the gas it takes you to get to the store. Furniture, clothing, kitchen items, and even consumer electronics is often purchased this way.
Search for items made with recycled materials. Eat option is recycled-content paper, but more and more there are products made of recycled products. Pop containers can be changed to fleece coat for clothing, wheels can be become gemstone equipment, milk jugs can be become shingles for your roof, yogurt containers are made into toothbrushes and blades, and old barn wood can be transformed into one-of-a-kind tables and chairs.
Check out alternative materials. If you find something that’s once-used like those that are second-hand or made of recycled materials, look for options made with eco-friendly materials. This can mean many things, but here are a few principles to bear in mind: Materials grown without the use of pesticides and fertilizers mean less harm to water and soil, so go for organic fruits, vegetables, and cotton products. Any resource that’s renewable is more sustainable than non-renewable options. Metals, parts, and other petroleum by-products are not ultimately renewable (not to cover they’re production is incredibly polluting). Bamboo bedding and sheets, hemp, sea your lawn, and jute, to mention a few, are incredibly fast growing plants which they can use to make furniture and carpets, clothing and bedding, and much more. Opting for the item made with fewer chemicals is always a good choice, too. It means it’ll be less harmful for you and the earth. So if you’re discussing between stain-resistant t-shirts and those without, go for the more natural, less-treated option. Look for low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) products, natural cleaning products, and so on.
Choose “kid safe” and “pet safe” household products.
Opting for the item made with fewer harmful or potentially harmful ingredients is not only earth-friendly, but also “kid safe” and “pet safe”. Look for household products without the following common but harmful chemicals as ingredients: Naphthalene, kerosene, formaldehyde, phenol, cresol, lye, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, petroleum distillates, benzene, ammonia, paradichlorobenzene, sodium hydroxide, butyl cellosolve, hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid.