April 21, 2008

I dislike the word "green."

Adore the color. But I've grown to somewhat resent the word "green," used in the context of people, places and things becoming environmentally-conscious.

It's not that I think it's a bad metaphor or anything. But people say things like "going green," "buying green," etc. and all they have created is another label for people to decide upon. It's enhanced by the red-state, bass-ackwards concept that caring about the environment is something "Yankee liberals" do, and then they decide to say no to "going green."

The truth is, I've always lived as green as possible, and proudly admit I have a little bit of hippie in me. It's unfortunate that, like purses, sexuality and diets, our culture felt the need to slap a convenient, monosyllabic label on a lifestyle that everyone on this planet should embrace. Being "green" is not like being pro-choice, Jewish or a Red Sox fan. Regardless of any other viewpoints, we all inhabit this earth, and we are all responsible for making sure it's inhabitable for our grandkids. So there is no need to identify ourselves as green or not; everyone in this world needs to make a few lifestyle changes so we can continue to enjoy this beautiful world in which we live.

Fortunately, there are a lot of opportunities for easy, affordable ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. That 3-word mantra was great in seventh grade, and it still holds true today. Here are some of the ways I've moved from seafoam to forest on the green scale.

Brew coffee at home and use a travel mug. No disposable cups sitting in landfills, no time wasted in the drive-thru and lots of money saved. Try cute mugs from Starbucks or DD!

Watch the water. Reuse plastic bottles you already have, and for heaven's sake, grab any reusable bottle and tote that around. Fill it at the cooler or the sink. Second, when you're washing your face or dishes, or brushing your teeth, turn off the tap when you don't need it. And don't fill up that huge pasta pot with water to get the sauce out - just wash it immediately to save gallons.

Make your clothes and shoes last. Get them cobbled, resew buttons and holes, hand-wash hose and lingerie, embrace a tailor upon weight-loss (don't just chuck everything), and don't buy any crazy fabrics you can't pronounce or stuff you know will fall apart after one wash. Again, saving the planet also saves you money.

Buy organic, free-range meat, eggs and dairy. Factory farms are revolting places, and the scale of these farms create huge amounts of carbon in the atmosphere. Besides, would you want to eat an animal that was fed excrement and injected with hormones? Purify your body and support local, humane farms.

Slowly replace light bulbs. I don't advocate changing every single one and ditching the old 75-watt bulbs immediately. But grab a 4-pack at the supermarket next time, and as the old ones burn out, replace them. These bulbs cost more, but save lots of power, can last up to 10 years and come in soft colors, without a flourescent glare.

Give up plastic bags - forever! Grab four of those canvas, reusable bags you can get at Stop-n-Shop, Trader Joe's, etc. and keep them in your car. Plastic bags have amassed as a wasteland in the Pacific, and the mass is about the size of our country. And when you go to CVS for a toothbrush and a Cosmo, throw 'em in your purse if it's big enough.

Buy food that's fresh, and avoid excessive packaging. Those cardboard containers, endless wrappers and packaging create tons of waste, and over-processed foods are very low in nutrients.

Open the car windows in nice weather. If you can get a breeze, enjoy the warm air of summer. Cranking the a/c and the heat reduces gas mileage.

When you leave the house for a prolonged time, turn off all appliances and also unplug them. Standby power costs more than you think, especially microwaves, computers and hi-def TVs. If you have the patience, or something you don't use often, leave it unplugged at all times unless you're using it.

Don't collect makeup samples you'll never use, and recycle old containers. At MAC, if you return six empty containers, you get a free lipstick!

The main thing to remember when improving your life is that we are creatures of the earth. Everything we eat and use eventually goes back to the earth, and that's the same earth from which everything else is derived. So the pesticides that were sprayed on your prepackaged corn were washed into the ocean by rain, and absorbed by the tuna that you ate in your sandwich this afternoon. Think sustainable, think renewable, and think healthy. The better condition our planet is in, the healthier and happier we will all be.

Give a few of these a try. And post any ideas you have!

Happy Earth Day!

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