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Tips for a Greener New Year

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1. Before You Buy – Use What You Have

Chances are you have a lot of stuff in your closets waiting to be used. I've recently broken a habit of buying bulk. One of my challenges has been to use what I have before moving on to greener and better options. You get excited and want to go shopping, but first, dig around. You'll be surprised at what you have, and using what you have is even better than a green acquisition. In our pantry we still have three boxes of plastic Costco cutlery, 1200 paper napkins, ribbon, gift wrap, moisturizers, conditioners, sunscreens… you get the idea. We're working on it!

For a brighter future…

2. Take Care of The Things You Own

Taking care of your "stuff" values the resources that went into making it. You'll keep it longer and reduce impact by not having to replace it. Your home, cars, clothing, shoes, toys, etc. will all benefit from being well taken care of. And the environment will thank you; if it's taken care of it's less likely to be tossed when you are done with it. It's more likely that you'll be able to pass it along to a new home instead.

Teaching your children to care for their things will impart values that will last a lifetime.

3. Pick Just One Area of Your Life to Green

Wherever you are in your green journey, whether you are just beginning or an ecosavant, pick one new area to work on. Once that's mastered you can add another, another, another… you get the idea. Living a greener, healthier life is a journey that starts with one step.

4. Buy Organic

Start buying organic in a new area of your life.  You may have bought organic food, or this might be new for you. You may buy organic dairy, but haven't moved into the produce section yet. Pick a new area to explore the benefits of organic.

If you've never bought organic cotton or denim, next time you're shopping keep your eyes and mind open. Ask the stores you shop at. Even if you make a conventional selection, asking the questions will help spread the word that customers care and want to see more options. You may even find organic options in places you don't expect. This last holiday season I was able to buy organic cotton casual clothing for lil' Diva at Walmart and Organic PJ's for both the kids at Costco.

Keep your eyes peeled and ASK!

5. Buy Fair Trade

I buy fair trade chocolate. I figure chocolate is something I don't NEED. It's a luxury. If it's a luxury I can step up and make sure children aren't picking my cocoa beans. So when buying chocolate I've been on the hunt for the perfect fair trade organic fix. You could pick coffee, clothing, bananas…again, start somewhere. You'll be surprised how it can inspire you!

6. Buy Quality

Can't find what you are looking for in organic or fair trade?  Buy good quality. It will last, and when you're done you'll be able to pass it on. We in the U.S. have become accustomed to buying everything in quantity. We can take a page out of the Europeans' book and attempt to retrain our sense of value and buy fewer, higher quality items, moving away from our culture's more, more, more frame of mind. Look for items that are made in your country too, supporting your own economy.

7. When You're Done with Something – Pass It On!

When you are done with something, find a new home for it. We had a rug that our dogs had scratched. I listed it on Craigslist with pictures of the damage, within 30 minutes I had ten people who wanted it. When we were renovating I listed mirrors, sinks, hardware, whatever I thought someone else might find useful – and they came. These items had been destined for the landfill, but with not too much effort were taken away and used by others.

That said, this is one of my areas of weakness. I have a hard time saying goodbye to my stuff. I'm sure it comes from growing up really poor.

8. Use Reusable Water Bottles

If you don't have a reusable water bottle and a way to filter your water, get one and start using it.

Get in the habit of taking your bottles and the children's bottles ALL THE TIME, and in particular to parties, sporting events, and school. Eventually if hosts and hostesses start seeing guests arriving equipped with their own beverage containers they won't feel the need to buy bottled water for their parties. We put out iced tea and water with glasses.

9. Group Errands According to Geography

This saves trips, saves gas, saves time.

10. Detox Your Beauty

When I first began the journey to detox my beauty routine, I started by using up what I had (still doing this for a few things!) and replacing them with safer options. I encourage everyone to do this. The next item you are running low on something, replace it with something better.  Knowing what I know now, if I were pregnant, I wouldn't use the "use it up" method. I would make the switch immediately.

Do this for your children first if you have them. Their developing systems are more vulnerable to the toxins in their environment.

11. Pay Attention to Preservatives and Additives

While you are shopping, get in the habit of reading labels. If you can't pronounce the name of the ingredient, chances are you'd be better off with a different option. You'll be surprised – pick up pickle relish and two brands will contain HFCS, one will not.  It's an easy switch to the healthier option.

12. Use Less Canned Foods

Chances are you've heard about BPAs, and concern especially over their presence in plastics and baby bottles. But did you know how we ingest the most BPAs?  Canned food. Opt for glass packaging over canned to minimize your family's exposure.

13. Green Your Parties

Parties can be a huge source of waste. We opt for convenience and buy a lot of pre-packaged, convenient entertainment foods. We serve foods on paper or plastic plates and drink from countless paper and plastic cups. Start adding up the cost of all that convenience and not only are you throwing a lot of hard-earned money in the landfill, but that plastic will live there forever.

One year we were getting ready for a Super Bowl party and did the math. For the cost of buying paper goods, we were able to purchase inexpensive white plates, glasses, and wine glasses from IKEA. We use these for our parties – including the parties for the little ones. It may take a little extra effort, but I never have to run out to the store for cups and plates at the last minute. Next on the list is to get party flatware.

You can also find reasonably priced "catering" sets at Pottery Barn, Cost Plus, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

As for pre-packaged food, sometimes it's easy to succumb to the ease of these ready-to-go foods, but for so much less money you can buy really nice, high quality foods, including fruits and vegetables.

You might even find that with all the money you're saving on prepared foods and paper goods you can get an extra set of hands to help you at the party!

If you can't bear the thought of these suggestions, buy eco-friendly disposables. You can find them at stores like Smart & Final, and Whole Foods. Look for plastics that are compostable. This typically means they will biodegrade in a few weeks. Compostable plastics can be placed in our "green" garbage bins in Los Angeles. With a little research you can find out if you can compost with your yard waste in your area (assuming you don't already compost in your yard).

14. Clean Green

Start cleaning your home with green cleaners or make your own formulas using some easy recipes. You'll reduce the toxins you are breathing in your home.

I'll never forget this Oprah "aha" moment: "Clean doesn't have a smell!"

Extra Credit: Use Less Plastic

Bring your own bags to the grocery store. Choose products with less plastic packaging. Choose items packaged in glass. Store your leftovers in glass.

You Can Do It!

I know, I know… I missed so many things.  You can do those things too!

I hope these tips inspire you to find new things you can do to have a healthier, happier, greener New Decade!

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About PureNaturalDiva

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Responses to these tips(numerical order):

    1. If you’re stockpiling such a huge arsenal of consumer products then you’re probably the reason for most of the damage done to this planet. Paying $50 a year in order to buy product in bulk that doesn’t necessarily save you any money isn’t smart shopping to begin with.

    2. You must be kidding, right?? This is something I learned when I was a teenager. Probably, because I bought it with my own hard earned money.

    3. See #5 & #6

    4. “Pesticides derived from natural sources (such as biological pesticides) may be used in producing organically grown food.” -U.S.EPA So, can you really tell if your food comes from an organic farm that doesn’t use biological pesticides. If not, what is better about biological pesticides? Organic cotton? Really?! Thus, I should spend more money on a product that has no scientific evidence to back up its claims.

    5. Hmmm… Fair Trade. That’s a tough call. There isn’t enough evidence to suggest that this type of trading system benefits anyone other than the producer of said product. In most cases the workers still make less than the allowed minimum wage in their respective countries.

    6. We wouldn’t have to buy “green” if we stopped allowing jobs to be outsourced and forced corporations to manufacture products here in the US. In turn, this would raise the quality of said products because they are not being assembled by people who make pennies a day and those companies would have to stop cutting corners on the materials being used.
    “Green” is the new “Cheap”. With that being said, the US Manufacturers did it to themselves by ripping off the consumer with poorly made, over-priced products(US Cars are a great example)

    7. I have to agree with you here. Craigslist is phenomenal for parting with stuff you don’t need,but, you could also use this tip to take care of tip #1. Instead of buying new, check out Craigslist!

    8 & 12. I don’t know where you get your information from but epoxy lined cans do not make up most of our ingestion of Bisphenol-A.
    Bisphenol A is a key monomer in production of epoxy resins and in the most common form of polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate plastic, which is clear and nearly shatter-proof, is used to make a variety of common products including baby,water bottles & dental filings among other consumer products.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    One more thing… When you are trying to inform people about important health topics, you might want to link to an actual scientific article instead of linking back to your own website.

    Thanks…

  • http://www.purenaturaldiva.com Tania

    The articles that I have written do link to my sources for information.
    This article is intended to inspire families to try new things and do things in a new way.
    Most American’s are still living a very disposable, use it once lifestyle – I’ve never purported to be perfect. Just doing the best I can!
    Sorry that you don’t the suggestions or the intention.

    With regards to the PBA’s in Epoxy Liners here is one source.

  • http://www.lovingheartmommy.com Kristinia

    Tania, I believe you did a great job with your list on Greener options for this year! Thanks for the awesome tips! I just recently found out about the makeup and beauty products, soo scary because I used ALOT of them!

    I’ve switched to eliminating almost all BPA products as soon as I heard about the BPA scare. I’m more worried about my children with the BPA issue. I chose safer options for everything I could for their health.

    Buying in bulk, we all can fall victim to that, whether it be food, toiletries, etc.. I actually grid out in Excel how much we use each week/month to find out exactly how much I should buy of something and if its cheaper to buy in bulk or just pick up a few items on my next shopping trip to my local retailer.

    Love the tips! Keep them coming!

  • http://www.ezgreatlife.com John

    Tania, I got it! We are still living a very disposable lifestyle. Trying to inspire families to try new things and do things in a new way is admirable.

    It’s a shame you have to endure personal attacks…I’m sure if you follow Mr. Haters comments, you will find they’re all along the same lines…some people just can’t be happy unless they spewing their negative vibe. I love his definition of Bisphenol A, taken verbatim from Wikipedia, you know the webs most reliable source. I don’t trust anyone that would source Wikipedia.

  • http://www.workathomemafia.com Kim

    I personally found your article to be very informative as usual. Sorry that you were splashed with the hatorade today but I thought it was very well thought out as a fellow stockpiler and frugalista.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Hatorade? Mr. Hater?

    Imagine for once that whenever you read the word “you” in an article or comment thread that it wasn’t speaking directly to you but about people in general. I admit that I do get quite passionate about truth and misconception,but, I wasn’t attacking Tania. I was merely stating my skeptical opinion based on the knowledge,I have, of certain subjects. So, I’m sorry that you took it the wrong way.

    Now for the new people here on this site which I believe is everyone else but me, for the most part I always use critical thinking when I respond to an article that I have spent my valuable time reading here on Blogcritics which, in turn, offers other readers a different point of view or clarity of facts. Blogcritics = You get to write a blog and I get to write a crtique!

    As for John, you can knock Wikipedia all you want but the article in which I took that snippet from has over 150 credible references on the subject matter and some very informative external links as well. You could continue to show your lack of knowledge about Wikipedia by making some more broad statements about the veracity of those “untrustworthy” sources,BUT, it would only further prove that you like to distribute popular misinformation about things you don’t truly understand. I also use The Free Online Dictionary as well, so, because that is also on the web and it is free it must mean that I don’t really know what veracity means…right??

    Actually, I think you might want to do some reading yourself to actually figure out what qualifies as a personal attack.

    Good Day to you…

  • http://www.ezgreatlife.com John

    Anywho, I agree with Kim, very informative!

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    @8

    Yea… I thought so.