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Go Green with the Little Things
There are many ways that you can live a more eco-friendly life and make a huge difference for your own well-being as well as the well-being of the environment. These ways do not always have to be expensive or a sacrifice such as buying a hybrid vehicle, trading in your car for a bike, or cutting back on hot water use. In fact, perhaps the best way to start going green is to look at all the little things that you use each day that are not eco-friendly and decide what you can use instead that will not have such a negative impact. The changes may be small, but the overall benefit for you and the Earth is potentially great. Of the following ten non environmentally friendly products, what are you willing to trade in for the greener alternative?
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Incendescent Light Bulbs
The use of incandescent light bulbs is not eco-friendly. Ninety-five percent of the energy used to heat these popular products is wasted in heat energy not light energy. Simply switching to energy efficient lighting will save as much as seventy-five percent of your electricity bill and will help to reduce your household's carbon footprint.
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The day begins and one of the first things that you may use that is not eco-friendly is your soap. A typical bar of soap, choose almost any commercial brand, is made with toxic chemicals from fragrances to antibacterial agents. These chemicals, including triclosan, BHT, isopropyl alcohol, and methylisotiazolinone irritate the skin, they can have a negative effect on the nervous system, and many are potential carcinogens. Also, commercial soap isn't even real soap! That's why it leaves a residue as well as an artificial fragrance on the skin rather than cleansing and nourishing. Start your day with an eco-friendly soap. Look for natural products, handmade soaps if you can find them, that are made from vegetable oils and plant essences, not petroleum and chemicals.
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Packaged Food — Reevaluating Convenience
How is your food packaged? Take a look at what you eat and what it is wrapped in. From instant oatmeal to juice boxes how many food containers do you throw out in a day? Are they always necessary? TV dinners, pre-packaged lunches, individual cereal boxes are all convenient, but they create a lot of waste. Next time you go to the store check out your bulk food aisle. Things like rice, oatmeal, beans, granola, dried fruit, and nuts can usually be purchased in bulk. This is not only the route of less packaging and less waste, but bulk food is much less expensive. Also, stay away from food that is more packaging than actual product if possible.
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What Are Your Socks Made From?
What are your socks, shirts, pants, and underwear made out of — non-organic cotton or synthetic fabrics such as polyester, rayon, and nylon? If so then they are not eco-friendly. A simple thing such as buying only organic cotton, hemp, linen, wool, and bamboo clothing is a massive stride towards supporting green production and manufacturing while also staying away from harmful fibers that involve unnecessary pollution, excessive water use, or are made from petrochemicals. As an added bonus clothes made from natural fibers tend to be more durable; even if they cost more upfront they are likely to last longer.
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Paper Towels and Napkins
Every time you wipe up that mess on the kitchen counter, eat a meal, or even dry your hands it is so easy to grab a paper towel or napkin, do what you need to do, and throw it in the trash. The use of this product is easy, simple, and convenient, but it is not eco-friendly and it is not doing your pocket book any favors. Consider using organic cotton or hemp napkins and towels that can be washed when they are soiled and used for years. Less waste and you don't have to buy paper towels and napkins every week at the grocery store.
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Hamburger for Lunch
Food is one of the reasons that the carbon footprint of Americans is so astronomically large. Choosing the bean burrito or fried tofu for lunch instead of the hamburger or steak will help to reduce your carbon footprint. From the food that has to be grown to feed livestock, to the methane released by cattle and sheep, to the energy required to store and transport, choosing meat is not eco-friendly. Vegetarian sources of protein on the other hand are much more eco-efficient and healthier.
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Laundry Detergent, Fabric Softener, and Dryer Sheets
These three everyday products combined are a rich source of chemicals for you and the environment. You are then exposed to these toxins (neurotoxins, carcinogens, irritants) through the clothes that you wear, but they also enter the water and air when clothes are washed or commercial dryer sheets are thrown in the dryer. Using a homemade eco-friendly detergent or buying natural, plant-based brands next time you go to the store is a simple way to eliminate your chemical laundry contribution. If you enjoy the fragrances, try using natural essential oils instead of dryer sheets. Put three drops of your favorite oil on a washcloth and throw it in the dryer with your clothes. You can also add three drops of essential oil to the clothes washer.
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Kitchen Cleaning Supplies
From dishwashing liquid to your all-purpose kitchen cleaner commercial cleaning products are not environmentally friendly. Just like with laundry care, you can simply choose to buy green cleaning products such as Seventh Generation, or make your own using natural, non-toxic ingredients such as essential oils, baking soda, and vinegar.
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Ziplock bags are great for storing leftovers, half-used fruits and vegetables, or for carrying your peanut butter and jelly sandwich to work. They are easy to seal, easy to use, and easy to throw away. You also might pick up a plastic bag or two, or three, if you buy anything almost anywhere. What can be used instead of plastic baggies and bags which are made from petrochemicals and end up as the bane of the waste stream? When storing leftovers try to use glass containers. Yes, you'll have to wash them after use, but you can use them over and over again. Keep a small tote with you for purchases you may make on a daily basis and bring your reusable bags with you to the grocery store.
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You just cooked fish for dinner, your gym shoes could use a wash, and the dog needs a bath — is it time to spray a commercial air freshener? Air fresheners do not freshen the air, they pollute it! An easy and healthy eco-friendly solution for this product is essential oils. They are extracted from flowers, seeds, fruits, and bark. They have natural anti-bacterial properties, and they also promote mental well-being. Add four drops of your favorite oil, such as neroli and frankincense, to a spray bottle, add water, and use instead of a commercial air freshener.
Non environmentally friendly products are used everyday, and even the greenest may not be aware of one or two of these convenient, polluting, everyday items. They are readily-available, commercial, and we are used to them. Also, few people are aware of the negative impact that certain products may have. Go ahead — take a look at your daily habits and see if you can live a little greener.
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Organic Consumers <http://www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/dangersoap031504.cfm>
Eco Lights <http://www.eco-lights.com/facts.html#2>
The New York Times <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/06/business/worldbusiness/06iht-greencol07.4.6029437.html>
photo by Steve p2008 (CC/flickr)
photo by BC mom (CC/flickr)
photo by Lulumon Athletica (CC/flickr)