From the basic to the less obvious, greening your lifestyle can save money, time, and maybe the planet.
Greening one’s lifestyle has recently become in vogue, but it’s not the sort of trend that can really be labeled a fad. The importance of the environment and the presence of global warming are only becoming more evident each day, and we are all forced to take a look at the rampant consumerism that has simply gotten out of control. It is practically impossible to be “eco-perfect,” but there are many easy ways to green one’s lifestyle — reducing, reusing, and recycling — and finding it inspiring, creative, and often money-saving!
There are a few easy things even the laziest folks can do to make a difference. Swap your incandescent bulbs for longer-lasting, money–and energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Keep your thermostat just a couple degrees cooler in the winter and a bit warmer in the summer to cut your energy consumption and lower your bills. Use a filter for your tap water and reuse your water bottle, which is also a big money saver. These tips can quickly become second nature.
There are so many simple ways to reduce the amount of “stuff” we use. Take paper, for instance: use both sides, put your printer on draft mode, and check out changethemargins.com and printgreener.com for more easy ways to save trees. Some stuff we get we don’t even want — like junk mail! Put a stop to as much as you can with free services like greendimes.com and catalogchoice.org.
One of the easiest things to reuse is shopping bags – the cotton totes are also more durable and easier to carry than paper or plastic. I like to keep one rolled up in the bottom of my handbag just in case. And it’s not too hard to find a free one either. Many retailers now offer them as shopping bags, special events offer them as gift bags, and even make-up counters have given them away with their bonus gifts.
Most parts of the city now offer streamlined recycling, which means you can put paper, glass, cans, and plastic all in the same bin. Recycling bins are available for free at several locations or you can just write “Recycling” on any trash receptacle, which should work just as well. And if your conscience isn’t enough to get you sorting, recycling is the law in Philadelphia. If you don’t recycle, you can be fined up to $300! For more information on how to recycle in your district, visit recyclingpays.phila.gov.
I’ll bet you a carbon offset that you can find the perfect armoire, roller skates, or lampshade faster on Craigslist.org than you can at Target. You’d be surprised what people are selling cheap — and even free! And if gratis is all you can handle right now, check out Freecycle.org for fabulous freebies and before you dump some possible treasures of your own. And when it comes time to stock your office, recycled paper and office supplies save tremendous amounts of trees and energy. Check out greenlinepaper.com for 100 percent recycled paper and more.
Buy New Smarter
Sorry Sex and the City, but the days of spending $500 on Manolos are over. The chicest wears are one-of-a-kind vintage from Buffalo Exchange and insanely cheap used designer suits from The Wardrobe Boutique. For various odds and ends, sprig.com helps you find endless products and tells you why they’re green, why they’re good, and where to get them! A map of earth-friendly businesses in your area also can be found on the Sundance Channel’s ecommunity Web site. If you need something that can’t be found close to home, shopping online can save serious fuel since you’re already on that UPS route.
Organic products are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, growth hormones, and other harmful additives. Organic food and products are good for the body, good for the environment, and good for the small-scale farmers and farm workers who produce them. Plus, organic producers tend to take special care to the environment when packaging and shipping, and buying locally saves on transportation energy and costs. Shops like Whole Foods and Essene do a great job of stocking locally produced products, but for the best homegrown bets, check out a local farmer’s market or join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where you can pick up or even have fresh produce delivered by a local farm — yes, even in Center City! Check out localharvest.org to find one near you. What you put on your body is as important as what you put in it, and there are fabulous organic skin and hair care products on the market that are literally good enough to eat! For a luxurious, organic pampering experience, try an organic salon and spa like juju salon & organics, where all the products used are all-natural, non-toxic, and organic.
Use a (Wo)Man-powered Engine
We know you need to ride that car sometimes, especially if you don’t live in the city. But when possible, a bicycle is a great way to burn calories without burning fuel and cab fare. And trust me, it’s true what they say — even if you haven’t rode since you were 11, it’s a cinch to get back on! And instead of trekking the Stairmaster, try something which only requires human energy, like yoga or Pilates — or just walk.
It can feel overwhelming to try to make the right environmental choices all the time, but just a few simple changes and arming yourself with a little bit of knowledge is enough to create a big difference.
***Paige Wolf is the owner of Paige Wolf Media & Public Relations, an environmentally-conscious public relations firm in Center City. She also writes the Philadelphia Eco-Living Examiner. For more information or to sign up for the Paige Turner e-newsletter, visit www.paigewolf.com.