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Five easy ways to be greener in 2011

Reflecting on being greener

Preserve our beautiful planet by adopting a green lifestyle

Here we are one month into 2011; have you kept your New Year’s resolutions?

Here’s an easy way to keep a resolution to yourself and to the planet with my
five (5) easy ways to be greener and I’m not talking about giving up your car. They’re what I consider the basics for green living and you’ll even save money.

  1. Reduce your waste – I’m not talking about recycling, I’m talking about reducing the need for a product to be disposed of in the first place, i.e. not consumed. For example, choose bar soap, over liquid soap (eliminate the plastic bottle), choose filtered water from home (transported in stainless steel containers) instead of bottled water or choose unpackaged fruits and veggies at the grocery store. Simple gestures like these add up and equal a lot less waste in our landfills.
  2. Upgrade to environmentally-friendly cleaning products – Finish up the current ones you have but replace them one-by-one with green cleaning products. These days, there are tons of brands available that are high-performing, grease-cutting, non-toxic and biodegradable so there’s no excuse not to use them. If you wouldn’t pour your conventional cleaning soaps into a lake when camping, why is it ok in the city? It ends up in our lakes and oceans anyways and slowly degrades aquatic life. Upgrade your dishwashing liquid, dishwasher soap, laundry detergent, all purpose spray (citrasolv is great) and use vinegar for windows and hardwood floors.
  3. Start composting – Composting is the best thing I have done in a long time. I have reduced my waste by 70%. Lots of alternatives exist from buying a composter for the backyard to municipal pick-ups. Call your city to see what your options are.
  4. Bring your lunch to work – So much of the daily waste we throw away is directly related to our food. Instead of throwing out plastic or Styrofoam containers from your lunch, plan your weekly meals out Sunday night and bring the leftovers to work in “glass” Tupperware. Important to use glass as it doesn’t leach pthalates (hormones disruptor’s found in plastics). And for those days when you didn’t prepare anything the night before, keep a Tupperware container in your drawer at work to take to your nearest café/restaurant so at least there’s no waste. No joke, I actually do this!
  5. Participate in Meatless Mondays – Reducing your meat consumption 1 day a week is a great  way to lower your eco-footprint. Consider this, you will save more water by not eating a pound of beef, than by not showering for 6 months! Regular meat eaters who cut out meat one day a week reduce their carbon footprint by 28.5% and according to Nancy Callan, a board member of Earthsave, “More greenhouse gasses can be prevented by going meatless one day a week than by eating locally seven days a week.” Pledge to reduce your meat consumption by participating in Meatless Monday USA or Meatless Monday Canada and see how good (and less bloated) you will feel!

How to start your green life

The very first thing you can do to make a noticeable impact on the environment is to “green” your home.  Let’s start by examining the products you use to clean your house. Are you aware of how much you are contributing to water pollution, air pollution and waste by buying all these grocery store chemical cleaners, not to mention the toxic effect they have on your body? Let’s face it, if you went camping, you wouldn’t dump a bottle of Windex into the lake nor wash your clothes in it with Tide so why do we feel less guilty when we do it at home?  Yes, our wasted water goes though treatment but it still ends up in our waterways and all that chemical laden gunk that’s extracted from it doesn’t just disappear. The toxic fumes from these cleaners go into our air, irritate our eyes and respiratory systems (asthma, allergies). I know many people who can’t even wash their house without going through a box a kleenex because their nose drips the entire time.  And let’s open that can of worms when it comes to the serious carcinogenic ingredients like coal-tar, Quarternium 15 (which releases formaldehyde), synthetic dyes and perfumes that are left behind our or dishes, skin, floors, walls and windows when cleaning. What really bugs me are all these manufacturers who keep coming out with new and improved products (what because they didn’t work before?) which are mostly petroleum based (more reasons to be in Iraq), contain toxic ingredients that are non-renewable, non-biodegradable and seriously harmful to our bodies plus they contribute to more waste through packaging.  How these ingredients pass Health Canada and the FDA are beyond me even when they have proof that they are carcinogenic.  If they are passed it’s usually because they do short-term tests.  I mean a big manufacturer doesn’t have 15 years to spend testing a new “grease fighting” ingredient when they want to sell it now, so the effects of them on our bodies in the long term are unknown and synergistic tests (how it reacts with other products or ingredients) aren’t even mandatory. So how are we supposed to know the “real” effect of when it will be in people’s homes? Seriously, if these products are toxic for the environment and potentially dangerous for our bodies, then this begs the question, why are we using them when there are natural alternatives that in my opinion are far more effective?  And for all the pet lovers out there, don’t for one moment think that cosmetics are the only things tested on animals, cleaning products go through just as many tests as cosmetics.  No company is more plagued with animal testing scandals than Procter and Gamble, who for example, tested the toxicity levels of their Tide-tablets by force feeding them to beagles. So, I don’t know about you but when I hear that ingredients like Quarternium 15 which release formaldehyde in my dish soap may be carcinogenic, I don’t need to read 300 articles stating it may or may not be dangerous.  I think I have enough common sense to realise that I am just cleaning tomato sauce off my sauce pan…I can do without the dead body preservative when washing my dishes and use a vegetable-based, grapefruit smelling one instead, thank you very much. So what’s the solution? Simple!  First of all, get rid of the notion that you need such a wide range of cleaning products. Most were created through marketing initiatives to increase sales by slightly altering the products and adding a different scent.  Second, you can use green brands that are vegetable based, non-toxic, biodegradable, cruelty-free and usually made with recyclable packaging. So what about the effectiveness you ask? Very good!  citrasolvI use Citra-solv as an all purpose spray made from orange oils so its breaks through grease, dried up tomato sauce and leaves a pleasant smelling scent. Best of all it’s concentrated – 1 bottle can be diluted to make 10 spray bottles, so you reduce packaging and save money. For dishes I use Nature-Clean brand products but there are tons of other green brands available on the market. This brand for example has a complete line of cleaning products that can be found in the natural sections of major grocery stores, health food stores or online. Third, you can make your own cleaning products with ingredients you probably already have in your home like vinegar (perfect for hardwood floors and washing windows), baking soda, (abrasive for stains, declogs sinks), lemon juice (degreaser), hydrogen peroxide (natural disinfectant or bleaching agent) and borax (anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and bleaching agent). I admit, I haven’t yet made the leap to making my own cleaning products but I can’t wait to try them out. In one of my next posts I will do a complete article on making your own cleaners, their effectiveness and how easy it is to find the products.  None the less, I enjoy shopping for natural cleaners and love trying new brands and you will too. There’s nothing not to like! A recent 5-year EPA study found the concentration of 20 toxic compounds to be as much as 200 times higher inside homes than outdoors. Green Seal’s Choose Green Report, March 1998