There is no question that the world has become a more eco-conscious place. Green is hip, chic and mainstream—and going green is not just about the planet. As it turns out, what is bad for the planet is bad for us, too. So much of the food we eat and the vast majority of the products we use every day are ridden with toxic chemicals that can cause both short- and long-term problems—everything from skin irritations to cancer. It’s our health and the health of our children that’s on the line. With the biggest shopping season coming up, now is the perfect time to get into the green groove and think about the impact you can make in changing the way you shop.
For guidance, we consulted with green lifestyles expert Laura Meyer, who is our founder and CEO. In addition to being a respected expert and published author, Laura has a very personal story about going green. Laura’s twin sons had respiratory problems and multiple hospitalizations as babies/toddlers and only got better after she eliminated the toxic chemicals in her home from things like cleaning products and solvents used by carpet cleaners. Laura has devoted herself to the world of green retail in the hopes that the world will become a healthier place one green purchase at a time. Here are her top 10 eco-shopping tips:
1. Eat Organic Foods
Go organic; it’s healthier. With conventional produce, meats and poultry, the washing process does not generally remove the toxic pesticides used to grow fruit and vegetables, and animals are fed grain laced with pesticides and often given steroids and antibiotics. These are things none of us should be eating!
2. Clean Green
Most conventional cleaning products are petroleum-based and contain toxic, unhealthful ingredients such as chlorine bleach, ammonia and synthetic fragrances, which are carcinogenic and/or potential hormone disruptors. Here’s a fact: If every household in the U.S. replaced just one bottle of petroleum-based cleaner with plant-based products, we could save thousands of barrels of oil—enough to heat and cool hundreds of U.S. homes per year.
3. Abandon Aerosol Sprays and Traditional Air Fresheners
Aerosol sprays contain propellants—not something you want to be breathing. Traditional air fresheners are also petroleum-based and release harmful chemicals into the air no matter how good you may think they smell. If you like to use store-bought air fresheners, turn to alternatives that are plant-based.
4. Beware of Ingredients in Skincare/Personal Care Products
When buying skincare products, be familiar with some important buzzwords. Avoid using products that are made with mineral oils, parabens, phthalates and other synthetic petrochemical derivatives, which can be carcinogenic and/or cause hormone disruption. It’s best to go organic.
5. Don’t Be Fooled by the Word Natural
The word natural is not a regulated term. Products claiming to be natural or touting natural ingredients or scents often contain only a few natural ingredients that are buried in a long list of synthetic chemicals. Instead, there is no doubt that to be a green shopper, one has to be educated and learn to read the labels.
6. Buy Organic Cotton or Alternative Textiles
Conventional cotton accounts for 25 percent of all pesticides used in the world. For every T-shirt made of conventional cotton, one-quarter pound of harmful chemicals is used. Now think of an entire bedding set! Other sustainable materials that are wonderful alternatives to cotton and synthetic man-made fabrics are bamboo and hemp. Contrary to popular misconceptions, these fabrics can feel every bit as luxurious and soft as cotton.
7. Don’t Dry-Clean, or Turn to Green Alternatives
The traditional dry-cleaning process involves the use of very toxic chemicals. There are alternative dry-cleaning companies emerging all over the country. The Environmental Protection Agency has a state-by-state list of green dry cleaners. The dry-cleaning business also uses a ton of those plastic bags in which you get back your garments. You can shop for reusable dry-cleaning bags, give them to your cleaner and tell them you want your clothes back in them. No plastic, please!
8. Buy Recycled Materials
Manufacturers of all kinds of things, from clothing to carpeting and furniture, are using recycled and salvaged materials in innovative ways. For example, you can buy green carpeting that is made out of used soda bottles.
9. Save the Trees with Rapidly Renewable Alternatives
One of the biggest threats to our environment is from the clear-cutting of forests for wood products. There are now wonderful alternatives such as furniture and wood flooring made from sustainable bamboo, paper made from agricultural waste and pencils made from recycled newspapers.
10. Don’t Get Overwhelmed
There is a lot of information out there and it can be overwhelming. None of us can do everything, and realistically, it’s almost impossible to live green in every facet of our lives. Even in my house, my husband brings home the processed junk food for the kids from time to time and sometimes I just have to let it go! Make the changes that make sense for your life and know that you will be making a difference!