Over the past decade many corporate companies have tried to change their images by going green with many of their popular products. Citric acid as taken the place of bleach in toilet bowl cleaners and soy ink has become a replacement for lead based paints in toys. So how can the average family change their ways and live greener lives? Simple, by being aware of all the alternative products that are available and following through at the checkout by supporting products that affirm your decision to live a greener healthier life.
• Toys - Every parent hears about product recalls. In 2007 manufacturers in China had painted thousands of toys with paint containing toxic levels lead. In the wake of those massive recalls small companies like beyondlearning.com began a new way of thinking and began manufacturing board games printed without chemicals like lead based paints and petroleum based inks. Instead they use soy ink and the games are laminated with phthalate-free materials. Similarly, the peacefulcompany.com offers organic plush animal toys guaranteed to be made from pesticide-free organic cotton.
• Bags, Bags and More Bags - Between the garbage bags, the doggie duty bags, and shopping bags US consumers use approximately 60,000 bags every 5 seconds, according to Sierra Club. Is there is a greener alternative to just about any bag issue? Yes. Instead of entombing your garbage to be preserved in a landfill, why not use bio-degradable doggie bags, trash bags and yard waste bags? They are available through multiple retailers including Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart from $6 to $14 for a pack of 100 bags. Reusable grocery bags are widely available at most stores such as Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Safeway as retailers often sell them at the checkout for about $1 each.
• Flashlights without batteries? - Ever opened up that old flashlight to find a mass of ancient leaking batteries? Now you can be ready for the next power outage or car breakdown with a flashlight that will never run out of energy and you won’t have to worry where you can recycle the mercury filled devices. Hand cranked flashlights are widely available at retailers such as Target and for around $15 you can have a hand cranked LED flashlight comes in a range of styles some with optional AM/FM tuner or a cell phone charger. But be careful when purchasing; some of the cheaper models only stay lit for just a few minutes while the more expensive ones will last for 20 minutes or so from each hand-cranking.
• Fluorescent Bulbs - It is really the little things that count, like how you choose to light your home. Fluorescent bulbs can last for years and use less energy than traditional bulbs. The savings could add up to hundreds on your annual electricity costs. Be aware to take care when disposing of the bulbs; they contain mercury and should be recycled properly just like old batteries.
• Shop Locally – If you want green there is no better place to go than the local farmers market. The average US meal travels more than 1300 miles and according to the USDA the amount of imported produce has more than tripled since 1990. Transporting produce over such a great distance requires it be harvested unripe then treated with ripening agents and preservatives to prepare for the long shipment not to mention the fossil fuels that are burned during the trip. The cities of Sacramento and Davis have weekly farmers markets in the spring and summer and grocers like the Yolo Fruit Stand (Hwy 80) offer local produce year-round. In my Rancho Cordova neighborhood, we have a farmers market every Saturday and Sunday on the corner of Sunrise and Folsom from 8 am to Noon, rain or shine.
• Donations for Christmas – I love the holiday season but not necessarily all the commercialism that goes with it; the last thing I need is another holiday ornament or a sweater with a reindeer painted on. Those gifts end up in the yard sale, Goodwill or worse; the trash. It was my sister who took me seriously when I said I didn’t need anything for Christmas, so she decided instead to make a donation in my name to a charity of my choice. She also purchased and donated toys for a children’s charity in her neighborhood. When Christmas came I received a certificate she designed informing me about the good work done in my name. That is what giving is all about.
Living greener is not a passing fad. It is important to the Earth we call home and the future we are creating for our children and our children’s children. We can all make a difference in our own ways; most importantly by teaching our children how to live greener; and by voting with every purchase we also send a message to companies about what is important to families and consumers.