Whether you are interested in reducing your carbon footprint, re-using materials to save money, or just filling up the municipal recycling bin, many folks, particularly in somewhat urban areas, have a lot of options to help the environment. In the last couple of years, environmentalism has gotten incredibly trendy, and everyone and their brother is hopping on the bandwagon. This is not entirely a bad thing, but Modesto natives have hopefully not fallen into the trap of these useless stabs at sustainability.
Brushing your teeth in the shower. The average shower uses between 20-50 gallons of water over the course of about 10 minutes. Simply turning the faucet off while you brush will take your water usage down to a few ounces while you take care of your dental health. Brushing your pearly whites in the shower for the recommended minute will take about 3 gallons.
Buying bamboo fabrics. Bamboo is a fast-growing crop that can be harvested nearly endlessly. Many of the materials made from bamboo are sustainably grown, harvested, and processed. Fabric, however, due to the amount of chemicals necessary to break down the long fibers, is just as destructive to the environment as Rayon, including damage to the water table. Also, there is little regulation of worker safety in many of the countries where bamboo fabrics are produced, so that coat or tablecloth is harmful to more than just your wallet.
Shopping in the organic aisle in the supermarket. This isn't so much worthless as it is misguided. Especially in the central valley, making conscious dietary choices is always a good thing. However, if you value your air quality, ask your supermarket manager where the materials come from. There are very few organic farms and ranches in the central valley, so most of what you see on the shelves has been shipped from quite a distance. If you're worried about the quality and origin of your food, shop at the farmer's markets or sign up for a food co-op. Talk directly to the grower. For the rest of your shopping list, a few minutes checking with the manager should let you know which brands have nearby sources.