It seems a little ironic that the green trend has been deliberately misinterpreted by marketers to get you to buy more stuff.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to greener alternatives of things you already use and need to replace. Buying organic strawberries instead of conventional ones may not do any favors for your wallet, but it will mean that fewer chemicals go into a small patch of Earth — and into you. Buying non-petroleum based cleaning agents — fine. (But if you want to take it a step further, go for baking soda in its elegantly minimalistic, biodegradable orange cardboard box.) A canvas bag? Great, if it makes you think twice about taking plastic bags.
I might even get away with my stylish aluminum Sigg bottle because in the year that I’ve had it, I’ve completely stopped buying bottled water.
But overall, being green should not primarily be about buying new things. Remember the whole ‘reuse, reduce, recycle’ thing? It’s about lifestyle, not trendiness. It’s better not to buy those designer organic cotton cargo pants when you have many perfectly serviceable pairs of cargos — albeit not organic — in your closet. In other words, being green is about reducing consumption, not about shopping the green trend.
Unfortunately, consuming less seems to be a lot harder than shopping for ‘green’ products. How do we even move towards more eco-friendly lifestyles?
It seems to go back to the three Rs.
- Take shorter showers to cut back on your water usage.
- Bring cloth bags to the supermarket. Resist the temptation to use plastic bags for produce! Your apples and oranges can coexist in a cloth bag until you get them home. It’s OK if the lettuce makes the bag a little damp.
- Don’t buy what you already have and don’t need. (This is one I need to work on.)
- Look for things with minimal packaging. Manufacturing consumes incredible amounts of energy and resources, and for what? So you can have a little plastic bubble and square of cardboard around your lipgloss.
- Turn off power at the switch or go solar.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by buying locally grown and made goods.
- Buy used: used books, used clothing, used cars — not only does it help your bottom line, if enough people did it, fewer new goods would be produced.
- Washable is generally better than disposable. Just be conscious of how much water you’re using to clean them, especially if your state is in a drought.
- Join Freecycle and you can get other people to take your useless junk away and get useful things you need — for free — from other people.
- OK, this one should sound pretty familiar by now. Glass, paper, plastics go straight in the big blue bin.
- Keep an eye out for electronic recycling events in your community. The Boy Scouts who hosted one near me actually seemed grateful for my outdated electronic junk. Check to make sure that the e-waste really will be recycled, not shipped to a third world country.
And no, I don’t do all these things. To prove it, I have a regrettable new tube of lipgloss (that came in a cardboard box) that I bought yesterday when I was having a bad day. It contains petroleum. (But it was chocolate peppermint flavored…) I won’t swear it’ll be the last, but I will try to find greener coping mechanisms than buying lipgloss.