green shopping

Greening the Holidays

Where did 2015 go? Your guess is as good as mine, but the holidays are, in fact, upon us and there are a few things we can do to be more eco-friendly over the next few weeks.

Decorating for the holidays is always a must and for those of you who love to put on a good light show, make sure you invest in LED lights. They’ll last much longer than traditional lights and they won’t cause your holiday electricity bills to be as sky high as usual. Because who doesn’t love to find savings this time of year? To maximize these savings, use a timer on the lights or simply put a reminder on your phone so you can unplug them before you go to bed each night.
When decorating inside the house, nix the streamers and balloons; items that can only be used once are highly wasteful. Opt for items like gourds, fruits, pinecones, soy or beeswax candles and glass or pottery votives and ornaments. They are lasting and, in my opinion, so much more beautiful and seasonal.
Now that your home looks holiday-ready, it’s time to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Many of you likely took advantage of those Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales and are done with the holiday shopping. Congratulations! You are not the terrible procrastinator that I am (sorry family and friends, I’ll get to it soon). If you are dilly-dallying like I am, follow these rules when you shop: bring your reusable bags and look for items that meet the criteria I laid out in my green shopping post back in July. Or, take a big family or friend trip instead of giving gifts – thank you to my sister-in-law-to-be for this great idea!
Once you’re ready to wrap the gifts, save your money and don’t buy wrapping paper. The wrapping paper will be used only once and it’ll immediately be thrown away. Yes, it’s pretty, but think about all the money- and waste-saving alternatives!
Look around your home for old newspapers, packing or kraft paper, and maps. Newspaper and maps make great already-decorated wrapping paper and you can always decorate plain kraft paper in whatever designs you like! Don’t be afraid to get creative! Fabric scraps is another great alternative; it may be a little more challenging to tack down (try fabric glue or a hot glue gun), but it’ll give your gifts an awesome texture and look!
You can always use junk mail as wrapping paper, too. More than likely, you currently have a lot of it because this is prime time junk mail season. We almost never look at it and, whether or not it’s used as wrapping paper, it ends up in the trash. If you’d rather use the previously mentioned items for wrapping your gifts, try to stop the junk mail deliveries immediately. As soon as you get mail from an unwanted store, find the 1-800 number on the back of the advertisement and request you be removed from the mailing list.
Last, but certainly not least, make sure your holiday eats are as sustainable as possible. We on the west coast are lucky and have access to farmers markets year round, but everyone can enjoy seasonal produce. This chart is a great resource for finding vegetables in season. Eating locally and seasonally is one of the best ways to cut down on emissions and be eco-friendly during the holidays. When it comes to storing your leftovers from the big feasts, use reusable storage containers like these or these; they’re great for freezing and are dishwasher safe! You can always have your guests bring their own reusable containers to take home any leftovers, too.
I hope you make this your greenest season yet. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
Do you have any other holiday-greening ideas?

Be a Green Shopper

I admit it. I love to shop. I shop less than a lot of people, but still more than I should, especially because I have everything that I need and more. I am pledging to not only shop less, but to shop green. If you want to make this pledge with me, read on!

How can you shop green?

First, you must ask yourself a series of questions before even considering a purchase. The EPA outlines four very important ones:
Photo Source: Above All Things...
  • Do I absolutely need it?
  • Will I use it (more than once or twice)?
  • Do I already have it or something similar?
  • Can I borrow it from a friend or family member?
Make sure you answer yes to the first two and no to the last two before buying. The entire process from manufacturing and producing foods and goods to transporting and discarding them makes up about 42% of the greenhouse gas emissions in this country. So be extra sure that item you’re buying is worth it!

Don’t invest in something you only use once or twice a year. If you live in apartments, borrow a carpet washer from a friend, or a grocery store or hardware store in your area. If you find a hole in your sweater or a button on your shirt broke, mend it yourself or, if you’re not so good with a needle and thread, have someone who is mend it for you.

Photo Source:
Energy Star
Do some research about the products you want to buy and the companies that make them. All of us can identify the Energy Star label on a refrigerator or computer, but what about all the other products that don’t have environmental labels? Check out the EPA’s Greener Products page and Green America’s Responsible Shopper page. You can search by company name, industry or product. Looking for safe cosmetics or other personal care items? The Environmental Working Group created Skin Deep, a site that identifies toxicity in personal care products and provides healthier, safer choices and manufacturers.

Once you figure out how durable, recyclable, reusable, and sustainable a product is, you can make a more informed and green decision. If you’re looking at products like lotion, bathroom cleaner, sponges, etc., find out if it’s both more cost effective and more eco-friendly to buy in bulk. If you need to buy disposable items – silverware and plates for your food truck, for example – look for compostable products.

When you can, support local businesses. Not only will this strengthen the local economy, but you'll save transportation- and packaging-related emissions and waste when you buy local. Plus, you may meet some really great people and entrepreneurs in your town!

Finally, if you’re looking to save a bunch of money and be green, head to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. There are certainly items I would avoid or cannot be found in these stores, but if you're looking for fun mismatched china, clothes or even furniture, second-hand stores are always worth a peak around.

 And, of course, don’t forget your reusable shopping bag!