Monday, May 11, 2009

"Going Green" Keeps You "In the Black"

My daughter, Halima, has recently inspired me to be more environmentally responsible. When I was growing up, the "Don't Mess With Texas" and "Adopt a Highway/Park" campaigns were a big deal and made quite an impact on my attitudes about about pollution. To this day, I still don't litter and I can't stand it when others do. But, my daughter has taken this ideal to a whole other level.

During Earth Week 2009, we made some minor changes that have greatly impacted the way we live. Maybe you, too, will be inspired to do your part in saving our planet. Here is the list:

1) Set up a recycling station. In our garage, we simply took 4 plastic storage bins with lids and labeled them. In the house, we keep a reusable shopping bag on a doorknob in the kitchen for sortation. It is amazing to see how much paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum/cans can be discarded every week. We have started looking for ways to cut down on the amount of waste. This is doing great things for the grocery bill and inspires some creativity. Empty glass jars have become vases and plastic detergent containers and 1-gallon milk jugs are used as watering cans. My daughter even took the scraps she saved from an art project and made a Mother's Day gift for me. Priceless.

2) Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. I know. I know. The bulbs are pricey, but they last longer than the basic 60 or 100 watt bulbs. Just gradually replace the old bulbs as they burn out. In the long run, the money you save on utility bills and grocery bills will be well worth the investment. Oh, and don't leave lights on and water faucets running when they are not being used for a specific purpose.

3) Plant a tree. One of the best things that you can do to improve the air that you breathe is to plant a tree, a flower, or a vegetable/herb garden. The benefits are endless. First of all, the exercise and "fresh" air (depending on where you live--smile) are great for your overall health and wellness. Trees remove toxic gases from the air and provide oxygen which is critical for all living things. Flowers are beautiful and inviting. If you want to improve your community's curb appeal, start working on your yard. (Believe me--no one wants to be the worst-looking house on the block!) And lastly, plant an organic vegetable garden. Not only will you trim your food budget, but you will also improve your diet with fresh fruits and vegetables--pesticide-free! This should lead to fewer doctor visits and fewer days lost from school/work.

4) Use reusable shopping bags. These bags can be purchased at your local grocery store for about $1.00 each and help cut down on the amount of plastic that is used. (I often forget to take mine with me, so I'll just keep some in the car going forward.) When you have the option, opt for paper bags over plastic. Also, recycle the plastic bags that you already have as trash can liners or drop them off in the recycle bin at the store.

5) Donate unused items. It is true that one man's trash is another man's treasure. There are many people who would put old toys and clothing to good use. Charity is an act of kindness and a great lesson to share with your children.

6) Park the car. Take a walk or ride your bike for short trips. When shopping, choose a parking space farther away from the building. Why burn gas unnecessarily and add more exhaust fumes to the air when you could burn a few extra calories? And don't get me started on fuel prices...

7) Support your local food co-op. The best produce that you could eat is locally-grown, organic fruits and vegetables. These farmers work hard to ensure the highest quality without pesticides and/or chemical additives. A great advantage is the low cost of shipping, which adds up to huge savings for you. I recommend The Third Day Organic Produce and Natural Meat Coop. Contact Vanesa Clark at To find your local co-op, check out:

8) Go chemical-free. Use more cleaning products and detergents that contain natural ingredients. This will cut down on the toxins in your home and improve your family's health. Search the internet to find instructions on how to create your own cleaning products from items in your pantry. Here is a link to get you started:

Going green can improve your quality of life in many ways. Health, vitality, and longevity are within reach. You can make your community a better place to live. In fact, doing so is both our individual and collective responsibility. Remember: If everybody does a little, then no one has to do a lot! Get started today!

Be good to yourself! More next time...

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