I am a member of an organization called Green America (formerly Co-Op America). They have a wealth of resources for going green, including some handy lists, like “Things you should always buy green” and printable wallet-sized tip sheets I carry in my purse like the “Safe Seafood Wallet list” and “What to buy organic”.
Another list they created is called “Ten things you should never buy again”.
As I mentioned in a previous post, now that I’m older (and a little bit wiser) I don’t like the word never much anymore. It’s just a bit unrealistic. I do like this list though and I wanted to pass it along – but I am going to call it “ten things you should try really hard to not buy again”.
On that list are the following:
Styrofoam cups – After my kids and I participated in a couple of beach cleanups, I couldn’t agree more with this one. There was Styrofoam everywhere. Small pieces, large pieces, and everything in between. It was never-ending. It was also disgusting. My kids and I pledged right then and there to never use Styrofoam again. Since then, with a couple exceptions, we have managed to do it.
How to: Avoid the dreaded #6 plastic (polystyrene) by eating less fast food and not taking home leftovers. Admit it, they sit in your fridge for a few days anyway and then you toss them – but if you really can’t stand to waste food, order less or bring your own containers with you. You can also easily avoid Styrofoam coffee cups by bringing your own travel mug. Coffee tastes better, stays hotter, and you get a discount at most coffee places by bringing your own.
Paper towels – I would say just use sparingly. I do have a roll next to my sink – it’s made from recycled paper and it sits on the counter for months. Paper towels come in handy occasionally, but for the most part, we almost never need them.
How to: I recommend Skoy cloths – they are awesome. This sponge/towel hybrid lasts forever and virtually eliminates the need for paper towels. Also, I have a drawer in the kitchen where I keep a bunch of old, clean wash cloths. Any time the kids need to wipe their hands or wipe up a quick spill, they grab one of those and then toss in the hamper. It’s super easy and saves money too.
Chemical pesticides and conventional household cleaners – Few items expose your family to more toxicants than this category. Not only is it better for the environment, it’s much better for your health and the health of your family to steer clear traditional chemical-based cleaners.
How to: You can use items like baking soda and peroxide that you already have at home to clean your house. You can also ward of pests with ingredients like borax, lemon and peppermint. If you would rather buy than make your own, there are hundreds of eco-friendly cleaners and pesticides on the market that do the job without exposing your family to harsh chemicals.
Toys made with PVC plastic – I’ve written about the dangers of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), commonly called “vinyl” before. It is used in commercial plastic wraps and salad dressing bottles, shower curtains, and also (amazingly) kids toys, backpacks, lunch bags, and binders. PVC contains phthalates (softeners needed to make the plastic bend) and they have been found to interfere with hormonal development. The production of and burning of PVC plastic releases dioxin, a known carcinogen, into the atmosphere. It’s bad for our health and bad for the environment.
How to: To avoid PVC in school supplies, check out the Center for Health Environment and Justice’s (CHEJ) Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies, which lists the most common back-to-school supplies made out of toxic PVC and suggests safer PVC-free products in over 20 product categories.
Other items on the “try really hard not to buy again” list include:
Bleached coffee filters
Over packaged foods and other products
Teak and mahogany
Higher octane gas than you need
Plastic forks and spoons
I like this list because not only is it easy, avoiding these products can have a big impact on the health of your family and the environment. Check out the full list and some additional recommendations here.
To find alternatives to these products and lots of other eco-friendly options that are not on this list, please visit my website, BuyGreen.com, a company that is Green America certified as "approved for people and planet". You can also follow me on Twitter @buygreen and @ocgreenmama or fan us on Facebook.