3 Easy Steps to Take Your Green Living to the Next Level

You've made a commitment, you've changed your purchasing habits, your cupboards have been emptied of toxic household and body care products, you've organized your waste into recyclables and trash—you are definitely 100 green miles ahead than where you were!

Now let's take it another hundred!

Phantom Energy

outlet bUnplugging your electronics may seem like a tedious task, but when you see the savings, you'll rethink this view. Even when turned off or on standby, electronics consume energy. Some estimates say that the "phantom energy" sucked by turned-off electronics accounts for 10 to 15% of your electric bill. Standby power is roughly estimated to be responsible for 1% of global CO2 emissions.

You may find it challenging to make a habit of unplugging, so leave yourself a note to find before bed. Do the rounds and unplug. You'll probably only need a few mornings of waiting around for your toast or coffee before you remember that the coffee maker and/or toaster aren't plugged in.

Biodegradable Packaging

In theory and in certain controlled environments, biodegradable packaging is a super idea, so we're grateful for those who are producing and selling it. In the past, however, we've been lulled into thinking that any biodegradable packaging is automatically going to disappear in a little over year. Not so. First of all, different materials have different time requirements for decomposition. Second of all, in order to decompose, oxygen is required—an aerobic environment. Once buried in a landfill, however, that packaging quickly loses access to oxygen—an anaerobic environment.

New approaches are being taken to ensure packaging will break down in either aerobic or anaerobic conditions. This packaging is still to arrive on your retailers' shelves in mass quantities. In the future, you'll be able to look for the ERPTM logo to ensure you have an Environmentally Responsible Product. Or you can always contact the manufacturer and ask about their packaging.

Nonbiodegradable Packaging

When you are buying groceries, avoid using plastic veggie bags. Ask yourself, "Do I really need a bag for three apples?"

If you opt to not use a bag, consider that some of your produce will be on the till counter before you take it home. Wash it thoroughly and/or soak it in a mild blend of water and food-grade hydrogen peroxide to avoid germs.

You can use mesh bags instead, if necessary. They can be found at eco-stores and/or health food stores. A light rinse of water and food-grade H202 is still a good idea.

plasticbag b-1But let's face it, no matter how hard we try, the nasty plastic makes it into our homes! Repurposing plastic bags is a bit of effort but well worth it in the big scheme of things. Use hot soapy water, even hydrogen peroxide again. Clean the inside and the outside. Dry the bag thoroughly—ideally in the hot sun, which is a natural sterilizer. Fold it neatly and wrap it with a twist tie or an elastic. It can be stored easily for home use or for shopping again.

Some grocery chains ban the reuse of veggie bags for liability reasons; they're worried you'll get sick from contaminants and sue them (of course, if you washed it properly, the chances are next to nothing, but they can't verify your cleaning practices).

You'll want to ensure that it's fine with your grocery story first—unless you're a first class rebel! ;-) Smaller natural food stores generally have less to say about this practice and may even understand how great it feels to pull out a clean plastic bag, which you brought from home, and fill it with bulk grains—or whatever it happens to be.

If they say "no," ask them to use biodegradable or recyclable veggie bags.

And be smart! Only wash and reuse bags that have been used for plant matter—not animal products.

What's the message in the bottle? Recycling takes a lot of energy—"avoid" first, "repurpose" second, and "recycle" last!

Let's keep our home healthy and beautiful!

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