Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

10 Ways to SHIFT $300 Billion for the Planet:
For Earth Day, Green America
Urges Americans to Take
“the Green Economy Challenge”

Tips provided to Americans to shift 10 percent of their spending to green. Also Available: Thousands of Green and Local Options at www.GreenPages.org.

April 7, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC — Green America today called on all Americans to take “The Green Economy Challenge” to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day. 

The Green Economy Challenge asks all American households to shift 10 percent of their current spending to green purchases. American households spend approximately $3 trillion per year on expenditures that could easily be greened.  If Americans directed just one tenth of these expenditures to purchasing from a green or local business, it would steer $300 billion towards more sustainable consumption.

“Going green saves money, creates jobs, and supports local communities.  Green is the new red, white and blue," said Green America Executive Director Alisa Gravitz.  "One thing all Americans can do to help the environment on Earth Day and everyday is to direct their money towards greener purchases.”

Gravitz said: “By ‘green’ we mean products that are good for both people and the planet. Shifting purchases to green is often surprisingly easy to do, and what may also surprise people is that buying green often saves money, which is on the minds of so many households during the recession. Going green saves money, creates jobs, and supports local communities.”   

10 TIPS FOR GOING GREEN

1. Borrow, Trade or Buy Used:  The greenest thing consumers can do is to not buy new things at all.  You can find books, cds and movies (including the latest bestsellers) for free at the local library.  People across the country are setting up clothing swaps to give away old clothes and get “new” ones in return.  Online services like Craigslist, Freecycle and Ebay make it easy to find quality used goods locally and nationally, including first-rate used furniture that is often higher quality than new.  Green America has more resources available at: http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/
shopunshop/unshopping/getandgive.cfm

2. Grow Your Own Food:  When you plant your own garden you can ensure that your food is organic and healthy, and since there is no transportation involved, there are no climate change emissions.  You’ll also save money and you can spend time with family in the garden. A recent National Gardening Association study found that the average family spends $70 a year on maintaining a vegetable garden, and grows about $600 worth of produce. When you sit down to eat your harvest, pour some delicious Fair Trade or organic wine or beer to go along with it. When you do shop for food, look for local, organic and Fair Trade Certified™ products.  If you can’t find them, ask your supermarket to stock them.  Green America has more resources available at
http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/
climate/facts/food.cfm

3. Green Your Energy at Home: Start with energy efficiency: using less energy is the best way to green your power consumption – and enjoy big savings. There are many simple actions you can take.

  • Switch your incandescent lightbulbs to energy-saving compact fluorescents (CFLs) or LEDs: both save energy and money. If each home in America replaced one bulb with an Energy Star CFL, it would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from 800,000 cars. Also, make sure to turn off lights you are not using.
  • Air dry your clothes instead of using a dryer: it’s better for the planet and your clothes. http://www.greenamerica.org/livinggreen/dryer.cfm
  • Unplug toasters, televisions and small appliances that draw electricity even when they’re turned off, or use a smart power strip to fully cut electricity to appliances you turn off. 
  • Get a home energy audit to find ways to use energy more efficiently and save money.
  • Once you’ve reduced your energy usage, green the energy you use by adding solar power or wind power to your home.  Federal and state tax rebates make it affordable to add green power to your home, and in many places, you can sell power back to the utility.

Green America has more resources available at: http://www.greenamerica.org/pdf/CAQ75.pdf 

4. Give Your Car a Break: If only 1 percent of car owners in the US did not drive for one day a week, we would save an estimated 42 million gallons of gas per year and keep 840 million pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere.  Less driving means savings on gas, and less wear and tear – and you can qualify for lower auto insurance rates.  Instead of driving to do errands, consider walking or riding a bike, both of which are great exercise. Green America has more resources available at:
http://www.greenamerica.org/pubs/greenamerican/
articles/Fall2009/worksheet.cfm

5. Buy Used, Organic, or Sweat-free Clothes: Many clothes are made from cotton treated with pesticides, dyed in harsh chemicals, and then assembled in sweatshops.  Cotton accounts for more than 10 percent of the world's pesticide use and nearly 25 percent of the world's insecticide use. Instead of buying clothes at the mall, you can buy stylish clothes at thrift and resale shops, and purchase new clothes that are sweatshop-free, organic, and/or Fair Trade. Plus, if you buy natural fibers, you can save on dry cleaning. The typical dry cleaning bill for a dress or suit is three times more than the cost of the garment – and you avoid exposure to toxic dry cleaning chemicals.  Green America has more resources available at:
http://www.greenamerica.org/livinggreen/nosweatshops.cfm 

6. Buy Organic and Fair Trade Personal Care Products: Make-up and body care products have been linked to allergic reactions, birth defects, and even cancer.  In addition, many products contain oils and extracts that are harvested and produced in a way that harms the environment and exploits workers.  Look for organic and Fair Trade body care products instead.  Green America has more resources available at:
http://www.greenamerica.org/
livinggreen/cosmetics.cfm

7. Buy Green Home Products: Household cleaners, paints and stains, furniture, carpets, and many other items contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and eye irritants.  Instead, make your own cleaners from safe, household ingredients or purchase green cleaning products. You can also purchase no-VOC carpets, paints and stains, and furniture.  Green America has more resources available at: http://www.greenamerica.org/pubs/greenamerican/
articles/spring2008/HealYourHome.cfm

8. Support Local Green Businesses:  Spending money at locally owned businesses keeps more money in your community, with some research demonstrating over three times as much money staying in the community, and a growing number of local businesses are going green. Instead of chains, eat out at locally-owned restaurants (a growing number of which are sourcing local and organic meats and produce).  Purchase foods, books, clothes and furnishings at locally-owned stores and co-ops. Support local musicians and artists at locally owned performance spaces in your town.  Green America can help you find local green businesses at www.greenpages.org, which has a zipcode search.

9. With the Money You Save, Invest in a Greener Future:  A growing number of Americans are investing for their future; while doing so, they can also invest in a better future for the planet. You can invest in socially responsible mutual funds that earn competitive returns and promote corporate responsibility.  You can also put your savings into community development banks and credit unions that invest in jobs, housing and social services in local communities.  Green America has more resources available at: http://www.greenamerica.org/socialinvesting/

10. Turn to Green America’s National Green Pages ™ to get started.  Start greening your purchases everyday by using the National Green Pages™ (www.greenpages.org), the largest listing of business in the US screened for their social and environmental responsibility.  The National Green Pages™ has thousands of green products and services, including:

  • Seeds and organic gardening supplies
  • Organic and Fair Trade chocolates, coffee, rice and spices
  • Energy-saving lightbulbs and smart power strips
  • Sustainably produced clothes drying racks
  • Energy audit firms
  • Solar and wind power sales and installations
  • Bicycles and electric bicycles
  • Green roadside assistance for bicycles and cars
  • Organic, sweatfree, and Fair Trade clothes for women, men and kids
  • Organic and Fair Trade body care products
  • Green cleaners
  • Green paints and stains
  • Sustainably-produced furniture and carpets
  • Green restaurants and coffee shops
  • Local zip code finder – find green businesses near you
  • Socially responsible mutual funds
  • Community development banks and credit unions
  • Socially responsible financial planners.

BACKGROUND: MONEY US HOUSEHOLDS COULD DIRECT TO GREEN

Green America determined how much money Americans households could direct to green spending by first using US Department of Labor statistics from 2009 to determine how much the average US household spends on various purchases.  Green America then determined which of these purchases could be wholly or partly “greened” in the short term (in the long term all purchases can be greened), as detailed in the chart below:

Item

Amount

Percentage

Easily Greened?

Food at Home

$3,465

7%

Yes

Food Away From Home

$2,668

5.40%

Yes

Alcoholic beverage

$457

0.90%

Yes

Insurance

$5,027

10.80%

No

Education

$945

1.90%

Yes

Apparel

$1,881

3.80%

Yes

Personal Care

$588

1.20%

Yes

Healthcare

$2,853

5.70%

No

Miscellaneous

$808

1.60%

Yes

Household Furnishings

$1,797

3.60%

Yes

Housekeeping supplies

$639

1.30%

Yes

Household operations

$984

2%

Yes

Utilities, fuels, public services

$3,477

7%

Yes

Shelter

$10,023

20.20%

No

Tobacco

$323

0.70%

No

Transportation

$8,758

17.60%

Some

Reading

$118

0.20%

Yes

Cash Contributions

$1,821

3.70%

Yes

Entertainment

$2,698

5.40%

Yes

Total

$49,330

100%

Green America determined that the amount of expenditures available to be easily greened for the average household is $25,324, representing 51 percent of total expenditures. If, on average, the average American household “greened” ten percent of the expenditures that can easily be greened, it would account for $2,532.37 per household.

The US Census estimates that there are 114,825,428 households in the US.  Therefore the entire amount spent by all American households is nearly $3 trillion that could easily be “greened,” and if 10 percent of that were greened, it would represent $300 billion. By shifting to green products and services, many locally produced, American's will not only be creating a greener world, but also creating more jobs and keeping more money in their local communities.    

 

About Green America

Green America (formerly Co-op America) is the leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America provides the economic strategies, organizing power and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today's social and environmental problems. Green America’s green economy programs encourage corporate responsibility, tackle climate change, build fair trading systems, advance healthy, local communities, and provide green purchasing and investing information for families and businesses.

CONTACT: Leslie Anderson, (703) 276-3256 or landerson@hastingsgroup.com.

 

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