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Things You Should Always Buy Green
Why: Most paint contains VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which evaporate into the air, creating health hazards for people.
What to buy: Low or, ideally, no-VOC paint.
Why: 38.9% of waste in the average American household is paper. Paper made from virgin materials contributes to deforestation and global warming, and often ends up taking up landfill space.
What to buy: Paper products (including printer paper, notebooks, paper towels, etc.) with a high post-consumer recycled content. It takes 60% less energy to manufacture from recycled stock than from virgin materials, and saves trees in the process. Also, use cloth alternatives when possible, such as cloth napkins and dish towels.
3. Light bulbs
Why: Conventional light bulbs use much more energy and release more CO2 than energy-efficient alternatives.
What to buy: Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. The compact fluorescent bulb will last 10 times longer, while producing half the amount of CO2 in its lifetime.
Why: Americans use two billion batteries each year, and most of them end up in landfills. Batteries contain dangerous toxins, cadmium and mercury in particular, and need to be treated as hazardous waste.
What to buy: Rechargable batteries and battery chargers. Rechargeable batters can be recharged hundreds of times, saving you money and preventing toxic waste from entering landfills.
Why: Disposable diapers take up 2% of all American landfill space. It takes around 80,000 pounds of plastic and over 200,000 trees a year to manufacture the disposable diapers for American babies alone, and the waste from the diapers risks contaminating ground water supplies.
What to buy: Try out cloth diapers (look for non-bleached organic cotton). You will use more water than with disposable diapers, but the water will end up in the sewer system, and you won’t be contributing to landfill waste.
Why: On average, when food arrives on an American’s table, it has already traveled 400 miles.
What to buy: Look for local, in-season produce. You can save money, and sustain your local community. Go the extra mile and look for organic produce- organic produce guarantees that your family, and the farmers you’re supporting, are safe from dangerous chemicals. Also look for Fair Trade Certified™ fruit such as bananas, mangoes, pineapples and grapes. Fair Trade Certification guarantees that farmers were paid a fair price for their harvests.
Why: Many clothing manufacturers are seeking cheaper labor overseas in developing markets where few labor laws exist to protect worker rights. Sweatshop and child labor a are a major problem in the clothing industry.
What to buy: Look for sweat-free clothing, products that guarantee a living wage for factory workers. Look for clothing that carries a union label, or buy clothing made by a Fair Trade or green business such as those listed in the National Green Pages™.
Why: If only 1% of car owners in the US did not drive for one day a week, we would save an estimated 42 million gallons of gas a year and keep 840 millions pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere. If one in ten Americans used public transportation regularly, US reliance on foreign oil would be cut by more than 40% (the amount imported from Saudi Arabia every year).
What to do: Make an effort to use public transportation at least one day a week, or arrange a carpool. When the time comes to get your next car, look for the most fuel-efficient model or a hybrid. Think about all the ways to cut your car out of your life. Join a car-sharing program. Ride a bike or walk whenever possible.
Why: The power required by US households results in more pollution each year than are put out by cars, and less energy efficient appliances cost you more money in your electric bill.
What to Buy: Look for appliances with the Energy Star label- these are energy-efficient models tested and approved by the EPA and Department of Energy. Using energy-efficient heating and cooling systems could cut your annual energy costs by 20%, and switching to energy efficient appliances, like washers, dryers, refrigerators, and dishwashers, can cut hundreds of dollars of your annual electricity bills.
Why: Conventional showerheads and faucets release more water than you need.
What to buy: Look for faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads, which will reduce water use by 50%. A typical family of four can cut their water usage by as much as 280 gallons a month.
Why: Coffee is the second most heavily traded commodity in the world after oil, with over 25 million farmers and their families dependent on coffee for their livelihoods. Most farmers, however, receive less than 1% of the price of a cup of conventional coffee.
What to Buy: Look for Fair Trade Certified™ organic coffee. Fair Trade certification guarantees a stable price for coffee ($1.26/lb. compared to around $0.14/lb. on the conventional market), and supports democratically run farming cooperatives. Nearly 85 percent of Fair Trade coffee in the US is also organic.
Why: Burning fossil fuels for energy is one of the leading causes of global warming. Reducing our national reliance on fossil-fuel energy sources is crucial for creating a secure and sustainable energy future.
What to look for: If your utility offers green energy, sign up today. Home solar units are growing in popularity, and some states offer incentive programs for homeowners looking to install solar on their homes.
If green energy isn’t available in your area, you can still offset your carbon dioxide emissions through programs such as NativeEnergy’s WindBuilder program.