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37 Green Habits (Part 3: Shopping)

"Vote with your wallet" is a favorite phrase of mine, and when it comes to the third part of CCS's 37 Easiest Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint , focusing on shopping habits, I've got a lot of thoughts here, and am going to call out a few companies that many of y'all might still be justifying giving your business to...

Support companies that are environmentally responsible. This one is HUGE for me. While I won't say that I never shop online, I will say this: my habits have definitely shrunk to a fraction of what they once were, focusing on shopping not only less as a whole, but shopping locally whenever possible, and when it's not, giving my business to companies who give a damn about the planet - and walk the talk in how they do. Furthermore, when I do order online for a 'basic', I buy-once-cry-once and get a year's worth to reduce my impact. And with that, there are absolutely companies that I will not give my money to, including:

*** Amazon (the #1 most unethical company in the world + union busting) *** Walmart (greenwashing + union busting) *** REI (greenwashing + union busting)

*** Starbucks (greenwashing + union-busting)

*** Grocery Store Brands including (click on the name to see their many brands, as you can't always tell from packaging who owns a product):

Notice how all of these companies are known for both screwing over the planet AND their people?

• Buy used or recycled/repurposed items whenever possible. Amen for buying & selling things on Craigslist! While eBay and Etsy are also around, Craigslist isn't trying to get your money through % fees. Furthermore, the resale and antique shops are full of gently-loved items that are great for the home, the closet, the garden, and more.

Repurposing has definitely been our jam for years. In the slideshow below, you'll see arrows pointing to the things we've built using reclaimed wood (kitchen island, kitchen workbench, dining table, breakfast nook table later turned into a desk at the farm, pantry shelves) as well as some kitchen tools like our cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens that are older than the two of us combined!

• Opt for a laptop instead of a desktop when buying a new computer.

Done. Honey, the last desktop I had was a purple iMac in '99. Do people still buy desktops, anyhow? I've gone through three MacBooks in the past 15 years and the prior ones were erased & recycled through FreeGeek in Portland or via Apple for a purchase discount on my next one. All have been Energy Star certified as well.

• Look for Energy Star products, which are more energy efficient.

Always. Our refrigerator, dishwasher, and washer are not only Energy Star, but at the top of the list in the most energy efficient. Additionally, we converted to induction back in 2018 at the farm, and have never looked back. When we bought the house here in town, I sold the brand new appliances that came with the house to invest in a knob-less Frigidaire induction range that is SO easy to keep clean and even has an air fryer built-in. She totally rocks.

Note: Along with Energy Star, make sure your faucets and shower heads are Water Sense certified. In every house we've lived in, we've swapped these out and it's not only more eco-friendly, it's a great excuse to upgrade pretty things in your home!

• Buy less stuff. Minimalist is definitely the name of the game. I've always had a problem, actually, with getting rid of things TOO quickly. Even as a kid, my mom always talked about how I gave away my Miss Piggy doll to a charity when "it'd probably be worth something by now". But hey, it was time for her to go, why keep it? When I was in college, I tended to move apartments every year or so - first out of a college apartment to a fancy high rise, then because I wanted to buy a car I moved out to the almost-burbs to a two-bedroom townhouse, then was so isolated that 6 months later I was bunking with a friend from work...all before packing it all up in my little red Chevy S-10 and moving to Denver for a year to start over and spend time nearer to my Dad. While I left Portland with the tiniest U-Haul trailer rentable, when I left Denver for Seattle, I shipped a few boxes of clothes to my mom's, sold my furniture, tucked a few pieces of art and some boxes in the bed of the truck, and took off, free as a bird and Sheryl Crow's "Leaving Las Vegas" blasting in my Discman that connected to the tape player. I moved into a studio, ordered a mattress & hollywood bed frame from the Bon Marche, and was good to go in my new city. 28 years ago, living simply. Eventually gave up my car again and lived on the Hill in a tiny place overlooking the Needle and catching nonstop sunsets, not caring that my closet was tiny and my undies were in a cardboard dresser...because look at that view. All this time, mind you, I was working for one of the poshest retailers in the country with a killer wardrobe and great shoes... So it was no surprise when I bought my first house at 32 that it was small...but had a walk-in closet that I had built from scratch. Flash forward 15 years and I was remarried and living on a farm in a house far too big for the two of us. We'd hoped to have kids joining us but the years and the emptied retirement accounts weren't enough to make us parents, and we were in a 2,200 s.f. home far, far too large for just the two of us. I loved the farm, but hated how the community had devolved during the pandemic and how every corner I walked around was a constant reminder of my dreams blowing up in my face, in a house that clearly deserved to have a family taking up all the space. So we sold a bunch of stuff, and downsized back to the city, cutting our square footage in half and our property by 90%. Was it the right move? Yes and no. Better for our psyche to not be so isolated? Yes. Better for my farmsteader nature? No. Better for my heart to take on a new project of restoration fo an underserved home? Yes. Better for my soul that craved quiet days and dark, sometimes even starry, nights? No. But as far as buying less stuff? Absolutely. The only place I spend money at is one of the many gorgeous nurseries in the county, which has helped with the healing of my heart (the gardening, not the spending) and stripped back the focus in our lives to growing and harvesting and eating the aforementioned, and that's pretty much it! Where once I was thrilled to have a walk-in closet, nowadays I've realized it doesn't really matter since I only own 4 pairs of shoes! Who'd a thunk...

what we spend our $ on...

• Bring a reusable bag. This is not just for the grocery store, folks...bring one wherever you shop, from the grocer to the hardware store to the boutiques. I've been carrying one pretty much since college, and my primary bag I got at a "Fix it Fair" in Portland in 2012. Yep, over 10 years old. Don't accumulate the junky ones - they take energy to make and the ones that fall apart can't be recycled so you've defeated your purpose. My additional bags are the nice washable canvas tote bags, and we have two little mesh bags for produce like mushrooms that can't easily go bag-less in the cart (one ironically is an old lingerie bag whose zipper broke and can't go in the wash anymore - total repurposing awesomeness!).

Note: To my gardening pals, don't let the nursery cashiers continue to give you those cardboard shells for your plant starts! Save them the first time then bring them with you to the nursery, or keep them in the back of your car!

• Avoid excess packaging.

This one is particularly important to me. And it's not just excess, but plastic packaging and packaging altogether in many circumstances. No, I don't need my kiwi in a plastic clamshell. No, I don't need to put a banana in a plastic bag - it's in its own compostable peel! No, I do not need to buy a plastic bag of organic flour when I can bring my own bag or jar and fill it up zero-waste style (Bob's Red Mill btw lost me for life as a customer when they transitioned to plastic, total greenwashers)! No, I do not need to buy a bar of soap that's in a box or wrapper - it's soap, y'all (and I can DIY this anyhow at home just like toothpaste, deodorant and body butter...). And no, if you only sell your product in plastic, I don't need to buy your product (big shout out to the organic yogurt makers selling in glass mayo jars and not plastic tubs...ironically none of the vegan yogurt folks are doing this, total eco-hypocrisy!). Too many times folks act like they don't have choices, when one choice is Not buying it in the first place if it is environmentally destructive. Bada-bing!

just say no to packaging!


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