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A green planet
By
TODAY contributor
updated 12/31/2007 1:06:59 PM ET 2007-12-31T18:06:59

Having trouble keeping up with our increasingly organic, eco-friendly world? Let me be your guide! From all-natural makeup to the best in eco-conscious jeans, I will test and review the products and treatments that are best for you and the planet.

As you welcome in 2008, you may find that your list of New Year’s resolutions is eerily similar to the list you made last year. Maybe you still hope to lose weight, quit smoking, learn French, clean out your closets, or run half a marathon. While it’s essential to have personal goals — they keep us going, moving forward — I suggest taking the pressure off of that aging list of resolutions and turning your energy instead to aspirations that will not only help you, but will also protect the planet and the future generations that will inhabit it.

Living with increased environmental awareness can take many forms. Maybe you rented “An Inconvenient Truth” instead of the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” installment or you are a dedicated recycler or you replaced your oil burner with solar panels. Whatever eco-outlet(s) you choose, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to compost regularly, drive a hybrid car or live off the grid to prove that you care about the state of the environment. A simple shift in the clothes you wear and the products that you use is an important step in the right eco-direction.

Make this year different — and better — by following these simple tips for purchasing clothing and personal care products that are best for both you and the earth.

All-natural fashion in 2008

Buy clothing and accessories made from reclaimed or recycled materials.
As a college student with a limited entertainment budget, I was a regular customer at second-hand clothing stores. Back then, the satisfaction of finding a dress that fit in all the right places had nothing to do with the environment, but today the victory is two-fold. When you buy gently worn (OK, used) clothes, you are tapping into a resource that already exists and discouraging the use of valuable energy sources to manufacture new clothing. You can spend a day browsing the racks of your local Salvation Army, you can search for treasures at upscale vintage stores, or you can seek out designers who use existing materials to create new clothing or accessories — either way you will be living a greener life in 2008.

Focus on environmentally friendly fabrics.
As you supplement your wardrobe in 2008, make an effort to seek out fabrics that are a) processed in ways that do not use harmful chemicals and b) are sustainable (that is, will not be depleting a limited natural resource). My early vote for fabrics of the year go to hemp, the increasingly versatile material that is rapidly shedding its stiff, itchy reputation and organic cotton , the naturally processed fabric that can be found in everything from undies to sheets. But while you’re shopping, don’t forget organic wool — harvested naturally — and newer materials like Tencel, a fabric made from wood pulp cellulose that is surprisingly soft and durable.

Support designers who are using eco-friendly fabrics and manufacturing methods.
To the growing group of cutting-edge designers who are determined to use only environmentally conscious materials and processing methods for their clothing lines, I thank you sincerely. You have made the once impossible, incredibly attainable — to combine a strong degree of environmental awareness with a love of fashion. I pledge to seek out designers like Loomstate, Stewart + Brown, Edun and Peligrosa in 2008. Visit The Green Loop for instant access to your (soon-to-be) favorite eco designers.

Use all-natural laundry detergent.
If you made the effort to buy clothing that was manufactured with no chemicals, why would you wash your new duds in something toxic? Skip the synthetic additives and take the all-natural laundry route. There are several options for detergent that gets your clothes clean without putting chemicals into our water supply (your dirty water has to go somewhere) or into your freshly laundered skivvies. Try Seventh Generation or Ecos for gently scented, yet highly efficient detergent.

All-natural beauty in 2008

Treat personal care products like food.
The skin is the body’s biggest organ. That said, everything you place on your body will eventually become part of your bloodstream. When looking for deodorant or toothpaste or a detangling conditioner, treat each product as if you will be eating it. Read each label carefully and if there are one or more ingredients that you don’t recognize, make a note, and do a little research (the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database is an excellent resource for learning about the ingredients in commonly purchased products) before you integrate the item into your bathroom cabinet. You wouldn’t eat food that was made from synthetic (and possibly dangerous) ingredients, so why would you shower with something that is toxic?

Trade synthetic fragrances and flavors for the all-natural variety.
Most scents found in personal care products are modeled after fragrances found in nature, so why not go directly to the source? Naturally harvested essential oils — extracted from plants — are the most efficient and natural method of infusing products with long-lasting fragrance and/or flavor. Look for soaps, body washes, moisturizers and shampoos made with essential oils of lavender, rose, sandalwood, grapefruit and many more (their botanical names will often be listed on the ingredient list — think lavendula officinalis). As for toothpaste and mouthwash, peppermint and cinnamon essential oils are serious breath fresheners.

Marisa Belger is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience covering health and wellness. She was a founding editor of Lime.com, a multiplatform media company specializing in health, wellness and sustainable living. Marisa also collaborated with Josh Dorfman on “The Lazy Environmentalist” (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), a comprehensive guide to easy, stylish green living.

Please note: Neither Marisa Belger nor TODAYshow.com have been compensated by the manufacturers or their representatives for her comments or selection of products reviewed in this column.

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