As I work toward living a greener life, I’ve discovered that I not only possess a talent for organizing my family’s recycling — blue bin, black bin, silver bin, glass, plastic, paper — but I’ve also uncovered a flair for excuses. I’ve become highly adept at creating reasons why I can’t make a wiser green choice. Sometimes it’s convenience. Sometimes it’s time. Often it’s money.
In tough economic times it’s been easier than ever to use financial constraints as an excuse for ignoring environmental concerns. But those days are gone — thanks in large part to Josh Dorfman. The spokesman for lazy environmentalists everywhere, Dorfman has come up with simple ways to make choices that are easy on the environment and your wallet. He’s compiled those tips into his second book, “The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget,” and in honor of Earth Day, has shared a list of his favorite ways to go green without breaking the bank. No more excuses.
1. Use a remote-control power strip. The Belkin Conserve is an eight-outlet power strip that comes with a remote control device to help you easily turn off electronics — and completely kill the power (no vampire power drain) — without having to bend over or reach behind your desk to unplug them from the wall. Save energy, save money, save your back.
2. Use natural cleaning products. Safe cleaning products don’t have to be a luxury. Green Works natural cleaning products are made of plant-based, biodegradable ingredients like corn, coconut and lemon (which leave no harsh chemical fumes or residue) and are affordable and accessible — you can find them at supermarkets, drugstores and mass-market retailers.
3. Get your magazines digitally. Zinio.com offers digital versions of more than 500 magazine titles like BusinessWeek, Cosmopolitan, Car & Driver, Men’s Health, Dwell, Outside and Yoga Journal. Download the Zinio Reader and read the magazines on your personal computer or access your subscriptions online from any computer at Zinio.com. Owners of iPhones can even access entire magazines through their phones. And in the spirit of budget consciousness, Zinio is offering a free one-year trial subscription to a wide selection of magazines so people can try the service.
4. Choose filtered water over bottled. Save money as you wean yourself off your disposable water bottle habit — a practice that collectively results in more than 38 billion disposable plastic bottles deposited in the landfill each year in the United States. Brita pitchers are easy to use, and when it’s time for a new replaceable filter, you can easily recycle the old one. Early in 2009, Brita launched a new program with eco-products maker Preserve to recycle the plastic from used filters into a sleek line of personal care, tableware and kitchenware products. You can drop off filters at participating Whole Foods Markets or mail them directly to Preserve.
5. Use a reusable water bottle. You’ve filtered your water, now you need a reusable bottle to transport it. There are numerous safe and eco-friendly options from Sigg to Klean Kanteen to BPA-free Nalgene bottles. Check out Filter for Good for more information about the impact of bottled-water waste and to purchase a BPA-free reusable water bottle with the Filterforgood.com logo.
6. Get paid to recycle your electronics and keep them out of landfills. Instead of tossing your gadgets in a landfill when you’re finished with them, get paid to recycle them. Services like www.buymytronics.com, www.myboneyard.com and www.greenphone.com will recycle or refurbish your electronics, which keeps them out of landfills. Simply mail them in and wait for your check.
7. Turn to eco-friendly materials for affordable fashion. Stores you know and love are focusing on greener fashion. H&M has an extensive line of products made of organic cotton, recycled polyester and natural wool, American Apparel offers colorful, affordable organic basics and Payless recently introduced Zoe & Zac, an affordable, eco-friendly footwear and accessories line. And this spring, look for Loomstate’s eco-friendly collection at Target.
8. Update your wardrobe by connecting with fashionistas with garb to barter. Swapstyle.com lets you swap accessories, cosmetics and shoes with fashionistas all over the globe for free (you only pay for shipping). You can also combine barter with cash to trade up while avoiding the full cost — both monetary and environmental — of consuming a new product.
9. Use a car-share service to drive without owning. Enjoy the freedom of being in the driver’s seat while eliminating the expense of owning (or leasing) and maintaining a car by joining a car-share service. Zipcar lets members locate cars conveniently parked at designated spots around a city and reserve them for an hourly fee (typically between $10.50 and $16.50). The company estimates that each of its cars removes the equivalent of about 15 privately owned vehicles from the road.
10. Ride share to get where you want to go. Another alternative to owning a car is to catch a ride with somebody else. Ride sharing not only saves you the cost of car ownership and maintenance, but also keeps additional cars off the road — a positive eco step. Zimride is a ride-share service built on the Facebook social networking platform that enables members to create personal profiles and select ride mates who share similar music tastes, favorite sports teams, or who just seem “normal.” Zimmers can also evaluate things like driving speed, music volume and smoking preferences before agreeing to hop in. Find rides at Zimride.com or by using Zimride’s Facebook application.
11. CDs, DVDs and books: Swap, don’t buy. Now you can avoid buying new products (good for your wallet, great for the environment) without sacrificing your need for entertainment. Check out the following swapping sites for access to thousands of CDs, books and DVDs:
- Swapacd.com — Fans can access more than 130,000 available titles. Load in your own CD titles and join the community to starting earning credits. It costs 49 cents plus one credit and shipping to score a CD from another member.
- Swapadvd.com — Movie collectors can trade both new and classic DVD titles. More than 58,000 titles are available, and the number is growing as more people discover the cost benefits of swapping DVDs.
- Paperbackswap.com — Bookworms can browse more than 2 million titles available for trade. Upload your own titles and send them to community members to earn credits. Use the credits to obtain books that you want. And it’s not just paperbacks; hardcover books are being swapped as well.
12. Video games: Trade, don’t buy. Whether you’re partial to Xbox, Wii, Nintendo or other gaming platforms, the Goozex online trading community has got you covered with 2,400 games to choose from. Instead of spending big money on new games, Goozex charges you just $1 each time you receive a game from another community member. Save money while avoiding the material waste and greenhouse gas emissions created from consumption.
13. Purchase refurbished electronics. Refurbished electronics are often products that were returned to stores within 30 days of purchase, had damaged packaging or a slight cosmetic defect, were used as in-store display items or were simply overstocked. Many are still covered by their original warranties and before they can be resold in the marketplace they go through rigorous defect testing. Refurbished products also frequently sell for less than 50 percent of the retail price. Buying refurbished is a clear win-win, saving you money and reducing e-waste heading to landfills. Check out www.dyscern.com and www.refurbdepot.com for a solid selection of refurbished electronics.
14. Conserve water and energy with low-flow showerheads.
Evolve has designed a series of water-saving showerheads that let the cold water run until the water temperature reaches 95 degrees and then slow water flow to a trickle. This way hot water doesn’t release until you actually step in the shower and turn the showerhead’s valve to release the flow. Multiple showerhead styles are available, including the Roadrunner low-flow showerhead, which delivers strong water pressure using just 1.59 gallons per minute.
15. Shave with just seven drops. You’ll live a life free from shaving cream with just seven drops of Pacific Shaving Oil. The natural oil (enhanced with essential oils) will give you the closest shave of your life, and a half-ounce bottle ($6.95) provides up to 100 shaves. The tiny bottle is ideal for air travel, too — perfect for stashing in your carry-on bag.
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 has been compensated by the manufacturers or their representatives for her comments or selection of products reviewed in this column.