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Friday, February 11, 2011

My Top 10 Sustainable Products

Earlier this week I wrote about living a more sustainable lifestyle, but sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start! Certain parts of the country seem to have caught on to sustainability and climate-consciousness - see San Francisco's legendary waste management - but in the smalltown Midwest and South, I don't think we've managed to really acknowledge that we need to change, much less make any sort of move toward sustainability.

Because of this, it's sometimes difficult to know what to do or where to start for anyone who wants to live a more ecologically sound or sustainable lifestyle. For that reason, I've outlined some of my favorite products below! Even if you can only start small, every little bit helps.

10. Re-usable Shopping Bags - Many stores and chains are actually beginning to eliminate their plastic and paper sacks, so this is a great product to invest in if you haven't already. These bags are not only more convenient (you can fit a great deal more in them and they don't break) but they are often made from post-recycled content, at least in part. You can buy them in various sizes, insulated and non. Whole Foods Markets will eve, donate five cents for every reusable bag you bring in!

9. Re-usable Water Bottles - Another sustainable trend that is currently being widely embraced, reusable water bottle eliminate the need for plastic water bottles (which can leach harmful BPA into your beverages) and styrofoam cups (which are widely accepted as being terrible for the environment). These bottles can even be found in varieties that filter your water as you drink it, which is convenient and environmentally sound

8. Windowsill Gardens - I, for one, have a brown thumb...I can't grow anything, and could never even dream of maintaining a garden or any sort of urban farm. My mother has always gardened and my grandfather had a plot of land in the city just for that purpose but me? I can't make those seeds grow. Fortunately, a windowsill garden is simple, and hardly any work! You can grow your own herbs, or just flowers to brighten up your space. Tomatoes can also be easily grown on a deck.

7. LED Lightbulbs - As the technology is perfected, LED lightbulbs become more and more inviting. While they require an initial investment, they save energy costs and last for about 50,000 hours, or nearly 6 years.  At current energy costs, each of those bulbs will save you about $120 over the course of it's life. Multiply that by the number of bulbs in your home and you've got some pretty hefty savings...and all with a smaller footprint!

6. TOMS Shoes - If you've never heard of TOMS, this is a great time to learn! A company that's redefining "socially responsible business", TOMS has committed to donate one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair that it sells. By buying their shoes, you can not only help a child avoid disease and illness, but also clothe your own feet in style. TOMS come in all kinds of different styles for men, women, and children. Check them out and participate in a program that's already helped children worldwide!

5. Compost Buckets - Composting is a great way to reuse organic kitchen waste...but it can get a bit smelly. Using a compost bucket with a built in filter allows you to keep compost without stinking up the house. This can later be used to fertilize your windowsill garden...organically!

4. Greenwash Balls - This is one of the best "green" investments you can make. You'll save hundreds in laundry detergent every year, as one ball lasts 12 months and only costs about $13 on Amazon. Clothes still require pretreatment for stains, but the ball changes the pH of the water to that of detergent...naturally! Laundry will smell fresh and come out clean, no detergent required.

3. French Press Coffee Maker - Never has being green been so tasty! French press coffee makers make delicious, rich, dark coffee without the aid of electricity. Of course, you still have to use boiling water, but less energy is needed and the results are just delicious!

2. Seventh Generation Products - Seventh Generation has an ardent commitment to the earth, to using recycled and post-consumer content to create household products, and to make cleaning products that are biodegradable and non-harmful to the environment. They sell everything from dish soap to toilet paper and can be found online and in most markets.

1. Smart Power Strip -  This power strip not only offers surge protection, but also shuts down your main energy-wasters when they aren't in use. It allows you to save money on energy costs, but also to make a smaller footprint with lower consumption levels. It's customizable and adjustable, just make sure to read the instructions!

Remember, it's ok to start small and work your way up to a more and more sustainable lifestyle. Every change that you make helps, and it's worth it to do whatever you can to make a difference! 

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