Consumer Goes Green: It’s Not Easy…

When I say I am a “consumer,” I don’t just mean that I like to shop, though I do like to shop. I also mean that I consume things more than I need to. After years of being broke, I still tend to buy cheap things, use them ’til they break and throw them away. Over the last year, I have realized that I don’t need to do this anymore and I really want to change my disposable lifestyle. 

It all started when I decided to make our house cruelty-free. It seemed like everywhere I looked, I saw something else that needed a suitable replacement. Bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, they were everywhere. As I looked for new options, I kept seeing other things on the labels like “eco-friendly” and “paraben-free.” What makes something eco-friendly? Why should I care about parabens? Sulfates are in everything! It was slightly addictive. When it got overwhelming, I found a couple of sites that reminded me that every little bit helps, and it was OK to choose how green I wanted to be.

I also found that it got harder and harder to recommend or buy something that I knew wasn’t on my “safe” list. I still won’t force my kids to use products that they don’t want to, to comply with my beliefs. I will encourage, or sneak things into their bathroom, but if they insist I will let them make their own choices.* When I was twelve, I came back from a summer at my dad’s house to find that my mom and step-dad had gone vegan in my absence. It kind of sucked, and it left me with strong feelings about this sort of thing.

Another thing that makes the change harder is that “going green” is not hugely popular around here. Among our more conservative friends, of which Mr.B has quite a few, it is seen, at best, as cute. At worst, it is viewed as dangerously liberal and somewhat suspicious. Unless, of course, you call it “survivalist training,” in which case, it is seen as understandable and almost a necessity.** I sometimes envy my sister-in-law, who lives in Portland and is only allowed one bag of non-recyclable trash every other week.

Anyway, my plan with “Consumer Goes Green” is to talk a little about the things I have found that are both affordable and widely available. The days of having to go to the little health food store to find non-toxic cleaners are gone,*** now you can go green even if Wal-Mart is the only store in town. Since I’ve spent enough time here with my introduction, I’ll just start out with some of the “safe zones” I have found. My main priority is always cruelty-free, so some things may not seem as eco-friendly as others, but nothing I recommend will have been tested on animals.

  • Trader Joe’s – Trader Joe’s is the best place on earth. Their prices are great and everything is organic and cruelty-free.
  • LUSH – Organic, cruelty-free, free-trade, often vegan, bath and body products that smell like heaven.
  • Method – Affordable, cruelty-free cleaning products that can be found in almost every store I’ve been to.
  • Martha Stewart – As much as I dislike giving money to the Grand High Overlord of Good Things, her brand is cruelty-free and eco-friendly.

Whenever I feel like I’m stuck, or that people think I’m crazy, I channel my inner Muppet. Kermit inspires me to go on.

*Oddly enough, toothpaste has been the biggest sticking point. MiniB and one of the boys both really really hate all the toothpastes we have tried. For the time being, I’m stuck buying Princess Sparkle and Crest.

**It’s possible I’m wrong here, I don’t know. I just know there are times when I feel like people treat my quest as a hobby, or a “silly woman thing.”

***Not that I am poopoo-ing independent health food stores. I love them, but not everyone has access to one whenever they need it.

By [E]SaraB

Glass artisan by day, blogger by night (and sometimes vice versa). SaraB has three kids, three pets, one husband and a bizarre sense of humor. Her glass pendants can be found at if you're interested in checking it out.

26 replies on “Consumer Goes Green: It’s Not Easy…”

every little bit helps

This is what it’s all about. If people are going with the ‘But if I’m the only one it won’t help!’-angle, I will give them a large serving of Every Bit Is Important (and totally paraphrasing Monty Python here). It doesn’t matter where you start and with what size, but that you start.

That wasn’t me being too much of a Green Warrior, was it?

Not at all. I just saw a trailer for The Island President (about how the Maldives are in serious jeopardy because they are so close to sea level that any rise in the water levels of the planet would be devastating to the islands) and I’m in danger of going Xena Green Warrior on people.

I really, really like the idea of this, and have started it in the little things that I can. I do, however, have issues when it comes down to just time, cost, and convenience, since I don’t have a lot of time at all, and am living on a tight grad student budget, and the more eco-friendly products are also sometimes significantly less convenient to get to. My other worry is that sometimes, ‘green’ products cost a lot more (environmentally) to make, so I try to be good and read up on things before making purchases. In any case, I’ve started small and am also trying to reuse things where I can.

The easiest and cheapest change you can make is to switch to vinegar and water for cleaning. It’s cheap, it’s everywhere and you cut back to one reusable spray bottle for almost all your cleaning.

And I’ve been taking notes every time I go to the store. My idea of “affordable” is within 50 cents of what I would be paying otherwise. It’s not always possible, but I’ve been surprised by how many things fall into this range.

This was a really neat read, thank you for sharing! We try to be aware of where things come from in our house and to recycle but it can be hard. There are a few areas though where we are happy with what we’re doing. When Juniper Junior was younger, this meant washable nappies and wipes. In other more long lasting ways, I use washable pads. Cleaning products are a hard one, though but we try and get Ecover when we can (laundry powder and washing up liquid). As much as we can, it’s a case of trying to use reusable products (IE a cleaning cloth can thrown in the machine, rather than using disposable) and recycled products (IE toilet paper and tissues). In terms of “green” products, Lush IS great and much used in our house but otherwise it can be hard knowing for sure what something’s origins are, and we tend to fall back on the “doing what we can” idea.

It’s kind of stupid, but I bought some spray cleaner a while ago (pre-vinegar) and it smelled so f-ing bad that I had to leave the room. Ever since then I see their products and think “No way, that stuff smells like ass.” I have been including them in my price comparisons, though, because they are the most widely available green products and I’ve heard they work.

I had been wondering about Trader Joes! Everything I looked at the labels for didn’t have high-fructose corn syrup, which I would LOVE to cut out of my diet. Does anyone know if their food has a lot of sodium? When the BF and I get to move out, I want to start eating better, but we’re still going to be pretty poor. I know all the sodium in my diet from the damn Aldi’s food is not agreeing with me.

From what I’ve seen, Trader Joe’s has less sodium than other brands, but it is still not necessarily ‘low sodium.’ I’ve also been trying to cut down, because I am noticing the beginnings of high blood pressure, and Trader Joe’s low sodium foods taste more like food, and less like something is missing, than other low-sodium options. (Does that make sense?)

This is awesome. Will you be sharing your “safe” list with us? Or maybe websites that have information about the environmental and ethical practices of corporations? I feel like every time I turn around I’m having to google things for an hour, like which companies gave money to which evil causes and which corporations have dubious employment practices. I just found out yesterday that most processed cane sugar uses cow bone char. Ugh. Being a vegetarian is much harder than it sounds, because it actually takes a lot of research to live animal-product-free.

I will. I plan to do it in groups, like “hair stuff” or “floor cleaning” so it’s not too much information all at once.

There IS a ton of research to do if you want to be as low-impact as possible on the planet. I’m probably going to miss things, just because it would never occur to me to look (like “sugar is made using cow bones” sort of things) so I welcome any corrections of additional information you and the other readers have to offer.

This. I don’t cook, like, at all (hate cooking), so I subsist on a lot of pasta and frozen meals from Trader Joe’s. Cheese is problematic b/c a lot of it is made with rennet, which is made w/slaughtered animal bellies :(. I love cheese, so therein lies my problem. Trader Joe’s has some stuff made with “microbial rennet”, which is okay for vegetarians.

Also, gelatin is in many things, e.g., most yogurt, some sour creams, creamy dressings. I didn’t know about the processed sugar, so thank you. I’m glad I’m using organic sugar in my coffee, just b/c I like it better and it’s less processed.

::locks arms with @sarab, skips down the street together::

It is one of my Life Quests (there aren’t many) to live as mindfully as possible, which includes consuming very little (out of both necessity and principle); but what I do consume, I try to ensure is cruelty-free and environmentally friendly. I am also a vegetarian. It’s HARD to live with these choices, but they are important to me.

I also shop at Trader Joe’s but probably split my food purchases equally between it and my regional chain grocer. I’m on food stamps, so I don’t “pay” for food. I usually buy personal care products (shampoo; conditioner; toilet paper–yes, made of recycled paper; soap; etc.) on sale and/or with coupons and/or online with lots of planning–NEVER on impulse! I have found that independent health-food stores, while I wish I could patronize them, are way too expensive for me.

I second the mention of Method. Seventh Generation is also good, and they have coupons on their website. Some of their stuff is carried at Target and some grocery stores in my area. Shockingly, Dollar Tree has some cleaning supplies that are cruelty-free. It will say on the label. I’ve started experimenting with making my own eco-friendly cleaning solutions with the almighty vinegar and various add-ins–websites abound with this info.

Toothpaste is a particular stumbling block! I have been using Tom’s of Maine, but they were recently acquired by Colgate-Palmolive (not cruelty-free), so I won’t buy it anymore. I may try Jason toothpaste next. Feminine hygiene products are another problem. I tried (and failed miserably) to use the DivaCup, so I still use mass-market pads and tampons. I could use the health-store alternatives, but again…cost.

As much as I do “correctly” (in my principles), I figure I offset a misstep every now and then…I hope.

I will happily skip down the street with you :)

Feminine Hygiene is one of the things I’ll be covering – mostly about washable pads, since we’ve already talked a good bit about the almighty DivaCup.

I did not know that about Tom’s of Maine. It is sad, but I’m happy to know they are off the list.

It can get overwhelming. “Every little bit helps” has become my mantra when I start to feel like the only way to not hurt the planet is to live in a cave and stop bathing. And every time I go to the grocery store and skip the spray cleaner aisle, I know that that’s one less bottle I didn’t have to add to the pile and it helps. (If that makes sense)

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