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.