Making it my business: it *is* easy being green, I promise

From what you put on your face to what you put on your floors, being green doesn’t require as much green as you think.

Before we start, don’t forget that you, little grasshopper, can also benefit from my “wisdom.” Send any and all questions to

And on with the show!

Dear Valerie,

There’s a huge push for people to eat organic foods, but I haven’t seen much about switching to organic or “more natural personal care items – like shampoo, facial cleanser, etc. Is this something I should be thinking about? If so, where can I find products that won’t break my budget?

Thanks a ton!
Budget-Conscious Beauty Queen

I have three words for you: drugstore dot com.

I recently decided that I was going to make the switch to using more natural products in regards to facial cleansers and the like – after all, your skin is ALIVE. At my husband’s suggestion, I scoured the cosmetics aisle at Ellwood Thompson to see what brands were deemed “green” and then turned to the Internet to find a place where I could buy them at a discount. Enter the aforementioned I managed to get this, this at a fraction of what it would have cost me at the ET. If you’re not sure of a specific brand, search their Naturals section – just make sure you check the ingredients of the products to make sure there’s nothing in there that you’re allergic to.

Dear Valerie,

Being “green” is on everyone’s mind, it seems, and no matter where I turn, I have some magazine or news article telling me I’m doing something harmful for the environment. I want to do my part, but I don’t have the money to make sure my shag carpet is made of organic cotton and my plates have a lead-free glaze. I mean, I need to shop at Target SOMEtimes. What are some changes I can make around my house to reduce the ol’ carbon footprint and keep Al Gore happy?

Eagerish Environmentalist

It’s true, we are constantly being bombarded with what we are doing to continue the systematic poisoning of the planet (ARE YOU HAPPY NOW, LEO? GEEZ) But, alas it’s a real problem that seems to have stemmed from previous generations’ eagerness to “progress” without the knowledge of what effect their new-fangled technologies might have on the planet 50 years later.

And I know where you’re coming from. I have a small budget, but a large awareness of what some of my consumer choices might be doing to the poor polar bears – they always show the polar bears, don’t they?

What I suggest is that you start small. Commit to a few small changes and see where it goes from there. Honestly, once those actions go from “choice” to “habit,” you’ll be ready to add another set of green special moves to your repertoire.

Here are three easy switches you can make…

1. Lose the plastic and paper bags.
This doesn’t mean you have to buy the reusable bags sold at Ukrop’s or Ellwood Thompson. Instead, try going to Goodwill. I guarantee you’ll find large, canvas bags (you know, the kind your mom would always carry to the beach) that will hold more and cost the same, if not less. One important thing to note, though. Sometimes it’s hard to remember to take the bags with you when you go out. We’ve devised a plan where my car keys are tucked inside one of our reusable bags once we bring the groceries inside. This way, at least one bag makes it to the car for later use.

2. Go old school with your cleaning products.
Have you noticed how your grandmother’s house was impeccable, even though she didn’t have access to things like OxyClean or Tilex? More than likely, she used good, old fashioned water, vinegar, and baking soda to get any and all cleaning jobs done. Here’s a great site for “recipes” to create anything from oven cleaner to silver polish. I’ve also heard that a little Ivory Liquid Soap and warm water will clean just about anything.

3. Think about your thermostat.
There’s a couple things you could do here. First, adjust your thermostat so that your heater or air conditioning isn’t running full speed ahead while you’re at work. Think about it. You’re mostly likely gone a minimum of eight hours each day. That’s a lot of energy being used for no real purpose. Second, make a “two degree pledge.” That means you set your thermostat two degrees cooler in the winter, two degrees warmer in the summer. It might seem uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it. And if not, you can feel slightly smug in your discomfort.

I’d love to hear what other suggestions the RVANews audience has. Leave your tips in the comments, kids.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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