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It’s Easy Being Green: Is Buying Green Really the Greenest Option?

SOURCE: Flickr/usedtobelost

People browse items at a yard sale. This time of year yard sales are in full swing, and they're a great place to pick up reusable items.

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Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

“Green” is the buzzword these days and companies everywhere are releasing new eco-friendly products. This is certainly commendable, but there is an ironic twist, if not a fundamental contradiction, between going green and purchasing newly manufactured items—even if they are made with recycled materials. Reusing your own possessions—or someone else’s—instead of buying the newest “green” item may in fact be the most environmentally favorable choice.

There’s also a lack of transparency with some of these green products: Many companies that label products as green may do so to boost sales, and these products may not always be healthy for the environment. The fashion industry, for example, is taking an exciting plunge into sustainable fabrics and recycled materials. These practices deserve recognition, but even a shoe made from recycled materials could be mass produced in a factory that emits carbon or other pollutants. Often these products then travel across seas using up even more energy and fuel.

Buying vintage or used clothing avoids these possible consequences—and often it’s the cheapest way to go. It’s easy to search the web to find out where interesting vintage or goodwill stores are near you. Another option is to find or arrange a clothing swap to revamp your wardrobe.

Most grocery stores are also now selling reusable bags to avoid wasting paper and plastic—a definite step in the right direction. But before you buy them, think about what old tote bags you have lying around your house. If you don’t have any, look for a used bag or borrow one from a friend first. Your grocery bag didn’t have to be born to carry food, and any bag will do the trick.

Even better, take a pledge to always try to find something used before you buy new. You can find almost anything on websites such as Craigslist, and picking up items locally is more eco-friendly than having them shipped long distances.

There are also plenty of yard sales this time of year and they are a great way to find unique used things, such as furniture, artwork, or electronics. If you’re looking for a summer read there are usually paperbacks stacked on tables at yard sales, but you can also make the library or a used book store your first stop. By doing so you will save lots of green—both trees and money.

We’re all familiar with recycling’s benefits, but even the recycling plant uses energy, so try to reuse your empty bottles and containers when you can. Bottles make excellent candlestick holders and vases. And old containers can be great planters for growing flowers or herbs. Those green plants will also consume carbon dioxide that would otherwise go into the atmosphere.

The green revolution must involve a fundamental attitude shift toward consumption—we need to form sustainable living habits that aim to reduce our impact. Conservation and reuse should be our first priorities, and consumption of new goods our last resort. Our throwaway culture has reached its limit, so let’s change this mindset first.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

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