Tag Archives: consumerism

Is It a Good Thing That Eco Friendly is Trendy?

Lots of people are hopping on the green bandwagon these days. Eco friendly products are appearing all over store shelves, even at Walmart. You can buy cheap, environmentally friendly good and you can buy designer eco friendly products. It’s quite a change from just a few years ago.

But is it a good change?

It is and it isn’t, in a lot of ways.

It is good because it means more people are thinking about the environment as they shop. It’s good that more goods are being made from renewable resources. It’s good that more goods made from recycled materials are available.

It’s bad in that it is nothing more than a way to show trendiness for a lot of people. Being eco chic is just another kind of consumerism in many cases. The thoughts are heading in the right direction, but they just haven’t gone far enough.

It’s bad that as a trendy lifestyle some people aren’t as committed to the environment as they want others to think. They’re talking about it, but they aren’t doing. Aren’t cutting back. Aren’t planting gardens. Aren’t enjoying simplicity.

It will be interesting to see how things go over the next many years. Will eco friendly products be more or less popular? Will more people understand that you need to consume less, not just change the types of things they consume.

It is good that the current popularity of being eco friendly means more interest in things that can make a big difference. The trendiness of finding alternative energy sources gives us the chance that they will become more affordable and practical in years to come. That’s wonderful.

It’s good that businesses are realizing how much more environmentally friendly practices can save them in some areas. Not in all areas sadly, which is why products will continue for some time to be made in ways that have a high environmental and human cost.

It’s good that with the introduction to being eco friendly as a trend more people will recognize in time that there’s more to it than buying a dozen organic cotton sheets. That they need to reign in their habits as consumers.

But it’s bad that so many figure that because they’re buying eco friendly, they can keep on shopping. Keep on consuming because, darn it, they’re doing something good for the environment, right?

It takes time to get the lesson across that even eco friendly has an environmental cost. That the cost is less than conventionally produced products, bu that it isn’t zero. It’s not a happy lesson. But it’s vital.

Why and When Should You Buy Eco Friendly Products?

If you’re concerned about climate change, pollution or other damage we’ve done to the environment as a species, you’ve probably thought about how you can be more eco friendly. Shopping habits probably immediately come to mind. Those organic bamboo sheets look awfully nice, perhaps?

Should you be buying them?

There’s a right and a wrong way to go about buying eco friendly products. Certainly if it’s something you need, get the eco friendly version whenever possible.

But if you’re just replacing something you already own, think more carefully.

It’s good to buy eco friendly when you’re shopping, but that doesn’t mean you can just shop for whatever you want. Even eco friendly is not an excuse for consumerism.

You also want to be aware of greenwashing. So many products claim to be green, but the claims are pretty thin. Many of these claims aren’t regulated and can be put on just about anything. Don’t assume that terms such as “natural”, “green”, “nontoxic” and similar terms mean much at all. “Organic” and “recycled” are much better terms as there is some oversight on them.

You can also research the claims online. Companies that are offering products they claim are eco friendly will probably share details online, even if there’s not much information on the packaging. If not, you can probably get some good information just by searching on the product name. It’s amazing what some people can find out and will share quite freely.

Certification is good to look for too, so long as it’s a real one such as Energy Star for saving electricity.

For personal care products, check out Skin Deep’s Cosmetic Database. You’ll find out if the products have a lot of unsafe ingredients.

Do buy foods, personal care products and cleaning products in eco friendly versions when possible or make your own. These are things you use up and so you’ll probably be buying pretty regularly.

Don’t go replacing perfectly good but non-eco-friendly products just because you want the green version. If it’s still good it’s probably more green to keep it than to replace it even with the eco version. If you do get rid of things that can still be used, make sure they head to a thrift store, get sold at a garage sale or are offered on Freecycle. Someone else may still appreciate what you don’t want anymore.

There’s a balance to be had in buying more eco friendly products and in being too much of a consumer. Keep an eye on your habits so that you don’t fall into that trap.

“As Seen On TV” vs. Things That Already Exist

I was kind of amused this year seeing some relatives get so excited about receiving Snuggies for Christmas. Those certainly have taken off! But looking at them made me think of how much they and certain other “As Seen On TV” products resemble things you can get elsewhere in better quality or even already have in your home.

The Snuggie

Take a good look at the Snuggie Fleece Blanket. It’s essentially a backwards, extra long bathrobe without a belt. Flip your bathrobe around, put on some socks or throw a blanket over your legs, and who needs a Snuggie?

Topsy Turvy Upside-Down Tomato Planter

Topsy Turvy Upside-Down Tomato Planters aren’t bad, actually, but you can make your own pretty easily. My husband did one a few years back by drilling holes into a plastic bucket. Others make them out of the reusable shopping bags you can buy at the grocery store for $0.99.

Tomatoes certainly don’t mind growing upside down, but if you have the space they’re generally quite happy growing in the usual manner too. Most years we end up doing a little of each, but I think we’ve had the best results growing them right side up.

Aqua Globes

I’ll certainly agree that Aqua Globes work and look nice, but if looks don’t matter, try reusing instead.

You can reuse plastic gallon jugs to do this same work. They aren’t pretty, but they do the job and you aren’t sending the plastic off to the trash or to be recycled after just one use. I like the gallon jugs most because they tend to be sturdier and hold a lot of water.

You can use smaller plastic bottles, but some deform pretty easily and just don’t seem to do the job so well for us.

Aqua Globes are best if you really need to be concerned about appearances. It happens. If you’re using them in the front of the house, for example, your neighbors will probably be happier with the look of Aqua Globes over plastic bottles in the garden. But do remember that glass breaks.

Zorbeez Cloths

The reviews on Amazon on Zorbeez Cloths look pretty bad. That pretty much says it all. They’re supposed to be super absorbent but the consensus appears to be that they aren’t remotely absorbent.

If you want great cleaning cloths, there’s a reason why microfiber has become so popular. Get some good quality microfiber cleaning cloths and you will be much happier.

MagneScribe Pens

Oh, how easily you could replace the MagneScribe Pen with… oh, I don’t know, a regular pen? Are they really so complex to use? And do you really want a pen as a pendant around your neck? Most times sitting on the desk or in the junk drawer will suffice.

Handy Gourmet Vegetable Peeling Gloves

These are just a laugh. To use the Handy Gourmet Vegetable Peeling Gloves you have to first cook the vegetables a few minutes, then allow to cool, then start rubbing off the peels.

Hmm… that old vegetable peeler in the drawer is looking better and better, isn’t it? Throw it in the dishwasher when you’re done and it gets cleaned with all the other dishes. Throw the peels into the compost and they aren’t a waste. Life’s so much simpler.

Pancake Puffs

I mention the Pancake Puffs pan because my kids want one so very badly.

In reality, it’s nothing more than a renamed Aebleskiver pan. If you really want to try this, buy an Aebleskiver Pan instead so you can get something of better quality. If you really need the extras such as the injector you can find those too. Recipes you should be able to find online.

Buying an Aebleskiver pan instead of a Pancake Puffs pan won’t save you money unless you luck into one in an antique shop or thrift shop, but you’ll have the pleasure of denying that hideous “As Seen On TV” industry a little bit of money.

Of course there are many more of these products out there. “As Seen On TV” products are a great example of creating a need where there was none before. Consumerism at its worst for the most part.

Do you have a favorite? Favorite to hate?

Are You Ready for a Green Christmas Shopping Season?

The holiday season is perhaps one of the most difficult times to be green. There are so many temptations to shop, shop, shop… and so many of the temptations are such poor choices for the environment. These are some of my thoughts on how to green things up just a little.

Avoid Black Friday Crowds

Admittedly, I have a long standing bias against Black Friday shopping. Comes from even before I thought much about the environment. Too many years working in retail and dealing with Black Friday crowds from the other side.

But it’s really ridiculous to fight the crowds that are so common on that day. To me there’s no Christmas present so important that I have to deal with that nonsense. The bargains are nice, but if you really need them, do consider that there’s Cyber Monday and you could just shop online. It can be more efficient. Sites such as Amazon are even starting “Black Friday” deals today and you might find something reasonable in their special deals.

Carpool if You Just Gotta

If you need to fight the crowds, think if any friends want to go shopping with you. It’s more fun, although you may have to be careful if you tend to buy more when you shop with friends.

And don’t worry about how good a parking space you get. A little extra walking isn’t going to be that much of a problem.

Think About What is Wanted and Will Last

Try not to buy gifts just to have something to give. It’s an easy mistake to make when you’re desperate for something to give, but it also results in a lot of unnecessary junk being bought.

Instead, think about gifts that really will last. It doesn’t have to be perfectly practical, but have some thought behind it.

If you don’t want to give something that lasts, think about free trade chocolates, organic produce gift baskets and such.

For the Kids?

Even kids who spend some time thinking about the environment are likely to want the latest trendy toys. It’s hard to blame them. There are a lot of really cool toys out there.

At the very least, think about if the toys you buy will have more than a momentary fascination for your kids. How many end up eternally in the toy box after a few days?

There are some great toys for kids that are more environmentally friendly too. Try to balance things out as best you can for them.

What to Do for Earth Day?

Today is Earth Day. These days I find it to be an interesting combination between environmental concern and consumerism. So many companies take the opportunity to greenwash.

That’s not to say there aren’t good things to buy for Earth Day. If there’s a truly green change you’re wanting to make it’s a good time to do it.

For example, you might choose to use more energy efficient lightbulbs, such as CFLs. You might change laundry detergents. You might switch from a gas powered lawn mower to a push mower. You might buy a composter and start composting. You might switch to a low flow showerhead.

You get the idea. Just be sure that you’re really making an environmentally sound choice, not falling for greenwashing. There’s a lot of that out there.

If you’re living a generally green life already, you may feel like there’s not much to be done to improve your home, at least not within your current budget. That’s fine. There’s plenty more you can do.

There are Earth Day events in most communities. Some will be today, others on the weekend. Last year, for example, my family and I attended an event where people were able to help plant trees in an area that had burned in a wildfire. Our kids were too tired that day to help, but they enjoyed the educational parts of the event and a short hike through the nature reserve.

You can also encourage people you know to get more involved. One day doesn’t do much for the planet, but if you can use it to get people who aren’t thinking about the environment to consider it more, you could help with the problem. These things take time, after all.