It’s no surprise that so many people are overwhelmed by the idea of going green. Over the past few years we have been inundated with information about all the things we need to do, and (ironically) buy, to be eco-friendly. It can feel both cost- and time-prohibitive, but don’t be discouraged. The simplest and perhaps most effective way to help the planet, doesn’t cost money or take time. The simplest way to go green is to use less and buy less.
Many green websites, our own site included, share resources where you can buy green products. It seems that much of the current green movement drives us to be a consumer, albeit a green consumer, but a consumer nonetheless. For us, this misses an essential part of what the green movement is about—simplifying our lives and focusing less on materialism so that we have the space to bring our awareness to our connection with our surroundings and consciously develop a waste-free exchange and compassionate relationship with the earth. We are so used to being consumers that we miss the obvious—going green is about buying less, not more.
It’s so ingrained in our way of life to buy more that we often wonder if we no longer know what we truly need versus what we just want and often take for granted. We are so well trained to consume that it takes a shift in consciousness and a new way of looking at our lives to make a different choice. We have good intentions when we shop green, but first we need to slow down and look at our habits and lifestyle. Before we shop, perhaps we can get creative about how to use what we already have.
Now that said, if you do determine a need for something by all means make sure it’s green and healthy and use your power as a consumer to support green and socially-responsible businesses. We are big fans of things like recycled glass dishware, organic cotton linens, and the many other wonderful green products that are now available, but the starting point must be a question: do we really need it in the first place? How green is it to buy a reclaimed wood bed when you don’t really need a new bed? Exceptions to this would be replacing things in your home that have been found to be toxic. Of course you should care for yourself and your family. For example, it’s important to replace plastic food containers that contain Bisphenol-A with BPA-free plastic or glass. Or making an investment in something that will last a long time and make a big difference, such as switching to solar power.
We came to this awareness about our own habits as consumers because we too got caught up in the green shopping frenzy. A few years ago, Laura was completing a green renovation on her new home, which was going to be featured in an article about green living. We spent a few months leading up to the photo shoot decorating with all green products and materials. We made many purchases, from sofas, to towels, to accent pillows being very careful to make sure every item was healthy and eco-friendly.
Around the same time our parents also moved into a new home. When we visited our parents’ new place, we noticed that their home was filled with antique furniture and many of the same objects that they had owned since we were little kids. We could only think of a few things in Laura’s new home that were over ten years old. Also, our parents hadn’t made any structural changes to accommodate their lifestyle and they even decided to keep the current neutral paint color and kitchen cabinets even though they weren’t exactly what they would have chosen.
Although nothing in their home was “green,” one might argue that our parents’ move was more earth-friendly than Laura’s. Here we had spent time and money buying all new green products to create an eco-friendly home, yet despite all our efforts to be green we would say our parents have tread much lighter on this earth and left a much smaller footprint—primarily because of some good old fashioned values that we now realize are quite reminiscent of the popular green mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle… It was a humbling moment as we realized we had much to learn from our parents’ good habits.
Check out some images from the Traditional Home article that featured our makeover of Laura’s home.