10 Steps Closer To . . .

April 17th, 2009 - filed under: Furthermore » Inspiration




1. Buy Your Food From Bulk Bins.    Most natural food stores, and many supermarkets, offer a variety of loose goods like flours, powders, pastas, beans, nuts, dried fruit, coffee, tea, and spices – and there are awesome advantages to buying these items bulk.  Firstly, you don’t pay for anything other than the actual food, which significantly lowers the price. As well, you further control your cost by purchasing as little or as much as you want.  But economics aside, buying in bulk is the easiest way to reduce waste.  Think about it – you’re foregoing the massive amount of plastic and materials that always accompanies pre-packaged products.  And finally, buying whole, single-ingredient items means fewer preservatives, fewer additives, and more cooking from scratch – all of which is good for YOU!

2. Stop Buying ‘Throw-Away’ Stuff.    Did you know that bottled water can cost 10,000 times more, per gallon, than tap water?  And study after study confirms, it’s no cleaner, no ‘purer’, and no better for you than city water.  Still, each year roughly 1.5 million barrels of oil are turned into plastic water bottles, 90% of which end up un-recycled in landfills.  So please, slap on a faucet filter and get yourself a stylish stainless steel canteen.  These days they come in every shape and color imaginable – très chic!  And while you’re out shopping for the perfect water jug, why not pick up some extra cloth napkins?  Because America’s paper towel habit requires 544,000 trees, each year.  Unacceptable! Lets wipe our fingers on washable fabric, shall we?

3. Go Veg*n!    Listen, it’s so much better for your body, it’s definitely better for the environment, and it’s certainly better for the animals.  But okay, you’re not ready to commit 100%? That’s fine!  There’s no ‘green competition’, and we’re all just doing what we can to make this world a bit better.  But part of being fabulous means pushing farther, and expecting great things from yourself.  So why not make a promise to cut out meat for a month?  Or hit up the local library and check out The China Study?  Or just aim to make veggies the majority of every meal! And when you feel overwhelmed, try to remember these powerful words: “Don’t think you have to do nothing, just because you can’t do everything”.


4. Always Shop Secondhand.    We touched on this when I wrote about being an Ethical Sartorialist, but I felt it was important to reiterate.  It’s time to face our fashion: the vast majority of new clothing is made with environmentally destructive methods, by people working in ‘poverty wage’ conditions, for corporations that aren’t held accountable to any of it.  Is the perceived luxury of shopping the hot new trends, really worth all that? Well of course not!  I shop exclusively secondhand, and you know what?  I look faaaabulous, just like every other thrift store diva I know.  We don’t need their stinky sweatshop clothes, right?!

5. Switch to Green Grooming.    Our skin is our largest organ, the gatekeeper of our immune system, and yet, each day we mindlessly slather it with proven toxins, harsh chemicals, and potentially poisonous reagents. Just because we call them shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, lotions, serums, balms, toners, and tamers, doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous.  Now honestly ask yourself: how much of that $#^! do you really need???  It’s probably not much.  But for the necessary body beauty goods, seek out products that are made by smaller companies, certified organic, paraben and phthalate free, and cruelty-free without animal byproducts (look for the jumping bunny).  Shop wisely (I know you always do!)

6. Support Your Local Art Scene.    Looking to pimp out your pad, but not sure where to start?  I think the quickest way to a fashionable living space is unique, customized expression.  That means NO boring blank walls and NO corporate art.  I say shell out a little extra dough and buy something custom.  Hit your local art walks, coffee shops, and booze lounges for affordable art on display (the galleries tend to be much pricier – and stuffier!).  You’ll be investing in an artist, building your community, and best of all, your flat won’t imitate every other Ikea cutout.  And that, my friend, is fabulous.


7. Grow Your Own Food.    But, not everyone has a pretty plot of land to till, and we can’t all move to the countryside.  Some of us are city folk!  So you can’t keep raised beds or a pea patch, so what!?  Remember, it’s always better to do *something*, instead of doing nothing at all.  Even that shoebox apartment has to have one windowsill. I’m sure it could accommodate a tomato vine.  Or, a front stoop is a perfect place for a 2-gallon drum planted with fresh basil.  What about a quiet corner of a public park? No one would notice if you added fresh rosemary, mint, and sage.  I even knew of a girl who grew corn in containers on her high-rise balcony.  Be creative, and start farming!

8. Everybody Recycles, But Do You Re-USE?    I’m going to go ahead and assume that we’re all recycling, right?  RIGHT?  Okay good.  But what about further reducing waste, by implementing a strict ‘re-use’ policy in our homes?  For example, you can hand wash sandwich and freezer bags several times before they need to be tossed.  You can repurpose glass food containers (like jam and pickle jars) into sustainable Tupperware – they’re so much safer than plastic.  Use them to store your bulk food buys!  Or paint your plastic food containers (like Earthbalance™ and Tofutti™ tubs) and turn them into miniature planters.  Start a tub cactus garden!  Or transform old tee shirts into mop rags and dusters, so you won’t need paper towels.  As you can imagine, the possibilities are endless here.  All you need is your magical mind . . .

9. Bring Animals Into Your Life.    Oxytocin is the ‘love drug’ that floods new mothers and newborns, forever bonding them in adoration.  But recent studies show that this chemical is also released into our brains *every time* we pet a mammal.  That’s right, there’s an actual biochemical reaction occurring when you snuggle that mutt.  Some scientists even postulate that increased urban depression could be the result of isolation from animal interaction.  So instead of reaching for your mood-stabilizer-du-jour, how about reaching for a new furry friend? Consider trying to find room in your life to adopt (from a shelter, not a pet store or private breeder) a homeless pet.  Or if you really don’t have the option – and some of us just don’t – you could volunteer at a shelter.  Being around animals is a mutually beneficial, arguably essential, experience.  In this life, it’s simply not to be missed.


10. __________________

Hey, How about YOU tell ME.  What’s your favorite component of your fabulous green life? 



  • Allison

    Such wonderful points! I try my best to hit as many of those on a daily basis as I can possible manage. I even continue to work part time at a health food store just so I have a local place I can bring my tupperware to fill up on bulk items without them looking at me like I am crazy.
    Your comment about doing nothing because you can’t do everything is a tough one for me to deal with sometimes. Whenever I try to do something good and positive to better my life or the planet, I am met with this attitude. You want to be vegan? That’s not going to make large farms stop milking cows, so why bother? You can’t tell if your clothes were made ethically, so why bother trying not to buy things made in China? You aren’t going to convince people to change their ways so why try to show the world that it is not necessary to eat meat and be a mindless consumer? Sometimes it really gets me down, but other times it just makes me stronger. I am lucky to be pretty strong willed and to have bloggers out there who I can look to for inspiration.

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

  • Allison

    Oh and for #10

    Make your own reusable shopping bags or buy some not mass produced in China and then fill them up with tons of yummy locally grown produce from farmers markets. I really like the idea of supporting local farmers and food that was picked mere hours ago.

  • Alex

    Nice list! I’d say I do 5.5 of those. As for number 4, it’s nice (+ encouraging) how many Portlanders do that. The bins rock.

    Number 10 – walk and ride the bus, when possible. I have a car and use it when I have to, and when I’m lazy, but more and more I’ve been taking the bus or walking to destinations. Being that one of my habitual destinations is downtown for school, and downtown P-town has parking meters, in my case I’ve actually saved myself a lot of money by getting a bus pass.

  • Lee Hoffman

    Great piece Say, and you always inspire me to do better. Lee

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ Allison – I think that a sense of ‘hopelessness’ is a struggle that all activists and mindful individuals must constantly wrestle with. It is the complimentary – equal and opposite – to wanting to do good in the world. You must also recognize the bad.

    I try to surround myself with people who inspire me, and also remind myself that I’m only one person and doing my best. That’s all any of us can hope for. =)

    Also, yes! Supporting local farmers is a great one!

    @ Alex – can you believe I just got my first bike last spring? I live for that thing now, used it all last summer for errand running, etc. I’ll be writing about bikes soon – thanks for the reminder!

    @ Lee – Thanks Lee! Ditto!

  • Kat

    I wonder about the bulk bins, actually. Is a plastic bag full of rice really better if it’s from a bulk bin as opposed to a bag of rice off the grocery store shelf?

    I just found your blog and I’m really enjoying it. Vegan would be pretty out of the question for me (health restraints require more protein than I could get from veggies alone) but I have managed to get my family eating MORE veggies then they used to, and we’re all so much healthier and happier for it! I can’t wait until the summer growing season really kicks off and I can start buying local produce again… Not to mention the 100 square feet of garden space I have this year!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ Kat – Yes! The bulk bins are definitely better for all sorts of reasons regarding packaging at every stage of production. But in regards to your question about bags (which is a good one and makes total sense), they key is to show up prepared. I re-use those bulk bin baggies over and over and over again – they come with me along with my canvas shopping bags every time I go to the co-op. I also bring re-used plastic tubs to hold my fresh ground nut butters, bulk Earthbalance, bulk olives and figs, stuff like that. And I bring glass jars for oils, maple syrup, agave, stuff like that. So by incorporating re-usable containers, you *definitely* do save packaging!

    I’m glad you like the blog! And 100 sg ft of garden – that’s exciting!

  • HoorayParade

    making my own deodorant has to be my favorite thing. it seems kind of trivial and silly but i love it so much and get such joy out of doing it and i love getting excited about the next way i am going to try it.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ HoorayParade – Making your own deodorant sounds as far from trivial as you can get! =D It’s definitely on my list of things to diy. I’d love if you shared your recipes or techniques. I can’t wait to try my hand at it!

  • http://www.sarathomas.etsy.com sara thomas

    wasting your waste-

    we have 5 varieties of disposal in our house that i think helps to manage our amount of waste pretty well.

    1. composting. we compost as much as possible (see saywards awesome list on this i learned tons!) my husband built a compost in our back yard out of pallets & we keep a little stainless steel bucket in the house. when the bucket gets filled we just take it out & dump it. we also put grass clippings etc. in there too. you just have to stir it often to promote heat & keep critters from taking residence in it. if you dont have a yard i know they have other compositing options such as barrels etc. i am sure you could fine something that fits your needs!

    2. recycling (of course!)

    3. trash. so we have 2 trashes. one is in a small bin & we use a brown paper grocery bag to line it (boo plastic! we just dont use our washable market bags every time we go shopping & ask for paper instead) any thing that can’t be recycled goes in there (ex. used tissues). The other trash we have is a little bag on the counter by the compost bin. it’s a recycled bag (usually from cereal that we finished) & we put anything moist in there that we don’t compost (ex. banana peels). that way, it keeps the moisture contained. if we combined the wet in our paper bag garbage it gets nasty and moldy.

    4. give it away/sell it! anything like clothes, appliances, old baby stuff etc. that are in good shape we either bring to good will, give to someone we know or have a yard sale. it keeps it going & helps keep the carbon print down.

    saving water.

    one more little thing we do is use the water from our dehumidifier to help fill the washer. during the summer it gets hella humid here, so my husband built a stand for the dehumidifier next to the washer so it was up a little higher than the machine and attached a hose that we just let run right into the washing machine.

    when we are low on rain (UNLIKE this spring!) i take the hose out & just let the humidifier container fill up with water, dump it in my watering can & give my plants a drink!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ sara thomas Those are amazing suggestions!

  • T-money

    Girl, you gave me that extra kick in the ass I’ve been dreaming about lately. Thanks a lot.