Maybe you're not ready to sell your car, go off the grid, or use recycled toilet paper; but in the world of environmental consciousness, every little bit helps. Try these easy (and realistic) tips for the average consumer, and do your part to save the planet on Earth Day (April 22)-and every other day:
- Eat Fair Trade chocolate, and support small farmers.
- Recycle everything you can. Find a list at recyclingcenters.org.
- Use the dishwasher-most newer models save water. For more information, search treehugger.com.
- Don't water your lawn in the winter unless absolutely necessary.
- Repurpose empty tin cans as pencil holders or flower vases. Visit creatingreallyawesomefreethings.com and search "tin can crafts."
- Join a ride share program. Go to vride.com to find one in your neighborhood.
- Skip the cardboard coffee cup sleeve. Check ebay.com for adorable cotton and knitted reusable coffee cup sleeves.
- Make yarn from plastic bags (plarn). You can find details online at wikihow.com and other sites.
- Whenever possible, wash laundry in cold water.
- Donate your old electronics. See pickupplease.org for details.
- Invest in solar-powered lamps.
- Shower, don't bathe. You'll save about three gallons of water.
- Buy organic. For a list of the "dirty dozen" (fruits and vegetables containing the most pesticides), see ewg.org.
- Stop junk mail. Visit dmachoice.org and optoutprescreen.com.
- Give old furniture a face-lift. Add cushions or a fresh coat of paint. For paint, try mythicpaint.com or benjaminmoore.com (search "Natura No-VOC Paint").
- Use electronic faxing instead of paper fax machines.
- Use rechargeable, not disposable, batteries.
- Choose green dry cleaners, and skip the plastic bags. Visit greenamerica.org for more info.
- Buy organic cotton balls.
- When shipping, pack goods in old newspapers, never Styrofoam peanuts.
- Buy in bulk whenever possible.
- Stay at eco-hotels. Find one at greenhotelbookings.com.
- Wrap gifts in linen napkins or colorful scarves, or use a basket or clay flower pot.
- Catch rain in buckets to water your garden.
- Use bars instead of liquid soap in plastic bottles.
- Buy a carbon offset. Visit terrapass.com.
- Choose cloth-napkins, towels, diapers, and rags.
- Shred non-glossy paper and use to mulch plants.
- Make your own non-toxic cleaners. Get recipes at eartheasy.com.
- Buy used goods. Visit shopgoodwill.com.
- Replace water-hungry grass with succulents and desert plants.
- Precycle: buy only what you absolutely need.
- Bake in glass instead of metal, and lower the temperature by 25 degrees if possible.
- Choose restaurants that favor local produce.
- Get washable bamboo utensils, instead of plastic, for kids' lunches.
- Go electronic. Scan and email invitations, cards, and letters.
- Shut off computers and other office equipment overnight.
- Refill travel-sized cosmetics and body care products.
- Buy Juice concentrates or powdered drink mixes to save on packaging. A few favorites: Barlean's Chocolate Silk Greens; Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW; Nature's Answer ORAC Super 7 liquid; and Vibrant Health Green Vibrance.
- Invest in Pyrex glass storage containers for leftovers.
- Get nonstop flights. Takeoffs and landings use more fuel and release more emissions.
- Avoid single servings. Buy large containers and pack your own.
- Never buy Styrofoam. Polystyrene is an environmental nightmare.
- Keep the fridge and stove as far away from each other as possible.
- Choose "1" and "2" containers. They're easier to recycle.
- Plan a stay-cation for your next vacation. You'll slash your footprint (and save money).
- Buy a water filter, or carry a stainless steel or glass bottle. Try newwaveenviro.com or lifefactory.com.
- Hold virtual meetings and work from home whenever possible to avoid driving and air travel.
- Buy recycled office paper-and Recycle all office paper. Place a bin next to the trashcan.
- Build a compost bin for food scraps.
- Choose eco-friendly detergents. A few favorites: Bio Kleen Laundry Liquid, Citrus Essence; Ecover Natural Delicate Wash; and GrabGreen 3-in-One Laundry Detergent Pods.
- If you're renting a car during travels, choose a hybrid rather than a gas guzzler.
- Boil only as much water as you need to make one cup of tea.
- Buy produce in season. Visit localharvest.org to find farmers' markets and fresh fruits and vegetables in your town.
- When you mow the lawn, skip bagging and leave grass clippings to nourish the soil.
- Rather than sending a load to the dump, Sell your old books, clothes, or other goods at eBay.com or Amazon.com
- Use recycled linoleum tiles for flooring.
- Wash full loads. Half loads waste energy.
- Hang clothes to air dry when possible.
- Go to bed early, and save on electricity from lights.
Healing People and the Planet
In its native habitat of India and Southeast Asia, neem has played a key role in healing for thousands of years. In fact, it is traditionally regarded as the "curer of all ailments" and the "village pharmacy." Neem trees grow rapidly in warm climates, providing shade and helping to maintain and restore ecosystems. In urban areas, they are exceptionally efficient at absorbing airborne toxins. The tree's seeds and leaves can be made into natural fertilizers and non-toxic pesticides.
Back in 1992, an expert panel of the National Research Council published a book, Neem: A Tree for Solving Global Problems, which summarized a portion of the more than 2,000 studies on neem. Extracts of neem leaves and bark can be taken as supplements; neem oil, on the other hand, is only used topically in a variety of skin and hair preparations and in natural insecticides. Health benefits and uses include:
Healthy skin, hair, and scalp: Rich in healthy fats and antioxidants, neem oil provides relief from acne, psoriasis, eczema, allergic skin rashes or itches, athlete's foot, sunburn, age spots, flaky scalp, and virtually any other type of skin irritation. It can also be used topically to treat vaginal yeast infections.
Dental care: Antioxidants and other ingredients in the plant help to soothe and cool irritation, tighten gums, whiten teeth and protect against cavities and periodontal disease.
Insect repellent: Oil from neem seeds is a natural insect repellent, although it can't legally be labeled as such in the United States. In the garden, neem is also an effective pesticide.
Pet care: Neem shampoos for pets are gentle on pets' skin and help to protect against bug infestations.
Health: Neem extracts have been used to relieve ulcers, digestive issues, intestinal parasites, and viral infections, and to help regulate blood sugar and support liver function. Note: Neem has contraceptive properties; avoid if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
Where on Earth?
Where can you go this April 22 to take part in Earth Day events? Visit earthday.org to find a list of activities in your area, as well as information about volunteer opportunities, ongoing environmentally conscious campaigns, and environmental news briefs.
Lisa Turner is a certified food psychology coach, nutritional healer, intuitive eating consultant, and author. She has written five books on food and nutrition and developed the Inspired Eats iPhone app. Visit her online at inspiredeating.com.