Friday, January 23, 2009

Fashionably Green

Bloomingdale’s iconic paper “Little Brown Bags” gave birth to a range including “Medium Brown Bags” and “Large Brown Bags”. These were free with purchases. Eventually they became so collectable that Bloomingdale’s began to manufacture laminated plastic versions. I was not very keen on these, but when I was in New York recently I came across a new addition to the family which I am very taken with. In the spirit of being green, Bloomingdale’s are marketing canvas versions of these wonderful bags. I immediately snapped up a medium canvas bag, and I have been using it non-stop ever since we got home. It even has a small zipper pocket at the top for keys etc. Hats off to Bloomingdale’s for making a fashionable addition to all the eco-friendly bags out there!

I am trying to be as green as possible, which is hard for someone who spends so much time on airplanes. At a recent Ideal Homes show I took a “How Green Are You Quiz” and my results were tallying up very well until I was asked about flying. Suddenly I was a complete ecological disaster. My other results were so good however that the nice lady doing the quiz said I should just ignore my air miles and concentrate on the good I was doing with everything else (recycling, taking my own bags to the supermarket, using eco-friendly light bulbs etc). I really liked her attitude. Instead of making me feel bad about the one less than perfect thing I was doing, she kept the emphasis on the positive. And anyway, as the 21st Century Husband says, “the plane is going anyway, with or without you on it”. I couldn’t give up travelling, even for the sake of the environment. It’s selfish, but it’s true.

I do try to run our house in as eco-friendly a way as I can. I wash at low temperatures, use the dryer as little as possible (I just have to dry my towels in there, I can’t stand scratchy towels), and try not to use too many chemicals to clean the house. We are lucky that our house is a new build, so it was built in line with new energy efficiency programmes, which makes it a bit easier to be eco-friendly from the start. I think you can only do your best though. I mean, it is impractical to suggest changing every single light bulb in your home to energy efficient bulbs overnight – it would cost a fortune. Almost all the bulbs in our house were energy efficient when we moved in so that made it a bit easier. It does take a while to get used to the new bulbs though. They just are not as bright as their predecessors and it can make it difficult to see when you are sewing or matching socks. On the plus side, they cast a very flattering light so that can work to your advantage! They also save tons of money in electricity bills. I pay less for electricity now than I did five years ago, and the prices have gone up!

My best tip for being eco-friendly is white vinegar. It’s amazing what you can clean with white vinegar. I wash windows, mirrors and even my kitchen floor with a mixture of white vinegar and water. I keep some in a spray bottle to make it easier. If you don’t like the smell of vinegar you can just pop a drop of essential oil in with it . I tried some of the new eco-friendly cleaners but the only ones I am really keen on are the Method brand. I adore their Tub and Tile cleaner. It smells like a spa. No more coughing and choking while I clean the shower for me! (You have no idea how much I miss my cleaning lady but I just can’t find anyone who measures up to her.) I found many of the other eco-friendly products worked, but you needed a lot of the product to make them do so. Ecover comes a close second – although I have never tried their washer products. I’ve always been nervous about whether they work properly, but you never know until you try!

I think that is the most I have ever discussed cleaning on this website, as it isn’t really what this site is about at all. I just kind of wandered into the subject by mistake when I got talking about being kind to the environment. Sorry about that.

As for other areas of my life, I do try to be green. I walk to the local shops and the post office unless we are having a typical British rainstorm. I’d walk to the gym if I could but the closest one is six miles away so that is a bit impractical. I recycle almost everything that is recyclable and I try not to waste food. Sadly I do buy air freighted produce – sometimes I just can’t resist asparagus in January – but I try to buy local foods whenever I can. The milkman delivers milk to the doorstep three times a week and I shop online when it’s practical. So I suppose I do okay.

And that is the point really, if we all just do our bit, it will make a huge difference. If you try to do too much, you’ll get discouraged and give up and that won’t help any of us. So when it comes to being eco-friendly I think the best advice is to do things in moderation and try your best. Actually, that is pretty good advice for life as well!

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