Going Green

This past Earth Day marked a sea change for a lot of people, myself included. After reading everywhere about global warming and the resulting environmental crisis our planet faces and taking my son to see Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, I’m committed. We all have to make whatever changes we can to try to stave off a planetary crisis. Soon, families will be returning from vacations and thinking about the start of a new school year. It’s a good time to recognize that every choice we make about what we buy, eat, wear and how we live can make a difference.

Take paper, for example. According to the New American Dream website, global paper use has increased six times in the last 50 years, doubling since the 1970s. About one fifth of the world’s wood harvest goes towards producing paper and much of the forestry is done with herbicide use and clear-cutting. The pens, highlighters and markers found on every child’s school supply list are full of chemicals and toxins. And binders are usually made with vinyl or PVC, the most toxic and least recyclable of plastics. According to Tom Kay, co-founder of EcoMall, “Petroleum oil, a non-renewable resource, is used in the manufacture of chemicals and plastic commonly found in most school supplies.”

So if we put a little extra thought into our choices and buy eco-friendly products, we can help preserve our natural resources and reduce waste and pollution from manufacturing. Fortunately, it is getting easier every day to buy green items. For recycled and chlorine-free paper products, visit www.treecycle.com, www.greenlinepaper.com or www.dolphinblue.com. Dixon-Ticonderoga pencils, found just about everywhere, are made from sustainably harvested wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council which means that the wood is harvested responsibly. You can find pens made from recycled cardboard or biodegradable corn-based plastic and water based markers at www.greenearthofficesupply.com. This website also carries backpacks made from recycled rubber and hemp, as well as a full line of office supplies. www.EcoMall.com features eco-friendly companies offering all kinds of items, including paper products and organic clothing. Just think how much gas and aggravation you’ll save by ordering all your child’s supplies online!

And what about lunch? Instead of buying overly packaged single serving lunches of crackers and cheese or cold cuts which skimp on nutrition anyway, pack your child a healthy lunch in recyclable containers and use cloth napkins instead of paper. Include a thermos or reusable water bottle for drinks, because those convenient little juice boxes we love will probably remain in our landfills for 40 years or so.

When shopping for new school clothes, try to buy clothing made from organic cotton and hemp that don’t contain toxic pesticides. Each year, cotton fields in the United States use 800 million pounds of pesticides! Better yet, recycle clothes from friends or relatives.

If you live close to school, have your child walk or ride a bike there. And if you do drop off your kids or pick them up, remember to turn the car off instead of idling the engine while you wait.

We can all make a difference with just a few basic changes in our lifestyles. And talk to your children about why you’re making these choices so that they understand how important it is to take care of the environment too. Remember, what’s good for the planet is good for our children — for their health today and for their future.