The trend toward green consumerism indicates widespread recognition that the planet is in trouble. But so is our economy. If money’s tight, going a lighter shade of green is better than no green at all. Every once in a while, if you’re lucky, you get to witness an amazing bit of evolution right before your eyes. For Baby Boomers, this might be more familiar territory.For those of us Gen-X or newer, the past decade marks a cultural transformation unlike anything we’ve ever experienced: an entire society slowing changing its mind. We’ve been evolving from an “it’s-allabout- me-and-my-SUV” focus on consumption and rampant individualism to a different sort of living — one more focused on community and making the world a better place to live, along with a return to old-fashioned values like thrift. Blame Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” if you like, but being “green” has gone mainstream. Stores have begun hawking reusable shopping totes, big corporations are buying carbon offsets and almost everyone seems to have rediscovered recycling.It’s as if our whole society took off our rose-colored glasses at the same time and began to notice peak oil and the effects all of our consumption are having on the world around us. What’s amazing about this renewed movement toward environmentalism is the timing — which has allowed the movement to become more inclusive this time around.And thanks to the lingering recession, thrift and environmental responsibility have become not just buzz words, but survival skills. Most of us concerned with the environment understand that we’ll spend a little extra to support locally produced products or ones that are kinder to the earth — but also that their price is more reflective of their true costs. It’s like casting a ballot with our dollars when we choose these more sustainable products. This recession, however, has caused most of us to pull back and re-evaluate our spending and saving habits (or lack thereof ). It can be hard to justify spending more on a bottle of shampoo or a roll of recycled paper towels when your neighbors’ house is in foreclosure or you’re worried about being downsized out of a job. Faced with these conflicting priorities, many of us are left feeling as if we have to compromise our ethics to make ends meet when our resources are limited. But being green can cost less than you might think.By leveraging your creativity and doing some simple self-assessment, you can still Make a significant difference — and manage to spend in line with your values. Make the Most of What You’ve Got Reducing the amount and variety of things you consume is the simplest and often most effective green living step you can take (and the most wallet-friendly idea of all).More often than not, what we purchase isn’t something we truly need. Most of us already have more “stuff ” than we could ever hope to use. Stop shopping for the sake of shopping; take time to consider whether or not the things you purchase are truly necessary and bettering your life. By doing this, you’ll prevent a lot of things from ending up in a landfill — and keep more of your money. You can also challenge yourself to find new ways to use what you already have, like re-purposing old furniture in another room or starting seeds in old egg cartons. Grow Your Own If you have even a small yard or porch, give gardening a try. Growing your own food is extremely rewarding and relaxing — and can also save you a bundle on your grocery bill. Using your own produce also gives you freedom to choose which varieties of fruits and vegetables your family most enjoys, and you get the peace of mind that comes from knowing exactly where and how your food was grown. No need to worry about food recalls when your food comes from your own yard! And if you have a larger area to garden, consider planting a row for the hungry and donating fresh produce to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank to help out the less fortunate. Make Friends with a Farmer If you don’t have the time or resources to invest in growing your own fruits and vegetables, support local farms like the Crown Pointe Ecology Center in Bath by purchasing your produce from local farmer’s markets or joining a community-supported agriculture group (CSA). For a fixed price, a CSA allows you to buy a “share” of the food produced on a local farm throughout the season. The food isn’t limited to green stuff either. Fresh meats, eggs and baked goods are also regularly found at farmer’s markets and are available through some CSA programs. Whether you visit a market or join a CSA, you get great variety from much more localized sources, reducing the distance your food has to travel before it gets to your plate and the fossil fuels used To get it there. There’s also the added benefit of supporting the local economy more directly by giving your hard-earned money to support farms right here in Northeast Ohio. Joining a CSA is a great way for families with children to introduce them to new varieties of produce. Many CSA programs have unusual offerings you wouldn’t see in your average supermarket. (Some even offer edible flowers as part of their packages!)Having new foods in your CSA box to try each week is great for encouraging picky eaters to try different things, and the everchanging seasonal contents mean you won’t be stuck with anything you don’t like for too long. There are lots great markets and CSA programs to choose from near Akron. You can find listings of farms and CSA programs by visiting www.localharvest.org or find farmer’s markets in your area by visiting www.Ohioproud.org/markets.php. If you’re unsure about signing up for a whole season’s worth of produce, consider a CSA program like City Fresh, offered by the New Agrarian Center, where you can purchase weekly shares or produce starting at $28. City Fresh (http://cityfresh.org/home) makes delivery of these items fresh off the farm to area “Fresh Stops,” where you pick up your share on a predetermined day. Consider Where You Shop When buying durable goods such as clothing or furniture, try giving a gently used item a new home. By shopping at consignment and thrift stores, not only will you save money, but you can get great quality items. Not all of what you’ll find is vintage stuff from your grandmother’s basement either — though plenty of that’s available if you’re into retro. Many more modern wares can be had for a fraction of the cost of new.You can find some great local places online and in the phone book, but Revival Resale in Akron and Again & Again Consignment in Medina are among my personal favorites. Buying local is also an option with consumables, such as soaps, lotions and skin care products. Visiting sites like Etsy.com or Local Harvest can give you countless choices and introduce you to local artisans who depend on your patronage, creating another win-win situation for the planet and our local economy. DIY and Green Your Clean Consider making your own cleansers using common items such as vinegar, baking soda and lemons. These items are extremely inexpensive and contain no harmful chemicals to leach into waterways, causing pollution or soil contamination. Recipes are available on the Internet or in books at the local library. The simplest of all homemade cleansers (and a great place to start) is glass cleaner. To make it, combine one part distilled white vinegar and two parts water in a bottle with a spray nozzle.Spray it on your windows and mirrors, and wipe if off with recycled paper towels or newsprint.It works just as well as the ammoniabased versions you’d find on store shelves but is much less expensive and less toxic to people, pets and the planet. Park Your Car Become a tourist in your own town. Bike riding and walking are great exercise, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save you some cash — all at the same time. And there are all sorts of inexpensive ways to have fun in Northeast Ohio that are gentle on the earth.Summit and Medina counties are home to some amazing parks, and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park has great programs every summer. Try out a free cooking class offered at a local extension service office, and learn something new. You might also consider outdoor scavenger-hunt games like geocaching or letterboxing. In geocaching, you use a GPS while hiking to find hidden boxes with prizes inside (a “cache”).Letterboxing is similar, but uses written clues instead of a GPS to find hidden locations with stamps inside, some of which are hand carved or intricate in design. You can find more information on both by visiting www.groundspeak.com or www.atlasquest. com. If you prefer indoor activities, checking out free museums like the Toy and Train Museum and Elm Farm Dairy Museum in Medina (they have awesome ice cream) makes for a fun and inexpensive afternoon’s entertainment. A Step in the Right Direction Taking just a few of these suggestions will help protect our natural resources — while being kinder to your finances. More importantly, supporting green initiatives right here at home helps us foster a sense of community and responsibility. You’re helping your neighbors and building lasting friendships by supporting the people who, in turn, support you with their products, environmentally friendly practices and food. By taking simple green steps such as these and encouraging our friends and neighbors to do the same, we can do our part to build healthier, more sustainable communities. Locally raised herself, writer Heather Hunter is a wife, mother and environmentalist who’s passionate about preserving Ohio’s agrarian heritage. She and her family live in Medina County, where they use small-scale organic farming to make the world a better place and strengthen their community. Her blog, Semi- Farmed Kind of Life, highlights their journey.You can reach Hunter at lexirain2001@ gmail.com. Comments? E-mail them to editor Georgina K. Carson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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