25 Solutions to 7 Common Green Living Challenges


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Part 6 in an 8-Part WebEcoist Series on How to Go Green

The idea of ‘going green’ is something we hear a lot about but … who has time for it? What if you own a big car, like meat and love shopping? What comes next after you’ve adopted the reduce-reuse-recycle mindset, tried to shop, eat and live a little more green?

Part 1 in this series explored over 30 great tips for reducing, reusing and recycling to start getting into the green lifestyle. But there are even more things you can do once moving past the beginning stage of grasping the importance of sustainable living. This ties into Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but goes a little deeper. After taking a look at 25 ways to green your consumption, how to “green” your food, and even how to green your home, it makes sense to start looking at common, everyday challenges we all face and what green compromises we can make that are rewarding and easy to accomplish. As you go deeper into green, here are some typical challenges – and eco-friendly solutions to green light your eco-cred.

1. I’m addicted to gadgets.

– Then you’ll want to check out ecogeek so you can find green gadgets that actually help the planet. You’ll also learn about cool sustainable tech developments.

– Buy used. For example, if you’re a die-hard Mac user, you can buy a great MacBook Pro at a discount online and as long as you buy Apple Care, you’re likely to be in good hands. This prevents new resources from being used to produce a gadget or electronic device. The key here is to purchase from reputable resale merchants and always buy a warranty or insurance.

– Look for multi-function electronics and green gadgets. Don’t waste your money (and the planet’s resources) on uni-function gadgets. Don’t buy an alarm clock when you can use your phone as an alarm – not to mention calendar.

– Purchase from eco-friendly manufacturers who rank well for environmental responsibility.

2. I refuse to give up burgers.

– Sign up for a meat CSA to ensure you’re getting local, humanely raised meat.

– Eat slightly smaller portions. Vegetarianism isn’t a requirement for caring about the future of the planet. But because meat requires such vast resources to produce, meat isn’t sustainable for the global population as a way of life. If you enjoy those burgers, just focus on eating slightly smaller portions. Cut back a few ounces. (Your health and budget will thank you.)

– Always choose 100% organic, grass-fed, and if possible local meats to ensure that the animals are being raised humanely and in a way that is environmentally sustainably.


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3. I have an SUV and I can’t switch to a hybrid.

– Drive gently. Driving aggressively – hurtling around corners, slamming on breaks, cutting around slow drivers, accelerating rapidly – sucks up 30% more gas than when you drive moderately.

– Drive slowly. Save another 12-14% on gas by following the speed limit at all times.

– Look for ways to reduce your driving: get efficient. Combine all your errands into a carefully planned time segment one day a week, rather than wasting gas driving 5 miles to get a bag of salad one day and 10 miles to buy a light bulb the next.

– Wait until next spring to trade it in. SUV values are expected to rise slightly after the winter, but prices in 2008 have fallen 10% due to high gas prices. Give it a bit of time and get further ahead on your loan.

– Drive less and use public transport a few days a week. You can save up to $6,200 a year this way.

4. I commute to a big office…far away.

– Make sure the recycling doesn’t stop at your door. Get the office recyling paper, bottles, cans and plastic, and invest in a compost bucket, too.

– Turn everything off: lights, electronics, copiers and computers.

– Get your company to switch to energy efficient lighting and electronics as the current models expire.


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5. I admit it…I love shopping!

– Make a commitment to explore secondhand stores for fashion, eBay and Craigslist for furniture and big splurges, and sites like Freecycle or EcoFlip for eco-minded barters of anything you could possibly want. If you want it, chances are someone else has it and there’s probably something you own that they want. Think twice before hitting the mall.

– Force yourself to do the following: wait a day before making any purchase; buy quality over fast fashion and seemingly great deals on flimsy items that will quickly fall apart; and only buy from eco-friendly retailers. For example, buy organic cotton sheets instead of standard pesticide-laden cotton sheets.

6. I will never be a vegetarian. Forget it.

– Adopt a pet from the pound to give an unwanted animal a home (reap good karma). Purchase carbon offsets for your home, mileage, or meat (whatever seems right to you). Volunteer and help out with a green cause you feel good about. Simply look for other ways to create a sustainable life for yourself that don’t involve giving up meat. There are plenty.

– Eat vegetarian one or two meals of the day (whatever is reasonable and will be sustainable long-term). Order a veggie sandwich, pasta, or salad instead of the steak sub. It’s actually pretty easy to eat vegetarian, and it’s very easy to do so one or two meals a day. Eggs and tomatoes at breakfast and a slice of cheese pizza with a side salad at lunch are normal meals you wouldn’t even think of as “vegetarian” – and yet they are.


(Image via Dmiti Krendelev)

7. I don’t have time to become an expert. I’m not going to get all political. Just give me some basic things to do that will actually help.

– Use a canvas sack for groceries and a steel water bottle instead of toss-away plastic water bottles.

– Replace your lightbulbs with energy-efficient CFLs.

– Stop using disposable paper plates, plastic utensils, paper towels and paper napkins.

– Compost, reuse and recycle as much as you can – glass, metal, plastic, paper and food.

– Carpool. (Learn about ways to save on gas.)

– Eat vegetarian one day a week, or become a flexitarian.

– Turn off the water when you brush, the lights when you leave a room, and electronics when not in use.

That’s it! Come back next week for more helpful, accessible tips on living a greener lifestyle that also helps you live better.