Tag Archives: carbon footprint

How to Green-Up Your Home to Live a Happy Healthy Life

greenvalentineBy: Elizabeth Eckhart 

It seems today that more and more Americans are concerned with the current state of the environment, and what we can do to help. Everywhere you look, companies are “going green” in an attempt to appeal to the demands of the increasingly educated public. Even electric companies in places like Texas, the oil capital of America, are touting their green energy options, and it’s all beginning to turn the tide: according to the EPA, in 2008 Americans were able to avoid releasing the equivalent of 29 million cars worth of greenhouse gases through eco-conscious living. This translated to a savings of $19 billion for Americans that year.

However, it’s not just our commercial goods we are wanting to be eco-friendly – many of us want to live greener and thus healthier lives defined by mindfulness of our place on the Earth, and making our home as green as possible is an undeniably important part. Our homes should be a haven, not a harm to us, and shouldn’t be reducing the quality of the environment.

So what exactly is a “green” home? Compared to an average American home, green homes are gentler on the environment because they use less energy, water and other natural resources while avoiding waste and negative environmental impact wherever possible. Standard homes consumes about 30 percent of total energy and 65 percent of all electricity generated in the US. By making plumbing, fixtures, landscaping and irrigation systems more efficient, greens homes can use 50 percent less water than standard American homes. Also, constructing a green home generates about 50 to 90 percent less waste than standard homes.

Based on these facts and simple observations, it should come as no surprise to see the rise in the number of eco-friendly homes being built, and for good cause. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that buildings in the U.S. contribute 70 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and residential buildings produce 20 percent of our total CO2 emissions alone. It is clear that our homes and offices play a major role in the environment, so it’s our responsibility to limit the damage we inflict with them.

Also, not only do standard constructed homes negatively affect the environment, but they are affect our wellbeing. Green homes create less indoor air pollutants than standard homes, which can enhance allergies and asthma and may lead to lung cancer.

There are many options for current homeowners to turn their homes into energy efficient ones. One of the most popular programs to help with this process is the Energy Star program, which was launched in 1995. Energy Star certified energy efficient products typically use 20-30 percent less energy than what is required by federal standards. While Energy Star certifications are for what’s in your home, LEED Certification, launched by the United States Green Building Council, is for the building itself. LEED-certified homes aim to reduce their negative impact on the environment by reducing their energy and water use by an average of 20-30 percent as well as maximizing fresh air within the home to reduce exposure to domestic pollutants.

The reality is though, that most Americans simply can’t afford to build a new LEED certified home, or buy new Energy Star certified products. Luckily, there are many steps all of us can take to reduce our impact on the environment that don’t break our bank.

The first step would be to get an energy audit — many electric companies offer these at minimal to no cost, or you can do it yourself. A DIY audit consists of checking for, and sealing, indoor and outdoor air leaks that could be driving up your energy bill by 5-30 percent a year. This is particularly important for older homes, since they are more prone to having drafts.

Next, compare home electricity providers to see which companies offer green products, such as solar panels. Many companies today are utilizing renewable sources from solar, to wind, hydro and geothermal to generate electrical power. If you live in states like New York, Maryland, Texas, and other parts of the South, you can try here to see which companies offer eco-friendly options for household electricity in your area and which would work for you and your household’s electricity needs.

The next step is to check your home’s insulation, which keeps the heat from escaping through the ceiling and walls. The attic is the biggest culprit for heat loss, so look there first if you have one, then consider checking and re-sealing the borders of windows and doors.

Your heating and cooling equipment should be next on your list. Cleaning or replacing filters, inspecting ducts and pipes for leaks, and replacing the unit every 15 years will ensure tip-top energy efficiency and will protect your lungs from breathing in mold and other harmful toxins.

The last, and easiest step is to monitor your use of electronic devices. Aside from using any electronic devices less frequently, make sure to unplug everything that isn’t being used at that moment, and definitely do so if you’ll be out of the house for a few hours or more. Unused, but plugged in, electronic devices are leeches of electricity and cost you hundreds of dollars a year without you being any the wiser – this includes power strips and surge protectors, so be sure to unplug these as well as they will continue to draw power. To get more tips on a do-it-yourself home audit check the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.

Other greener options for the home are to use less water, use fewer paper goods such as paper towels (opt for cloth towels instead and reuse them), get newer appliances that are more energy efficient and whenever possible buy green household cleaners that don’t contain harsh chemicals or toxins.

Not only will doing everything you can to make your home green reduce your impact on the environment, it will also lead to a happier, healthier life. Wellness begins at home, so make sure your house is part of your solution!

Have any other tips for making your house more green? Share in the comments below! 

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Elizabeth Eckhart is a Chicago born and bred blogger who is passionate about keeping the environment clean. Some of her favorite writing topics include new renewable energy technology and various ways to live a healthy lifestyle. 

I’ve Already Lost A Ton This Year.

I am one of those people who should be quite willing and in fact, adept, at calculating my carbon footprint and then offsetting it. My company has clients such as NRDC and the Rainforest Alliance, and the environment is a true passion of mine.

I also am a strong supporter of climate change legislation and everyone chipping in for good causes. However, I have to confess — I have never offset my carbon emissions; and I haven’t even really come that close to trying if the truth be told. My biggest issue is that frankly it’s just too damm complicated; there are calculators to help you figure it out but you have to enter something in those calculators. They are not self-calculating and it takes a lot of work.

Can. Not. Be. Bothered.

So (drum roll please) when my friends at the

Marion Institute launched a $7 Carbon Diet, that gives you the chance to offset just one ton of carbon emissions for just $7, I was happy. This I understand. This makes sense. I get it. 

And where does your $7 go? To Columbia and the Gaviotas Offset Project, literally the one place in the world with a twenty year track record of replanting a tropical ranforest — check out the pictures here.

$7, $7 a month for the year, whatever you choose, thank god someone finally made saving the planet quick easy and smart. Chip in here. Personally, I am feeling better than I have in years.

Something you might not know about green living…

…is that it is easy! 

When people hear “green living” or “eco-friendly products” people assume it will cost them money and time to become part of the trend. The truth: it won’t. Not only will green living save you money in the long run (even if you go to the higher level and install solar panels across your roof), but it will save the environment so your children will be able to enjoy it.

 

Here are 10 simple tips for reducing your carbon footprint and greening your life.

 

1. Recycle. EVERYTHING from paper, cans and bottles to ink cartgridges.

2. Adjust your heat/air conditioning settings a couple degrees lower or higher

3. Use less toilet paper. Surprisingly, just being aware of how much of something you use can make you use less.

4. Unplug appliances, electronics and other products when they are not in use. Even products that are “turned off” continue to use power, so un-plug them to not waste precious electricity (or money for that matter).

5. Start your own compost. Not only do you waste less, but for those avid gardeners out there, you might see a bit more life in your plants by creating and using nutrient-rich soil

6. Do not open your oven or fridge longer than you need to. Every second reduces/increases the temperature and your appliances will need to work extra hard to get the temperature back to the set degrees

7. Reuse half-full notebooks or pads for note-taking or messages

8. Print double sided and use the draft setting whenever possible to conserve ink and paper

9. Pay your bills, bank and do whatever else you can online to save the paper and time

10. Donate or re-use old products instead of throwing them away.

 

See. I told you it was easy! Just 10 simple steps and you have already reduced your carbon footprint and proven that green living is not only possible but easy. 

10 Tips to Take Action Against Your Carbon Footprint

We all know about our carbon footprint, but what we all really want to know is how can we beat it? To answer this question, I have listed 10 tips to help you start the fight against your carbon footprint and environmental impact.

 

  1. Turn off all products and appliances when not in use. Just because your appliances or products are “turned off” or on stand-by it continues to draw power by being plugged in. 
  2. Convert to renewable energy. Homeowners in many areas now have the option of switching to renewable energy from your utilities provider or through the purchase/rental and installation of solar panels, which are becoming increasingly more affordable. 
  3. Reduce your water consumption. 1) Shut off the tap when you brush your teeth or shave. 2) Install low-flow shower heads. 3) Take shorter showers. 4) Install low-flow toilets. 5) Run the dishwasher and laundry machine with a full-load only. 
  4. Reduce your paper trail. Look for paper that is 80-100% recycled and with high post-consumer materials and be aware of how much paper you use vs. how much you actually need.
  5. Drive less. 1) Organize a car-pool. 2) Bike or walk. 3) Maintain proper engine and tire health. 4) Plan your trip so you don’t drive in circles. 5) Switch to a hybrid or electric vehicle.
  6. Use re-usable products. Plastic and disposable products are one of the number one landfill fillers. Pay attention to the labels on the products you buy to ensure they are able to be recycled or re-used.
  7. Changing and turning off your light bulbs. 1) Use a compact florescent bulb. 2) Turn your lights on when you leave the room. 3) Take advantage of natural light through windows and skylights.
  8. Don’t use harmful chemicals. Instead, try your  hand with home-made remedies or plain vinegar which is safer for your family and the environment.
  9. Re-use, re-use, re-use. Not only is this good for your karma, but it will help save the environment too and who doesn’t like win-win situations?
  10. Start something. Get involved in your neighborhood and show others how easy it is to beat their carbon footprint.
     

 

How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Many people believe that it’s the big factories and congested freeways that contribute the most to the current climate crisis. The truth is, everything we do leaves a permanent mark on the atmosphere – a footprint. And everyone has one. Making coffee, driving, buying food, flying, it all contributes to the amount of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere and, by effect, creates the issues we face with global warming.

So what do we do? Stop buying food? Stop drinking coffee? For most coffee drinkers, that would be a major problem, and no one wants to see what happens when global warming pushes people into caffeine withdrawals. That could get ugly.There are, however, a number of practical things we can do to reduce our individual carbon footprint. (Don’t worry, you can keep your coffee.)

Step One: Drive less.

As far as individual carbon footprint goes, driving is hands down the single largest contributor to a person’s carbon footprint (unless you fly a lot – that’s another issue entirely). The average driver puts about four tons of carbon waste into the environment each year. That’s if you drive a fuel efficient vehicle. For a SUV driver, the output is nearly three times that amount. The simplest way to cut back on carbon emissions from driving is to drive less. With most people commuting at least 20 miles to work or school, eliminating the need to drive just isn’t practical, but by making a conscious effort to reduce your vehicle time, you can reduce your vehicle’s carbon footprint.

• Reduce the number of trips you take. Instead of running random errands throughout the week, designate one day errand day and get it all done in one shot.

• See if your workplace will let you switch to a four day work week. Cutting one day of driving a week can reduce your carbon waste by 20 percent.

• Drive when you know there won’t be traffic. The less time you actually spend on the road, the less carbon emissions your vehicle releases.

• On the days you do have to drive to work, find a co-worker to carpool with. You drive less, and you help someone else reduce their carbon footprint.

• Whenever you can, ride your bike, walk or use public transportation.

• If you are a frequent flier, reduce the number of flights you take. By cutting back on three flights a year, you can reduce your carbon footprint by five tons. That’s like completely eliminating the carbon footprint created from a year’s worth of driving. In the era of technology, opt for a video conference call instead of a face-to-face meeting.

Step Two: Turn the lights off.

Ninety-eight percent of the electricity we use in our homes is generated from non-renewable resources, which means eventually they are going to run out. The demand for non-renewable resources like coal and natural gas creates a huge carbon footprint. If we all turned the lights off before leaving the room or unplugged appliances and electronics when they are not in use, we could relieve a huge strain on the demand. It sounds really easy, but the tricky part is making a habit of turning the lights. For people like me, who have possible undiagnosed attention issues, it might take a couple of astronomical utility bills to realize how much flipping the switch can make a difference for a person’s carbon footprint and the monthly budget.

Here are a few more ways to reduce your carbon footprint by cutting energy use at home:

• Don’t use your dryer unless you have to. In fact, when you’re not using it, unplug it. When you do use the dryer, clean the lint trap every time.

• Replace your incandescent light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) or Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs). They cost a little more, but they last longer and cut energy consumption by 88 percent.

• Set the temperature in your refrigerator between 36-38 degrees and your freezer between 0-5 degrees. If you’re in the market for a new unit, make sure it’s Energy Star approved.

• If you’re not using your electronics, unplug them too. Even in stand-by mode, home electronics can account for ten percent of home energy use.

Step Three: Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Recycling paper, plastic and aluminum is easy. You separate your trash from your recyclables and, in most cities, the same company that takes away your garbage has a crew to take away your recyclable goods as well. You can reduce your carbon footprint even more by going beyond the basic recycled items and finding creatives ways to recycle by reusing.

• Planet Green has 14 uses for old phone books that go a little bigger than just tossing the yellow pages in the recycling bin. My favorite: cover it in fabric and make a booster seat.

• Instead of throwing milk jugs away, use them to store seeds for your garden or as a water spout.

• If you frequently chow down on Asian cuisine, hang on to your used chopsticks. You can use them to stake out your garden or as knitting needles. If you collect them for long enough you could build a life size canoe.

• America’s electronic waste accounts for millions of tons of the trash that ends up in landfills each year. Make sure to recycle your electronics or dispose of them responsibly!

Step Four: Shop smart.

You could also buy locally, but if the local selection leaves something to be desired and you’re not much of a green thumb, you can still reduce your carbon footprint at your community supermarket. You just have to spend a little more time considering what you buy.

• Stay away from the freezer section and the canned foods. Packaging for the pre-prepared items takes a lot of energy. Stick to fresh fruits and veggies as much as possible. Check to see where they’re from. If you’re worried about them going bad before you get a chance to use them up- preserve them yourself and save them for later.

• If you can avoid buying dairy products, do so. Milk and cheese take a lot of energy – you have to take good care of the cow to get it to produce dairy. Just about anything you can buy as far as dairy goes, has a alternative dairy-free substitute. Non-dairy items last longer in your fridge and are often better for you.

• Buy in bulk. Less packaging means less waste. You can portion the items out when you get home and save a bit of money investing in the industrial size.

Try going vegan (or vegetarian). You can make it lifestyle change or just commit to not eating meat a few days a week. A weekday vegetarian can cut their carbon footprint by nearly a ton each year. Someone who makes the switch to go vegan can cut up to two tons of carbon waste annually.

Step Five: Choose neither paper nor plastic.

A trip to the grocery store leaves most shoppers with a big dilemma – do you want to pack your items in paper or plastic bags? Both add to your carbon footprint, especially if you don’t recycle of reuse them. Thankfully, you have another option- bring your own bags. Reusable shopping bags are more popular than ever and often come with all kinds of incentives from money back to reward points. The trick to using reusables to reduce your carbon footprint is remembering to use them. Here’s a few tips to keeping track of your reusable bags so you don’t leave home with out them:

• Every time you come home from shopping, make it a habit to unload your groceries and immediately put your bags back in your vehicle or hang them on your door knob. Don’t wait and dash or you’ll forget.

• Set an alarm on your mobile phone or PDA to remind yourself not to forget. Or cover your dashboard, rear view mirror, hatch back and gear shift with Post-it reminders.

• If you make a grocery list before you go shopping, add “Remember Your Bags” to the top of your list.

• Make a statement. Purchase really bright-colored reusable bags so you will actually like carrying them around. Trader Joe’s offers cool prints on their really inexpensive bags.

• Build up a collection of reusable bags, so you’ll have enough even if you’re buying mass quantities of groceries. That way you won’t end up with a plastic bag because you ran out.

• Try this reusable bag that scrunches up into a convenient keychain. That way you’ll always have it with you!

Step Six: Stop breathing.

The reality is to zero out your carbon you would have stop breathing because even recycled oxygen creates carbon dioxide. Not in the same way cars and trucks and factories do, but you get the idea. It’s impossible to eliminate your carbon footprint, but taking steps to reduce your impact on the environment starts with being aware of what kind of footprint you are making now.

• There are some great web-based resources to help you estimate the impact you are currently and help you find other practical ways to cut back.

• Nature.org has a great carbon calculator to help determine the carbon footprint for your entire household.

• Ready to test your carbon knowledge and see if you have the prowess to cut back on your carbon footprint? Check out Planet Green’s Curb Your Carbon Quiz.

Originally posted on Causecast.org.

Taking The Eco-Challenge: Can We All Get a Little Greener?

Often our weekend plans include or necessitate the purchase or addition of something new in our lives. Maybe you need an outfit for a wedding, a new refrigerator or something smaller like cleaning products or shampoo. Whether it be toys or gadgets for your kids, a gift, or necessities like toilet paper and food, how environmentally sound and healthy of a purchase we are making is often the last thing on our minds during hectic weekend errands. We go to the store, pick up what we need and then move on to the fun stuff we wait for all week. A few minutes of thoughtful consideration before running errands can add up to big changes toward reducing our consumption.

Reducing our carbon footprint is a big task. Where to start? What makes the most difference? Tackling one thing at a time can be a manageable way to get to a greener place, so here is a challenge for all of us: Find something we have already or that you need/want that isn’t green and replace it with a greener version, or better yet, get rid of it all together (in an environmentally-friendly way of course).

If shopping is in your future, some research can save money and prevent the in-store panic onset by florescent lighting and Saturday crowds that causes us to grab and run, later regretting our purchases when we realize they have a harmful ingredient or were made by a company with less than admirable eco-practices.

Resources are numerous, you just need to know where to look. There are many books out there that want to tell you how to go green. Here are a couple I recommend. Check your local library to save some cash and be extra green while you read.

The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time is a great compilation of solution-based advice to help us make green choices across the board one step at a time, without telling us to just go without or stop everything we are currently doing.

Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life. Pioneering environmentalism before it was fashionable, actor and activist Ed Begley Jr. is an environmental leader who has several books on a slew of topics to help you educate yourself on the hows and whys of going green.

There are several excellent and comprehensive online resources from reliable sites that are user-friendly and quick ways to get tips and do research on our environmental impact, whether you’re looking for organic wine, personal care products or are just trying to do your laundry without eco-remorse.

• National Geographic’s The Green Guide has articles, tips and advice on all things green.

• Treehugger, a Discovery company with vast amounts of information on how to go green and a nifty Green Buying Guide.

• Planet Green, also a Discovery company, has lots of green lifestyle information. Recipes, home and garden, fashion, travel and health are all covered here.

The WorldWatch Institute is an independent research institution that covers global sustainability issues and is widely respected for it’s fact-based analysis.

Many of us are doing what we can to gradually green our lives and reduce our consumption, but it is easy to feel overwhelmed at the sheer amount of things in our lives, and the cost of giving them all a green makeover. With a goal of saving us all a little cash and reducing conspicuous consumption, lets get creative and find a way to make one eco-switch.

 

Curb Your Pet

Going green in all aspects of your life is more than just driving less, buying local and recycling.  We often experience health benefits when we change the products we use or the ways we bring these products or solutions into our lives.  Our pets can benefit as well.  Since they often live in the same environments as we do (same house or yard) they are also affected by the decisions we make about cleaning products for the home and body, and the quality of water and food we provide.
 
So as you become a green pet owner, consider the positive effects this will have on the health and longevity of your pet’s life!  Many of the ways to be a green pet owner are the same ways you treat your health and body.  Pick ONE area to change each month and before you know it, Fluffy will be just as green as you!
 
1. Food – Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk will reduce trips to the store and cuts down on gas consumption. But some pet foods may not be the healthiest options for your furry family member. Buying organic pet food is an option, but often the cost is too high.  In this case, what’s even better? Making your own pet food.
 
Even Better: Make your own pet food. Many vets advocate a raw food diet for domestic animals claiming it’s healthier for the animals.  Just be sure you provide all the nutrients your     pet needs. While ratios of protein, vegetable, and carbohydrate in homemade pet food recipes tend to vary, generally the rule for a good balance is 40% proteins, 30% vegetables, and 30% carbohydrates.  Once you have found the right balance and consulted with your vet to ensure that the nutrients your pet is receiving are adequate, you can mix up a couple of batches a week and store them appropriately.  Many pet owners who make their pets’ food at home report astonishing improvements in the health and vitality of their animals, after even a short period of time on home-cooked food.  Here are some books on the topic.
 
2. Pet waste – Use biodegradable doggie bags and kitty litter.  Flushing it down the toilet may be an option, but then we are only contributing to the use of water to get rid of waste.  Tossing it in a landfill in a plastic bag means it stays in the bag until the bag decomposes and that can be years. 
 
Consider purchasing products that decompose and break down along with the waste.  Many bags on the market are now made from corn products, yet sturdy enough to use.   The park in my neighborhood has a dispenser with biodegradable pet mitts for picking up the dog poop. BioBags are made from corn and are compostable, so you can feel good about using them while out walking the dog in your neighborhood.  You can even bring this home and toss it in your pet waste composter.
 
For the cat in your life replace the clay litter (which is bad for cats’ health and doesn’t compost or breakdown) with kitty litter made out of recycled newspaper or corn. I use Feline Pine which has a scent of fresh pine and lasts a long time.  You can scoop the solid waste out and just scatter the wet litter around in the pan until you need to change it. You can find these products in your local health food store and online.
 
Even Better: Make a pet waste composter.  By composting the waste right in your yard, you are eliminating it from going to a landfill or getting into a waste water treatment plant.  Plus if done correctly, you can use the humus created from the compost to fertilize your ornament plants and bushes.  Instead of buying a pet waste composter and contributing further to the production of more products and the resulting carbon footprint, consider making your own!
 
Or maybe you live in a place where you rent and do not want to dig into the ground. In that case, you can purchase one already made for you!  The Doggie Dooley is a special waste container designed to prevent health dangers and minimize odor. It’s a great way to make your yard more beautiful while also protecting your shoes from dog poop. You need a separate waste composter because animal droppings often contain harmful bacteria, such as e coli, salmonella, and giardias. In a compost pile, these pathogenic bacteria will mix with helpful bacteria and they can disrupt the composting cycle. Find the Doggie Dooley here.
 
My next post will cover issues of pet cleaning and health.
 
Ready to save the planet? Post your green intent and blog about your green successes and struggles, tagging your posts "greener life." We may feature your post in this series!
 
Doreen Pollack owns Down 2 Earth Gardens, a garden consulting business in Phoenix, AZ. She is also a Permaculture practioner, author, speaker and educator.
 
Puppy image by justmakeit via Flickr

Earth Day Every Day

As we approach Earth Day on April 22, we need to remember that Earth Day must be an Every Day event in our lives.  We can no longer sit back and blame “THEM”  for using up the earths resources, as it is “US.”  There is no “THEM” to blame.

It is only through spiritual unfoldment and opening to the wider aspects of our consciousness that we are likely to make the huge changes that we need to make on this planet. In order for us to change, we have to think less about our personal desires and more about what is good for the world as a whole.   Coming to this state of mind is very difficult and without spiritual growth, we will only make minor changes in our lives.

Today and every day each one of us must ask ourselves “What can I do today to help the world? What can I do to reduce the carbon-footprint on this earth?  What can I do to help people who do not have enough to eat? What can I do to help our world learn to find solutions to disagreements?

We need to evolve into human beings that find war, poverty and pollution unthinkable. This will only come as we evolve spiritually.

Carole Lynne author of “Cosmic Connection: Messages for a Better World”

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www.carolelynne.com

www.carolelynnecosmicconnection.com

A diet that’s great for you and all of us!

Check out this hopeful and very helpful article from a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper yesterday, "Low carbon diet a healthy option for Earth"

Reporter Suzanne Bohan writes, "With 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases emitted by livestock raised for meat and dairy products — more than cars, trucks, ships and planes combined, according to a United Nations report — more food purveyors are launching initiatives to lower their ‘food carbon footprint.’" And this is a piece of info I hadn’t come across:

  • By swapping chicken for beef, greenhouse gases generated by the meat’s production drop 70 percent.
    Source: Nathan Pelletier, Dalhousie University, Canada

I’ve been a semi-vegetarian for 15-plus years, and though I’m not evangelical about it and only explain when I’m asked why I make the choices I do, I love that information about this vital benefit of vegetarianism is getting out there more. 

Always hope,

Lori

LoriHope.com
Author of Help Me Live: 20 things people with cancer want you to know

The Incredible Earth-Saving Diet

My friend took an internet test to determine how big a footprint she is leaving on the earth.go-green-bag

After the computer condescendingly spat out, “Congratulations! If everyone in the world consumed the way you do, it would take 2 1/2 worlds to sustain us”, she decided to dramatically decrease her habits of consumption for a full three months.

I could have said, “That sounds interesting–tell me more.” Or, “Wow–do you think it will be hard?” Or even, “I may be interested in doing something like that someday. What are your guidelines?”

But, no. Instead, I quickly and regrettably, said, “Hey–I’ll do it, too!”

I laid out the rules and told everyone who would listen. I would spend as little money as possible for 120 days. Groceries and birthday presents were necessities, as long as I didn’t use bags, of course. Shoes, hair cuts, clothes of any kind were not.

Gone would be the days of grocery shopping at Super Target, slyly adding a pair of sunglasses, a t-shirt and some socks to the food bill.

I’m pretty sure this was not part of the original plan, but I spent the prior week stocking up on inventory. My favorite Bumble and Bumble shampoo that’s only available at the salon, Borghese makeup and t-shirts galore. Certainly, I was denying the fact that the same amount of consumption was occurring whether it happened all in one week or over the course of a few months.

Nevertheless, this would be an important life lesson about putting thought into what I consumed instead of utilizing my typical American more-more-more-and-still-more because-that-is-simply-not-enough mind. It would be a realization in the fine art of appreciating what I have instead of longing for what I don’t.

And for the first few weeks, the lesson was definitely being learned.

I resisted impulse purchases. I used things that normally sat at the back of my closet. I scraped the bottom of the barrel instead of buying something new. I was becoming thoughtful about reducing, re-using and recycling.

Two months has gone by, now.

It’s getting old.

My hair is a grown-out mess. The t-shirts I bought have stains on them. The money I savcd for a new designer purse is spontaneously combusting from non-use.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned is that the purpose of shopping is not just to acquire things.

In the craziness of a family of five, two big dogs, a fish, friends breezing through the house, and harried car rides to endless activities, shopping is a respite, a few moments, however fleeting, to think about me.

During that half hour at Marshall’s, pondering over a nineteen dollar blouse, I’m not thinking about putting dinner on the table. I’m not thinking about cleaning the house while I’m in the shoe section at Nordstrom Rack. I’m not thinking about exercising while I am looking at the exercise clothes at Target.

The term “retail therapy” is not a joke, and can provide as much peace as a good yoga class or meditation session.

I have four weeks left on my shopping diet and I’m starting to get the shakes, headaches. I’m jonesing for a buy.

They say most diets fail, and that dieters gain all their weight back plus a few pounds. Does this translate to my consumption diet as well?

Will I walk out of the mall with t-shirts and makeup spilling out of my bags at 12:01 on the last day of my plan?

Maybe.

But, at least, I’ll be carrying reusable bags. Some things, thankfully, have stuck.

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