living green

A Green(ish) Destination Wedding in Costa Rica

Posted on March 28, 2010. Filed under: carbon footprint, living green, waste reduction | Tags: , , , , |

My husband and I just returned from our destination  wedding in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. It was incredible and a forever memorable trip. Because we wanted to keep it affordable and started planning only about 3 months ahead of time we didn’t have a ton of options. Luckily we narrowed down our location to Costa Rica and fairly quickly found a resort that would work.

Here is what I did to be as green as possible within our short time frame and budget:

1) Paperless Post invites. Paperless Post lets you select and customize stationary and envelopes that you send via email. There is a small cost for the “stamps” but the cost is minimal compared to the cost of customizing, printing, and mailing paper invitations. And there is no waste!

2) Beef-free Buffet.  We selected a resort that, while it didn’t have an eco-friendly rating despite the booming eco-tourism of Costa Rica (those we found that were eco-rated cost much more than our budget could afford and were all-inclusive, which wasn’t what we were going for). We were able to get a buffet menu and negotiated only to offer the amount of food per person rather than the minimum of 40 people (we only had 30). We also selected a menu of chicken and fish so we didn’t have the added carbon footprint of beef.

3) Local flowers. Our table decorations were very minimal and designed of only local tropical flowers, as were the flowers that decorated our cake.

4) Paper free. Despite having a reception in the garden right next to the beach, all of our serving ware was reusable with real plates, glasses, napkins and silver ware provided by the resort. We also went without programs. Some people may like the keepsakes, but we provided a very memorable experience for our guests without producing any additional waste, much of which would have likely blown into the ocean.

5) Walkable location. None of our guests needed a car. They were able to take shuttles from the Liberia Airport to the resort and Tamarindo and walk around town or take group shuttles to nearby activities.

6) BYO-Water Bottle. People may think this is just one more thing to remember on a trip, but on recent plane travel I have been bringing my own reusable water bottle. I keep it empty through security so it is not confiscated, and then on the plane have them fill it up with water so that I don’t waste a plastic cup and ensure I get more H20 to keep hydrated.

We had a perfect wedding, with the ocean in the background, all for under $4000 ($3000 more for total travel, hotel, meals, and transportation to and from airport, so about $7000 all said and done). A few green practices and some thrifty planning helped us have a wedding that had minimal environmental impact (airplane travel was the biggest impact for which we purchased carbon offsets for our travel) all for an incredibly affordable price by U.S. standards (I recently read that the average U.S. weddings costs $25,000 and D.C. – where we live – averages $45,000).

Adopting a few eco-practices can help you be green and save green, while still having a wedding celebration that is every bit as memorable for you and your guests as one that costs thousands more.

be well. live green.

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Think about the Environment when Melting Ice

Posted on February 18, 2010. Filed under: air quality, green home, green services, living green, water conservation | Tags: , , , , , |

SPECIAL BLOG CONTRIBUTION by Ryan Keith, Landscape Architect and General Contractor

As a Washington, DC resident, I have been digging out of the snow for the past week.  It has been back breaking work and I am excited for all the snow to melt.  Over the past 2 weeks, many of my clients have been contacting me to discuss the use of chemical Ice Melt products.  What are the best choices to ensure safety yet minimize environmental impact?

The first thing to realize is that Ice Melt products are not good for the environment but there are products that are less harmful.  Ideally, we would all use shovels to clear snow and ice and the sun would do the rest but, the reality is that Ice Melt products keep us safe walking around and keeping up with our busy schedules in the winter.

Here are the pros and cons of the different Ice Melt products and my feedback on which ones I use in an effort to be “greener”.

  • Not Green, but Effective in Melting: Currently, the most common and cost-effective Ice Melt product is Rock Salt (Sodium chloride).  This product is the most common product used by municipalities for roadway clearing and is quite effective at its job and it is cheap.  The problem with Rock Salt is what happens after the snow and ice are gone.  Rock Salt will kill vegetation, wash into the waterways and increase salinity, kill fish and contaminate drinking water.  Additionally, it is harmful to pet’s paws and is very corrosive to metals and concrete.
  • Greener Alternatives: Potassium chloride and Magnesium chloride are alternative chlorides that are better than traditional rock salt in that they do not harm plants but, they still wash into our waterways and have a great environmental impact.
  • Less Harmful, but Not Green. The second category of Ice Melt products is Urea (carbonyl diamide), these are commonly marketed as “green” Ice Melt products.  Urea is less hazardous to children and pets but will still release nitrates into the waterways, depleting oxygen in the water and killing fish.
  • Greener Alternative: The better Urea based product is Coated Urea (Carbonyl diamide with glycol mixture) as it is less hazardous to children and pets and the glycol mixture inhibits the release of nitrogen into the waterways.  Limiting nitrogen in the water keeps our waterways healthy.
  • Municipal Ice Melt Mixes: The third category if Ice Melt is Biological Ad Mixtures.  These products do not work on their own yet, but increase the effectiveness of Rock Salt (Sodium chloride) when added together.  You can add a Beet Sugar Extract or Corn Extract to Rock Salt and it makes the Rock Salt more effective and thus reduces the potential quantity of rock salt needed to keep roadways clear.  These extracts are currently only being added at the municipal level and are not commercially available to consumers.  Since an enormous user of rock salt is municipalities, we should be encouraging our local department of transportation to utilize an extract to keep cost down by making the rock salt more effective and limiting rock salt in our waterways.
  • Greener, but More Expensive: The last category of Ice Melt are the Acetates.  The Acetates are Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA), Sodium Acetate (NAAC) and Potassium Acetate.  The acetates are some of the safest around children, pets and the environment.   The major drawback is that they are all significantly higher in cost.  It is common to see products that mix an Acetate with one of the Chlorides to form a more cost effective and more environmentally sensitive product.

Personally I use a Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) by itself or mixed with salt to make it more effective at lower temperatures.  I have also used Coated Urea with success.  Most importantly, I do not over-use the products and only spread what is absolutely needed to maintain safety.  Less of any of the Ice Melt products is always better for the environment.  I also do my best to lobby the local Department of Transportation to use Biological Ad mixtures or Acetates with their Rock Salt to reduce impacts on the environment while keeping costs under control.  The Department of Transportation uses a lot more Ice Melt than consumers do and their decisions have a much greater impact on the environment.

About the Author: Ryan Keith is a Landscape Architect and General Contractor in the Washington, DC region.  His firm, Redux Garden + Home, specializes in environmentally sensitive design and construction practices.  See his work and contact him through his website at

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Show Some Love to the Planet

Posted on February 14, 2010. Filed under: carbon footprint, green business, green home, green purchasing, living green, waste reduction | Tags: , , , , , , , |

It’s Valentine’s Day. If you are embracing a loving spirit today and sending some love to those important people in your life, why not throw Mother Earth into that mix. I have to admit that after more than a week of battling record snowfall in Washington D.C. I’m not loving Mama Earth so much and may have even muttered a “so much for global warming” under my breathe after the 20th time of shoveling my way out of my house – BUT – a day of sunshine and glistening snow had me feeling a little less bitter, and reflecting more about weather, climate change, and our environmental responsibilities regardless of how hot or cold it is on any given day or week.

A Sunday opinion article in today’s Washington Post, “Global Warming’s Snowball Fight,” shed some light on the climate change challenge and raised some questions about whether the recent weather patterns have officially shoved climate change legislation to the backburner. A few comments I’d like to share from the article:

  • Christine Todd Whitman, who since leaving the EPA is President of the Whitman Strategy Group: “Calling what is happening simply “global warming” is misleading. There will be many changes along the way, including colder temperatures. (…) Let’s not forget that 10 of the past 11 years were the warmest on record.”
  • David G. Hawkins, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate change programs: “Just as a group of cancer-free, cigarette-smoking 75 year-olds does not disprove that smoking causes cancer, a handful of snowstorms does not counter massive evidence that we are changing the Earth’s climate.”
  • Ed Rogers, White House staffer to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; chairman of the BGR group: “There is global climate science and then there is the Global Warming Movement. (…) The movement was already dead in Congress in 2010, but Snowmageddon buried it. At least for a while, the left will have to think up a new way to dictate a lifestyle for the rest of us. Maybe now the science can continue without the clumsy overreaching of the movement’s priestly class.”

Quite different perspectives from different sides of the aisle. And this debate will likely continue for as long as I am still alive. In another article in the Washington Post today, writer Bill McKibben shed some interesting light on the cold weather effect of global warming: “…Rising temperature is only one effect of climate change. Probably more crucially, warmer air holds more water vapor than cold air does. The increased evaporation from land and sea leads to more drought but also to more precipitation, since what goes up eventually comes down. (…) global warming has added 4% more moisture to the atmosphere since 1970 [which] means the number of ‘extreme events’ such as downpours and floods has grown steadily.”

While we continue to examine the scientific evidence of climate change, shuffle legislation from the House to Senate and back to the review files, hold meetings in Copenhagen or other cities around the globe, why not take a few simple actions in the meantime. It may not prevent another historic snowfall in Washington DC this winter, but certainly won’t hurt any of us to show a little love to the planet!

A few ideas to live greener, showing some love to Mother Earth and your Valentine(s):

  • Reuse: Get creative with things collecting dust in your junk drawer. Courtesy of, design your own necklace out of old keys.
  • Be an Eco-traveler: Check out these sites for ways to support businesses making a commitment to green while you enjoy a little R&R.
  • Recreate: Got roses from your sweetheart? Turn them into a natural skin enhancer.
  • Improvise: Skip the restaurant. Hit the farmer’s market. Have nice candlelit dinner at home, probably saving money and CO2 emissions.

None of these green actions are destined to have a significant impact on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases, but every little step helps. Less waste, less travel, supporting a green supply chain – all these efforts add up. So don’t be afraid to show some love to your planet by saying and doing more with less. Your loved ones might also appreciate your thought and creativity!

be well. live green.

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Green Cleaning- Good For the Health of You and the Planet

Posted on January 18, 2010. Filed under: air quality, carbon footprint, green home, living green | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

While there are many green practices worth adopting, switching to green cleaning products is one of those actions I advocate for both as a way of helping the environment but also of protecting our own health.

Why Switch to Green Cleaning Products?

A Safer Home

Each day, families are put to risk by household cleaning products found throughout their homes, most of which are unregulated and untested, and many whose toxic ingredients are not disclosed on labels. According to National Geographic, only about 30% of the roughly 17,000 chemicals found in household products, including those used for cleaning, have been sufficiently tested for their effects on human health. Healthier and safer cleaning products offer natural, non-toxic, and biodegradable alternatives that are just as effective as synthetic chemical cleaners.

A Safer Environment

The use of synthetic cleaners has adverse effects on air and water quality, as well as land-based environmental concerns. Many of the chemicals in household cleaners are harmful not only in their use, but also in their manufacturing process. For example, the first step in bleach production produces dioxin as a byproduct—a chemical that has been identified as a carcinogen and has been linked to birth defects and genetic changes. Natural cleaners are manufactured in a way to leave the smallest impact possible on the environment and the healthiest atmosphere in our homes.

How to be Green and Clean

Don’t Be Green-Washed

The search for truly green products may not be as easy as reading “organic” on a label.  Many companies engage in greenwashing practices, including words such as “organic,” “eco-friendly,” “biodegradable,” and “non-toxic” on their labels to make products more appealing to consumers. Unfortunately, these claims are often unverifiable and meaningless.  Look for products with full ingredient disclosure or third party certifications to ensure that product claims are substantiated.  Independent groups such as Green Seal, Cradle To Cradle, the Leaping Bunny and the EPA’s Design for the Environment program analyze product ingredients and certify that those chemicals don’t pose harm to your health or to the environment. My rule of thumb is to buy products with less than 5 ingredients and with names that I can pronounce and recognize. I also look for products packaged in post-consumer recycled materials or that offer refills to  further reduce environmental impact.

The Bleach Debate

It has been argued that because bleach breaks down into salt and water, it can be considered biodegradable and does not necessarily pose an environmental hazard. Bleach is a popular cleaning product because it is effective on a wide range of bacteria and viruses and has the added benefit of being cheap. However, despite the fact that bleach breaks down when released into the environment, it is an eye and lung irritant and mixing bleach with other acids (such as vinegar) can produce dangerous and potentially lethal fumes. Furthermore, the manufacturing process of bleach creates the known carcinogen dioxin as a toxic byproduct. It is best to find alternatives to bleach to ensure both a healthier planet and home.

Some Good Green Cleaners

  • Better Life. This company was started by two dads, one a chemist, the other a greenie. This is the most effective green cleaning line I have used to-date and one that I use in my home for every surface.  Buy in DC: ACE Hardware locations, Green Living Consulting. Online:,
  • BioKleen. Family-owned, with all products receiving a third party review. Order through
  • Ecover. Belgian company that started making eco-friendly products in 1980. In DC: Whole Foods, Yes Organic Market, Nora, Java Green, Brookville Supermarket. Online:
  • Mrs. Meyers. Biodegradbale, phosphate free and made with essential oils. In DC: Ace Hardware, Bed Bath & Beyond, Container Store, Dean and Deluca, Greater Goods, Whole Foods, Frager’s Hardware.

National Geographic’s Green Guide also reviews and sells products that meet their environmental criteria.

Green Cleaning Recipes and Tips


Vinegar naturally cleans like an all-purpose cleaner. Mix a solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar in a new spray bottle and you have a solution that will clean most areas of your home. Vinegar is a great natural cleaning product as well as a disinfectant and deodorizer. Always test on an inconspicuous area. It is safe to use on most surfaces and has the added bonus of being incredibly cheap. Improperly diluted vinegar is acidic and can eat away at tile grout. Never use vinegar on marble surfaces. Don’t worry about your home smelling like vinegar. The smell disappears when it dries.

Here are some uses for vinegar in the rooms of your house:

Bathroom – Clean the bathtub, toilet, sink, and countertops. Use pure vinegar in the toilet bowl to get rid of rings. Flush the toilet to allow the water level to go down. Pour the undiluted vinegar around the inside of the rim. Scrub down the bowl. Mop the floor in the bathroom with a vinegar/water solution. The substance will also eat away the soap scum and hard water stains on your fixtures and tile. Make sure it is safe to use with your tile.

Kitchen- Clean the stovetop, appliances, countertops, and floor.

Laundry Room- Use vinegar as a natural fabric softener. This can be especially helpful for families who have sensitive skin. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in place of store bought fabric softener. Vinegar has the added benefit of breaking down laundry detergent more effectively. (A plus when you have a family member whose skin detects every trace of detergent.)

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is another natural substance that can be used to clean your home. Lemon juice can be used to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits. Lemon is a great substance to clean and shine brass and copper. Lemon juice can be mixed with vinegar and or baking soda to make cleaning pastes. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on the cut section. Use the lemon to scrub dishes, surfaces, and stains. You can also put a whole lemon peel through the garbage disposal. It freshens the drain and the kitchen. Orange peels can be used with the same results.

Baking Soda

Baking soda can be used to scrub surfaces in much the same way as commercial abrasive cleansers. Baking soda is great as a deodorizer. Place a box in the refrigerator and freezer to absorb odors. Put it anywhere you need deodorizing action.

Olive Oil/Lemon Juice

Mix together 1 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup lemon juice to create a homemade furniture polish. Mix together in a clean new spray bottle. To use, remember to shake before each application. Apply a small portion to your cleaning cloth. Spread the polish over the furniture, trying to polish evenly. Use another clean cloth to polish the surface dry.

be well. live green.

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Eco Brokers that Truly Care About the Environment: Arbour Realty

Posted on January 4, 2010. Filed under: green business, green operations, green services, living green |

Happy 2010! It’s a new year, a new decade and we’ve got more green stories to share with you, including those from our clients about what they are doing to be green.

In our first client feature of 2010, we talk to Arbour Realty about their green efforts and how working with an environmental consultant can help even when you’ve already taken steps to green your operation. While we are proud of all of our clients’ green efforts, we are particularly excited about Arbour Realty’s commitment to green at every level. Not only do they help people buy and sell homes with green features, they take time to educate them about green renovations and green living practices that are good for the planet and their often their pocketbook. Arbour Realty has also shown their environmental commitment through every level of their business operation, from designing their Virginia office with green materials to eliminating huge amounts of paper waste typical of most real estate agencies, to even offering energy audits and eco-home assessments to their home buyers.

Learn more about their green efforts in Sonia’s interview with Adam Gallegos, green visionary and principal of Arbour Realty.

interview by Sonia Heiles

Green Living Consulting: What does “green” mean to you?

Arbour Realty: Green means living healthier, conserving our natural resources and leaving a lighter footprint on our planet.

GLC: What was your biggest motivation in wanting to get your business green?

AR: We wanted to do more than run a business.  We wanted to set an example that would inspire positive change. 

GLC: Why did you choose GLC to assist in your green endeavors?

AR: We want to align ourselves with companies that truly believe in the benefits of green.  From day one, GLC has shown their commitment to us and to the green movement. 

GLC: What have you done to date since your initial GLC assessment?

AR: We have already implemented over a dozen suggestions from GLC.  A few of my favorites:

1) placards around the office explaining the green features and benefits.

2) an overview of our green commitment that we now include on our website and in our brochure.

3) the addition of live plants around the office.

4) an XLerator hand dryer that has eliminated the use of paper towels in our office.

GLC: What was the biggest challenge in greening your business?

AR: We knew from the beginning we did not want to be a green shell trying to prosper from people wanting to live more green.  It was important that we find ways to “walk the talk” in ways that truly make a difference to the planet, our community and our clients. 

GLC: What role did GLC play in greening your operations?

AR: We hit a ceiling with what we were able to come up with on our own.  GLC brought new energy and new ideas.  They really helped us take our green business initiatives to the next level.  We have also implemented a program to offer Green Living Consultations to our home buyers.  We have found this to be a great way to spread the excitement of green living.

GLC: What level GLC rating do you currently have? Do you hope to receive a higher rating in the near future?

AR: Gold. We would love to step it up and reach the next level.  Our next project is lighting.  We would like to transition our office to all LED lighting.  This along with some smaller projects should get us to the next level. 

GLC: Have you been successful in creating a culture of green with your staff?

AR: We have been lucky in attracting people to Arbour Realty that really embrace the benefits of green living.  It’s great to have our staff contributing ideas and volunteering time.  

GLC: How have you tracked your eco-practices progress since their initiation?

AR: I can’t say that we have done a great job of this.  GLC really helped us take an inventory of what we are doing green.  That was a big help for our own piece of mind and what we are communicating to the public. 

GLC: What have been the most effective eco-practices?

AR: The process of writing contracts for home sales can be extremely wasteful.  Lots of printing and faxing going back and forth.  There is typically a lot of driving involved as well.  We implemented a new technology that allows us to use electronic signatures, virtually eliminating the need to ever print a contract or addenda.  It also eliminates the driving around needed to get signatures.  We save more than a ream of paper a week with e-signatures. 

GLC: How have you communicated your green efforts to the public?

AR: We have added our green efforts to most of our communication materials so that the public understand what we are doing differently that the other real estate companies out there.  So far we have gotten a great reaction.  Just this year we have won two prominent awards for best green business. 

GLC: What have the most visible benefits of going green been for your business? Lowered operating costs? Increased sales as a result of your green efforts? Something else?  

AR: There are over 10,000 real estate agents in the DC area.  We are happy to not be just another one out there telling everyone that we are the best.  Operating as a green real estate company really helps people understand at least one aspect of what makes us different and opens the door for them to learn all the other reasons we are a great choice for their real estate needs. 

GLC: If money wasn’t an issue, what other green actions would you consider implementing?

AR: LEED certification of our office.  We would love to go for a LEED rating.  The only thing that has held us back is cost. 

Thank you Arbour Realty for your continued green efforts. We look forward to working with you achieve a Platinum green business rating, educating homeowners, and making the DC area a greener, healthier place to live!

Stayed tuned for our next client feature: Brooksfield School

be well. live green.

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Live (and Give) Green This Holiday!

Posted on December 10, 2009. Filed under: green purchasing, living green, waste reduction | Tags: |

It’s estimated that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans generate one million tons of waste a week. Holiday gift giving and decorating doesn’t have to sacrifice the environment – with some creative green thinking and action, you can have a festive holiday that is good for the planet, and maybe even your pocketbook! Here are Green Living Consulting’s tips for a Green Holiday:

Keep up the 3 R’s Through the Holidays

More than 8,000 tons of wrapping paper are used for presents – the equivalent of 50,000 trees. Try these eco-practices to reduce waste:

  • Wrap gifts with paper that is made from recycled content or recyclable. I often use the off-white paper included in shipments and decorate using colored ribbon or stamps. Comic strips from the newspaper also make great wrapping paper.
  • Buy gifts with minimal packaging and wrap in a reusable bag.
  • Recycle wrapping and tissue paper, bags, and boxes after the gift unveiling is over.
  • Send e-cards instead of buying and mailing holiday cards or buy cards made from recycled paper. Around 744 million holiday cards are sent each holiday season. If all these were made from recycled paper, it would help to save the equivalent of 248,000 trees!

Green Decorating

Greener Tree Options

  • The majority of Christmas trees are dumped in landfills every year, yet there are many uses for discarded trees. Old Christmas trees can be ground up and used for mulch. Some can be replanted and used for increased stabilization near waterways, preventing beach erosion, or fishing reefs. You can also plant your tree in your winter garden as decoration or as a bird feeder.
  • You can buy plastic trees that you can reuse every year, but these trees often end up discarded after about 6 years, ending up in landfills. They also contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which produces cancer-causing dioxins during its manufacture and incineration.
  • The ideal choice for a truly green tree is to buy a potted Christmas tree, available at farmer’s markets, garden centers, and some tree farms. After you’ve enjoyed it, you can celebrate the New Year by planting it outdoors or donate it to your local parks department. Visit to find out where to recycle your tree!

Energy Efficient Holiday Lights

Indoor LED (light emitting diode) holiday lights run on about 1/10th of the energy of conventional lights. Since they produce no heat, they don’t present a fire risk, making them green and safe!

  • Decorating your home with LED lights could reduce holiday lighting energy use by up to 95%. A typical 50-bulb incandescent strand of lights uses 250 watts and an equivalent 70-bulb LED strand uses only three watts. For a house that operates holiday lights for six hours a day through the month of December, with an energy price of 8.27 cents per kilowatt hour, six strands of incandescent holiday lights would cost over $23 to power versus a mere 28 cents for LEDs. By replacing the incandescent strands with LEDs, it would save you $22.79 in energy costs for the month.
  • For outdoor decorating, you can buy Solar LED lights that charge by daylight and automatically turn on from dusk until dawn.

Don’t forget to always turn your lights off before going to bed at night!

Eco-friendly Ornament Options

  • Buy Fair Trade Federation-certified ornaments that are lead-free and made from materials such as silk, wood, or gourds.
  • Make your own ornaments out of gingerbread cookies, prior year’s Christmas cards, origami patterns, ribbons, and the old-time favorites like popcorn-and-cranberry garland.

Electronics and Batteries

If you receive electronic goods this season, don’t throw your old ones away. Dispose of them properly by:

  • Returning old cell phones to your cell phone provide (many take them back and donate them to community organizations, battered women’s shelters, etc)
  • Sell them at and make money if they are still working or mail it to them anyway and they will recycle or dispose of properly.
  • If you are buying toys or electrical goods that need batteries, buy rechargeable ones, then add a battery charger to your shopping list. Make sure to recycle those old batteries instead of tossing them in the trash (libraries often take old batteries or go to for disposal locations near you!).

Shopping and Gift-Buying

Around 125,000 tons of plastic packaging are thrown away over the holiday season.

  • Take your own reusable shopping bags when you do your shopping.

Get Green Gifts for Your Family and Friends

for some gifts that give back…

  • Alternative Gifts International – support global humanitarian causes that will gladly accept a holiday donation in the name of a loved one.
  • Tom’s Shoes – for every pair purchased Tom gives a pair of shoes to a child in need.
  • Better World Books – Collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide.

Post-Holiday Clean-Out

New sweaters, scarves, jeans – all the items on your fashion wishlist were delivered by Santa and now you need room in your closet. If you do a clean-out, be sure to donate your old clothes to someone in need through your local church, Goodwill, or shelter. You might even check with a second-hand shop to see if they’ll consign or buy you used clothing. It would be new to someone else and give you a little extra $green$ in your pocket for your good green acts!

Don’t forget to make your New Year’s resolution to live greener in 2010!

be well. live green.

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Increasing number of shoppers showing willingness to spend more on green products

Posted on November 28, 2009. Filed under: green business, green purchasing, living green |

For those of us whose lifestyle and livelihood are focused on educating others about healthy, sustainable choices, it’s a always a feel-good moment to read that consumers are increasingly putting a high value on green products, and willing to spend a little extra $green$ to have them. I’ve been intrigued by the various studies and consumer polls that are showing a preference for green products despite the struggling economy. This may be a testament to the “less is more” philosophy but also “quality over quantity,” with a growing number of Americans committed to purchasing practices that are both socially and environmentally responsible, and also simply better for them.

A study by Miller Zell, Inc. reported that the “majority of shoppers polled indicated they would be most likely to pay a 10¢ premium for household products.”  Interestingly, the study also showed that low-income shoppers were more willing to pay a 10¢ premium compared to middle and upper income groups.

Writer Basil Katz’s recent article, “Shoppers going green despite struggling economy” in Reuters said that “despite the worst U.S. recession in decades, sales of organic and sustainable products have continued to grow, with shoppers willing to spend a few more dollars in a bid to become more green.”

The article also reported that U.S. supermarket sales of environmentally sustainable or “ethical” products — from energy-efficient light bulbs to organic produce — will rise about 8.7 percent in 2009 to nearly $38 billion, according to a recent study by Packaged Facts, a market research provider.

Other excerpts from the article state that “President Barack Obama’s commitment to tackle climate change, a string of scandals over tainted food and effective marketing of sustainable products have helped convince more Americans, whose environmental credentials lag behind Europeans, to buy green.”  And, that sales of goods specifically labeled organic rose 17 percent to $24.6 billion in 2008, according to the Organic Trade Association.

The Miller Zell study reported that women are more eco-conscious, closely followed by Gen Y. One of the frustrations with both of these groups, however, is the level of communication offered in-store about green products.This is something that I hear often from my household clients, especially when I educate them on pros and cons of certain green products.

For example, many people are willing to spend a little more money upfront on compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to save energy and money long-term, but many people are not aware that you should not throw CFLs in the trash (See for recycling centers), and that there are safety precautions if one should break in your home (See EPA guidance).

With an increasing number of consumers purchasing green products, companies producing them have a responsibility to be transparent about what makes their products green. Consumers also have some due diligence of their own to do in making sure they are not victim to green-washing.

Here are some resources that can help consumers determine what companies and their products have been vetted by a third party and are legitimately green:

Green America – offers a directory of green businesses that have been Green America approved

Green Seal – provides science-based environmental certification standards for products and services

Responsible Purchasing Network – an international network of buyers dedicated to socially responsible and environmentally sustainable purchasing

Green Guide – National Geographic’s buying guide for green products

With the holiday season in full force, there are many ways to be an environmentally responsible shopper and gift giver. Our West Coast sister company,, has many green products to offer this holiday, and eco-labels to explain exactly what makes their products green. Enter Code GLC2009 for a 10% discount on your first purchase.

be well. live green.

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DC Residents Get Ready to Skip the Bag and Save the River!

Posted on November 18, 2009. Filed under: living green, water conservation |

It’s official! Beginning January 1, 2010, Washington D.C.’s businesses that sell food or alcohol must charge 5 cents for each disposable paper or plastic carryout bag.

According to DC’s Department of the Environment (DDOE), the business keeps 1 cent, or 2 cents if it offers a rebate when you bring your own bag, and the remaining 3 or 4 cents go to the new Anacostia River Protection Fund. DDOE will administer this fund. The money will be used it to provide reusable bags, educate the public about litter, and clean up the river.

The District has also partnered with CVS/pharmacy to produce and hand out 112,000 reusable bags primarily to District residents, with many going to seniors and low-income communities. Some of the bags have been distributed at recent kick-off events, but it was not clear exactly where and when new distributions will be made other than announcing they will take place in 2010.

What does this mean for green in DC?

This tax sends a pretty clear message that DC is getting serious about it’s Green Agenda. If you don’t already know, DDOE offers a number of FREE eco-support services:

  • Free ENERGY STAR appliances (must meet household size and income requirements)
  • Free weatherizing help (must meet household size and income requirements)
  • Free home energy audit (All residents can apply for homes under 4,000 square feet)

Guess what DC? It looks like it’s time to finally get our green on and be a model green capitol (or at least aspire to be)!

be well. live green.

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Plastic vs. Paper: Which is the Eco-Friendly Choice?

Posted on October 15, 2009. Filed under: carbon footprint, energy efficiency, living green |

The Plastic vs. Paper has been an on-going debate in the environmental world, and one that Everyday Health recently decided to talk to us about. Find out which one we said is the more eco-friendly choice in Diana Rodriguez’s article:

Paper vs. Plastic: Making an Environmentally Friendly Choice

One of our favorite analyses of this issue was done by the Washington Post. Click on image below to link to the original source so you can actually read the report – you might be surprised by what you find out! I also find this to be one of those  debates where you really have to get to the bottom of both sides of the issue, and even consider something you didn’t think of before to make the choice that is best for the environment.

~ be well. live green.


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Achieving Nirvana through Vegetarian Indian Food and Green Operations

Posted on October 1, 2009. Filed under: carbon footprint, green business, living green |

Nirvana Indian restaurant, one of Green Living Consulting’s newest clients, recently achieved a SILVER certification for its green operations. As a lunch and dinner service in the heart of DC’s downtown area, Nirvana’s vegetarian-only menu is the perfect option for lowering your carbon footprint (see below for how going veggie one day a week can reduce your environmental impact). Combining a wide range of Indian flavors that change daily, the Shah family owners present their take on the eight-fold path to Nirvana through their delicious food.

Nirvana will be participating in the Washington DC Green Festival, October 10-11, as one of the select food vendors at the event.

Stay tuned for more information about Nirvana and their green efforts!

Now, here are some stats I recently read in article posted by a Huffington Post writer on the Startling Effects of Going Vegetarian for One Day:

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:

● 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;

● 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;

● 70 million gallons of gas — enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;

● 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;

● 33 tons of antibiotics.

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:

● Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;

● 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;

● 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;

● Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.

be well. live green.

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