Friday, July 31, 2009

Create Positive Change

How can we create positive change in the world? With so many competing needs, it can seem overwhelming to decide where to put our energies.

Spread Peace in Small Ways

When I was younger, I thought I had to do or be involved with something really big to make a difference and spread peace. Now I believe that I have the ability to create peace on earth every day with every person I come in contact with. Sometimes just a smile can bring peace to someone. I believe the little things matter.

Staying out of the gossip at work, not reacting to the mean driver behind me on the way home, listening to someone who needs to talk, doing what I can to help those around me. I also think that teaching my son by example to be tolerant of others' beliefs and practices is very important. I may not be able to bring peace to the whole world, but I can work on bringing peace to my little corner of it.

– siren_of_titan

Help Seniors and Their Caregivers

Today I was able to help educate a group of caregivers for the elderly and thank them for their service to seniors. I think that they may feel unappreciated because they are overworked and underpaid. I thanked them for their passion and hoped that getting this positive message would help them with their daily responsibilities.

I am the lucky one, that's for sure, that I get to be a part of the lives of the elderly. It is such a joy to make a difference in their lives. They have lost so much, yet experienced so much, and deserve to have some compassion in their lives as they deal with what they have to deal with now, on a daily basis.


Prevent Accidents

Remove any obstacle you find on the path or in the road. You may prevent someone from falling over it and prevent injury! A large stone on a pathway, or a broken stick and broken glass may be obvious to us, but someone with impaired sight may not see them.


Foster a Child

If you asked me six months into my foster parenting experience, I'd have said, "No! Run and hide! Find another way to be a good person." But ask me now, and I'll tell you it's one of the best things I've ever done in my life, to take in a very at-risk teenager. This is a story with a wonderfully happy ending.

Our formerly troubled foster daughter is now 19, a freshman in college (we paid the tuition and books)...Three weeks ago she was baptized in our church. She had asked my husband and me to be her godparents. What an honor to us! Every Sunday night we chat on the phone with her as well our other grown kids.

We were "friends in need" to these young people. It was very, very hard at times to be so -- but oh, yes, it is definitely something I am so very, very glad we did. Our relationship with these young women will undoubtedly last forever.


Act Locally

Think globally, act locally. Local elections are very important, the candidates we elect will have a direct effect on our lives and the environment around us. Getting involved from the ground up we can really make history and establish good friendships with those we support. I can't stress enough how very valuable this could be or is to our causes.


Write a Living Will

I have a Living Will and in it it states that all my body can be donated. Once my ashes are scattered in the wind, they won't be able to help anyone, so I hope someone can use me!


Respect the Earth

As time goes on, my respect and love for the planet has grown a thousand-fold. Rather than feeling like a victim of policies and politicians, I choose to remain an active positive force in helping to heal our Mother Earth by getting involved and sharing how we can all make a difference if we only try.

I find that being an environmentalist has been a tough, responsible job! I can no longer be unconscious about my "habits" anymore. I can't help but feel that my actions affect the whole. Over time what started out as a gradual way of doing things have ended up as lifestyle changes (some major!). Even so, there's no turning back and pretending not to notice.


Find Your Cause

My life is pretty much about volunteering, though I do work for a nonprofit as well, raising money for education. I do quite a bit through my church, and crochet and sew for at least a dozen charities. I also participate in fundraising for a few other organizations. It never feels like I can do enough, with all the needs that are out there! Barbara


Make Friends Around the World

Peace and love are both connected. I have a friend in another country, and she is really a blessing to me. I feel like we are close friends. So maybe we need to love all nationalities, countries. I have another friend who has done missionary work overseas and loves it so much she has decided to go back again.



Raising Green Kids

Growing Up Green: 10 Easy Tips for Families

By Lynda Fassa

When a child enters the world, everything changes—most especially for you and your family, but ultimately for everyone. Each individual experience reflects the promise for the species as a whole. Birth is surely the place where the natural world and the spiritual world meet, where we see unfolding possibilities and the most positive form of growth. But how can you keep that feeling of connection and maintain it for your kids? How can you inspire greatness and greenness without sounding preachy or overly crunchy? Here are 10 easy activities to help your kids grow up "green" and remind them of their relationship to the Earth.

Green Kids_girl with plant

Plant a Seed

There's nothing more magical than having a child plant a seed, nurture it, and begin to see it grow. For my family, the circular nature of life was felt on the deepest level when we harvested big pumpkins that came from the tiniest seeds. Opening the pumpkin and letting my oldest daughter try to count the hundreds of seeds inside was an astonishing lesson in the abundance of the universe. And you don't need a huge backyard; a little planter in the kitchen window offer up the same awe and wonder.

Have Off-the-Grid Fun

Think out loud about the beauty you see and hear in nature. Nine geese flying overhead and honking deserve a "Look!" A sunrise or sunset will never be the same after you’ve spent time making up stories about the ever-changing palette of colors. Children benefit greatly from turning their eyes and ears from the computer or TV to nature. And it makes great memories. My 12-year-old still wants to take early evening walks with me to admire the frost on the bare branches or watch a squirrel’s funny antics.

Eat Real Food--Together

Savoring a good, simple meal with family is one of life's true joys, even if it seems to happen rarely. Engage the kids in planning one or two meals each week. If possible, go shopping somewhere special, like a farmer's market, for some of the ingredients. Fake food (made with excess salt, sugar, and synthetic additives) has become a “quick fix” for so many of us, but at what price? The chemical cocktail masquerading as food may have short-term effects on our temperament and long-term effects on our health. The closer food is to its natural state, the better the choice for family meals--or any meal, for that matter.

Tip: Try a pasta night with whole wheat pasta (Heartland makes several great ones), and a variety of toppings: diced tomatoes, grated cheese, homemade pesto, olive oil. Set the toppings on the table with a big bowl of the pasta and plates for everyone. The beauty of this is that you can enjoy a restaurant style-meal a family--everyone gets what they want--and you're all eating together in the comfort of your home. Super cheap, too!

How Green Was My Bookshelf

Getting your child to spend less time watching TV or playing Nintendo has a lot more appeal if you're able to offer a meaningful and interesting alternative. Reading to your child is a perfect combo of brain-building, intimate connectedness and--depending on what books you choose--a powerful connection to early and lasting greenness. Wonderful classics for early readers include "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "The Carrot Seed." "Peter Rabbit" connects young imaginations to the natural world. A fun, new title in The Little Environmentalists series is "I'm Turning Green," which follows a preschooler who literally turns green as she makes good environmental choices. Or you can try something practical like "50 Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth." My thoughtful 10-year-old has even picked up my copy of Thoreau's "On Walden Pond." The key, like everything else, is just to make the introduction and let their interest kindle.

Make Treasures from Trash

Keep a rainy day box with extra ribbons and bits of pretty paper, old costume jewelry, anything that that might be transformed into treasure. Folks spend a lot for those doodads at fancy craft stores--yours will be free and will save space (even if it's teeny) in a landfill. Make the kitchen table into an artist's studio. I've sported a brooch of recycled buttons and old jewelry made by my youngest that has gotten sincere compliments from folks who thought I got it at a museum gift store!

10 Earth-Friendly Ideas

Talk About the Circle of Life

Everything that comes from nature goes back to nature, and finds ways to benefit the rest of life. Autumn leaves enrich the soil that brings forth new plants in spring, moms and dads have babies who will, in turn, grown up and raise their own children. You don't have to do all the talking on this subject--all you need to do is start things off, and it'll be amazing where this conversation will take you, especially with little kids....out of the mouths of babes...

Green Kids_dancing

Sing, Dance, Stretch Every Day

Schools tend to focus so much on thinking and reasoning that it's easy to forget the importance of our whole bodies. The best way to enjoy living and nature is to feel great and healthy. Dance around and get silly, or learn some yoga poses oriented toward kids (like frog or eagle pose). Sing verses of "This Land Is Your Land" or "Old McDonald"...whatever you choose, you'll be experiencing a connection to nature, the air, the ground under your feet. You might even begin a lifetime of healthy exercise habits for your little ones, while making nice memories.

Feed the Animals

Saving the crust from bread instead of tossing it in the trash, stringing popcorn on thread to decorate an outside tree on a winter’s day for hungry birds. These are some of the most memorable experiences of my childhood. The simple connection between species, especially undomesticated species, reminds us of how mysterious life and nature are, and how much we happily cooperate on this big home of ours--the Earth!

Go Outdoors

Get outside as much as possible. Take your kids ice skating on a local pond, or go sledding in the park after a snowfall. In summer, dangle your feet from a riverbank. Pick wildflowers in the overgrown city lot. Watch fireflies after dark. Experience something free, breathe different air. Hold hands with your kid. Choose not to plan. Walk wherever you feel like. Let life happen.

We're All Made of the Same Stuff

One of the amazing things about matter? It's all basically the same--we're made up of the same stuff as stars, gerbils, and orchids. We're all connected to each other. Yet each of us, in nature's miraculous plan, is unique and different. Everything in nature has a purpose, a place. My kids grew up hearing me chatter on like this often, and although the older ones occasionally poke fun at me about it, I'm pretty sure they feel stronger because they recognize it's true. Each child is special, an important part of the whole, connected to the great source of all life, and sustained by the generosity of the planet.

Lynda Fassa, founder of the organic children's clothing line Green Babies, is the author of "Green Kids, Sage Families" (New American Library).

10 Tips to Be a Better Eco-Citizen

Simple ways to help our sacred, struggling planet thrive

With more news emerging every day about the pace of climate change and the future of our planet, it can be easy to lose hope. But by taking a few small, personal actions, you can help beat the heat.

By, the country's leading source for environmental news and commentary.

Sharing Is Caring

Sharing Is Caring

Sharing your home with others cuts back on waste, as does living in a multi-unit dwelling, choosing a house sized to your needs, and of course, choosing an energy-efficient home. Keeping proximity to work, school, the grocery store, and a good public transit line in mind is also important.

Home Is Where the Heat Is

Home Is Where the Heat Is ...but you might be wasting it. You can perform your own energy audit to find places where you might inadvertently be letting energy slip through the cracks--literally. Caulking your windows, buying energy-efficient appliances, installing low-flow toilets, and buying green energy are good ways to start.

Let There Be Lighting

Let There Be Lighting Swap your old light bulbs for compact fluorescents. They last 10 times longer, putting fewer of them in landfills; use two-thirds less energy, meaning less carbon emitted into the atmosphere; and they emit less heat than standard bulbs, so they're safer and cooler. Yes, they cost a little more up front, but in the long run, they save you money and guilt--and many of them look funky!

Car-ry Me Home

Car-ry Me Home Carpool, bus, bike, or walk more often. If you have to drive, choose a fuel-efficient vehicle, and maintain your car to get the best mileage you can. You can also share a car.

Re, Re, Repeat After Me

Re, Re, Repeat After Me Reduce, reuse, and recycle. But emphasize the first two--the third just creates more "stuff" in the end.

It's in the Bag

It's in the Bag Use reusable bags for shopping, carrying your stuff around, and giving gifts. The answer to the timeless paper or plastic question is: neither!

A Market Improvement

A Market Improvement Eat local and/or organic whenever you can--local products don't have to be shipped all over the world, and organics are better for the land. Farmers' markets, local grocers, and community supported agriculture programs (CSA's) are convenient ways to shop smarter.


Vegetate Meat production consumes more resources--land, water, and oil--than production of vegetation for food, so eat less meat. Even one meat-free day a week helps.

All the Write Moves

All the Write Moves Write to your representatives. Whether you want to encourage them to support alternative energy research, raise fuel efficiency standards, cut emissions, reduce greenhouse gases, or protect your local park, they need to hear from their constituents about what really matters. Find your representatives' info here.

Join the Club

Join the Club Join, support, or otherwise help an organization working on environmental issues. There are lots of folks doing good work to stop climate change. The bigger the crowd, the better.

By, the country's leading source for environmental news and commentary.

11 Ways to Recreate the Earth

11 Ways to Recreate the Earth

Caring for the environment is a way of respecting God and caring for ourselves, say authors Tony Campolo and Gordon Aeschliman. Adopt their God-inspired earth-friendly ideas.

When we care for the environment, we show our deep respect for the Creator in much the same way we would admire the work of a great artist in a museum. When we fail to care for our planet, the world sees our treatment of Creation and unconsciously picks up the message regarding our disrespect.

What is more, caring for Creation is a way of caring for ourselves. Nature has a way of ministering back to us. It provides color, shapes, scents, shade, and sustenance. And by tending Creation, we also show consideration for our children's future. We demonstrate that we love them enough to provide a clean and beautiful garden that paints a stunning picture of the Artist.

Discover 11 ways that Christians--and everyone else--care for the environment.

Adapted from "Everybody Wants to Change the World," (c) 2006 by Tony Campolo and Gordon Aeschliman. Published by Regal Books. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Christians sometimes find it difficult to find common ground with people outside their faith. One way to come together with those who might not be Christians is to simply care for the earth by “greening” your city or community.

Among other ideas, you can: Adopt a block, plant a tree or create a mini-park for the community.
Pick the level that suits your situation. You may want to gather a group of friends, recruit members from your church, or join with other church groups in your region to take on the more ambitious projects.
  • Adopt a Block. Landscape the sidewalks or medians of a specific section of town—perhaps even a couple of city blocks
  • Stage a Cleanup. Offer to stage a trash cleanup event with your group in an area of your city that desperately needs to be picked clean of trash and rubbish.
  • Plant a Tree. Plant trees on city- or county-owned property that is unlikely to be developed.
  • Do Some Landscaping. Landscape a city monument or historical building.
  • Create a Minipark. This is not a large recreational facility, of course, but a walk-and-sit kind of place where you bring your picnic basket for a slow lunch.
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One way that you can make a difference in our own community is to volunteer to make sure your church or school’s habits are friendly to the environment.

Three possibilities: Reduce paperwork, avoid waste, recycle.

Some of the ways that you can help green your church or school include:

  • Reduce Paperwork. Project announcements or any materials you are using for a presentation on a screen instead of printing them on a sheet of paper.
  • Avoid Waste. When possible, use plates, cups and silverware that can be washed.
  • Create a System. Create a simple recycling system, if there isn’t one in place, to collect all newspapers, magazines, used office paper and junk mail.

To really get into the spirit of Earth Day, consider volunteering at an Earth Day event in your city or region.

Volunteer to do a local trash cleanup, start a recycling program and use more recycled goods, plant trees, learn how to keep your house plants growing with less water, dispose of toxins properly, and discover ways to minimize the amount of time you drive your car.

You can do these things each day of the year, or you pick one at a time and implement it into your daily routine.

One of the easiest Earth Day projects that you can do right now is to reduce the amount of energy you use in your home. Begin by replacing the light bulbs in your house or apartment with Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs), which last longer and use less energy. In fact, the Earth Day Network estimates that if every household in the United States replaced just one light bulb with a CFL, it would eliminate the equivalent of the emissions caused by one million cars.4

The single greatest energy eater in your home is probably your refrigerator, so reduce the energy used in this giant appliance by lowering the thermostat one or two degrees.

Most ancient traditions have stories about protecting animals and plants.

Whether the saving act is for the species themselves or because of some use they bring to humans, the idea of ridding the world of everything but humans and a few crops on which they depend has never been a praiseworthy vision.

There are many ways to get involved to help protect animals and plants. A primary way is to write letters to your senators and congressmen about protecting America’s public lands and wildlife preserves, confronting global warming, and preserving the Endangered Species Act.

Another way to help is to volunteer with a local wildlife society, which will also help you engage in your local community and raise your general awareness level.

Three organizations that provide helpful information on endangered species include the World Wildlife Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, and the World Conservation Union.

Photographs of endangered species and other helpful resources are available at the organization’s website at

America constitutes about 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we consume approximately 30 percent of the world’s resources. We also produce approximately 19 percent of the world’s trash.6

Part of the myth that drives overconsumption is that all of this extra stuff will somehow make our lives better and our spirits happier. This myth is too costly to the earth and to our souls.

One important way to be kind to the earth is to simply use less of it. Some of the ways to begin to make a difference in the world today include: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle.

  • Refuse: Just say no. Don’t buy something just because you can or because you want it. Every time you buy something, you are using up a piece of the earth and causing pollution.
  • Reduce: If you cannot say no, perhaps you can reduce your rate of consumption. For example, how about using half of a tank of gas this week rather than three-quarters of a tank of gas?
  • Reuse: Sometimes waste is just so meaningless. When you throw out a bottle after drinking its contents, it’s no different from throwing out a mug at the restaurant after drinking the coffee from it!
  • Recycle: This is the bottom of the hierarchy—the last stop. It’s better to just say no for starters, but if you can’t (or if you have already reduced and reused), you can often recycle something instead of just throwing it in the trash bin.

One of the best ways to be kind to the environment is to reduce carbon emissions. The car is a chief culprit in creating air pollution.

One way that you can help to reduce carbon emissions and improve the quality of the air is to join with millions of Americans who are discovering a new love affair—the bike.

Cycling to work, to school or to a friend’s house can be a practical and, at the same time, healthy way of commuting around town.

One innovative group that is pushing for more cycling is Yellow Bikes (a takeoff of Yellow Cabs), headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota. The group’s initial idea was to create a large pool of reconditioned bikes for free public use in cities across America. People could simply pick up a bike at a predetermined location and drop it off when they were done.
If you don’t want to join Yellow Bikes (or there is not one located in your area), you can still help the environment by simply giving your car a break now and then.

Contact Yellow Bikes for ideas on how to make the most of cycling. The web address is

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There’s a certain edge to human arrogance that views animals as a simple resource to be exploited at all costs.

Some humans have developed a kind of dominion ideology in which they believe that they have the ethical right to do with animals as they please. No compassion or moral thought enters their minds as they treat animals with total disregard.

How you can help:

Change you lifestyle to be more animal-friendly, conduct an education campaign for animals, sign up people for community-wide efforts to end animal cruelty.

The first thing you can do to counteract this is find ways to change your personal lifestyle so that you can go through life’s normal consuming demands without inflicting pain on animals.

One organization that is devoted to kindness to animals is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The organization posts both the good and the ugly on its website, where you can find the latest campaigns against companies that violate animals, learn which food and clothing products are created without animal testing, and discover other resources for further education. Make a commitment with what you learn from the PETA website to buy only certain kinds of products.

Next, conduct an education campaign on your campus. Set up a creative booth at the student mall or other public place where you can show videos (PETA has plenty), display posters, or hand out relevant literature. You’d be surprised how many students are not aware of the price that animals pay to maintain people’s lifestyle in our society. Be creative.

The final suggestion is to sign people up for current animal cruelty campaigns.

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One sensible way of being easier on the earth is by eating lower on the food chain.

Central to the principle of eating lower on the food chain is the idea of lessening each person’s net impact upon the earth. Here’s one way to think of it: What is the most efficient means of getting meat protein?

Well, ounce for ounce of net protein, it takes 13 times as much grain to feed a cow as it does a chicken. When you add to that the other costs of feeding cows versus chickens (barns, fences, fields, fuel, equipment, staffing), the cost of cow protein becomes much higher. So, if we are able to get the same nutritional value into our bodies from a bite of chicken as we can from a bite of beef, why not use that means and preserve the earth?

The key to eating low on the food chain is to gain proteins from “low cost” sources. In fact, you don’t even have to eat meat for protein—you can get all the protein you need from a combination of grains and legumes. If you do eat meat, you can make a habit of eating chicken or fish more than beef. (Your doctor will tell you that all of your body’s protein needs for one day can be satisfied with one bite of chicken—it’s not as though we have to eat a side of beef to stay healthy!) The idea here is not to be legalistic about food but to be sensible and creative.

For ideas on eating low on the food chain, go to or The PETA website also has a friendly vegetarian section at

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With our country smarting from the price of overseas oil, it suddenly has become fashionable to consider solar energy as a viable option.
Some states, such as Pennsylvania, give consumers the right to choose the source of the energy they are purchasing (solar and wind are among those choices). Energy companies are required to purchase their energy from whatever source the consumer demands.
That wonderfully progressive law puts the power of consumption back into the hands of citizens rather than a few powerful corporations.

A green campaign will not succeed overnight, because too many people and corporations benefit from our remaining dependent on unhealthy energy sources. But tomorrow’s world does not belong to those corporations—it belongs to today’s women and men who have the moral right to steer this ship on a different course.

For more information on the benefits of switching to green power and green power programs, visit or the Environmental Protection Agency’s green power link at

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It has been estimated that the world’s rainforests are being destroyed at the rate of at least 80,000 acres per day.

There is a myth in the West that these lands are destroyed primarily by indigenous people who do slash-and-burn farming. But the true culprits are people outside of the rainforest who go there to access mineral resources (such as gold), build pipelines to export oil, set up fruit farms, or clear thousands of acres to graze cattle.

These economic enterprises capture the benefits of the local rainforest for the exclusive purpose of exporting products for profit.

The devastation as a result of these practices that is wreaked on the roughly 50 million indigenous people who live in the rainforest is unconscionable.11 When we destroy the rainforest, we are directly destroying them.

How can you help? One organization, the Eden Conservancy, is preserving a large section of rainforest in Belize as part of a biological corridor that extends through the continent. The idea is to preserve the local integrity of the rainforest and create a permanent corridor that will ensure the survival of endangered species in that region.

To purchase and permanently set aside an acre of rainforest into the Eden Conservancy Trust costs only $200. This is a great idea for group fundraisers or for holiday gifts and personal donations. When you purchase an acre of rainforest, the Eden Conservancy will send an attractive Certificate of Trust with your name on it to indicate the number of acres that have been saved.

To purchase acreage, contact the Eden Conservancy through the Jaguar Creek environmental center at Or, to learn more about the importance of rainforests and the effects of deforestation, visit

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Some ideas that we recommend for spreading the vision for the environment in your church, school or neighborhood include the following: Celebrate Earth Day, join the parade, set up a booth, announce your plans, hold a seminar.

  • Celebrate Earth Day. Ask your church’s leadership to make Earth Day a part of the annual church calendar so that at least for one day of the year, your fellow church members will focus on global issues.
  • Join the Parade. If your town has an Earth Day parade, strongly urge your fellow churchgoers to join the event as a clear statement that Christians love the creation of their Lord. However, make sure you discourage people from the temptation to show up at the event with placards and slogans that try to “correct” other people’s orientation to the environment. Allow this to be a positive time of public cooperation and affirmation.
  • Set up a Booth. Set up an informational table or booth in your church foyer. At your table, be prepared to talk to people who are interested in helping the environment and be sure to have some statistics, information and practical suggestions available to promote environment-friendly tactics.
  • Announce Your Plans. Don’t be afraid to ask your pastor or for advice on ways that you can get the word out.
  • Hold a Seminar. Get some friends together and hold a Saturday or Sunday afternoon seminar on the environment for those in your church who want to learn more about environmental issues.
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Green Your Resolutions

10 Steps to an Eco-Aware New Year

As 2008 slides into 2009, skip the expected resolutions—yes, you can still work on your novel, quit smoking, and hit the gym more often—and focus on something bigger. There has never been a more important time to focus on the planet’s well-being. Global warming and climate change are directly affected by the choices you make each day. The good news? Going green has never been easier—eco-awareness doesn’t require great sacrifice or compromise. A few simple steps will allow you to respect the earth while living a comfortable, happy life. This is the year to begin!

Text by Marisa Belger, a New York City-based writer specializing in alternative health and healing.

Go Back to the Tap

According to the Container Recycling Institute, 86 percent of the plastic water bottles used in the United States end up as garbage or litter. And that’s just the beginning of bottled water’s negative environmental impact. The Earth Policy Institute found that the manufacturing of plastic bottles uses over 17 million barrels of crude oil annually and the transportation of bottled water requires massive amounts of fossil fuel. The EPA regulates the safety of tap water, so invest in a good filter (to rid your H20 of any pipe sediment), get a portable, reusable bottle and drink away.

Update Your Wardrobe the Right Way

Everyone loves new clothes, but this year it’s time to redefine the concept of “new.” Vintage and thrift stores can be found across the country, and they offer previously owned clothing another chance in the spotlight. And it’s fun to hunt for treasures! If you insist on new, invest in quality clothing made in a responsible manner and seek out earth-friendly materials such as organic cotton (some 55 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed on 12.8 million acres of conventional cotton, the Organic Trade Association has found), hemp, and bamboo.

Be an Energy Star

In the market for a new dishwasher, refrigerator or washer/dryer? Look for the Energy Star brand while shopping. A collaboration between the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Star-certified appliances meet strict energy efficiency guidelines, which result in less greenhouse gas emissions and a lower energy bill—an eco win-win. You can also conserve energy at home by trading in your regular incandescent light bulbs for long-lasting CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) and unplugging your electronic devices when not in use—they still use energy even when turned off or in stand-by mode (a phenomenon creepily called “vampire power” or “phantom load”). An easy solution is to plug your gear into a power strip with an on-off button and click off when not in use.

Use Natural Cleaning Products

Take a good look at the collection of bottles huddled under your kitchen sink and you’ll likely find an array of harsh chemicals that are sprayed and wiped across the surfaces you use each day. Nature has provided us with natural cleaning agents—think lemon, vinegar, and baking soda—but if you’re not up for concocting your own cleansers, you can purchase natural cleaning products for every corner of your home at your local health food store and increasingly in the cleaning aisle of your go-to grocery store. Check out Seventh Generation and Green Works, the natural line from Clorox.

Consider What You Put on Your Skin

Soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, lotion, cosmetics, hair gel—whether you’re male or female, young or old, a good handful of personal care products find their way onto your body each day. Flip around that bottle of bubble bath or hand cream and see how many ingredients you can recognize. Unfortunately most conventional products use hard-to-pronounce toxic preservatives and synthetic fragrances, which have been linked to a number of diseases and conditions. Just as you’re conscious about what you put into your body, you should become aware of what you put on your body—your skin is the body’s biggest organ. Look for products made from ingredients found in nature.

Ditch Plastic Bags for Good

The statistics are staggering: over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks, and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year (according to the EPA). The solution is easy: go reusable. Stash a couple of reusable bags by the front door, in the glove compartment or under the baby’s stroller and they’ll be there when you need them. Envirosax ( makes inexpensive, sturdy, stylish sacks that can be easily rolled into a ball and stuffed into a purse or coat pocket.

Eat Local and Organic

Seeking out food grown by nearby farmers not only boosts the local economy and reduces the need for fossil fuels used to transport goods, but also teaches us to appreciate—and utilize—seasonal fare. If you live in the northeastern U.S., you shouldn’t be eating tomatoes in winter. If you are, chances are good that the tomato on your plate was flown in from Mexico or South America. And when possible choose organic food that’s grown without the use of toxic herbicides or pesticides. The choice will be better for your body and better for the earth (all chemicals used in farming eventually end up in our water system).

Rethink Transportation

Though it’s best for the planet, many of us are not in a position to give up our cars. What we can do, however, is trade in our gas-guzzling model for a hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicle, minimize the time that we spend behind the wheel (look into public transportation—you may be pleasantly surprised), consolidate shopping and chores, and create a car-pooling group for our daily commute.

Tap into Human Power

Whenever possible, skip the car or bus and use your legs to get where you need to go. Biking has never been cooler—or easier. Cities around the country (Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo., top the list) are becoming increasingly bike-friendly, with dedicated bike lanes, clear signage, and safe parking options. And when not on two-wheels, slip on your walking shoes and harness foot power.

Reuse and Recycle

We often seek out new things—clothes, toys, furniture, and so on—because we’ve grown tired of what we already have. But what happens to that easy chair or chest of drawers when we place them on the curb for pickup? The sad truth is that they end up cluttering our already overflowing landfills when they could be making somebody else happy. Sites like and make it easy to sell—or give away—the items you once loved.

by Marisa Belger

10 Earth Friendly Ideas

10 Earth-Friendly Ideas Easy suggestions for a greener lifestyle--and kids can help!

Concerned about the pace of climate change and its effects on the planet? We asked Beliefnet members what they were doing--in their home and community--to care for the environment. Here's a selection of the earth-friendly possibilities they came up with.

1. Recycle as a Family

10 Earth-Friendly Ideas As a family we recycle what we can. We separate out glass, plastic, cardboard, cans, and newspapers, taking it down to our recycling centre when we are passing it--no point in using the petrol to make a special journey there as that would defeat the object of the exercise! We also turn off the TV standby button, and switch off unnecessary lights, just our small bit to try to save our precious planet for our grandchildren!


2. Get Unplugged

10 Earth-Friendly Ideas Unplug! There are many, many things around the house that are plugged in and draining little bits of energy round the clock, without even being "on"--i.e., your TV/VCR/Stereo/DVD player, computer, microwave, battery charger, anything else with a constant display (clock) or some sort of programming that resets when the power goes out. Unplug them until you are ready to use them and forego the convenience of the programming if possible, or use a power strip and turn it off, thus unplugging many things at the flick of a switch (great for the entertainment center).


3. Teach Kids About Nature

10 Earth-Friendly Ideas I've always had a love affair with nature, but now that I have a child, I am spending a lot of pondering time in it. In walks to the park I feel a sense of enchantment, awakened by my daughter's wonder. We explore flowers, trees, and rocks. After our outings, I feel peaceful, connected, and refreshed. She leaves with a smile on her face and a calm that silently bonds us. I am starting to understand the deep impact nature has, and the responsibility I carry with my choices. I have recently started using environmental diapers, recycling diligently, and buying natural products.

I don't want to lose my connection to earth; and I see that in making conscious choices, I can help my daughter understand that in nourishing the earth; we are in turn nourishing ourselves.

--Healer Mother

4. Go Hybrid

10 Earth-Friendly Ideas I don't know how possible this is, but my idea is for the government to order all car manufacturers to make only hybrid cars from now on. No more cars that run on just gas. That way every person buying a new car will be buying a hybrid, and in a matter of just a few years, the percentage of hybrid cars to gas cars will be much higher.


5. Walk Lightly on the Earth

10 Earth-Friendly Ideas Lead by your life's example. If you are concerned with the effects of pollution, overconsumption, encroachment, extinction, etc., you must start by "walking lightly" on the earth. Be more aware of how your choices impact the world. Make transportation choices that consume less energy (e.g. walk, ride, public transit, carpool). Learn to distinguish what you need from what you desire, and then make intelligent choices based upon how much utility you gain. Take some of the money you save from the above exercise and use it to support groups that are making a difference.


6. Garden Naturally

10 Earth-Friendly Ideas I have five composters. The resulting compost feeds my many gardens and my decreasing patches of sod. I grow fruits and vegetables and freeze and can as much as I'm able....I don't use air-conditioning in the summer, use natural gas for heat, cooking and clothes drying in the winter (in the summer we air-dry mainly); recycle my gray water for plant watering in the summer, collect rainwater in a barrel.


7. B.Y.O. Grocery Bags

10 Earth-Friendly Ideas In our country here Down Under, there has been a movement to introduce reusable shopping bags instead of giving people the usual plastic bags for groceries. The reusable bag, which is made of some lightweight sort of fibre, costs $1.00, and you can put a lot of groceries in them. They have become very, very popular here, and it is like a badge of honour to carry one. In fact, although you can still get a plastic bag for your groceries if you want, the checkers in our supermarkets in our mall always ask customers if they wouldn't rather buy a resuable.


8. Hop on Your Bike

10 Earth-Friendly Ideas As much as possible I commute on my motorbike; 65 MPG. Speeds, even on the highway, are kept down. The car & motorbike live by the WWII adage: "Is this trip really necessary?" As much as possible I take the bicycle instead. For recreation I bicycle, sail or paddle instead of motor.


9. Clean with Green

10 Earth-Friendly Ideas I try to clean with "green" products. I noticed that many regular household cleansers were actually bringing irritants into my home. I could hardly breathe and my eyes would burn. And then once released down the drain or thrown in the trash, I realized they would wreak their own special havoc on eco-systems. So now I try to use products made by companies like Seventh Generation--or I just wash windows with vinegar and newspaper, scrub the tub with baking soda and water.


10. Eat Less Meat

10 Earth-Friendly Ideas I'm not a vegetarian (yet)...but I'm cutting back on my meat consumption and eating more organic produce. Most of the deforestation in the world is caused by fields cleared for livestock grazing. Cows' methane is a huge contributor to global warming, and the amount of resources it takes to feed one cow could grow many times more grains and vegetables. So it's not just the ethics of eating meat, but even cutting down our consumption can make a huge impact.



10 Reasons to Shop Local

Shop Local

“Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It Means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient and less dependant on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back into the community where it belongs.”

- Michael H. Shuman, author of the book Going Local.

Choosing greener alternatives is important for sustainability but where you shop in many cases is the most important factor. Shopping locally is important for environmental sustainability as well as economic sustainability. When you shop locally you are supporting members of your own community who are also vested in the heath and success of the community. You are also travelling less and requiring less things to be shipped meaning less carbon, pollution and traffic congestion.

I was psyched when I found this graphic while perusing one of my favorite sites (Elephant Journal), which led me to Local First. Local First an organization aimed at promoting sustainabile economic devolpment in the greater Grand Rapids, MI area. There I found a list of 10 resons to shop local. There are far more than just 10 but the internet likes lists and the number 10 so to start here is a version of their list I tweaked a bit…

1. Local Economic Stimulus.

When you purchase at locally owned businesses rather than nationally owned, more money is kept in the community because locally-owned businesses often purchase from other local businesses, service providers and farms. Purchasing local helps grow other businesses as well as the local tax base.

2. Non Profits Receive Greater Support.

Local business owners donate more to local charities than non-local owners.

3. Unique Businesses Create Character & Prosperity

The unique character of your local community is defined in large part by the business that reside there, and that plays a big factor in your overall satisfaction with where you live and the value of you home and property.

4. Environmental Impact Is Reduced.

Small local business usually set up shop in the town/village center, providing a centralized variety that is much friendlier to a community’s walk score than out of town shopping malls. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.

5. Most New Jobs Are Provided By Local Businesses.

Small local businesses are the largest employers nationally. Plus the more jobs you have in your local community the less people are going to have to commute which means more time and less traffic and pollution.

6. Customer Service Is Better.

Local businesses often hire people with more specific product expertise for better customer service. You are also going to see these people around town and they are less likely to blow you off or be rude becauses they have to face you day after day.

7. Local Business Owners Invest In Community.

Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s welfare and future.

8. Public Benefits Far Outweigh Public Costs.

Local businesses require comparatively little infrastructure and more efficiently utilize public services relative to chain stores.

9. Competition And Diversity Leads To More Consumer Choices.

A marketplace of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.

10. You Matter More

We talk a lot about exerting influence with your purchasing choices, or “voting with your wallet.” It’s a fact that business respond to their customers but your values and desires are much more influential to you local community business than the large big box stores.

To read more about going local check out Ecolocalizer, a great site that provides news, ideas and inspiration to “Think globally, act locally.”

35 eco-friendly travel tips - travel green!

From Travelling the Green Way

Planning your eco-vacation…

  • Know that where you visit and stay does make a difference. If you choose an eco-friendly hotel or other destination you’re making a statement that this is what matters to consumers.
  • Choose an eco-friendly hotel, hostel, or resort.
  • Consider a volunteer trip with an eco-organization.
  • Plan an eco-friendly all-inclusive bus trip.
  • Pick a trip that gets your family out into nature vs. out into an urban setting.
  • Travel as close to home as possible.

Before you leave…

  • Turn your thermostat down if you’re traveling in the winter, and up if you’re traveling in the winter.
  • Unplug everything.
  • Cancel the newspaper.
  • Lower the temperature of your waterbed heaters by at least ten degrees.
  • Turn your water heater to the lowest setting.
  • Get e-tickets vs. paper if you’re taking mass transport.
  • Make sure all the lights are off when you go.
  • Pack lightly to reduce your travel weight. The more your bags weigh the larger the carbon footprint you create when traveling.

Once you arrive…

  • Once you arrive at your travel destination skip a car and walk or take local transportation like the bus or the subway. Not only is this green, but you get a better taste of your area and the people who live there.
  • If you need a car once you arrive at your destination rent a hybrid.
  • In many places you can rent bikes for the whole family.
  • Take along a small reusable container of eco-friendly, biodegradable laundry detergent. Finding a local laundry mat is easy, finding eco-friendly soap at said mat is not so much.
  • Be sure to turn of hotel extras – examples: don’t leave the sauna on, the jet spa on, lights in the exercise room on, or exercise equipment.
  • Don’t buy a bunch of plastic souvenirs and other junk. If you do buy something, buy green products when possible.
  • Don’t pick up fliers and brochures and area maps everywhere you go. You don’t need a brochure to enjoy an area. You won’t ever look at them again after you get home, and it’s a total waste of paper.
  • Take along a reusable water bottle for everyone going - you can also use these to fill up with juice or soda when on the go.
  • Carry reusable bags with you so if you shop you have something to carry purchases in.
  • Carry an extra small reusable bag in your backpack so if you get a hold of something that needs recycled, you can put it in the bag and save it for recycling later.
  • Eat local and organic at green restaurants when possible vs. at fast food chains.
  • Don’t use those small plastic bottles of shampoo offered at the hotel – take your own along. IF you use them, recycle them or bring them home and use them for other things.
  • If you arrive by plane consider the shuttle or bus to get to your hotel.
  • Use a digital camera vs. disposable.
  • When staying in a hotel reuse your towel - let the front desk know you won’t be needing daily housekeeping.
  • If traveling in summer or winter follow the same energy conservation tips in your hotel that you do at home - for example, shut the curtains, dress for the weather, turn down the AC or heater when you leave the room, and so on.
  • Avoid room service or carryout food which comes with more disposable trash issues than say, eating at an actual restaurant does.

Extra smart eco-actions…

  • If your hotel / motel / spa could be doing something better speak up. People don’t often make green changes without some nudging.
  • If staying at a campsite or other wild setting, put out all fires and leave nothing behind out in nature, pack up and carry out trash, extra food, and recyclables.
  • Have everyone in the family pick up one piece of litter each day. This is cool to do in urban vacation spots but extra important if you’re traveling in outdoor nature areas.
  • Get a hotel with a kitchen, dishes, and cookware, and make most of your meals – head to the local farmers markets or natural grocers for new finds!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

10 Sustainable Lifestyle Tips

Written by Zachary Shahan

Lifestyle is the biggest underlying contributor to our environmental impact. The things we buy, the products we use, the way we travel, are all influenced greatly by our lifestyle. Our lifestyle is the root of all our green (or not green) actions in some way or another. How we think, what we think about, how we spend our free time, our daily and weekly habits, what we decide to bring into our lives — this is our lifestyle.

I’ve come up with a top ten list of lifestyle factors that I believe have the biggest impact on whether or not we are living sustainable lives. Is your lifestyle sustainable?

We often write about great products that can green your home (see “5 Products to Green in Your Everyday Life”, “Five Greenish Products You’ve Seen on TV” and “Five More Greenish Products You’ve Seen on TV”), ways to cut home energy consumption (see “10 Ways to Cut Home Energy Consumption”), and other such thing-related green topics. This top ten list delves into the more fundamental aspects of our lives — why do we buy what we buy, why do we do what we do, why do we go where we go?

These tips should help to transform your life from a green life to a super-green life, or from a not-so-green life (maybe a yellow life), to a green one!

#10: Educate Yourself

Thought you got your degree from a university, or from primary school? You did, but things are constantly changing. The world is constantly in motion and things are constantly being updated. How can you make proper actions and decisions if you don’t stay informed? Learning is a lifelong process, especially since what we learned in the past isn’t always right (the world is flat) and since things are always changing (habitats disappearing, weather changing, tomatoes being made from fish cells, and so on). Stay informed by educating yourself a little everyday, or every week if everyday is too difficult for you. Great websites to stay on top of all green issues include: Sustainablog (for all things green, especially new products and lifestyle); EcoWorldy (for world environmental news); CleanTechnica (for technical news and information); Red, Green & Blue (for political news), Eat.Drink.Better. (for food news), EcoLocalizer (for local green news), Planetsave (for activist and environmental news), and others from Green Options Media.

#9: Spend Some Time With Yourself
We all need some time to reflect on our actions, our lives, our beliefs, and the direction we are going in if we are going to live sustainable lives. We need this time, whether it is in transit, while we are doing other things, or while we are taking a short break from work. The best way to do this, though, is to give a little time to yourself everyday (or at least once a week) — to sit back, relax, let your thoughts settle, and take a clear look at things important to you. Take some time to sit with yourself everyday.

#8: Don’t Rush
Most of us these days seem to rush around from one place or one activity to another all day long. Rushing may not be pleasant, but it also has many negative effects for sustainable actions. When we rush, we are very impulsive, we buy things and do things we don’t need to buy or do. When we rush, we grab a quick snack wrapped in a piece of plastic, and then another quick snack in a plastic wrapper, and then another, instead of eating whole foods. When we rush, we forget to do various things — turn off the lights, shut off the computer, unplug appliances that aren’t in use, and so on. When we rush, drive for short trips instead of taking our time and going by bicycle or foot.

#7: Read a Book
Reading a book is a way to entertain ourselves. It is also a way to educate and culture ourselves. It also helps most people to relax — hence, the reason why people fall asleep reading. Reading a book is also a green activity. Instead of going to the cinema (who knows how much energy cinemas use), instead of driving to a restaurant or club, instead of going shopping for more things you don’t need, you can sit down and read a book and you achieve many green goals!

#6: Unplug
This is somewhat of a lifestyle tip, I guess. It is a habit that must be created. When you are not using something electronic, turn it off and unplug it. This saves tons of energy. It is a simple habit that can go a long way.

#5: Leave the Plastic
Plastic probably has not shown us it’s true face yet. We think it’s convenient, useful for many things, and cheap. But plastic produces many concerns. It is already shown that a chemical used to make some plastics, and found in 93% of people tested, produces cancer, infertility, obesity and early puberty in numerous animal studies. Plastic is now being linked to childhood obesity and it is practically certain now that it can cause breast cancer in women. Additionally, plastic may cause autism — a serious problem that has sky-rocketed in recent decades. PVC plastic has many demonstrated, non-debatable problems. “PVC contains phthalates, softeners needed to make the plastic bend, and they have been found to interfere with hormonal development. The production of and burning of PVC plastic releases dioxin, a known carcinogen, into the atmosphere.”

Plastic is the most common type of ocean litter, harming countless sea animals as well. Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, wants plastic bags banned completely. For more on plastic ocean litter, read the haunting article “Plastic Oceans”.

Join IKEA and others — cut plastic out of your life. For a list of “safe” plastics and help getting started, read “What Plastics Do to Your Body”.

#4: 1 Call or Email a Day
Living in a democracy, I think it is paramount that there is substantial citizen involvement. As mentioned in tip #10, we should be informed, but beyond that we should also be at least a little involved in our democracy. It takes 30 seconds to a couple minutes to send an email or make a call to your representatives to let them know what is important to you. There are several websites that can help you voice your opinion. You can find all kinds of petition topics at the Petition Site. You can even start your own petition on this site. You can also check our sister site, Planetsave, for news on environmental activism and activism opportunities.

#3: Drop it Before You Shop, Don’t Shop Till’ You Drop

Consumerism beyond our needs or overconsumption is one of the leading causes of many environmental problems in the world today. Why do we shop so much more than we need? Why do we consume, consume and consume. Perhaps, it is because we have not found any peace within ourselves. For more on this topic, read “Personal Happiness and the Environment: A Sustainability Connection” or “Personal Happiness and the Economy: A Sustainability Link” or “Personal Sustainability: The Path to Worldwide Environmental Sustainability”. Next time you have a big urge to shop, remember tips #9 and #7, and maybe #10, and see if that doesn’t help.

#2: Cut off the Car
This might have been #1. Transportation is the second leading contributor to greenhouse gases in the country.

You can save a lot of money by driving less (or not at all), as approximately 30%, the largest percentage, of a working family’s budget in the US goes to transportation. It is several times more relaxing to walk, bike, or use public transit instead of driving. It is healthier. And it is one of the best things you can do to live a more sustainable life. Cut off the car, in whatever way you can.

#1: Eat Fruits and Veggies
As we’ve discovered, livestock production is a bigger cause of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide than transportation! The American Dietetic Association (ADA) used to say that a vegetarian diet was a safe diet to live on. Now, the ADA recommends it due to the fact that it is shown to decrease the risk of major health problems and premature death — cancer, ischemic heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. As Einstein stated: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” Take a chance — try out the vegetarian diet, and see how it changes your life. For help on how to live vegetarian (or even vegan), keep an eye on Eat.Drink.Better. and hundreds of other resources on the internet.

Interestingly, those last two tips are basically the leading two tips health experts are giving for addressing the obesity crisis in the United States. There is a clear relationship between the way we are dirtying the planet and the way we are fattening ourselves. Live clean, live green and live healthy.

Live sustainable.

From Sustainable Blog

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Guide to Escaping Materialism and Finding Happiness

by Leo of Zen Habits.

Post image for A Guide to Escaping Materialism and Finding Happiness

Money can’t buy you love. It can’t buy you happiness either.

Today’s materialistic world often urges us to buy the coolest gadgets, the trendiest clothes, bigger and better things, but research shows that possessions and purchases don’t buy us happiness. According to an article on CNN:

By and large, money buys happiness only for those who lack the basic needs. Once you pass an income of $50,000, more money doesn’t buy much more happiness, [according to a happiness studies].

So while we are being pushed towards materialism, it’s for monetary gain by corporations, not for our own happiness. Unfortunately, it’s hard to escape the trap of materialism, and find happiness in other ways than buying stuff online or finding joy in the mall.

But it’s possible. Here’s a guide to finding a materialism-free life and discovering true happiness.

Escaping Materialism
All around us, there are messages telling us to buy stuff. On the Internet (blogs included), we see continuous advertising trying to get us to purchase a product or service. It’s the main reason for television, and movies are continually made with products placed throughout, so that we aren’t always sure what is advertising and what was put in there by the director.

Flip on the radio or open up a newspaper or magazine, and you’re bombarded my more advertising. Go to a shopping center/mall, and the urge to buy comes from every direction.

This message to continually buy, buy, buy … and that it will somehow make us happpier … is drilled into our heads from the days of Happy Meals and cartoons until the day we die. It’s inescapable.

Well, almost. You could go and live in a cabin in the woods (and that actually sounds nice), or you could still live in our modern society, but find ways to escape materialism.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Limit television. Do you really enjoy watching TV for hours? Think about which shows you really, really love, and only watch during that time. When the commercials come on, go do something else. Or use Tivo to watch TV. You can even give up cable TV entirely, if you’re brave — I have, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
  • Eschew the news. Journalists will never tell you this, but if they’re completely honest, they’ll confess that the most important part of any news company, from TV or radio news to Internet or print new, is the advertising division. It’s the division that pays the paychecks of the rest of the company. The news is important in driving traffic to the advertising. So when you’re watching or reading news, you’re really being sucked in to advertising. Try this instead: boycott the news for a week. I’ve done it for about two years, and it hasn’t hurt me a bit. In fact, it’s helped me a lot.
  • Limit Internet reading. I’m not saying you should cancel your cable Internet subscription or anything. I love reading blogs. But find just those that you truly love reading, that give you the most value, and limit your reading to those. And just do it once a day, for 30 minutes or so. If you can do that, you’ve gone a long way towards tearing yourself away from advertising.
  • Give up magazines for books. Magazines are also designed with advertising in mind. And they rarely give you much value. Try reading an ad-free book instead. It’s a much better use of your time.
  • Don’t go to the mall or Walmart. The only purpose of these places is for you to spend money. If you just want a place to spend your Saturday afternoon, find a place where you don’t need to spend money to have fun — a park or a beach, for example. If you need to buy something, go to a single store (not the mall) and go in and get what you need. Don’t browse and walk around looking at stuff. You’ll get sucked in.
  • Monitor your urges. When you’re online, or watching TV, or at a store, keep track of the number of times you want to buy something. Keep a little notebook or index card, and just put tally marks. Once you become more aware of your urges to buy things, you can start to control them. If you could control them, limiting your consumption of media (see above tips) isn’t really necessary — although I would argue that it still gives you a better quality of life.
  • Use a 30-day list. If you still really want to buy something, put it on a list, and write down the date you added the item to the list. Now tell yourself you cannot buy that item for 30 days. It might be difficult, but you can do it. When the 30 days have passed, if you still want it, then buy it. But you can’t buy anything (besides essentials like groceries) without putting it on the list for 30 days first. Many times, our urges to buy something will pass during this waiting period.
  • Declutter. I find it pretty amazing to see all the crap I buy over a period of years, when I go through my closets and other possessions and start getting rid of stuff I don’t use or want anymore. It’s a gratifying process, and at the same time, it makes me realize how useless all our consumer shopping is. I don’t need any of the stuff! When you do this, you may be less likely to buy more stuff. Especially if you enjoy the decluttered look of your house as much as I do.
  • Find other forms of entertainment. There are other things to do besides watch TV or movies or read magazines or newspapers or the Internet. Try playing sports or exercising, or playing board games or creating art or writing or reading a book. Try doing fun things with your kids or visiting relatives and other loved ones. Try volunteering with a charity. I’m sure you could come up with 100 free or cheap things to do.
  • Buy used. When you get the urge to buy something, and you’re convinced that it’s needed, try finding it used instead of new. Look in thrift shops or garage sales or flea markets or similar places.

A True Path to Happiness
So, if you’re able to escape materialism, how can you find true happiness? There are many ways, and each of us is different, but here are some things I suggest trying:

  • Grateful list. Make a list of things about which you’re grateful in your life. Give thanks for them daily.
  • Think positive. Try eliminating negative thinking from your life, and thinking positive instead.
  • Small pleasures. Make a list of small things that give you great pleasure. Sprinkle them throughout your day. Notice other small pleasures as you go through your day.
  • Kindness. Practice random acts of kindness and compassion. Do it anonymously. Help those in need. Volunteer. Make someone smile.
  • Love. Make an intimate connection with your loved ones. Develop your friendships. Spend time with them, converse, understand them, make them happy.
  • Health. Exercise and eat healthy — it sounds trite, but it can bring great happiness to your life.
  • Meaning. It’s often useful to find meaning, either through a church or spiritual way, or through those we love in life or through the things we’re passionate about. Give yourself a purpose.
  • Flow. Eliminate distractions, and really pour yourself into whatever you’re doing. If it’s writing an article, like this one, really put yourself into it, until you forget the outside world.
  • Know yourself. Become attuned to what brings you happiness. Study yourself. Learn about what you love, and about your ability to love. Increase your capacity for compassion.