Sustainable energy may be one of the most eco-friendly purchases you can make. It's now possible to receive your electricity from companies that generate it from renewable sources like solar or wind. To find out more, contact your local utility or the U.S. Department of Energy's Green Power Network.
Eco-friendly Product Suppliers
The first place to look for eco-friendly products is at the same stores where you do your ordinary shopping. Many major retail chains have begun to supply products that minimize environmental damage. For example, Home Depot identifies and labels products that are environmentally friendly, everything from all-natural insect repellents to front-load washing machines. The company's Web site includes a section called "Eco Options" that can direct you to the most eco-friendly alternatives. Lowe's, which also offers organic and eco-friendly products, offers recycling programs for batteries and home appliances.
Target is another store that has promoted green shopping. The retailer offers a range of eco-friendly products, from reusable bags to natural beauty products. The company has also partnered with NextWorth, a trade-in program, to encourage the recycling of electronic items like cell phones and iPods. Best Buy also offers an electronics recycling program.
When it comes to groceries, many supermarket chains now offer organic produce and other green products. They might also sell foods in bulk to cut down on packaging.
While green products are only a part of the offerings of major retailers, you can probably find local businesses that are committed solely to green shopping. For example, the Sapona Green Building Center in Wilmington, N.C., focuses exclusively on eco-friendly products. Many communities have organized farmers' markets where you can buy local products in season. Consignment and thrift shops recycle items directly by reselling them.
The Internet is also a great place to search for eco-friendly products. And in many cases, buying online is a better way to shop, anyway. Having items delivered or mailed to your home is often more energy efficient than driving to a store to purchase it. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that online shopping uses 35 percent less energy and carbon emissions compared to making a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store.
There are many Web sites that screen and sell eco-friendly products. BuyGreen.com sets standards for every product based on the item's entire life cycle and gives it a rating. Ecomall.com and Greenshopper.com are similar central sites where you can shop among many companies that offer eco-friendly products. National Green Pages is a directory of about 3,000 companies that have made commitments to sustainable and socially just operations. Keep in mind, though, that you still might need to do some research to find out just how green individual products are.
A quick Internet search can also provide you with links to manufacturers of all types of eco-friendly products. For example, you can check out the environmentally friendly home products created by Seventh Generation and find out where to buy them from a local source. The Green Products Alliance provides links to member retailers and manufacturers who sell eco-friendly skin care products. Many specialty sellers can be found on the Web with a simple search. They offer items like natural pet products, organic cotton and green office supplies.
Purchasing an eco-friendly product may not seem like a big deal, but if everyone takes a few small steps, it can add up to a giant leap toward keeping the planet healthy.