Alternative/Green Lifestyles Tips

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What can I do with my old computer besides throwing it away?

Computer Recycling

Computers, cell phones, remote controls and other devices containing circuitry are often tossed into landfills and forgotten. This is not the most green friendly way to go, especially when it comes to monitors and video displays, which may contain chemicals that can seep into the groundwater.

Instead of throwing away those old computers, donation is a very earth friendly alternative. Schools, local charities and churches are always in need of more computers, accessories, monitors and spare parts. Many thrift stores are eager to get computer donations, and larger operations may even feature free pickup from your home or office.

Before getting rid of your old television, do a quick search of the phone directory to see whether local hospitals or nursing homes could use a donation.

There are so many green alternatives to simply throwing away your old electronics that sending them to a landfill seems particularly wasteful. An excellent resource to help you find a new home for old electronics is, which is dedicated to helping people both acquire and donate a wide variety of goods.

What are some unique ways to save a tree and avoid landfills?

Not-So-Obvious Green Alternatives In Entertainment

Many people want to reduce the amounts of paper, plastic, and related packaging waste found in everyday purchases. Not so many take a very hard look at the kinds of waste generated by everyday purchases.

How much plastic goes in to each and every compact disc sold at your local music store? Digital music download sites, while not advertised as such, are excellent green alternatives to CD purchases. The extra benefits of digital downloads include the elimination of the need for plastic CD cases as well as the plastic wrapper that goes around it. Another green alternative?

Canceling your newspaper subscription and getting your news online, and from the source. Most newspapers use Associated Press news wire reports for their national news, and your local issues can be found at the websites for your local TV stations. How much paper and ink goes into your Sunday supplement alone? Getting your news online saves trees and landfill space.

Yet another not-so-obvious green alternative related to entertainment? Beer on tap. Nobody thinks to market draft beer as an environmentally friendly commodity, but serving beer from the tap eliminates not only the need for glass bottles and wasteful cardboard packaging, it is often better tasting and less expensive depending on the time of day and the brand you buy. By switching to "draft-only" you vote with your dollar, and enjoy a much better brew.

Are there alternative uses for those plastic shopping bags?

Getting Started On Greener Living, Part Two

Your start down the green living path means reducing waste, reusing what you can, and recycling wherever possible. The first step could include a more mindful use of everyday objects we throw away without thinking, such as plastic shopping bags. Green-minded people will reuse these bags for diaper disposal, and as alternative trash bags.

The advantage to using a shopping bag for trash is twofold; it saves you money on garbage bag purchases, and it makes you much more aware of how much waste you are creating in a given week. You will also find yourself sorting out the recyclable materials from the trash--glass containers, plastic bottles and the like--because they become too much for the smaller bags. Your green living home recycling program just got a jump-start, all because you saved money on larger, more wasteful garbage bags.

Are there natural alternatives to household cleaners?

Going Green With Cleaners

Many people fret over the amount of chemicals in their kitchens. Commercial kitchen cleaners often have caustic chemicals, fumes, and are generally unpleasant in spite of a lemon-fresh or "cool breeze" scent. The scents themselves are a source of irritation for many allergy sufferers who can't stand the perfumes. The solution?

Ordinary household vinegar mixed with varying degrees of water. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant, and cuts through caked on residues like ketchup, mustard and salad dressing. You can clean the entire fridge with vinegar, including the rubber seals.

There are some things to remember about cleaning with vinegar: Never mix it with ammonia or bleach-the fumes created by such a mixture are toxic. Do not mix vinegar with dish soap, which contains ammonia. Use white vinegar for your cleaning needs-including the bathroom, where vinegar is quite effective in cutting through bar soap residue and lime deposits.

Green living is not just better for the environment; it can also be quite cost effective. Compare a single bottle of vinegar with the cost of the same amount of cleaning solutions for both your bathroom and kitchen and see how the savings add up.

Are there alternatives to Christmas and Holiday trees?

Green Christmas

If you are looking for ways to celebrate the holiday season while being environmentally aware, check your local nursery to see if they offer a "living Christmas tree" program.

In many communities, this is a popular green living way to have a holiday tree and contribute to replanting efforts. A living Christmas tree program usually works by having a young tree delivered to your home for the holiday season. Afterwards, it is picked up and replanted in an area that needs "re-greening". This ends the wasteful practice of cutting down trees for a few weeks of enjoyment, and helps create wind shelter areas, decrease erosion, and beautify the whole area.

What kinds of green-friendly alternatives do I have over the holidays?

Green Holidays

There are plenty of ways to be green friendly and environmentally aware during the holiday season--ANY holiday season!

For starters, cutting down the amount of plastic you purchase is an excellent choice. Carving a real pumpkin is much better than the plastic versions sold in stores around Halloween, and recycling those scary decorations you already own is also an option.

For birthdays, a gift bag is a smaller use of paper than buying a roll of gift-wrap, and far easier to deal with. For winter holidays, fake trees may seem like a green alternative to a real tree, but plastic trees mean petroleum-based materials. Eventually, even the fake holiday trees will end up in a landfill somewhere. It's better to explore living tree options or even consider doing without the tree in favor of a special place in the home where gifts can be put on display before the great unwrapping.

When it comes to the unwrapping, most people consider it impractical to try and save the paper, but any ribbon used to wrap those gifts could definitely be used again. When dealing with the discarded wrapping paper, one alternative to throwing it all away is to save it for a do-it-yourself papermaking project, which can be great fun for kids and adults alike.

What can do if my recycling center is far away?

Creating A Recycling Co-Op

Imagine 64 extra tons of garbage added to our landfills every year. That figure is the amount kept OUT of dumps, ditches and roadsides thanks to the efforts of people interested in recycling. When people read statistics like that, it seems easier to take the extra time to recycle.

Many big cities make it quite simple; areas like Chicago and Dallas have recycling centers in several convenient locations. Smaller towns often have only one or two centers in far-away locations. If you live in an area where this is true, consider building an informal recycling cooperative group to help maximize your recycling efforts and save gas by making a single group trip.

If your neighborhood has three or four people who are also interested in green living and recycling, you can make a plan to share the responsibilities for delivering a weekly or monthly load to the recycling center of the group's collected recyclables. Be sure to separate glass, plastic and paper into their own individual containers. Some recycling centers offer special containers or bags for this purpose.

If you keep track of the amounts you send to the center each month, you will be surprised at how much you and your co-op partners are keeping out of landfills. These amounts truly add up.

What about the vinegar smell after I clean?

Vinegar Cleaning-What About The Smell?

Those switching to green living lifestyles are eager to save money on household cleaners by switching to vinegar, but often complain about the smell. Most vinegar odors go away once a surface dries out. In the meantime, you can burn incense or scented candles to mask the smell. You can also make an environmentally friendly solution-a mixture of water, lemon juice and baking soda and go over the cleaned surface one more time to freshen it up. It's also important to remember to properly dilute vinegar for some surfaces such as tile. Diluted vinegar won't eat your kitchen floor, plus the smell is watered down as well. The incense of scented candles will be more effective with diluted vinegar cleaning solutions.

How can I get started living green?

Getting Started On Greener Living, Part 1

Consumer culture is finally catching up with us; skyrocketing gas prices, higher utility bills, and increases in the cost of groceries. Many people find a growing desire to live green, even as they struggle with the reality of higher prices. How do you make the switch to greener--and healthier--living?

For many people, the grocery store is an easy place to begin. Prepackaged food is less healthy, more wasteful in terms of excessive packaging, and more costly than fresh food. A fresh lean chicken breast, a bag of fresh romaine lettuce, some rice and a bunch of broccoli is not only healthier, it goes a lot farther than spending the same amount of money on frozen food or restaurant food.

Try this green living experiment for one week and see how you fare: Shop only around the periphery of the grocery store where the fresh food is located. Don't buy ANY canned food, frozen food or pre-packaged meal-in-a-box type dinners. If you are pressed for time, cook meals ahead of time and refrigerate them for the next day. At the end of the week evaluate how you did with your shopping and eating habits.

Chances are you created less plastic and cardboard garbage, ate healthier and saved a bit of money in the process.

What can I do to help my green living causes?

Green Living Options-Vote With Your Dollar

One of the best green living tools any consumer has is the power to support green-friendly companies and projects though choices in the marketplace. Voting with your dollar means making an informed purchase--researching your favorite food manufacturers to see just how green friendly they may or may not be. Spending your money on companies that are actively involved in green issues is a very important part of influencing the marketplace towards green business practices.

There are times when you and your community will find a larger issue which needs to be addressed beyond the individual's choice at the checkout counter-you may decide to organize a boycott or demonstration. This requires a bit of organization in your neighborhood or community, but the results are often worth the effort. If you need to go this route, it is very important to get in touch with your local law enforcement groups to learn what you might need in order to stay on the right side of the law with your boycott or protest.

Many communities require permits or written permission to hold a public demonstration, strike, or protest. By learning your local laws you can not only stage your activity without fear of being arrested, but you may also receive police protection in some cases as you exercise your constitutional rights.

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PJ Campbell