....and do something good for the planet!   I’m really passionate or maybe even slightly obessed about all things eco, green, sustainable, fair trade, ethical, etc. Since April 22nd was Earth Day, I thought I would share some “green” tips that my family and I do at home that would be easy for you to try out. I know some of you might think that a few of these tips are time-consuming and expensive changes to make and I used to be the same way, trust me. But when you really put these tips into practice, re-organize things, and make it a routine for you, then it won’t even feel like a headache. I’ve found out that these tips not only serve to protect the planet, but in the long-run, have also saved me money and help me to have a healthy home, family, and community. We have to stop thinking that once we toss out something that it magically disappears. When we start taking responsibility for how we live and what we want to leave behind for future generations, we become more selfless and compassionate beings.   * If you have anymore tips that you want to share, post them below so we can all try them out. Also post your comments because I do read them and respond to them personally.   * Go biodegradable: Even in our natural world we can observe that everything is biodegradable, so why do we go and create things that can’t decompose and become toxic waste? For all of your disposable products, make a switch to biodegradable products. It might be a pain at first to find biodegradable replacements for all of the conventional products that you have, but it is so worth it. All of those plastic trash bags that seem to never decompose and won’t until about 400 years from now, billions of diapers, feminine pads, plates and utensils amongst other things are filling up our landfills. Most biodegradable products such as trash bags take only around 50 months to decompose and can become useful compost.   * Eco-friendly/natural house cleaners and laundry detergents: Have you ever read the labels on your cleaning products? That “fresh” clean scent that your favorite housecleaner advertises is actually making your family sick. These products contain dangerous ingredients such as glycol ethers that cause everything from asthma, to hormone disruptions, to severe headaches, and other congenital diseases. If that is what it does to your family, imagine what it can do to our environment once it gets washed down your drain. Buy certified eco-friendly products or look-up home cleaning recipes. Baking soda, lemon, juice, and vinegar, for example, clean just as well as the other toxic stuff, without the toxins.   * Organic bath, personal hygiene and cosmetic products: Same thing here: READ the labels. Why are formaldehyde and other carcinogenic petrochemicals ingredients in so many of our personal care products? Sounds scary, right? But what about the other stuff that is not listed on the labels? Do you know what sodium laureth (and lauryl) sulfate is? It’s in all of the bath and hygiene products used to create foam and for it’s cleaning power. It has so much cleaning power that it is also used to clean car engines. Hmmm...I personally don’t need that much cleaning power and you don’t either. Since it cannot be processed by the liver that means this dangerous toxin stays in your skin much longer. The National Institute of Health in its Household Products Directory has reported this substance as being highly irritating and dangerous. Because of its irritating nature, our skin becomes more succeptible to environmental toxins and cancers. It is also implicated in health problems such as PMS, menopausal symptoms, decreasing male fertility, and irreversible eye damage. Go for “certified” organic products and not those that only put an “herbal” or “all-natural” stamp on their bottles just to cash in on the “green” trend. There are also many great natural home recipes for shampoos, toothpaste, creams, and more.   * Zero waste-->Recycle, Reduce, Reuse: It’s a slogan that most of us all learned back in elementary school but its message could never be more true for today. One way to get into the recycling habit is to get (or make) a household size recycling bin with separate compartments. Keep it handy right by your kitchen trash bin or in the pantry where it can be easy to toss things that need to be recycled right away into their compartment rather than having to separate it all on the day tht the trashmen come around to pick it up. I even have separate trash bins in my office so that my trash gets separated right away. Have you thought about reusing those Ziploc freezer bags or sandwich bags? You can actually wash them by hand and save them for the next use. They last for quite a bit of time depending upon what type of food you are saving. And once they need to be thrown out, just toss them in the recycling bin. If you buy food and drinks that comes in glass containers, try reusing them for something else. Whenever we get packages and the boxes, paper, or bubble wrap it comes with is in good condition; we save and reuse them when we need to ship stuff. If you have space in your house for this, then it is a good idea. If you can’t save packaging that comes from your orders then it is best to recycle them.   * Use recycled paper products: For all of our paper products (which are few) such as toliet paper and printer paper, we use recycled paper products.   * Upcycle, swap, or donate clothing and other stuff you don’t want: Before you toss out something you don’t want, ask yourself if you can do something else with it. Can you repurpose it? Can it be fixed? Can you re-style it? So much “stuff” fills up our landfills and just sits there, when in fact many of those things could have been reused, fixed, or given to someone else. Other alternatives to the stuff you need to get rid of can be to have an old-fashion garage sale or community yard sale because we all know that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.   * Meatless Mondays: You may not change your diet as much as we have, but the excessive amounts of meat that our society is eating is having a detrimental effect on our environment, animals, and on our health. One of the biggest problems apart from the deforestation of the Amazon to make room for more animal farms, is the reactive nitrogen pollution that comes from agriculture and animal farms. There are excessive amounts of nitrogen in the fetilizers used on the crops to feed the livestock that we eat. Surprise! All of those crops go to feed animals that we later on eat. With all of the food grown and water needed just to raise these animals only to be slaughtered, we can get rid of world hunger. The more meat that we eat, the more reactive nitrogen pollution there is. It is costing the world billions of dollars in damage and this type of pollution has been reported to take 6 months off of our lives. Make Mondays (or any other day of the week you like) meatless. Switch to fruit and veggies as a healthy source of nutrition and protein and check out the websites below for delicious meat-free recipes.   * B.Y.O.B.: Bring Your Own Bags when you go grocery shopping. Here in Spain, many of the supermarkets are starting to charge you for plastic bags. So buying a few heavy duty shopping bags or recycling your bags from previous trips, means producing less plastic and keeping plastic bags out of our trash dumps, oceans, and other peculiar places. We leave all of our bags in the car so we won’t forget them when we go shopping and then we have a bin in our pantry where we save all of our plastic bags.   * Turn off lights and other electronics that aren’t in use   * Cloth napkins: At first, I didn’t like this idea because of the extra amount of work this would require to get rid of tough stains. But after finding out how much paper is wasted just to wipe your mouth after eating, I bought quite a few cloth napkins so that I won’t have to wash so often. When it’s time to wash them, I just leave them in a bucket with a natural oxygen bleach, and then later on I rinse them out and leave them on the line to dry. It’s another “zero-waste” tip that saves us money and reduces the amount of trash that fills our landfills.   * Walk or bike: Whenever it is possible and especially if you live in a pedestrian/bike friendly city, then leave the car keys at home and walk to do all of your errands or take your bike. It’s healthy, saves on gas, and cuts down on pollution. Many of the towns here in Spain and especially where I am in Andalucía, are better navigated by foot than in your car, unlike Southern California where I used to live, that is practically all freeways. Now, I walk to do most of my errands.   * Line-dry clothes: I know you’re thinking that this can be a pain to do, but during the warmer months air drying your clothes is pretty quick, saves energy, saves you money, and reduces your carbon footprint.   * Water: One of the most precious resources we have and one that is the cause of major conflicts globally is water. Those annyoing leaky faucets dripping all night may not seem like a big deal, but they can waste up to 20 gallons of water a day! So just take a few minutes to re-tighten those faucets or replace old parts. If you have a house, harvest your rainwater. My husband created a simple water cistern with a faucet from a trash can. We later use that water to water our plants and garden. We only use the washing machine and dishwasher with full loads. And when we travel, we carry glass or non-toxic containers with our home-filtered water. Bottled water is a crime and not any healthier or better than tap water since there are actually carcinogenic and neurotoxic additives in bottled water. Billions of dollars are used to create bottled water, billions of barrels of crude oil are used to create the plastic bottles, tons of these plastic bottles just sit in our landfills, there is a huge carbon footprint just to transport all of this water, and in the end, it is a huge waste of resources, money, and energy that can be better spent elsewhere.   * Buy organic/local food and products whenever possible: The most important thing here is staying away from the junk, processed, pre-packaged, laboratory-made food. Read your labels and know what you’re eating. Most food out there is laced with hundreds of chemicals many of which are not listed on the label. Buying organic means supporting small farmers and companies that do not use pesticides, chemicals, hormones and other nasty products to grow and produce your foods and use only natural fresh ingredients in their products. Buy buying local in-season produce and products, you are also creating a smaller carbon footprint. If your supermarket doesn’t carry these items, let them know that there is a demand.     * Some helpful websites:   www.treehugger.com www.thedailygreen.com www.gliving.com www.meatlessmonday.com www.supportmfm.org www.ethicalsuperstore.com (if you live in Europe) www.thestoryofstuff.org www.beautytruth.net (see “beauty facts”) www.huffingtonpost.com/green/ www.islamicconcern.org www.alternativeconsumer.com www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/index.cfm   *Books:   Anti-Toxico by Carlos de Prada (only available in Spanish at the moment, but look for any books about having a toxic-free home. If you do read in Spanish, pick this one up. It’s written by an important journalist here in Spain. I had the opportunity to meet him and he is such a down-to-earth person who only wants to get the word out there about all the dangerous toxins that are in our world and make a change.)   The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle--excellent book and resource, so well-written and it just may open your eyes to things that you never thought about before.     -Tabassum Siddiqui, Head Designer