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green_livingRISMEDIA, October 8, 2009—(MCT)—Green living in a down economy has become a concern for many Americans, but while adopting eco-conscious practices may seem challenging at first, it’s simple to make an impact. 

“It’s easy to be planet-friendly and human healthy,” said eco-expert Kim Carlson, founder of EarthSmart Consumer Certified, a retail product certification program that collaborates with leading environmentalists to ensure the products we buy don’t damage our planet. “You just have to kind of know your way around that world and once you do—it’s easy. It’s just changing a few behaviors.” 

Minor modifications such as using power strips for your electronics and switching out your old light bulbs for compact fluorescent ones will reduce your carbon footprint and save some money, but you can always do more. 

“We’re hitting and bumping up against the limits of the resources here on the planet,” she said. “Wise use of those resources is the whole point of being green.” 

Below are a few tips Carlson, author of “Green Your Work: Boost Your Bottom Line While Reducing Your Carbon Footprint” suggests to help others develop healthier lifestyles, become more aware of the environment and eat with green in mind. 

Choose products with reduced packaging
As consumers, most of us don’t pay attention to the packaging of the products we buy, and with all the distractions (long lines, free samples, etc.), it’s understandable why.

-Tip: Pre-packaged goods are convenient but they could be packaged differently, so stick to the perimeter of your grocery store for non-processed foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products and meats, which are both minimally processed and minimally packaged. Then hit the bulk aisle for rice, cereal, pasta and nuts. You’ll have more space in your cabinets and fewer packages to toss out later.
-Reminder: Buying dry goods over wet products will result in lighter trucks using less fuel and fewer emissions released into the atmosphere. 

Shop with reusable grocery bags
“Any time you can reuse something, you’re ahead of the game because you don’t have anything to throw away,” Carlson said about the widespread use of the popular reusable shopping bags. “You don’t have to worry about composting or what to do with it; you just keep using it until it wears out.”

-Tip: Take advantage of new technologies when you can. “There’s bags that are being produced out of bioplastics like corn and switchgrass,” Carlson noted. “Things that can biodegrade.”
-Reminder: Most reusable bags cost about $1, so stock up—every bag makes a difference. 

Buy locally raised ingredients
Purchasing local products instead of their commercial counterparts will keep your dollars close by and guarantee fresher and more nutritious foods.

-Tip: Pay a visit to the nearby farmer’s market. Buying produce such as lettuce, eggplant and potatoes from neighborhood vendors is a great way to invest in your community and purchasing in-season products will assure you of quality and lower prices.
-Reminder: Ask the sellers where the items come from at each stand to ensure they were grown in your area. 

Select sustainable seafood
Fishing practices worldwide have destroyed habitats, depleted fish populations and polluted the oceans, but smarter shopping could offset the consequences of over-fishing.

-Tip: Pick up one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch pocket guides, which are handy region-specific booklets full of suggestions for favorable seafood purchases. Also, eat at your favorite restaurants that recognize the issue and work to serve quality, sustainable dishes.
-Reminder: Ask for “ocean-friendly” seafood: Arctic char, bay scallops and rainbow trout, among others, are “abundant, well-managed and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways,” one guide states. 

Green night out
It’s one thing to buy local ingredients and products with reduced packaging for your meals at home, but if your family frequents restaurants several times a week, broaden your scope.

-Tip: Choose environmentally cognizant restaurants—typically non-chains—that serve locally grown cuisine, recycle waste and conserve energy resources.
-Reminder: When you come across a great eco-friendly restaurant, spread the word! 

Other ways to make an impact
Eating is a social bonding experience; it should be a carefree occasion, not a chore.

-Tip: Plant your own garden, replace meat with wheat or introduce unusual grains into your diet to mix things up a bit.
-Reminder: When cultivating a garden, you can choose to go all-organic with soil, plants and fertilizer, or low-impact, by abstaining from using pesticides. 

(c) 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.