Article - D Magazine 65 Things You Can Do Right Now
Issue Date: Special Report: D Magazine
Dallas Goes Green, Posted On: 12/14/2007
by Dawn McMullan
Go To Sleep
In sheets made from organic cotton, humanely treated baby alpacas that graze on pesticide-free land, or eco-silk dupioni made without toxins or heavy metal dyes, that is. Anna Sova Luxury Organics (www.annasova.com) CEO Anna Walker has spent more than a decade researching and developing environmentally responsible textiles, and her wares are as absolutely fabulous as any luxury linen on the market. How important is it to buy organic cotton products? Think of it like this: 25 percent of the world’s pesticides are used on conventionally grown cotton. Anna Sova also offers organic bath and body products and candles made from
100 percent soy or vegetable wax.
|photography by Elizabeth Lavin|
Splash Some Color
No one likes the smell of fresh paint. But what’s more worrisome are those pesky volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that aren’t good for you or the earth. Most major brands offer low-VOC paints and no-VOC primers. Try Benjamin Moore’s Eco Spec 100 percent acrylic line, available at Texas Paint & Wallpaper (texaspaint.com), or Green Seal certified (greenseal.org) American Pride products at Green Living (green-living.com).
Tupperware or any other washable, reusable container will do nicely. The landfill will thank you. If you must use a baggie, rinse it and reuse.
Pay your bills online. Get your bills online. Stamps will soon be so retro.
Have a Spa Day
Always at Peace Organic Spa (www.alwaysatpeace.com) in downtown Plano is an earth-friendly indulgence. All the products used in the massages, facials, and hand and body treatments are organic. Get a vanilla crème shea butter sugar polish (with organic shea butter, macadamia and kukui nut oils, and real Madagascar vanilla) and check off the earth from your list of things to worry about for an afternoon.
Eat a Bag of Chips
Plano-based Frito-Lay has been recognized by the EPA for its energy conservation. Among the company’s achievements: it has reduced fuel consumption per pound of product produced by 21 percent, electrical consumption by 18 percent, and water consumption by up to 35 percent. Chips that don’t make it past quality control, or those not sold in stores by the Guaranteed Fresh date, are sent to livestock feeders and pet food manufacturers as a feed supplement, diverting 18 million pounds of snacks away from the landfill. We always knew Frito pie would save the day.
Half Price Books is green by its very nature because it sells something used, saving the energy to make something new. But the Dallas-based used bookstore chain is doing even more: replacing current bulbs with compact fluorescents; placing recycling bins in stores nationwide; and using recycled paper for all packaging, business cards, and other paper needs. The company also launched BecomeGreen (www.becomegreen.info) in 2007, which is full of green tips, stats, and useful information.
Heida Thurlow, breast cancer survivor and founder and CEO of Houston-based Chantal Cookware (www.chantal.com), is rightly a bit sensitive to the dangers of Teflon. In an effort to prevent passing chemicals to people or the planet, Chantal developed a stick-resistant alternative called Copper Fusion, which fuses copper between carbon steel plates, then encases it in enamel. Chantal’s German manufacturing plant uses a special filtration system that cleans all the water used in the plant before it hits outside soil. As a bonus, Thurlow donates 5–10 percent of profits to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Dry Clean Your Clothes
Swiss Dry Cleaners (214-987-0665) on Mockingbird Lane uses the GreenEarth Cleaning System, which means your clothes are cleaned with pure liquid silicone, rather than the usual petroleum-based solvent perchloroethylene, a toxic air contaminant regulated by the EPA. Not only is there no “dry cleaning smell” left on your clothes, but you’ll also notice that whites stay white, colors don’t fade, fabrics stay soft, and there is no shrinkage. And liquid silicone is easily disposed of: it simply breaks down into water, carbon dioxide, and sand. Nothing unnatural about that.
Get an Energy Audit
Wonder what your home’s carbon footprint is? Call Dallas-based Current Energy (www.currentenergy.com) to find out.
Dallas-based Trinity Thermal Systems (www.trinity-thermal.com) has patented the IceCycle system, which captures inexpensive off-peak cooling energy and stores it as ice. The stored energy is used during expensive peak times, lowering the demand—and the pollution—at peak times and costing you less money. IceCycle can be installed in new homes or businesses or retrofitted to work with existing air-conditioning units.
Bags, that is. When the checker asks whether you prefer paper or plastic, pull out your own bags, whether paper, plastic, or cloth. Envirosax are bright and fun (www.usa.envirosax.com), and most grocery stores carry cloth bags you can buy. Regarding the paper or plastic question: it takes 70 percent more global warming gases to produce a paper bag, yet the petroleum used to make 14 plastic bags could drive a car one mile, and 100,000 marine animals are killed annually by plastic bags, according to 1 Bag At A Time (www.onebagatatime.com). Go cloth. You’ll be so Hollywood, baby.
Buy Your Carpet in Pieces
Consider Illinois-based Flor (www.flor.com) an earth-friendly puzzle for your floor. Not only is Flor a modern—and inexpensive—alternative to traditional area rugs or wall-to-wall carpeting, but the 19.7-inch squares, made of some recycled material, boast lower VOC offgassing than other carpets. Plus you can simply replace one if it becomes damaged or dirty, and each piece is recyclable. Done with the whole batch? Send it back to Flor, and the company will recycle it for you. Order online, or find Flor at Design Within Reach in Dallas or Southlake.
Use Natural Cleaning Products
Tide isn’t biodegradable. You might never see it again after you pour that cup into the washer, but it goes somewhere—as do all cleaning products. For a cheap solution, make your own (you won’t believe what vinegar, baking soda, and grapefruit seed extract can do), or buy products like Mrs. Meyer’s (www.mrsmeyers.com) at Elliott’s Hardware or Seventh Generation (www.seventhgeneration.com) from Central Market. Also, Shaklee (www.shaklee.com) is very earth-friendly in its product, philosophy, and packaging.
Be a Vegetarian …
More than 33 percent of fossil fuels produced in this country are the result of animal agriculture. Rain forests are cleared so cows can graze in Central America (55 square feet per hamburger). One pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce compared to 250 gallons for a pound of soy and 25 gallons for a pound of wheat. That hamburger equals two-and-a-half weeks of long showers. Great local vegetarian restaurants include Kalachandji’s at the East Dallas Hare Krishna temple, Spiral Diner in Fort Worth and now in the Bishop Arts District, and Toy’s Cafe on Lemmon Avenue. Also try Crosby Catering & Coffee for delivery.
… Or At Least Eat Less Meat
We understand the carnivorous among you. So, in addition to eating meat less often, buy it from farms that let animals roam and eat grass. This kind of farming is easier on the land, because the animals follow their natural instincts, and the farmers use no pesticides or hormones. (Google “factory farming” and you’ll get an eyeful.) Whole Foods (www.wholefoods.com) is an easy option. Even more local is Texas Meats Supernatural, a partnership of three local farms: Windy Meadows Family Farm (www.windymeadowschicken.com), Rehoboth Ranch (www.rehobothranch.com), and Truth Hill Farm (214-491-9441).
Simple Shoes (www.simpleshoes.com) makes cool footwear—funky sneakers, slip-ons, and flip-flops with super-cute names like Ecosneaks, GT Janes, and Stop Global Warming Toepeeka—out of recycled car tires, organic cotton, and melted down plastic bottles. Buy them locally at REI (www.rei.com) and Planet Sole at the Shops at Willow Bend.
Green Mountain Energy (www.greenmountain.com) gives you the option of 100 percent wind power or 100 percent pollution-free energy (90 percent hydro, 10 percent wind). The environmental impact of 100 percent wind power, which is a bit more expensive, is the same as planting 1,200 trees, not driving 20,000 miles in a car, and takes 17,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions out of the air. The non-polluting option equates to 100 trees planted, 2,000 miles not driven, and 1,700 of CO2 avoided. Surely that’s worth the extra cash.
Download (or Donate) Your Music
The only energy used is the click of your mouse. CDs and their plastic cases will not decompose in a landfill. If it’s time to get rid of those CDs you’ve already uploaded to your iPod, donate, trade, or send them to the CD Recycling Center of America (www.cdrecyclingcenter.com). They take DVDs, too.
Fly, Don’t Drive
Driving emits twice the CO2 that flying does. Plus, the airlines will thank you for it.
Visit Motel 6
Yes, they’ll leave the light on for you. A compact fluorescent light, that is. Owned by Carrollton-based Accor North America, Motel 6 started the first national fluorescent light bulb and battery recycling program in the hospitality industry. Each of the motel’s 900 properties has a box for collecting the bulbs and batteries. Visit www.motel6.com to find one near you.
Write grocery lists on the back of junk mail envelopes. Change the margins on your printer by half an inch on each side. Print on both sides of your paper when you can.
Dallas-based clothing designer Laura Chapuis always wanted to start a fashion business that “worked in partnership with the planet.” So, after working in the fashion industry in New York for eight years, she moved to Texas, where a good portion of the organic cotton in this country is grown, and started Habitude (www.habitude.org), a domestically produced clothing line made from organic and sustainable fabrics. Her creations are decidedly feminine and downright stylish, from 100 percent organic merino wool sweaters to a gathered empire dress made from 60 percent hemp and 40 percent silk, trimmed in 100 percent organic cotton. Earth-friendly fashion never came so chic.
Go to www.Carbonfund.org to offset anything you can’t reduce. You’re going to drive a car. Maybe it isn’t the most efficient, producing seven tons of CO2 ($38.51) annually. If you took a trip to Greece this summer, that’s 2.26 tons of CO2 ($12.43). A family of four puts an average of 29.63 tons of CO2 into the air annually, which would cost about $162 to offset. You determine your offset figure, make a donation to Carbonfund.org, and pick whether you want to support renewable energy, energy efficiency, or reforestation—theoretically whipping your carbon slate clean.
Pick Earth-Friendly Buds
If you can’t cut flowers from your own garden to enjoy indoors, look for the VeriFlora™ (www.veriflora.com) label on fresh bouquets. This sustainability certification program ensures growers are environmentally and socially responsible, which means they care about the earth and their employees. You can find VeriFlora blooms at Whole Foods and Central Market.
Starbucks hands out 1.9 billion paper cups annually. Ask for a ceramic mug if you’re hanging out and enjoy your nonfat, double-shot, extra-whip caramel macchiato the old-fashioned way. You won’t believe how much better it tastes.
The local vs. organic argument rages on. But the shorter the distance food has to travel, the better for the earth. (If you can find local and organic, well, then, you’ve hit the jackpot.) Your best bet is to shop at your local farmer’s market—but make sure the food is grown locally, not just trucked in. Restaurants such as York Street and Garden Cafe in Lakewood and Lola The Restaurant in Uptown serve locally grown and raised foods. Signs at Whole Foods and Central Market explain where your food is coming from. Lucky Layla dairy products, for example, start with Plano cows and finish at a Garland packing plant. Deep Ellum Blue from the Mozzarella Company tells you exactly how close they are, and Cooper Farms peaches should never be missed in the summer.
Purchase Some Potions
JamieO Skincare (www.jamieoskin.com) is releasing a new line of FDA-certified organic skin care products. Dallas beauty Jamie O’Banion—one of D Beauty’s 10 Most Beautiful Women—founded the company with her father, Dr. Terry James. Organicare is all about caring for your skin and the earth. In addition to certified, non-oil-based ingredients, the packaging is recycled, 50 percent of the trees used to make the paper are replanted, and the paper mill makes sure it’s putting clean water back into the environment.
Turn off water while lathering up in the shower and brushing your teeth. Buy low-flow toilets, shower heads, and faucets. Shower or bathe together—in the name of water conservation, of course.
Think it uses more energy to turn your car off and on again than to idle? Wrong. If you’re idling more than 10 seconds, it’s more energy efficient just to turn it off. Another tip: avoid the drive-thru. Parking and walking inside is a much better use of energy. Plus, it burns more calories.
It cuts down on what goes into the landfill, and it’s great for your flower or vegetable garden. Most nurseries can tell you how, or go to www.mastercomposter.com.
Catch a ride with someone to work, school, dinner, or a concert.
Why let all that good rainwater go to waste? True, rain barrels are ugly—hey, sometimes being green ain’t pretty, and if you’re really concerned about it, you can paint the barrels to better coordinate with your house—but using freshwater to water your lawn or wash your car is simply a shame. Plus, it’ll save you money in the long run. Local experts on the subject are Denton-based Tierra Design (www.therainharvesters.com) or Arlington-based The Rain Well (www.therainwell.com).
Stop Drinking Bottled Water
Seriously. Stop. We discard 30 million plastic water bottles a day, according to the Sierra Club. It takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to make the water bottles Americans use annually—and only 23 percent are recycled. A better choice is to put filtered water (if you’re worried about local water) into a stainless steel or aluminum container. (Some plastics leech toxins.) SIGG bottles, available at REI (www.rei.com) and Whole Earth Provision Company (www.wholeearthprovision.com), are very hip.
Yes, organic food is expensive by comparison, but the alternative is to put pesticides into your body and onto the earth. In addition to meat, the most important organic foods to buy are winter squash, peaches, apples, grapes, pears, green beans, spinach, strawberries, and cantaloupe.
Not only will staying at the Fairmont Hotel save fossil fuel (it’s close to everything downtown), you can also cut down on your pesticide intake, support local organic farms, and conserve energy. The Fairmont offsets its check-in computers and greenhouse gas emissions, checks energy and water usage, and donates untouched leftovers to a local food bank. The Fairmont has its own herb garden and serves organic chicken, Texas grapefruit, local quail and quail eggs, and local goat cheese and panela. The hotel also has partnered with a Texas winery that’s on its way to being organic.
Plano-based EnviroGLAS (www.enviroglasproducts.com) takes recycled glass and porcelain products and, using the terrazzo technique (a mosaic look), creates environmentally sound countertops and floors. No VOCs, no waste, easy to clean, easy on the eyes.
Buy a Hood
America’s oldest manufacturer of indoor kitchen range hoods, Richardson-based Vent-A-Hood (www.ventahood.com), is hip to the green movement. The company has upgraded its product to take in more grease and heat-polluted air. It also uses less energy than other hoods because its sensors ramp the motor up or down, depending on the heat. We knew retro was cool.
Toast the earth with green (also in blue, teal, and gold) wine glasses from The Green Glass Company (www.greenglass.com). The company makes two glasses from one discarded wine or beer bottle. You can buy them locally at Green Living (green-living.com).
Replace Inefficient Appliances
Appliances with the Energy Star rating use 10 to 50 percent less energy and water than other appliances. An Energy Star dishwasher uses at least 41 percent less energy than a traditional one; a front-loading washing machine uses 40 percent less energy; a refrigerator, 40 percent; freezer, 10 percent. If 10 percent of Americans did this, the effect would be the equivalent of planting 1.7 million acres of trees.
Redenta’s (www.redentas.com), in East Dallas and Arlington, carries organically started plants, flowers, and herbs, and the nursery carries no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The folks who work there are rarely stumped. For just about any gardening need or problem, they have an organic solution.
Buy (and Properly Dispose of) Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
You know this. (And, yes, it’s okay to wait until your old ones burn out.) The problem is where to dispose of the mercury-filled energy savers. Ikea (www.ikea.com) and Motel 6 (www.motel6.com) will recycle them for you, and Green Living (www.green-living.com) will soon offer a disposal system for 50 cents a bulb. Otherwise, you’ll have to take them to your city’s hazardous waste disposal. And that’s not very convenient for anyone.
Drive a Hybrid
But don’t buy it from just any dealership. Pat Lobb Toyota in McKinney (www.patlobbtoyota.com) is the first LEED-certified car dealership in the world. Highlights of the green design include the building’s orientation, increased insulation, energy-efficient windows, waterless urinals, an 8,660-gallon rainwater catchment system, and Energy Star products. You’ll never look at car-buying the same way again.
North Richland Hills-based Best Price Boxes (www.bestpriceboxes.com) buys back the boxes it sells. You pay $1.69 for a new, medium-sized moving box (a used one is $1.19), and they buy it back for 20 cents. This effort is saving 500 tons of cardboard a year and creates 95 percent less pollution than making cardboard boxes from wood pulp. To put that into perspective, recycling one ton of cardboard saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 462 gallons of oil, and more than three cubic yards of landfill space.
Party in the Garden
Texas Discovery Gardens (www.texasdiscoverygardens.org) at Fair Park was the first certified organic public garden in Texas. A few minutes at the butterfly habitat, scent garden, or wildlife pond appeals to your inner nature lover, as will the sustainable methods used in keeping it beautiful.
Turn Off Your Lights
Your mom’s been telling you that your whole life. Now she just has a better reason.
The engines from lawn mowers, blowers, and weed eaters create 5 percent of our air pollution (more in big cities like Dallas and Fort Worth). One hour of mowing pollutes as much as driving your car 100 miles. So why not try a quieter option that burns calories, too? Skeptical? Green Living (www.green-living.com) has a manual lawn mower loaner program, so you can try before you buy.
Yes, they still make clothespins. Hanging your clothes out to dry instead of using the dryer can reduce your home’s total energy consumption 3 to 10 percent. Check out Project Laundry List (www.laundrylist.org) for more information.
Cloth Beats Paper
Buy cloth napkins, reusable cloth dryer sheets, and microfiber cleaning cloths, sponges, and mops. When cloth won’t do, use recycled toilet paper and paper towels.
Run Errands Better
Go to www.drivelesssavemore.com to learn about “trip chaining,” combining several errands into one trip, or “route planning,” planning the best route to accomplish those errands traveling the least number of miles and avoiding traffic.
Invest in Green Companies
SRI (socially responsible investing) means investing smart within your social values. Check out Socially Responsible’s web site (www.sociallyresponsible.org) to point you in the right direction. Also, read The Better World Shopping Guide by Ellis Jones to see which companies are the best and worst by environmental standards. You have to spend your dollar somewhere. You might as well spend it with companies who are looking out for you, their employees, and the earth.
Vintage has always had a certain je ne sais quoi. But now stocking up on your kids’ winter wardrobes at the local thrift store has the same earth-saving appeal. Anything that doesn’t have to be made saves energy, and if it’s not in tip-top shape, it can always be restored. You’ll find vintage Coach bags at Counter Culture in Mockingbird Station and darling dresses and accessories at Ahab Bowen in Uptown. To sate your designer desires, hit Clothes Circuit in Preston Center or Clotheshorse Anonymous at Preston Forest. For home, we love furniture consignment store Again & Again on Henderson Avenue.
Stereos, microwaves, TVs, toasters, lamps—everything you leave plugged in for convenience draws energy all the time, regardless of whether it’s on, accounting for about 10 percent of a home’s electricity use and costing Americans $4 billion annually. This is known as “standby” or “vampire” power. Smart power strips can do the work for you, shutting off that standby power when it hasn’t been used for a certain period of time.
The average American throws away 68 pounds of clothes and fabrics annually. Surely somebody needs those size 4 jeans more than the landfill—like women seeking refuge with Genesis Women’s Shelter (www.genesisshelter.org).
Just Say No To Junk Mail
www.Junkbusters.com has good advice.
Dallas-based online store www.greenearthmarket.com peddles all things green: pet food made from USDA-certified, human-grade ingredients; organic cotton tees and bedding; composting supplies; manual lawn mowers; and Bag-E-Wash, a dishwasher accessory that enables you to clean and reuse plastic food-storage bags. The best part? Shipping is free.
After you’ve passed it around to 100 friends, of course.