June 17, 2011

Greener Shopping Lists.

Over the past decade, my family has been changing our lifestyle to reflect how we feel about the environment. For awhile we were constantly changing products and habits to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Eco-friendly options like recycling, organic gardening, and buying local have been added to our weekly duties. We gave up water bottles, plastic bags, and paper napkins, and explored the green arenas of sustainable living in the hopes to make less of an impact. After a few years of changes we just...sustained. We kept recycling our glass and composting our kitchen scraps, but could we do more? Could our family of four, on one income, make even more changes?
The first place I decided to look was our bank account. How could the dollars spent continue to improve the planet & our lifestyle? Almost 10 years ago I decided to stop eating at McDonalds and almost five years ago I stopped shopping at Wal-Mart. I had done my research, and felt I could justify these decisions. Wal-Mart buys offshore and without apology. They hurt small business & pay their employees minimum wage with little to no benefits. They are part of the reason that corporate profits keep going up and the average family income keeps declining. As for McDonalds, I could write a whole another article about the quality of food and its negative impact on our environment. But I had made these decisions years ago. What could I do now?

The first thing I did was start looking at what we still bought that wasn't local, handmade, or organic. My list started with beer, toilet paper and gas. Was the brewery that made my Blue Moon eco-friendly? Was Charmin toilet paper soft on the environment too? Did we buy gas from a company with tons of environmental violations?
This is what I found out… my beer is terrible for the environment. Charmin isn’t so soft on it either. And gas, well, I’m not sure any of those guys even know what eco-friendly means. According to The Better World Shopping Guide, which focuses over 20 years of data on five key issues: human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement and social justice, Blue Moon Breweries received a D+ on their grading system. The worst grade, an F, fell to Guinness and Red Stripe. The best brewery, with an A+, was New Belgium. This was additionally backed by Greenopia, who released the green rankings of the world’s 15 largest breweries. Breweries like Sierra Nevada, Otter Creek, and Eel River were at the top of the lists. Maybe I won’t like all the A listers but I can definitely improve my D+ beer.
I also made a D in the TP department! Charmin ranked below thirteen other companies on my The Better World Shopper App. Seventh Generation and Earth Friendly were among the A listers, and even Cottonelle and Scott ranked better than our Mega Roll Charmin. Only Quilted Northern and Angel Soft received failing grades. Not sure we are on a Seventh Generation TP budget but I know I can improve my D ranking with a greener TP option.

When I started driving over fifteen years ago, I had it out for Exxon. I had seen the oil covered birds in the Valdez oil spill and I wasn’t buying their gas. I guess even back then I was voting with my dollars. Was there a green oil company to buy from? After researching, I guess the question should be is there a less evil oil company to buy from?
So, Exxon was still out of the question. BP, who used to rank #1 on Greenopia’s oil company list, has only fallen to #4 after its horrendous Gulf Oil spill. Born and raised in Florida, the spill was very personal to us, so BP is out of the question for sure. Sunoco comes in first place on both Better World Shopper and Greenopia lists, but we don’t have one close by. So, Shell and Hess, coming in at second and third will have to be our new greener choices.

This new quest to vote with our dollars and green our bank account is only starting. In a world of constant change, companies and businesses are going to come and go and improve and decline. It will be up to me, the little consumer at the bottom, to continue to seek out eco-friendly options for my family.

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