Celebs or regular people, a greener life just takes thought
Sara Gilbert wants people to embrace their imperfections, especially when it comes to the way they treat the environment.
The actress, talk-show host and self-proclaimed hippie is the author of “The Imperfect Environmentalist: A Practical Guide to Clearing Your Body, Detoxing Your Home, and Saving the Earth (Without Losing Your Mind)” (Ballantine Books, $18). In it, she acknowledges that not everyone has the time, energy or money to live as green as they might like and offers simple lifestyle changes anyone can implement.
“I think people give up because they think the problem is too big for them,” says Gilbert, producer and co-host of “The Talk” on CBS. “It's hard for any one of us to commit to going all the way. It's about creating new habits.”
Gilbert tackles everything from pesticides to pedicures in the book, approaching each informative passage with a tongue-in-cheek tone that keeps the message from becoming too preachy. Selections start with “Cut to the Chase, Hippie: What's the Least I Need to Know?” then go on to “I Need Some Facts to Bore My Friends With.” She offers options for everyone from people with Donald Trump bucks down the folks “Sleeping on My Friend's Couch and Eating Ramen Noodles.”
For example, when it comes to throwing parties, she suggests sticking to nonplastic decorations and printing invitations on plantable wildflower paper. When it comes to household cleaners, she suggest swapping just about any product for a homemade combo of equal parts white vinegar and warm water in order to avoid potentially harmful chemicals.
Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, executive director of Pittsburgh-based Women for a Healthy Environment, calls Gilbert's book “very timely,” citing the need for stricter regulations regarding chemicals found in products most people use every day.
“And the laws that guide our personal-care products were written in 1938!” Naccarati-Chapkis says. “It's important that people become educated consumers and take simple steps to go green, whether it's in the home, school or work setting.”
Gilbert, who will star in “Bad Teacher,” a sitcom based on the 2011 movie this spring, says the easiest place to start making small changes is in the home. She encourages people to think about what kind of paint, furniture and clothing they buy.
“You think about changing all your containers to glass and, at first, that's overwhelming. But, once you switch, you realize it's not that big of a deal,” she says.
Naccarati-Chapkis says there are many reasons people find the idea of going green daunting.
“There are misconceptions about cost,” she says. “But you can do it on a budget and be very economical.
“People are busy — there is a factor of convenience. You might have your 20-minute shopping trip down pat when you pick up all your things, but it just takes an extra few minutes to look at one particular item and change.”
Naccarati-Chapkis stresses that starting to go green does not require throwing away everything you own. It's about replacing products once they're gone with environmentally friendly options.
“You might think that small act doesn't make a difference, but indeed it does, once you look at the cumulative effect,” she says.
Chuck Moser of Sewickley started taking steps to become more green two years ago.
“For many years, I personally had felt like I should do better and treat the planet better,” says Moser, father of three. “I feel a strong sense of responsibility to conserving the Earth for them and their children.”
Moser and his wife, Barb, made a list of things they could do, such as turning off computers at night, cutting back on air conditioning, buying reusable water bottles and recycling. They also stopped wrapping gifts and bought reusable gift bags.
Moser admits there are challenges to going green, particularly when it comes to his family's modes of transportation.
“We still have a major challenge in that we still have two gas-guzzling vehicles,” he says. “We had them already and haven't wanted to change, partly because we love our cars and need lots of space for three teenage boys, and partly because it's so inconvenient to change cars. I would like my next car to be a fully electric Tesla.”
Moser says it helps him rest easier knowing he's doing what he can to help protect the planet.
“It's impossible to control everything, so why not control what we can?” he says. “It's hard to make an argument against it, so we have made changes and continue to try to get better.”
When Robin Martin of Green Tree got serious about greener living several years ago, she also started small, by simply turning off the faucet when brushing her teeth and washing her face. She also became more committed to recycling and used power strips to quickly turn off non-essential electronic devices when not in use.
Today, the convenience of green solutions and sustainable living has helped fuel her commitment even more, she says. She tries to buy all-natural cleaning products and recently purchased an AquaFarm, a small fish tank that also grows herbs. She donates to grassroots companies working on sustainable products.
“Honestly, it's not so much of a challenge anymore, as more and more businesses are paying attention to public interest jumping on the green or sustainable bandwagon,” she says.
“And if an all-natural or green product that I like is too pricey for my budget, I turn to social media and Pinterest. There is so much of a breadth and depth of knowledge on how to live green that it's almost overwhelming.”
Martin also incorporated changes in places she's worked by starting an aluminum/plastic/paper-recycling program and seeking out the greenest product solutions for her office, “whether it's 100 percent recycled paper, or fantastic inventions like bottle-to-pen gel pens that are made from recycled plastic water bottles.”
Still, Martin sometimes feels the problems facing the environment are insurmountable.
“They are daunting to the point of making me feel like a green Sisyphus pushing my mountain of recycling up a hill, only for it to crash back down,” she says.
But then Martin asks herself a question: “Are you going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?”
“I choose to be part of the solution,” she says.
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.