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What’s Green and What’s Not?: How to Make the Right Eco-Choices

What does “green living” mean? The term “green” became so ubiquitous over the past year — especially in advertising — that this seems like a good time to re-examine what a green lifestyle is really all about.

“Green,” at its most basic, means environmentally responsible, or having as little impact on the Earth as possible. In that context, it’s easy to see that some things that are being marketed as “green” really aren’t.

Consider a sports utility vehicle, for example. Unless it’s fueled by vegetable oil, solar energy or hydrogen fuel, it’s hard to see how an SUV could ever be considered a “green” vehicle. Yet auto-makers are increasingly marketing their larger vehicles as environmentally friendly, just because the gas mileage is boosted a bit over previous years’ models.

Besides, how many people really need an SUV? Most of the people who own one never even take it off-road, which is what the car was supposedly designed for.

Need is actually another good way to determine whether something’s green or not. If you don’t need something, it doesn’t matter how environmentally responsible the manufacturing process might be: it’s really not green. So “green” designer ballgowns, “green” bling, “green” Jetskis, “green” luxury homes … things like that really can’t qualify for the label their makers try to grace them with.

In the same way, buying something you wouldn’t have ordinarily bought just because it’s “green” defeats the purpose of green living. Most of us in the developed world don’t need more stuff, whether it’s green or not.

Of course, almost all of us – despite our best intentions of living in an environmentally responsible manner – do, from time to time, buy something we don’t need. Green living doesn’t have to mean a life of endless sacrifice and doing without. But when the time comes to add something new to your closet, kitchen or living room, make your choices as gentle on the Earth as possible.

If you can, buy used – you can find even spangly, like-new evening wear and fine jewelry at upscale resale shops, and used goods don’t require you to consume any natural resources.

And if used isn’t an option, always try your best to make the most eco-friendly choice possible. Buy something that’s locally produced (less fuel required for shipping), fair-trade, recycled or truly green; not the faux green that’s become so high-profile these days.

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