Saturday, June 19, 2010

Living "Green"

One of my life dreams is to be "green." Not "in the green," or Kermit green, or even what many people consider to be "green." My definition is a bit more personal than that... I long to be fair, organic, all-natural, ecological, tuned in to the environment, and socially aware of the world around me. To me, living a stewardly life is about much more than pinching pennies and recycling my cardboard boxes. In fact, my definition of a socially and environmentally conscious life probably has little to do with reality since it is so vast and loosely interpreted... When I hear an idea that resonates with me, I adopt it wholeheartedly. And yet there are many areas of my existence that are as of yet untouched by my fledgling desire to live beyond myself.

For example, our family refuses to buy anything but fair trade coffee. Our second son was born in Ethiopia and after seeing the poverty of that coffee-producing country we vowed we'd never buy "cheap" coffee again. And we haven't. However, after seeing the even more devastating poverty in Liberia, and realizing that the rubber tree farms in and around Monrovia produce rubber for American consumption on the broken backs of overworked women and children, I still bought myself a pair of cheap (rubber) sandals at the start of the summer. Guess where they were made? Bangladesh. Probably in a sweat shop run by women and children. Argh. It isn't easy being green.

I'm no saint, and I have much to learn (and even more to give up) in my ongoing quest to live a stewardly, green, organic, call it what you will life. But there are a few things I've discovered along the way, and I thought I would share them with you in case you also long for equality and global/environmental consciousness.

I'm a bargin bin shopper and there is nothing I love more than a great deal. However, what child had to work a sixteen hour day so that I could buy myself a $5 Old Navy t-shirt? I can't buy cheap clothes when I picture a starving child working the stitches. That's not to say that I don't sometimes turn off my brain and walk the aisles of my favorite stores anyway. But I'm trying... And I've found some great sites where I can buy fair trade clothing at a reasonable price.

Fair Indigo
Cute clothes and fair prices, especially if you shop the clearance site. When I have this little one and need some new (less roomy) clothes, I plan to do much of my shopping here.

Revive Fair Trade
An independent boutique that connects buyers with talented artisans from around the world. You can buy anything here--from great clothing for the whole family to shoes and home items.

Toms Shoes
For every pair of shoes you buy, Toms will give one pair of shoes to a child in need. How fantastic is that? As an added bonus, the shoes are funky and fun, and they've just introduced a wedge.

Believe it or not, though we used to buy our coffee online or in specialty stores, we've discovered that our local Wal-Mart carries fair trade coffee. I'm not a huge Wal-Mart fan, so it's a bit of a concession, but when we're in a pinch (i.e. out of coffee) I can buy their organic, fair trade without hating myself. However, buying direct is better and these are some of the sites I like.

Equal Exchange
We love this coffee, especially because it can be ordered in an Ethiopian roast. A local store also carries this brand, so we don't have to order it online.

The Fair Trade Coffee Company
We've never ordered from this company, but I like it that you can order flavored coffees and blends from quite literally all over the world. Definitely worth looking into.

No, we don't order our food online. But the Baart family is trying to buy local, fresh, and organic. Instead of purchasing store brand breads, we opt for loaves from the local bakery. A weekly farmer's market provides fresh veggies, and strawberry picking and sweet corn season are just around the corner! Unfortunately, we haven't quite convinced ourselves to swallow the expense of organic meat (hormone-free, free range beef and chickens are readily available but quite costly). But hey, baby steps, right?

Anyway, it's your turn! Are you concerned with global/environmental issues? Or not so much? Is there anything you do or don't do (or buy or don't buy) that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear of any websites, tips, or products you love...


  1. Wow, it's scary that these are the things I think about a lot myself, but not a whole lot of people seem to understand. I love your use of the word green when refering to us, as Christians. I never thought about it like thatbefore. I am not concerned with global/ enviromental issues, im really tired of hearing about it all. I think it's just political propoganda. Don't get me wrong, I want to take care of the planet God gave us, but do I really have to go so far as to buy a shoebox on wheels? Or pay a gazillion dollars to get solar panels? I think there are more practical ways to protect our planet.
    Anyway, I love fresh, organic fruit and veggies and meat. I don't get to eat it a lot because of how expensive it is, however if I had enough money, I would eat organically ALL the time! I usually get my organic fruit and veggies from the local farmers market. :)

  2. I love this topic! You might remember that I make all my own household cleaning products. :) I try to be "green" not only for global social justice issues but also for health and environmental reasons. I do my best to do a few things, because as you pointed out with the shoe purchase, it's hard!

    One of my most exciting changes in recent months is that I buy organic, free-range meats straight from local farmers in Colorado... and cheap! The chicken is from a friend that sells it from her home in suburbia. Once a month she goes down to a local farm and gets the chicken fresh, and then resells it to a bunch of us in Denver.

    For beef, I am going in with several other friends to buy a whole cow to split. We get to choose our cuts of meat, and then can choose the number of pounds we want. The rancher prepares the beef for us, and we get to pick it up all at once. Let's just say, my freezer will be REALLY full. I am excited about this way of getting meat, especially after seeing Food, Inc. The animals are well taken care of, and I am supporting local farmers/ranchers.

    I wish I could provide a source where all cities/towns could find ways to get their meat this way. It feels good.

    For environmental toxins and their affect on us, I really like the website and Amazing stuff. One of the most basic things I do to reduce my exposure to untested chemicals, is to use more natural options instead of commercially made body care products. Check out for the harmful ingredients in so many of our body care products.

    Well... now that I sound like a straight-up granola, I will get off my soap box. :)

    Angela Van Gelder

  3. It feels strange posting this, but: Thanks for the comment, Anonymous! I agree with you, going "green" isn't always the cheapest or most convenient way to live. There are many times that I feel like just throwing my yogurt containers away instead of washing them so I can toss them in the recycle bin. But some of my decisions are selfish, and I'm trying to change that...

    Angela, I love straight-up granola! When I grow up (and stop being so selfish) I want to be like you! Thanks so much for sharing those sites--I will definitely be checking them out. Right now the only household cleaner I make is a window/all-purpose vinegar and water combo. Pretty basic, and hardly cutting-edge environmental since it's the same solution my grandma used when my mom was a baby. As for the meat, we would love to buy free-range, organic meat! But it is VERY expensive out here... We simply can't afford it right now. But I'd love to have a couple of acres and the room to have my own little coop for eggs and chicken. Maybe someday. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. This makes me long for heaven. We live in such a corrupt world and I don't know 3/4 of what really goes on because I'm so comfortably cushioned in my middle-class American lifestyle. I don't know how far to take stewardly living. I think if I really truly grasped all that does go on to get me the clothes I wear and the food I eat, I'd go insane. I'd be known as the crazy lady who walks around naked. I know after I went to Kenya, I wanted to sell all my possessions and go live off the land, but that's not realistic for me. And then I get back here, and I just forget. God forgive me, but I forget.

  5. Do I get points for having cloth-diapered Keira? :D

    I have been using Charlie's Laundry Soap powder since January and don't use any fabric softener at all. I LOVE it!! One scoop, it's a Tbsp I think, per load -- I just had to order more for the first time last week from Amazon. If I'm worried about a load needing an extra anti-bacterial kick I put a few drops of tea tree oil in the fabric softener dispenser so it goes in the rinse cycle.

    - Lin

  6. we run a ethical fashion business based in the UK

    one of the real challenges is trying to communicate the small (and it only needs to be small) premimum we charge to customers. There needs to be as much transaparency as possible in the whole supply chain so customers can see the added benefit of buying fair trade.

  7. I find this issue fascinating.
    I also feel frustrated at times with the cost of organics.

    One thing I've found helpful is this shoppers guide put together by the Environmental Working Group.

    Something I recently learned,is that while it seems like it's more expensive to eat healthier, organic food, actually it's that conventional food is artificially cheap due to government subsidies. Why else would it be cheaper for us to fill up on junk foods and 99 cent fastfood burgers than wholesome fresh fruits and vegetables? If you haven't yet seen the documentary Food Inc. I highly recommend it. It's a real eye opener.

    As far as organic meat goes, it can be hard to justify the cost without knowing the horrific details of the alternative. I personally went vegetarian 20 years ago and vegan in the last 3 for ethical, spiritual, and environmental reasons.
    For me as a Christian, I could no longer turn a blind eye to such a cruel, torturous system and support it with my money, just for momentary pleasure on my palate.

    These are some of the sites I've found helpful in my journey;

    There are also great books written from Christian perspective on ths issue. A couple of my favorites are Dominion by Matthew Scully and Good Eating, by Stephen Webb.

    I would suggest to those who feel they cannot give up eating meat, to consider consuming it on occasion as a treat or supplement to meals. Instead of everyday at the center of every meal. Only in affluent cultures like ours is meat eaten with such frequency. And the consequences are becoming apparent.

  8. Sorry it's taken me so long to respond to you all! We've been off-line for a while. :)

    Katie, I couldn't agree with you more: I long for heaven, too. But I also want to do what I can to be a part of the in-breaking of the kingdom here and now!

    Lin, yes, double points for cloth diapers. I haven't yet committed myself to that particular sacrifice. And I love the smell of tea-tree oil. I could clean with that...

    Sally, thank you so much for your link. I love your clothes--they're absolutely gorgeous. Your blog is great, too. I'll definitely be spending more time on your site when this baby is born and I'm ready for "skinny" clothes!

    Valerie, I love your links, too. I haven't been to them all, and I actually spent more time at your site than any of the ones you've mentioned. Your story fascinates me... Thank you so much for taking the time to share. And I totally agree with you about meat. It's a hard habit to break (especially with three manly carnivores in my house!) but I believe that there is great wisdom and truth in what you suggest. Thanks for encouraging my baby steps along the way.

  9. Hey Nicole.
    I'm glad you and your family had a good, relaxing time away from the tech world! lol
    Thank you so much for the nice things you expressed. I am truly humbled.
    If you ever need healthier recipe suggestions for the "carnies" in your house, I think I may have some hearty, "rib-sticking" ideas for you.

  10. Valerie, I would LOVE some hearty recipes!!! If it's not too much trouble, you can pass them along to my email ( or any other way that works for you.

    Thanks so much!

  11. No trouble at all!
    Be on the lookout.

  12. Nicole when you get a chance, check your inbox.
    You've got recipes! :-)