It's Easy Being Green
"In honor of our Earth, I love her, I'm asking all of you today to implement just one green idea to help the fight against global warming," Oprah says.
Start by making small changes…it's easier than you think.
- Many items come in packaging made from petroleum products. Instead, look "for things that have minimal packaging," Simran says.
- If you must buy disposable plates, look for ones made of 100 percent recycled plastic. "They're dishwasher safe, easy to use, and you can use them over and over again."
- Buy recycled aluminum foil, which requires just one-twentieth the energy of nonrecycled foil. Then, recycle it when you're done!
- Buy organic produce. Because it doesn't use pesticides, it uses less energy. "This is actually going to be healthier for you and healthier for the planet."
The solution? Bring your own bag to the store and fill it with recycled and organic items.
"It's cool because it's made of 100 percent organic cotton canvas without any kind of pesticides, and it's good for our planet. You can use it over and over and over, and throw it in the wash when it gets dirty," Oprah says.
To save the resources used in creating all those bottles, Simran suggests getting a water filter and a reusable aluminum or plastic bottle from a company like Sigg, Nalgene or New Wave Enviro.
One thing to consider if you buy a plastic bottle is its grade. Look on the bottom of the bottle for a small plastic triangle with a number in the middle. If you see a number 2, 4 or 5, the bottle is safe. If it has some other number, don't use it as a water bottle. Those other plastics can make your water taste like plastic and leach harmful chemicals into your body. "You don't want your water tasting like plastic," Simran says. "If you're tasting plastic, you're ingesting plastic."
Their tour bus runs on biodiesel fuel—which is derived from vegetable oil. The toilet paper, paper towels and tissues are all made of recycled paper. They've eliminated plastic utensils from the kitchen, and their silverware was purchased at a thrift store.
Sheryl and Laurie also work to eliminate "phantom power" on the bus. If any charger or appliance is left in an outlet, it continues to use power—even if it's turned off. "Not only are you using energy you don't need to be using, but it goes on your energy bill," Sheryl says.
For about a dime a day, Greendimes will stop 70 to 90 percent of the junk mail you're now getting. They also plant a tree a month for every member. "So not only are you saving trees from being cut down, you're actually participating in replanting trees," Matt says. "We need our trees, obviously, because they do everything from remove air pollution and sequester carbon, they filter our water, they provide wildlife with homes."
Matt was so impressed with Greendimes that he's now a board member for the company. "Do something wonderful for your planet and do something wonderful for your life. Get rid of this junk," he says.
One of those simple things you can do is to reduce your use of paper napkins…by just one a day! "Napkins make a huge difference," Elizabeth says. "We use 2,200 of them a year, per person on average. Six a day. So if we all gave up one napkin a day, we could save a billion pounds of paper waste … from going to landfills a year."
"If everyone left their receipts in the machine, it would save a roll of paper more than 2 billion feet long—enough to circle the equator more than 15 times," she says.
Sloan and Roger say they began to notice their son Spencer's health problems when he was just 3 years old. At first, Sloan says her son coughed continuously. One day his heart was racing, so she rushed him to the emergency room.
"I don't think we knew whether we were going to lose him or not," Roger says. "They told us that he had a respiratory issue. They thought he might be developing asthma."
Sloan says she began researching chemicals that can irritate the lungs and found them in a startling location…inside her home. According to a physician, some household products—like bathroom cleaners, disinfectants, floor cleaners and oven cleaners—contain toxic chemicals that can trigger an asthma attack.
As soon as the Barnetts learned that cleaning products can be hazardous to their health, Sloan says they cleaned out their cabinets and made their home a place where everyone could breathe easier.
Sloan and Roger began using these eco-friendly cleaners inside their house. "We thought they worked terrifically," Roger says. "The great news is that Spencer has never had to go back to the hospital since we switched our products and that really speaks it all for us."
The Barnetts liked the products so much, they bought the company! Now, Sloan says she tries to live in a way that's responsible to the health of her children and to the health of the planet.
Shaklee products, which include everything from dryer sheets to stain removers, are made from pure ingredients and won't leave your house smelling like a lemon tree. "Clean, real clean, doesn't have a smell," Sloan says. "Real clean is good for our children, good for our families."
To help other families go green, the Barnetts are giving every member of Oprah's audience a Healthy Home Pack starter kit, which includes more than a dozen different products. Oprah says she's a big fan of Shaklee's H2 Organic Super Concentrated Cleaner. "Use a couple of drops of this, and it's amazing," she says. "You can clean the windows. You can clean the counters. … You can clean everything!"
Seventh Generation products, which are found in health food stores, Whole Foods, Target and online, are also nontoxic. "What I love about them is they're all made without dyes, without perfumes," Simran says. "All the cleaning agents are plant-based instead of petroleum-based."
Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day is another company that specializes in cleaners made with ingredients like corn, sugar cane, coconut and palm. This company, which was named after the founder's mother, also sells nontoxic products for pets.
To make your chores even more environmentally friendly, Simran suggests using microfiber cloths from a company like Method to apply the products to your furniture, counters and sinks. These cleaning cloths are machine washable and recyclable!
Even if these products are more expensive that traditional cleaners, Simran says the health benefits may be worth the cost. In some areas of the country, the air quality inside the home is twice as dangerous as the air outside the home, according to the EPA.
"The reason is because of, in part, cleaning products, the paints that we have on our walls, varnishes on our furniture, the formaldehydes and glues in our carpet," Simran says. "You're creating this little chemical cocktail you're breathing in all the time."
Every morning, each member of the Squires family starts out with one cup, which they use all day. This helps them cut down on dirty dishes and reduces the number of times they need to run the dishwasher each week.
Go inside the Squires's home.
Another family rule is that they never throw away clothes. Kelly says they give their old clothes and shoes to friends, charity or church.
"My hope is to instill in my daughters a sense of commitment to the Earth that is instinctive, second nature, and hopefully they will pass this sense of compassion onto their own children as well," Kelly says.
This teacher also wants her students to be aware of their responsibility to the environment. When she taught second grade, Kelly organized a field trip to a landfill. "I think everybody should go," she says. "That way you see that when you say you're throwing something away, it's not really away. It's a place. … It made such an impact on my second graders."
Simran says most people don't know that plugged-in appliances and electronics use energy even if they're turned off. "We're spending all this money to power things that are in the off position," she says. "We call it vampire standby power."
To cut your electricity costs, Simran suggests plugging in your electronics to the Smart Power Strip, which retails for $32.95. Then, when you turn off the power strip, all the items plugged into it will also power down. "I love this thing," she says.
Over time, you'll see your monthly electricity bill and your energy usage decrease.
Simran says replacing regular, inefficient lightbulbs with compact florescent lighbulbs (CFLs) can make a big difference. "Most of the energy in the United States comes from coal-fired plants," she says. "What we're doing when we run inefficient products is we're burning a lot more coal, and we're putting a lot more carbon into the environment."
A CFL is 70 to 75 percent more efficient than other bulbs, she says. Florescent bulbs will cost a little more up front, but Simran says you should save money on your electricity bill over time. Plus, these bulbs can last 8 to 10 years!
If every family replaced one bulb with a CFL, Simran says it would be like reducing carbon emissions from 800,000 cars. "I'm asking [America] to have a lightbulb moment and change out one lightbulb!" she says.
Don't worry…these florescent lights aren't like the ones used in high school cafeterias. Simran says the new, improved bulbs, which cost about $6, give off beautiful light and can be adapted to dimmers. "They've really evolved as a product," she says.
See what happens to your recyclables once they leave your curb.
Watch how your recycled goods come back to you!
According to the EPA, each person in the United States creates about four and a half pounds of trash every day. One way to reduce that number is by recycling anything and everything you can.
Although every city has a different recycling policy, Simran says almost every city accepts newspapers. "If there was one thing you could do, recycle your newspapers," she says. "One four-foot high stack of newspapers is the equivalent of one 40-foot fir tree. That is what we are saving when we recycle our newspapers."
Many cities also recycle cardboard and mixed paper, which should be separated from newspapers before they go into the bin.
Glass is another item that builds up in landfills and is easily reusable, Simran says. Simply take off the lid and rinse out the container before adding it to your recycle pile. Aluminum cans, tin pans and foil should also be recycled.
Plastic containers are a little more complicated. Each plastic item is stamped with a number, which identifies what type of plastic it's made from. Some cities accept multiple types of plastic in their recycling program, while other places only accept one or two. To find out what's recyclable in your area, Simran says you can call the public works department or the sanitation department. You can also visit Earth911.org and type in your zip code to get specific guidelines.
Simran says people often assume that everyday items can be recycled, but many will end up in a landfill. Broken glass, lightbulbs, ceramics, Styrofoam, Pyrex, some yogurt containers, aerosol cans, soiled boxes and anything covered in wax paper are not recyclable.
"You really want to be careful with your consumption. Just thinking about, 'Okay, if we know this is going to end up in a landfill, why don't we get a bigger container so we're not putting so many little containers in the landfill,'" Simran says. "There are ways to be smart about this, even though we can't be perfect."
Simran suggests returning Styrofoam peanuts to packaging companies and bringing your own containers to restaurants when you're ordering take-out.
"[The show] kept me up that entire night," David says. "In the morning, Katie and I talked about it and we decided let's make some small changes … some little things here in the house that we can start to make a positive impact on the environment."
David began incorporating the changes into his daily routine. He started taking shorter showers and taking a travel mug to Starbucks for his coffee, which reduced the amount of trash he produced each week. Then, he took a huge step and traded in his SUV for a hybrid. Katie says she started washing all of their clothes in cold water and changed the dryer's lint filter after every use to save energy.
"I think the message today is that the small steps are the important ones," David says.
To see how much energy was still being wasted in their home, David and Katie called their local energy company and set up an inspection. The inspector recommended simple changes like turning down the water heater to 120 degrees, using their ceiling fan, recaulking the windows and cranking up the thermostat to 78 degrees during the summer months.
As a part of their energy audit, David and Katie received an energy starter kit from Duke Energy, which also provided one for every member of Oprah's audience!
Families are going green everywhere! Watch how a mom lives green by inspiring other parents in her community.