People are savvier than ever when it comes to living green, says Cheryl Luptowski, of public health and safety company NSF International. "We read more labels," she says. "We're more educated about green washing." Every few years, Luptowski devises a list of green-living tips. New to this year's list is the "pack light" recommendation, which saves fuel and money — given the surcharge for bags on most airlines.
Replace disposables. Rechargeable batteries, washable food-storage containers and cloth towels instead of paper towels are all great ideas.
Buy used or borrow/rent. Buy used or recycled products whenever possible. If you need something only temporarily, check with friends or neighbors to see if you can borrow the item or consider renting it.
Pack light. An extra 10 pounds per traveler requires 350 million more gallons of jet fuel per year.
Use color. Paint your home a light color if you live in a warm climate or a dark color if you live in a cold climate to help reduce energy consumption.
Go native. Fill your yard with native plants to help cut down on watering needs.
Air your laundry. Dry clothes outdoors.
Think local. Consider buying produce, meat and dairy products from local suppliers/farmers markets.
Choose green building materials. Look for building materials with either an SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label. When replacing flooring, buy carpets made from recycled materials or flooring from sustainable resources.
Be savvy about labels
Luptowski also implores consumers to be critical, discerning shoppers. Manufacturers claiming to be environmentally friendly must back up their claims in the fine print. Don't be greenwashed by product labels:
Look for meaningful claims. Be cautious of products making generic claims of "100 percent natural" or "environmentally friendly" with no information to back up the claim.
Look for a seal or certification from a recognized, independent third party. Check with the certifier to verify the product is truly certified.
Don't be misled by pretty pictures. Just because a product label shows a forest doesn't mean the product inside is green.
Smell the difference. Avoid products in which fragrances are a key ingredient.
Avoid products with warnings such as "caution" or "use in well-ventilated area." Typically, this indicates the product is hazardous to you and/or the environment.