Green living may once have seemed like a passing trend. But new research indicates the majority of Americans have integrated eco-friendly practices into their lives.
According to a Gallup poll, 76 percent of shoppers purchased a product because it was better for the environment. And 64 percent regularly look for greener products, according to the Shelton Group.
It can be challenging and expensive to make every purchase environmentally responsible, but smart consumers are selecting household practices that work with their routines, such as choosing non-toxic, biodegradable household cleaners, selecting organic foods for their children, and installing fluorescent lightbulbs.
One way to go green without costly changes is to take things you would ordinarily throw away and re-use them. Milk crates can become bookshelves and metallic drink pouches can be stitched together to make pencil cases for the kids. This practice is called upcycling, and you can either do it yourself or contribute reusable household trash to organizations that convert it into affordable, eco-friendly products.
One company is offering consumers a way to reduce their household garbage while earning money for schools or charities. Through free collection programs called Brigades, upcycling pioneer TerraCycle is paying for packaging waste from household staples — from the bathroom to the kitchen to the classroom.
Many major brands are getting on board with upcycling. Scott tissue and Huggies are sponsoring programs to collect plastic packaging waste from paper products and diapers. And Colgate and TerraCycle have partnered to collect used toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes.
While some foods come in recyclable cans and bottles, many come in difficult-to-recycle packaging. Kraft Cheese is sponsoring one of the newest upcycling programs, paying 2 cents for any packaging from its products. The popular organic brand Kashi sponsors a similar program.
The upcycling trend also extends to children's products. Parents and kids can collect money on Nabisco wrappers, Revolution Foods fruit pouch and snack wrappers, and Lunchables trays. And organic baby food company Sprout is backing a program to upcycle its food pouches.
Schools are also getting involved. For example, Elmer's sponsors a program for used glue bottles and sticks, and Sanford runs a program for used writing instruments.
"What I like best about participating with the Brigade is that it sets a clear example that exemplifies the three Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle — all in one simple project," said Anita LaBrecque, a mom from Clifton Park, N.J., who participates in the Drink Pouch Brigade. "(It's) perfect for young children to instill environmental responsibility at an early age."
As extra incentive for households to cut down waste they throw away, TerraCycle and its partners pay 2 cents for each unit of waste to the charity of the collector's choice. To date, they have dispersed $1.6 million.
For more information on upcycling or to sign up for a Brigade, go to www.terracycle.net.
Then start exploring how to be green without changing your routine.