In industrialized countries, around 30 percent of plastics are used for packaging, which is used once and then thrown away. While some packaging is clearly useful as protection, some is nothing other than wasteful. Put your money where your beliefs are and buy products with less packaging. Let manufacturers know you disapprove of excess packaging by writing to them.
As companies vie for the green consumer's dollar, in some countries there are labeling requirements to help you evaluate claims such as"recyclable" or "made from recycled materials." Consumer groups and government fair trading or consumer affairs departments should be able to give you local information.
An increasing number of retailers and direct-mail companies are offering textiles, crafts, and food products made by people in developing countries—often in co-ops—who will directly benefit from your purchases. In many cases middlemen have been eliminated from the buying and selling chain so that more profit ends up with the makers of the products.
Organic fruit, vegetables, dairy foods, and meat are part of a growing market that offers consumers foods produced without pesticides. Organic meat comes from animals that spend a certain proportion of their time outside in a non-intensive farming fashion. There are also regulations about the drugs and feed they may be given. Most countries have official organic inspecting bodies. Look for their labels when buying organic products.
Appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines now often carry efficiency ratings. These offer valuable information as to how efficiently an appliance uses energy and how economical it is to run.
If you put your mind to it, you need never buy full-price mainstream products again. Numerous outlets offer discontinued or discounted goods at cheaper prices—surplus stores, factory outlets, and all stores at seasonal sales. In addition, generic brands at major supermarkets and department stores are usually a cheaper option. Buying in bulk, whether at wholesale markets or at the supermarket, can often save money.
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Excerpted from Clean Sweep: The Ultimate Guide to Decluttering, Detoxings and Destressing Your Home by Alison Haynes. Copyright 2009 by Skyhorse Publishing. Excerpted with permission by Skyhorse Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.