From cars to homes to offices, it seems that everything is "going green." But with the onslaught of environmental consciousness also comes an awful lot of confusion for individuals who want to make their lives more eco-friendly.
Author Sophie Uliano aims to sort out the mess in her new book, "Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth-Friendly Life."
In her book, Uliano explains how small changes in everyday life can have a big impact, both for the environment and for your pocket.
If I make one tiny positive change today, I consider myself green. It can be as simple as flicking off a light switch or buying an organic apple. My motto is one change makes a difference, and if you can make two, that's even better! The payoff is that in doing that one thing, I not only feel good about myself, but I also know that I'm part of the new, cool crowd of women who are turning their lives from gray to green. You are about to embark on an eight-step program that will show you exactly how to live an earth-friendly life. Each step of the way, I will invite you to check off just one change you want to make. I don't want you to feel as overwhelmed as I once did. The great news about the one-change philosophy is that if every woman followed it every week — just one teeny thing — cumulatively we would create megachange in the world. Women like me tend to be more interested in their compact than their compost. We never forget a hair appointment yet always forget our reusable shopping tote. Many of us think the whole green way of life will be tedious, time-consuming, and even boring. Wrong! I have found out that caring about this planet doesn't have to be granola/hippie stuff. On the contrary, it's the most exciting, colorful way in which we could possibly live. After all, green is the new black, and we're going to be wearing this shade for a long time. Going green is not a fad that is going to fade; with temperature and pollution levels on the rise, it is becoming a way of life.
A few years ago, I hadn't a clue. I thought organic food was a rip-off and that composting was for eco-nerds. Yoga and recycling were as far down the environmental food chain as I was willing to go. There was no way that I was going to stop dyeing my hair and painting my nails; and my gas-guzzling SUV was just fine, thank you very much!
I knew about the rain forests, or lack thereof, so I recycled the obvious things, but if I felt too lazy to walk down the hall to the recycling bin — well, a girl needs to conserve her energy for the really important things in life, like sitting down in front of the TV to find out who has been voted off the island. Then I started to hear about the ice caps melting, Manhattan submerged under water, and air pollution. It freaked me out, but it all still seemed too far away to really matter.
The Internet is not a safe place for women like me: I shop too much and scare myself silly by Googling symptoms such as "headache" and deducing that I must have a brain tumor! Several years ago, on a sunny Saturday morning, I needed some new yoga pants, so I began surfing the Web and ended up reading about pesticides in cotton. I clicked from link to link and read on about neurotoxins in cosmetics and pesticides in my favorite foods. I became obsessed and spent the rest of the weekend glued to the computer as horror upon horror mounted.
My neurosis quickly switched from hypochondria to eco-anxiety, and my long-suffering husband began to tire of the latest update. I'd begin with "They say …" and he would suddenly become very busy and have to take off. He was not amused by my half-baked attempt at wrapping our water heater with an old comforter to curb energy consumption; when I bought him a personal air ionizer to wear around his neck for a plane trip, he said, "I wouldn't be seen dead in it."
I turned to my friends in desperation, but this was way before green was cool, so I got a lot of glazed looks. I'm sure I bored all of my girlfriends silly in an attempt to get them on the same page. I even dragged a new acquaintance along to a Sustainable Living Conference in a ghastly hotel ballroom with orange carpets. I never saw her again. I felt powerless.
In an attempt to focus on something else, I took a psychology class at my local college and was surprised to find out that my professor David Phillips was a hard-nut environmentalist who promised a higher grade to any student who completed an extracurricular class about sustainable living. Before I knew it, I was sitting in the scrubby backyard of a rather depressing eco-house on the college campus, where the fierce-looking crew leader, Hilary, opened up a whole new world. I was fascinated despite the fact that I was seriously distracted by her unshaven legs and long, unpainted toenails. We explored everything from the storm drains spewing out sludge into our lovely bay to organic farming. We became committed to turning our thermostats down, installing CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs), growing our own veggies, and buying green power. We even baked brownies in a solar oven, which were totally inedible and closely resembled something the dog left behind.
As I got more and more involved with a plethora of green activists and organizations, I discovered a whole new universe of inspiring individuals who were passionate about preserving this planet. I realized that there was work to do and not a lot of time to be wasted. I rolled up my sleeves and educated myself about every environmental issue that affects women, because we are often the decision makers in the home; we are mothers, lovers, movers, fixers, and caretakers. We can create change very quickly when we want it to happen.
Yet I wondered how on earth I could make all of these changes at home. I didn't really fancy the idea of trekking to the end of my yard with soggy lettuce leaves to a smelly compost bin, and there was no way I was going to ruin my French manicure by gardening, and how on earth could I throw away my "Scarlet Vixen" nail polish? It may have been full of scary chemicals, but at twelve bucks a bottle, I broke out in a sweat.
Having committed to air-drying my laundry, my entire yard was strewn with towels, socks, and even underpants hanging from branches. That was when my husband put his foot down. The nail in the coffin, however, was when I arrived at a dinner date in a brown hemp yoga suit. I had convinced myself in the store that it was cute in a funky sort of distressed way. Imagining Kate Moss in it, I persuaded myself that the whole look was actually very chic until I saw my husband's expression. I hope somebody at Goodwill appreciated it.
I realized there had to be a better way of doing this whole eco-thing.
With my newfound awareness, I couldn't ever go back to the way I lived before, but I had to find a way to make it simple, easy, and a whole lot more fun.
I wanted to be green, but I also wanted to be gorgeous. So I designed the eight-step Gorgeously Green program for reluctant woman like myself. I want to live with sustainable style — style being the operative word. I can't and won't become like the eco-nerds who stomp around in beige Velcro sandals, pontificating about the virtues of their compost toilets. I appreciate where those people are coming from, but there is a different way to do it, the Gorgeously Green way.
I thought I'd try my eight-step course on my yoga clients first. While we're practicing, we girls like to chat about everything, so it seemed only natural to throw in a few eco-tips during our discussions. I talk way too much as a teacher: I begin a diatribe once I've got my clients in an impossible pose and make them hold it until I'm done. So, as you can imagine, I held many of them hostage in a headstand while outlining the designated green changes for that week.
I also spent many hours with their long-suffering housekeepers, persuading them to part with their toxic cleaning materials and energy-guzzling habits. I remember being horrified at the sight of a dishwasher being switched on with only one cup, one glass, and one teaspoon in it. I realized that I was going to have to get quite bossy. I also discovered that while some women became terrified upon learning about the chemicals in their homes, others couldn't have cared less as long as their sheets were white and their dishes were sparkling. Moreover, everyone moved at a different pace. The great thing about the course, however, was that it had a beginning and an end, and everyone wanted to complete it.
After taking numerous women through the eight-step program with one new change each week, I began to see huge smiles. Everyone felt better about themselves and the choices they were making. One girl, Lisa, asked me to do some research to find out if her favorite designer purses were made in a sweatshop. Upon hearing that they were indeed, she ceremoniously dumped three of them in her recycling bin. I can't say I wasn't tempted to retrieve the one that looked brand new, but I managed to take a deep breath and walk away, my faux-suede purse swinging in the breeze.
My six-year-old daughter, Lola, has been skipping along the emerald path with me and never fails to delight in our every green discovery. She is passionate about recycling, gardening, and nature even though we live in a concrete jungle. She also puts up with my newfangled attempts at a no-waste lunch box and is thrilled with her new hemp backpack.
The green lifestyle takes me back to my childhood, which was completely eco-friendly. I was raised in the English countryside by parents who had lived through World War II — an era that required frugality and inspired gratitude for the small luxuries in life. My mother grew a huge organic garden and engendered in me a passion for fresh local food, cooking every recipe from scratch. Everything was reused a gazillion times. If we were cold in the winter, we were told to put on another sweater. I now have to suffer regular "Duh, I told you so!" looks from my Gorgeously Green mom.
I love that I can bring the eco-ethic into every single area of my crazy life as a mother, gardener, cook, writer, yoga teacher, and consultant. I have found a way to care for myself and my family and my environment as never before; and I'm constantly learning new things. I am happier and more fulfilled than I have ever been. Even on a bad day, I can still manage to flick off a light switch, recycle a yogurt cup, and feel Gorgeously Green.
I don't know about you, but I have to be inspired to do something. I have tons of really good intentions and plans for the future, but the only way I'm going to get off my backside is when I see someone doing something that blows me away. Over the past few years, I have met a number of incredible people who have moved me by their compassion and love of the earth and all living things. I want what they have got. I want to walk around with my head high, feeling proud of all the choices I am making. I want to be a woman who takes care of myself and the world around me. I want to have self-respect and a great body! I want to live my deepest core values and look totally gorgeous. I want each year to get better as I grow older. I want to become kinder, wiser, and more beautiful, and I want to see this reflected in the world around me. I want my hair to shine, my skin to glow, and my heart to sing. I want it all. Our life on this planet is relatively short, so let's not treat it like a rehearsal--let's get the show on the road. Together we can do it.
Begin to inspire yourself and everyone around you. I'm telling you — it is an exciting and fabulous way to live.
The Eight-Step Program
Gorgeously Green is an upbeat and solution-oriented eight-step program that will show you how to live a sustainable life in style. From lipsticks to lightbulbs, you will learn how to feel gorgeous without polluting yourself or the planet. You will be led step by step down the green carpet to a lifestyle choice that can make you healthier and happier. The program incorporates beauty, style, fitness, home, kids, and cooking. It' s a one-stop shop for the whole shebang.
The first step is an exciting exploration of your life. It's all about becoming aware. You will complete a checklist, which we will come back to at the end of the course. The second step dives straight into your beauty regime so that you can "green" it as soon as possible. Step 3 outlines a fabulous home yoga practice. You can join in the fight against global warming by using less fossil fuel and get a great body in the process. If shopping is your thing, you'll see in step 4 that you don't have to go without to be green. You can have your cake and eat it, too. I make the greening of your home supersimple, easy, and fun in step 5 by covering every room of your house and then moving into your yard. In step 6, we'll move into Gorgeously Green cuisine — delicious recipes that are superhealthy and completely sustainable. Step 7 is about your transportation, eco-vacations, eco-entertainment, and more. Step 8 will take you out of the home and into the world to discover where your passion lies. You will revisit the checklist from step 1 and see that you are already making a difference. Finally, you can create an ecomission statement by going through the study pages at the end of the book.
How Do I Use This Book?
Start at the beginning of the book and slowly work your way through step by step. If you are like me, you may decide to skip certain areas that don't interest you or that you feel you are too busy to do. Don't worry — you'll probably want to go back many times, and I suggest you do. Have a pencil handy for the checklists.
Alternatively, you may just want to begin with a step that interests you. For instance, if you are specifically interested in organic and sustainable cuisine, you may want to begin with step 6. The important thing is to make a start.
I strongly suggest creating a Gorgeously Green group. Ask a few friends if they would be interested in forming a weekly or monthly gathering to discuss progress and obstacles and share new discoveries. I love creating a small community with a common purpose. I started a Gorgeously Green Girls' Club™ in my neighborhood. It was fantastic because each week someone would come in with a specific problem that we would all brainstorm. We would then come in the next time with ideas and solutions. At every gathering, we'd sample new products: nontoxic nail polish or a solar cell phone charger. We'd end by sharing fantastic organic food. More than anything, this group gave us an excuse to have a great party or night out. If we didn't feel like cooking, we'd try a new restaurant. If you would like to host a Gorgeously Green Girls' Club Evening for you and your friends, visit www.gorgeouslygreen.com.
It's also a brilliant idea to try to get your family involved, particularly your kids. They totally respond to the structure of a course. My husband loved the shopping step because I was compelled to practice what I preach!
What is so fabulous about the green movement is that it's mobilizing many of us to come together and fight for a cause that is relevant to everyone. There is an exciting shift in the collective consciousness. I see it everywhere — people wanting to get past themselves in order to reach for something greater. Our personal survival depends on global unity.
Girls' Club — Why not host a fabulous evening of eco-learning and fun? Simply visit gorgeouslygreen.com and type in the password. You will receive in-depth information about how to start a Gorgeously Green Girls' Club.™ Password: Club.