Living Well While Living Green

Green has always been one of my favorite colors -- it matches my eyes -- but the thought of "going green" just seemed a bit too granola and Birkenstocks for me.

I don't have time to separate what's in from what's out or which twin is MaryKate and which one is Ashley -- how would I find time to separate my recyclables from trash? Then there's keeping the thermostat at 68 degrees and turning off lights when I leave the room, an act that was so much a part of my teen rebellion.

But over the last decade the collective consciousness about conservation has been on the rise, and yes, fashionistas are a part of it. Buying vintage is a form of recycling and limos are group transport but I admit, they're not fuel efficient. They waste more gas than P. Diddy splurges on Cristal or Dom Perignon.

I know something has hit the mainstream when it becomes a story line on my favorite soap "All My Children," and sure enough, the girls from Fusion have launched an earth-friendly make-up line. If it's good enough for Pine Valley and Erica Canes's clan, it's good enough for me.

We've seen glaciers crumbling on the Discovery Channel for several decades. And as we struggle through the war in Iraq, the perils we face thanks to our insatiable thirst for oil has become clear.

Being a Hollywood activist isn't so much about getting down and dirty as it is about showing up at trendy events to support a cause and using your celeb mojo and notoriety to spread awareness.

The average person can get oversaturated with depressing news but will latch onto a worthy cause that's close to their favorite celebrity's heart. Some memorable environmental moves by celebrities include Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio opting for Toyota Prius hybrids (free, of course) as their transport to the 2005 Oscars and Woody Harrelson sporting a Giorgio Armani-designed hemp tux when he was nominated for "The People vs. Larry Flynt" in 1997.

The biggest impact of all was made when Al Gore released an "Inconvenience Truth" for all the world to see. The atmosphere, ocean and planet are not dumping grounds for our hyper-consumerism. We protect our loved ones and our health from harm -- why shouldn't we protect our planet? All three function in unison.

In this week's column, in lieu of fashion tips to save you from this season's style faux pas, I'd like to instill a few environmentally sound and easy tips for keeping our planet looking just as good as you do.

European cities have have opted for alternative solutions to their long time traffic and transport issues.

London imposes tariffs to city drivers, Florence closes city centers to cars, and Paris has implemented a program called the bike sharing project in hopes that people will rent a bike to do their errands at a cost of about fifty cents per a half hour. (That concept is nothing new to me -- I've been biking around New York City for years.)

Over 10,000 bikes at 750 stations will be available in Paris by summer's end. If you're there, it's a great way to get around town and keep your butt perky at the same time.

Let's face it -- being eco-friendly isn't necessarily easy, so it may take a while before you get the kinks out. But some of you may already be doing it without even trying. Those of you living in a city like New York are likely making less of an ecological impact than their friends in the suburbs.

According to the Department of Energy Statistics Bureau, that tiny apartment building city dwellers pay so much for uses just 25% of the energy used in a large suburban home.

Here's a green tip that even the laziest person can follow. Turn off your electric gadgets and air conditioner when you leave the house.

Another no brainer is mass transit. In New York alone, the use of mass transit means about 700,000 less cars are on the street, removing 400 million pounds of soot and carbon monoxide from the air.

Paying bills online is another a time-saving, waste-defying idea that will save you money on stamps and help to unclog the overburdened postal system. If you're sick of all those catalogues, call or email the companies and demand they stop sending them -- magazines alone kill over 35 million trees a year.

We already know driving a car is not eco-friendly, so if you have to rent a car consider Hertz's "Green Collection." Most of these cars in the fleet (Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Buick LaCrosse and Hyundai Sonata) get 28 miles per gallon, and Hertz will even give a little green ($1) back to The National Parks Foundation.

When it comes to buying green, here's a few words to the wise: "Caviat Emptor" (it's Latin for "Let the Buyer Beware). Don't believe they hype -- words like sustainable and natural are often just that, words, and you can get charged an arm and a leg for them.

Eating "green" produce is not just good for the planet, it's also good for our health. Support local farmers and stay away from frozen and heavily transported products whenever possible. Less trucks equal fewer emissions.

The 3 "R's" -- Reduce, Reuse and Renovate -- are the golden rules of an eco-friendly existence, which brings me to our next subject: Reducing usage and waste. As Sheryl Crow recently brought to our attention on a visit to Washington, you can cut down on your toilet paper consumption by using only one sheet.

Reducing the amount of water we waste every day can also make a big difference, so turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth.

The average running faucet expels 2 to 3 gallons of water per minute. Since almost 75% of all residential water use happens in the bathroom, try using a water-saving showerhead. The average showerhead wastes 4-7 gallons of water per minute; a low-flow head uses only about 2 ½ gallons.

When it comes to lighting your home, just say no to incandescent light bulbs and switch to compact flourescents. Relax -- the light quality is so good you'll still be able to apply your MAC cosmetics without looking like Rupaul at the circus.

Another simple step towards saving energy is to unplug appliances when they're not in use or before you leave the house -- they are responsible for 1% of the world's carbon monoxide emissions if they are plugged in, even though they are turned off.

Installing a green kitchen can reduce greenhouse emissions by almost a ton, so check out Build It Green NYC (, a non-profit that sells overstock office furniture, kitchen appliances, lumber and cabinetry at 50-75% off regular prices.

B.I.G. has prevented over 500 tons of material from being wasted in landfills and all profits are donated to Solar One, a program dedicated to environmental education. Even the money gets recycled!

Not all of these ideas are readily available, but I hope this list will serve as an inspiration.

Walmart has set a lofty goal of achieving zero waste in their retail stores. By saving over 800,000 gallons of gasoline and by using corn-based packaging they are emitting 11 million fewer pounds of greenhouse gases.

That's a big wow for Walmart, however, the battle is still not won. The company is responsible for violating the clean water act in nine states per store per day.

Naysayers believe that it's all a publicity stunt, and that Walmart is only going green to save money. I say what's the problem with saving money and if they are helping to save the planet.

I couldn't keep Lindsey out of rehab or save Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, but I do know that if we take it one step at a time and try to take responsibility for our own actions, we can make a difference.

So, as Michael Jackson sang:

"I'm starting with the man in the mirror

"I'm asking him to change his ways.

"And no message could have been any clearer

"If you wanna make the world a better place

"Take a look at yourself and then make the change!