Spring means a focus on all things green: Trees and bushes and flowers, of course, but also, thanks to Earth Day April 22, on being environmentally responsible.
So again this year, I'm highlighting some eco-friendly products you can buy and steps you can take to limit and repair the damage we all inflict on the earth just by being here (cheery thought for spring, huh)? Fortunately, environmental responsibility has gone so mainstream even Wal-Mart's getting in on the action. Here we go:
Clean green. Plenty of people will tell you the best cleaners are the ones you make yourself from vinegar, baking soda, washing powder and a few other cheap, old-timey ingredients, but the one time I tried to make my own window cleaner the result smelled like wet dog, so I stick with somebody else's recipe.
Used to be you could only find earth-friendly cleaning products at some place like Wild Oats/Whole Foods, which carries a full line of Seventh Generation cleaning and paper products. But Clorox, the bleach maker, recently came out with a line called Green Works that you can get at Kroger or Target or wherever. The Green Works cleaners use plant- and mineral-based formulas, and they cost about the same as other products.
If you like Seventh Generation, though, Babies R Us is an excellent place to shop for their products. They've got the diapers and wipes, which I've recently switched to, but also a pretty good selection of cleaning products, which are half price through May 3.
A note about the Seventh Generation diapers: They're unbleached, so no chlorine in the environment or next to your baby's behind, and no annoying pictures of Elmo staring up at you when you're trying to corral a bucking 8-month-old. They're as soft as Pampers, and only marginally more expensive — especially if you order through Amazon. (I don't normally promote buying online in this column, but since the only places you can buy Seventh Generation diapers locally are two national chains, I'm making a six-of-one exception).
Go organic. It's getting easier and easier to find organic-cotton clothing too: Babies R Us, for instance, carries a limited selection of organic Gerber baby clothes that cost about the same as their conventional clothes. And I'm no fan of Wal-Mart, but credit where it's due: The company has jumped on the eco-friendly bandwagon in a big way. Its George clothing line includes organic baby onesies, and for adults, there's a growing number of organic and transitional cotton clothing and linens.
Buy recycled. Central Arkansas abounds with places where you can find bargain-priced used furniture, clothing and household items. (Yes, antiques count.) One of Little Rock's most popular used-clothing stores, Savers, has moved out of its longtime location in Riverdale to a shopping center on JFK Boulevard in North Little Rock's Park Hill neighborhood. The new location was scheduled to open April 10, so go check it out.
If it's home-repair projects you're dealing with, the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store on Pike Avenue in North Little Rock is a good first place to look for just about anything — salvaged paint, doors and windows, furniture, bathroom fixtures, etc.
Buy local. Anything you purchase that is made in the state means less fossil fuels consumed getting it from the maker to your doorstep. You can get Arkansas-grown produce at markets on both sides of the river this spring, in addition to Jody Hardin's Basket-a-Month consumer-supported agriculture program (www.arkansasfood.net). And there's no shortage of local artists and artisans who produce all sorts of fun jewelry, decor and gift items. Look for them at the Little Rock Farmer's Market, or, if you want to shop from the comfort of your computer desk, check out www.etsy.com, a site where people can sell things they've hand-made. Search for “Little Rock,” and you'll get a list of “shops” kept by local folks.
Plant a tree. Or two. Soak up some of that carbon dioxide your car spits out, and give a few woodland creatures a place to live.