Sunday, August 9, 2009

Buying Recycled-Content Products for Others

I've pretty much run out of ways to green my own life. I avoid packaging as much as practical, buy local foods at a farmer's market, buy paper products only when they are made of post-consumer recycled fiber, buy clothes only from yard sales, do not use a clothes drier, do not own a car, and never, ever travel by plane. There are several things I'm not yet doing, e.g., powering my home with solar energy and composting food scraps, but these are unfortunately not practical where I live at the moment.

Having reached a plateau in my efforts to green my own life, I've turned my attention to other people's lives. I don't mean that I harass people who drive hummers, or lecture friends whose toilet paper is made by Kimberly-Clark. That isn't my way. Instead, what I've been doing is helping people who want to live a green lifestyle but are constrained by their finances. In particular, I make bulk purchases of toilet paper, facial tissues, and office paper made of post-consumer recycled fiber, and give a portion of each purchase to eco-minded people of limited means who would otherwise be stuck buying whatever brand was cheapest.

This has proven very popular with environmentalists whose earnings are at the minimum wage level or below. They are happy to be able to live in accordance with their green values without going broke, and I'm happy to have a way of helping both my neighbors and the planet at the same time. So far, I'm giving supplies to only a handful of people, but I'm willing to give to more people if requested. I like knowing my money is doing some good for the environment, which is something I've lacked confidence in when donating to environmental groups.

I'm thinking about expanding the range of eco-friendly products I offer to people in need. One thing I'm uncertain about is what type of product brings the most benefit per dollar. I would welcome feedback from my readers. If you could spend $50 on eco-friendly products for low-income people, what would you buy? Organic produce? Rechargeable batteries and a battery charger? Other ideas? Keep in mind that these are low-income people, therefore renters, so they (like me) are unable to install solar water heaters or make other changes to their homes.

No comments: