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Buy green at home

Visit Consumer Reports Greener Choices for selections in most of the categories listed below. Additional resources are also listed.

Appliances: Energy Star is a standardized label that can help you to purchase water and energy efficient appliances and electrical and electronic equipment.

Arts and crafts: See the Rhode Island School of Design's Pollution Prevention in the Arts factbook for some successful approaches to reducing chemical hazards in the fine and theatrical arts. The Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology at the Oregon Health and Science University has an excellent collection of links including a searchable art products database for safety information hosted by the city of Tucson. If your hobby is traditional photography, SilverGrain products for conventional film bath development are hydroquinone free.

Cleaning Products: Also visit New American Dream and Seventh Generation for product information and suggestions.  For a searchable list of certified household cleaning products, visit Green Seal in addition to the Consumer Reports Greener Choices link above.

Clothing: Simple Shoes offers shoes and bags made with recycled content or sustainable materials.  Crocs® closes the loop on shoe manufacturing—your old Crocs can be recycled into new Crocs and donated to the less fortunate. Finally, Patagonia's Common Threads Recycling Program keeps woven and manufactured fibers in active use rather than sitting in a landfill. See also Patagonia's clothing with recycled content for men, women and children.  

Visit the New American Dream’s Alternative Gift Registry for big ways to celebrate special occasions with a small footprint.  

Energy: Massachusetts residents who install clean energy devices may qualify for tax incentives.  Buy Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), which are retail products allowing consumers to invest in renewable energy. RECs are sold by numerous brokers, but you can search on the EPA Green Power website to see which providers are available in your area.  If solar power is your thing, get the latest scoop on rebates, tax incentives, and general legislation at Solar Power Rocks.

Food: Support your local farmer and buy fresh! Massachusetts has over 125 Farmer's markets. Join a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to create a relationship with a local farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. Also, spare the fishy fish harvesting practices, and use this guide for buying fish sustainably.

Gardening: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the concept of using natural techniques, such as complementary planting and identifying and incorporating natural enemies of common garden pests, instead of using pesticides and herbicides. The site provides techniques and ideas for applying them in your own lawn/garden. The UMass Amherst Cooperative Extension has an Integrated Pest Management Team that offers training and education services, and provides a clearinghouse of information. Download a reference guide to IPM techniques from the The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website.

Health/Beauty Aids: The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a movement to remove hazardous chemicals from health and beauty aids ranging from shampoos, moisturizers and makeup, to nail polish. The web page includes a searchable list of manufacturers who have pledged to make their formulations more benign. To search for safety information on a particular product, refer to the Skin Deep database, created by the Environmental Working Group.

Lighting and Home Design: Compact fluorescent light bulbs consume a quarter of the energy and last 7-10 times longer than an incandescent bulb with the same lumen output. Please note that CLF bulbs contain mercury and must be recycled at the end of usage. Contact your local Department of Public Works for recycling information. MIT residents should contact their House Manager for the collection location in their dorm or living space.

Paper Goods: See the Natural Resource Defense Council's guide to purchasing home tissue products, includes a printable wallet card. Also visit New American Dream, which offers tips on ridding your home of junk mail in addition to buying recycled content.  Finally, instructables.com provides some fun ways to buy green using the DIY approach.

Transportation/Commuting: Before purchasing a car, check the Fuel Mileage Guide posted on the US Department of Energy and US Environmental Protection Agency website. Also check the Guide to Buying Biodiesel, a fuel made from food waste. Or skip owning a car altogether! Sign up for a membership with ZipCar® and have a car available whenever you need it. MIT is an institutional member, so check the site for reduced rates. When looking for a ride to the airport, skip conventional taxis and go hybrid with PlanetTran.

You can save hundreds of dollars in annual parking fees by joining one of several MIT Vanpools or GoLoco, an online ridesharing system.

Other things you can do

Buy local:

Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) puts your retirement planning money to work supporting companies with more environmentally sound practices and social equity initiatives. MIT's 401k program offers the traditional Domini socially equity fund along with expanded socially responsible investing options .

For more information

Earth 911 and Greenopia are portal websites with extensive links for buying green at home from bed to bath to kitchen table to family room to family vacation.  Even the house pet can go green!