Erin Peters knows a thing or two about "green" shopping.
The stay-at-home mother of three young boys lives with her family in Raleigh, North Carolina. She writes The Conscious Shopper blog, where her motto is "Go Green. Live Better. Save Money." She's also the newest member of our One in a Million campaign, joining almost 5,000 other folks who have shifted at least $1,000 of their household budgets to the greenest products and services available.
One thousand dollars sounds like a lot of money. But since we're talking about shifting our spending, rather than adding to what we already spend, it's something most of us can afford. Plus, if a million people do it, we could send a message worth a billion dollars to manufacturers that we want them to make our health and the environment a priority. Here's how Erin made the shift:
Every month I spend about $600 on local and/or organic groceries for my family of five. Over the past year, I've also spent:
$400 on a winter CSA membership
$60 on Charlie's Soap laundry detergent
$54 on Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent and dish soap
$16 on recycled paper towels
$10 on trash bags made with recycled content
$45 on recycled toilet paper
$72 on Tom's of Maine toothpaste
$30 on Preserve toothbrushes
$60 on organic make-up
$7 on Crystal deodorant
$173 on thrift store clothing and Simple Shoes
$27 to set up a worm bin
$52 on recycled printer paper
$1606 – Total
Erin's shifts did not happen overnight.
"For a long time, I had a misconception that living green was expensive and therefore out of reach for my family," she said. "Then one day, I got frustrated with the feeling that I was buying inferior and unhealthy products and that I wasn't spending my money in accordance with my values. I decided just to go for it and see if I could buy organic, non-toxic, and fair trade products without blowing my family's budget.
"At that time, our budget was extremely tight, but I found that by living more frugally and doing the green things that save money, I was able to shift our savings to our food and clothing budget. Without affecting our overall budget at all, I was able to go green!"
Erin said some shifts were pretty easy. "I love buying fresh foods from the farmer's market and through our CSA. I love that my family is eating healthier, but I also enjoy meeting the farmers and hearing their passion. Knowing where our food comes from is such a wonderful feeling," she says.
But there are still some challenges – like clothing. "In my past life," Erin admits, "I was a Target-clothing addict. I've learned to enjoy thrift store shopping, but there are some items (like shoes) that I prefer to buy new and the price difference of eco-friendly clothing versus Target clothing is a hard one for me. Mostly, I get over that hurdle by not going to Target. Out of sight, out of mind."
Erin is taking what she's learned as a green budget shifter and launched a campaign to encourage others to make small behavior changes, too. It's called The Conscious Shopper Challenge, and it provides weekly goals to help people go green in a year without spending a lot of money. "We start with "trimming your waste-line" (reducing your trash production), then we work on energy, water, transportation, shopping, food, and finally looking "beyond your front door," explains Erin.
"I think a lot of people have the same misconception that I used to have: that going green means big expensive changes like buying a new car or putting solar panels on the roof. But I've learned that there are so many small things each individual can do, and those small things add up to make a big difference.
"I hope The Conscious Shopper Challenge will show people how easy and affordable it can be to go green while providing a strong supportive community to go green with. But beyond that, I hope people will feel inspired to be conscious shoppers, aware of how their decisions in the marketplace affect other people and the planet."