Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Green and Fabulous


If you want to be green but can’t face wearing hemp, if you get frozen in the supermarket deciding whether to buy the organic Italian apples wrapped in plastic or the non-organic apples that are loose and local, and if you feel guilty every time you let the tap run but still have to bath now and again, then Christie Matheson’s book Green Chic: Saving the Earth in Style is the book for you.

As Matheson says in the introduction, ” … we need to embrace the fabulousness of green living. And it is fabulous. Being green can help you look gorgeous, have a killer wardrobe, feel amazing, travel in style, create a home that’s an oasis, host fun parties, eat incredible food, and drink phenomenal wine, all while feeling more connected to your friends, family and nature.” She says that while buying an eco-friendly cashmere jersey will not stop global warming, it is the change in mindset, in starting to become conscious consumers, that will help us to reduce our individual contributions and encourage systemic change.

This week I bought some clothes for my kid, who needed shorts and T-shirts for summer. I have heard that you should wash new clothes before wearing them because of the chemicals shops spray on them to make them hang nicely, but I had never believed it until now. He put on one of his new T-shirts and within an hour had a rash across his neck. Cue parental guilt and vows only to purchase organic cotton tees from now on. Green is clearly not only good for the planet, but good for our health too.

Matheson’s book is clearly divided into useful chapters, from being green at home, to eating and drinking green, beauty, fashion, transportation and travel. There’s even a chapter on how to throw a green party. When I read blogs on the environment, like the No Impact Man or wonderful books like Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, my main reaction – apart from being grateful that there are people out there who are actually doing something about the environment – is to be intimidated and then feel guilty. Although in many ways we are a fairly green household, there is still room for improvement: we run two cars, still sometimes buy food in plastic wrapping, drink bottled water, forget to switch our computers off, even (aargh, pains me to admit) use paper napkins sometimes. Once I feel guilty, I get overwhelmed and can’t imagine how I could even start to change these things that prey on my conscience.

What Matheson does so well is to praise the baby steps. She’s not saying we all need to get solar panels tomorrow, but she is saying that we should be aware and start to make small changes in our lives. Very kindly, like a lovely big sister, she points out the small changes we can make. Here are some that resonated with me:

* Time how long your standard shower takes and then challenge yourself to cut it down

* Keep a full fridge (if you don’t have a large family like mine, fill it with organic wine instead of food) and only run a full dishwasher

* Avoid PVC in any form – it is evil

* Choose local and non-organic over organic food that has travelled a long distance (but long-distance organic is better than long-distance non-organic)

* Eat more whole food – it puts less strain on the environment than processed food (bye-bye chilli rice cakes … sniff)

* Cut back on meat – it is also a strain on the environment

* Use chemical-free lipsticks – the chemical ones contain a long list of hideous ingredients which we eat since they are on our lips. Yuck!

* Edit your closet so that you only shop for clothes you need

* Buy organic rather than conventional cotton, which is the most pesticide-intensive farming in the world

* Drive smoothly (no abrupt braking) and stick to the speed limit

* Switch the car’s air conditioning off and open a window

* Use the car wash instead of washing it yourself (or you could leave it dirty, like mine)

I have cherry-picked (ahem, nature pun alert) the tips that I can actually imagine myself doing, but there are many more which might resonate with you in this excellent book. For US readers, Matheson includes a long list at the end of her favourite eco-friendly retailers, many of whom have websites.

To celebrate all that is green, I would like to offer Green Chic to one of my fabulous readers. Just put your name in the comments if you’re interested, and in the course of this week I will draw a winner.

Now I’m off to town (on foot) to return some books to the library (borrowing, not consuming)!

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

17 thoughts on “Green and Fabulous

  1. The name of your blog is fantastic 🙂 And nice article!

  2. Great tips. I never used to wash clothes before wearing them, but after having kids (and one with allergies) I’m more sensitive to it. Usually the clothes have a chemical smell right out of the store.

    We sometimes use paper plates. I’m done feeling guilty over it–it’s not as if we’re rabid consumers, using resources willy-nilly. I think if you’re trying to be conscious of your choices, then compromises are OK. You can get your knickers in a complete twist trying to figure out which is more green: using paper napkins that require energy and water to create the paper (plus the recycled paper question) or using cloth napkins made of pesticide-laden cotton that require energy and water to wash but are only manufactured once.

  3. I liked Animal, Veg,Min too, enough to pick up (though I haven’t yet read) the Michael Pollan books. Sorry to be so long a no show- life has been beyond chaotic. Moving in Germany is a litany of confusion and anguish due to the general non-customer oriented service. In fact, we still aren’t registered because our local office is on strike and it’s not yet enough of an emergency for them to bother to issue us an anmeldung. It’s been three weeks.
    Enter me for the drawing, though I have an earlier post describing what happened to my older girl when I didn’t wash a new schlafanzug: emergency Sunday home visit from the pediatrician- so that’s one I already knew!

  4. Lots of great tips. I try to be “green” but there is LOTS of room for improvement. Would love to be entered in the drawing!

  5. Sounds like a great book. I like books that give you baby steps because I think the thing that stops most people making changes in their lives is that they are overwhelmed, try to change a lot at once and fail. I also agree with one of the other commenters that I am done feeling guilty about stuff. I recycle all our paper, glass, tins and as much plastic as they council will take; we have a car but if it gets one outing a week to the grocery store per week, that’s a lot (the rest of the time we walk or use public transport); we switch lights off as we move from room to room in the evening; we don’t own a tumble dryer or dishwasher; our fridge & freezer is always full to capacity; I buy local & seasonal as much as I can; I use fabric serviettes and eco-friendly cleaning products etc etc. But I still fly in aeroplanes – if I didn’t I would never see my 86 year old father in South Africa again. So I don’t beat myself up about it.

    Also, I do buy air-freighted food… if it’s from South Africa. The eco aspect is one way of looking at the world, but there is also the question of what would happen if all developed countries suddenly stopped buying anything from developing countries? What would happen to all the people employed on the farms producing that food? Farming is hard enough as it is and I refuse to feel guilty for creating a market so that people in South Africa can keep their jobs and feed their family.

    As for hemp shirts, I went to a shop in Camden on the weekend that was full of the most dro-dead gorgeous hemp clothes that I have ever seen! I was amazed & will have to go back…

  6. Three more tips:
    Ride your bike more.
    Ride your bike more.
    Ride your bike more.

  7. Does this mean I have to get rid of my PVC underwear? 😉

    Enter me in the drawing, please. I could use some more greeny tips.

  8. Good points Charl
    But the window one is wrong, at least with our chariot.
    winding down the window increases fuel consumption by more than does our funky new eco friendly air conditioner.
    I’m with Ian.

  9. What I really liked about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is how at the end she realates what’s she’s learned and what she’ll keep doing and what she won’t. She’ll still buy frozen Mac & Cheese and only make her own pasta on special occasions. It seems realistic and doable.

    After reading that book, I’ve been baking my bread. Something that seemed terribly difficult, but isn’t. We are woking on a vegetable garden, so we’ll have fresh veggies by next spring! We even started a compost bin. (for the garden.)

    Small steps that we lead to big changes! Wohoo!

  10. I’m a big fan of baby steps. I can’t ride a bike, though! Light bulbs! You can never have too many green lightbulbs (if you’ll forgive the possible contradiction). Now if we could only persuade dudelet to switch from baths to showers…

  11. Please enter me in the drawing. I could use some tips for the ecojustice website, and I also love books that tell you what to do without making you feel guilty.

  12. Pick me! Pick me! Composting is really good- with that and recycling we aren’t having to put rubbish out every week anymore. Admittedly there are only 3 of us. If you don’t want to do compost, don’t have the space or whatever, worm farms seem to do the job quite well and kids find them fascinating.

    My two main areas of weakness are constantly using the dryer and having baths not showers. I suppose I could try having showers some of the time at least.

  13. You made me feel good about the fact that I don’t wear lipstick, wash my car, shower twice a day, wish they would invent a pill for 3 each meal of the day or even like clothes shopping except under social pressure! Yippey, I am just a natural at this environmental stuff.

    By the way, I am not sure why people think solar panels are good for the environment! Do you know what it takes to make them and they are certainly don’t look biodegradable?

  14. Hey, now you are talking my language, girlfriend! I am currently devouring everything I can find on becoming a greener Earthling, from where on Earth you can take plastic, paper, glass and tin to be recycled in South Africa (we are sooooo slooooow in getting aware here) (and recyclables are heaping up in my cupboard because I don’t want to throw them into the trash) to the wonderful tip I came across the other day to take just one of your rooms off the grid.

    Baby steps, baby steps, that’s the way to adapt. Just imagine if every person in the world decided to buy one plastic bottle of water a week less!

    And what a wonderful idea spreading greenness by giving away the book!

    Love & Joy!
    (: Pippa

  15. I would love to receive this book.

    My immediate reaction was, yes, we need baby steps. Lots of baby steps. Everybody doing baby steps and graduating to marathons as soon as possible. Green lipstick?? Why not NO lipstick. Hey, let’s take it a step farther, How about NO MAKEUP at all? And while we’re on the subject, how about stop wearing all that perfume? Do you know how many people are trapped in their homes with severe allergies because the rest of us are wedded to our perfume? I wonder what the environmental impact is of creating and shipping that stuff around? Why do we need scented laundry soap, scented bleach, scented hand soap, scented toilet paper, air freshener, scented ….. Oh. Am I ranting?

  16. What a lot of interesing comments! It is lovely to hear how everyone is making baby steps, in all sorts of different ways.. as you say Charl it is a mind set, and what we start, the next generation will do better. But as Ms HMH says, we must be quick about it. I like the top 3 tips about cycling too – I fail miserably there. It’s all those hills! But the last time I flew was 3 years ago and work made me do it! I do also have the feeling that really living greenly is sometimes rather intransparent. As we see from the food from farmers in SA or not debate that some of us may have. One interesting piece of info I heard lately was that nuclear energy (aside from that niggley problem of what will our descendants do with all that radioactive waste, and the poisoned rivers in France..) is not as CO2 friendly as some might have us think.. the energy that goes into building the energy plant and the energy to mine and most of all *refine* the uranium are huge. And we only have 60 years of the stuff anyway. Well there you have it, never liked it anyway. All I am saying, becuase this ain’t to start a discussion, is that the waters are often muddied by economics.. So it is lovely to see everyone talking and leaning about it here. 🙂 p.s Did you know the Austrians have no nuclear power stations at all? They also get very huffy when their neighbours build them near their borders..

  17. .. I think it must be because they are a nation of Schwammerlsucher (mushroom hunters).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s