OMG, Organic Personal Care Products! What Does It Mean?

You’ve seen the term organic and perhaps the circular, green and white USDA organic seal displayed on food packaging, but how does this translate to your personal care products? In other words, is organic meaningful and how can we guarantee we are getting, say, a premium body wash or mascara?

Like the food items as we discussed in Part I, the term organic should be backed up by a third-party certifying agency. But (why is there always a but?), this can be tricky when it comes to personal care products.

First, the FDA does not oversee the term ‘organic’ as it applies to cosmetics, body care or personal care items. Second, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has no authority over the production and labeling of cosmetics, body care products, and personal care products that are not made up of agricultural ingredients, nor do they make any claims to meeting USDA organic standards.

Still onfused about organic personal care products? Hang on, it’s about to get clearer than a tube of organic waterproof mascara.

Who Can Certify Personal Care, Cosmetics and Body Care?

Cosmetics, body care products, and personal care products can be certified to other, private standards in the United States. Examples might include foreign organic standards, eco-labels, earth friendly, etc. Although these claims can be a great indicator of the products ingredients and quality, the USDA’s National Organic Program doesn’t regulate them.

Yet, if a cosmetic, body care product, or personal care product contains or is made up of agricultural ingredients, and can meet the USDA/NOP organic production, handling, processing and labeling standards, it may be eligible to be certified under the NOP regulations. Once certified, cosmetics, personal care products, and body care products are eligible for the same 4 organic labeling categories as all other agricultural products, based on their organic content and other factor as follows:

The 4 USDA Organic Labeling Categories

  1. “100 percent organic”–Product must contain only organically produced ingredients. Products may display the USDA Organic Seal and must display the certifying agent’s name and address.
  2. “Organic”–Product must contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. Remaining product ingredients must consist of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List or non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form. Products may display the USDA Organic Seal and must display the certifying agent’s name and address.
  3. “Made with organic ingredients”–Products contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients and product label can list up to three of the organic ingredients or “food” groups on the principal display panel. For example, body lotion made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients and only organic herbs may be labeled either “body lotion made with organic lavender, rosemary, and chamomile,” or “body lotion made with organic herbs.” Products may not display the USDA Organic Seal and must display the certifying agent’s name and address.
  4. “Less than 70 percent organic ingredients”–Products cannot use the term “organic” anywhere on the principal display panel. However, they may identify the specific ingredients that are USDA-certified as being organically produced on the ingredients statement on the information panel. Products may not display the USDA Organic Seal and may not display a certifying agent’s name and address.

You can find local farmers markets or stores that carry organic products near you (US only) by visiting visit Organic.org. Also, locate organic products & services at Organic Pages.com. Here’s to healthy, smudge-free and smear-proof shopping!

Feature image courtesy of Artur Chalyj

OMG, Organic Produce! What Does It Really Mean?

Organic produce is better for you than conventionally grown produce. No, it’s not. Yes, it is…OMG! Are you following?

I hope so, because to say the word organic is ubiquitous in today’s market place would be an understatement. The plethora of contradicting information is enough to make you want to throw in the organic towel (but, please don’t). Hang in there with me and I pinky swear that by the time we’re done, you’ll be a much smarter and savvier shopper.

Organic Labeling for Food & Agricultural Products

Many products use the word “organic” on their packaging. But, unless the label is verified by a third party certifying party or another independent inspection organization, the term is not a reliable indicator of a safe and green product. That’s because there is no way to guarantee that it was cultivated without pesticides or doesn’t contain harmful chemicals.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) creates the laws that regulate the creation, production, handling, labeling, trade, and enforcement of all USDA organic produce products. According to the NOP, the organic standards must be verified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent ((e.g. Oregon Tilth (OCTO)) before products can be labeled USDA organic produce.

The standards of using the word and/or USDA organic logo are regulated in three main areas:

  • Organic Crops
  • Organic Livestock
  • Organic Multi-Ingredient Foods

As part of the USDA organic standard requirement, most synthetic and petroleum derived pesticides and fertilizers are prohibited for use in organic production. Overall, organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances.

What does this really mean? Basically, no hormones, no antibiotics, no genetically engineered seeds and cannot be grown with most synthetic fertilizers or toxic pesticides.

Secrets to Savvy Shopping

While most organic food typically carries a price premium (at least for now), you can protect yourself without breaking the bank.

If you aren’t already familiar with the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce – it’s time to get familiar. EWG annually rates produce pesticide residue levels from highest to lowest.  It’s fascinating stuff that can offer you a shopping (and savings) advantage!

You can also use this guide below to help you decipher what the price lookup (PLU) numbers on the produce stickers mean:

  • A 4-digit code indicates the produce is conventionally grown.
  • A 5-digit code starting with #9 indicated the produce is organically grown
  • A 5-digit code starting with #8 indicates the produce is genetically modified (GMO or GE)

Stay tuned for Part II to discover the four organic labeling categories and how all of this all relates to your personal care products!

Feature image courtesy of Jamie McCaffrey

Eco-Friendly Hair Dyes You Can Buy or Make Yourself

Most hair dyes contain harsh chemical ingredients that may be harmful to you and the environment. Choose a a low-impact pick instead! Photo: Shutterstock

Most hair dyes contain harsh chemical ingredients that may be harmful to you and the environment. Choose a low-impact pick instead! Photo: Shutterstock

Coloring hair for a new look or gray coverage is routine for many of us, but commercial dyes often contain chemical ingredients that are potentially harmful to both humans and the environment.

P-Phenylenediamine (PPD), an active ingredient in most hair dyes, has been linked to skin irritation, as well as immune and nervous system problems. Ammonia, another common hair dye ingredient, can cause respiratory problems and throat irritation.

If you’ve ever colored your hair, you’ve likely noticed these chemicals in the form of a harsh odor or burning sensation, but these ingredients can also harm local ecosystems long after they’re rinsed out.

To put it simply, when you wash commercial hair dyes out of your hair, chemical ingredients often wind up in local waterways. Ammonia has been linked to soil acidification and changes in ecosystems, and the EPA notes that chemicals associated with personal care products like hair dye are proven to be in our water supply.

Luckily, you don’t have to stop coloring your hair altogether to keep yourself and the planet safe. A growing number of salons are embracing organic and nontoxic hair dyes, and there are even a few boxed hair colors that nix harsh chemical additives. If you really want to ensure you don’t come in contact with chemicals while dyeing your hair, you can even do it yourself at home using natural ingredients.

Read on for the details, and kick those chemical-laden colors to the curb.

Next page: On the Shelf

First and Only Compostable Fruit Label Hits Store Shelves

The new Sinclair Compostable Fruit Label is safe for household compost piles and breaks down in 22 weeks. Photo: Sinclair International

The new Sinclair Compostable Fruit Label is safe for household compost piles and breaks down in 22 weeks. Photo: Sinclair International

Frustrated to find non-biodegradable stickers on your fruits and vegetables? Label manufacturer Sinclair International feels your pain.

The company recently launched a line of compostable labels made from polyactic acid (PLA) that are safe for household compost piles and break down in 22 weeks.

The new label can be used on all types of loose produce and is compatible with Sinclair’s existing tray-labeling and hand-labeling equipment, the company says.

The company’s other fruit labels can be recycled by consumers by sticking them onto PET plastic bottles before tossing them in the blue bin.

“It’s important to our customers to be able to introduce a sustainable alternative that is environmentally friendly and green,” Sinclair CEO Bill Hallier said in a news release. “The label is engineered to withstand the rigorous elements throughout the global supply chain, yet degrade at the appropriate time. We couldn’t be happier with the results.”

While we’re totally on board with a compostable fruit label, New York–based electrical engineer Scott Amron may have an even better idea. His concept, called the Fruitwash Label, dissolves into an organic fruit cleansing wash that helps remove wax, pesticides and bacteria.

His company is currently selling a 10 percent stake in the Fruitwash Label’s patents in the hopes of bringing the product to the mass market.

So, the next time you notice a sticker on your fruit, take a moment to give it a second look. It may be recyclable, compostable or even water-soluble — making it easy for you to nix those pesky stickers from the waste stream.

Holiday Gift Guide 2013: For the Gardening Guru

Still searching for that perfect gift for the gardener on your list? Before you head off to the big-box store, consider a low-impact alternative instead. To get you started, Earth911 rounded up 10 planet-friendly presents that are sure to make any garden lover smile this season. Read on for our top picks.

Photo: Gardenista

Photo: Gardenista

Urban Farm Seed Collection

This seed collection from Clyde Oak was designed with small spaces in mind. Each can contains a selection of nonhybrid, non-GMO, American-grown seeds that are ideal for raised bed and container gardening — making this a perfect pick for the urban farmer on your list.

This set includes 25 different seed varieties, ranging from green beans and cabbage to cantaloupe and honeydew melon for a diverse container farm your favorite small-space gardener is sure to love.

Price: $34

BUY IT HERE

Next page: Paper pot maker

What Does the Certified Naturally Grown Label Mean?

Certified Naturally Grown, or CNG, is a designation that verifies the food has been grown without pesticides. Photo: MorgueFile/AcrylicArtist

Certified Naturally Grown, or CNG, is a designation that verifies that food has been grown without pesticides. Photo: morgueFile/AcrylicArtist

Buying meats, produce and other products with the USDA Organic label is one way to ensure your food is free of toxins. There’s another option, too, that many consumers don’t know about: Certified Naturally Grown (CNG).

CNG, a nonprofit organization founded when the National Organic Program went into effect in 2002, is an independent program that works primarily on the honor system. Many of the 800 farmers and beekeepers who have earned this certification have been organic for years, but have found it too expensive or time-consuming to attain the organic certification — a common issue for small operations. Since they can no longer legally use the term “organic,” many have turned to “certified naturally grown” to demonstrate their commitment to healthy growing practices. This is different than just using the term “natural,” which is often slapped on products as a marketing ploy and has no oversight.

Like organic farms, CNG farms shun synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and GMO seeds. The CNG certification encourages farmers to work together to provide the best and healthiest possible fruits and vegetables, honey and meat. In their unique honor system, farmers inspect one another’s farms to ensure that the practices are being upheld. Volunteer or “neighboring farmer-inspectors” are familiar with problems specific to an area, which gives them an advantage over third-party inspectors. (To ensure honesty, farmers are not allowed to inspect the farms of someone who has inspected their farm.)

Know the difference among "Organic," "Natural" and "Certified Naturally Grown."

Know the difference among “Organic,” “Natural” and “Certified Naturally Grown.”

CNG is nationally recognized and has become successful because of the large numbers of health- and environmentally conscious consumers, as well as the farmers, ranchers and beekeepers who are determined to use healthier ways to grow food and raise livestock and bees. Participants understand the lasting effects of the chemicals on the land, animals and eventually humans, and adhere to a list of substances that they can and can’t use in the farming process.

Learn more about the Certified Naturally Grown certification here.

The Power of Plants: Inside the Job of a Compounding Herbalist

TKTK. Photo: Haley Shapley

Sunny Sweet uses no chemicals, perfumes or dyes in the products she makes for Herban Arts. Photo: Haley Shapley

When you see an herb on the shelves of a store — say, Echinacea — you might think something like, “Hey, I heard that’s good for colds. Maybe I should pick some up.”

Sunny Sweet has a different thought process. She thinks: When was it harvested? At what elevation? How was it dried? How was it packaged? How old is it?

“Plants like me,” says Sweet, the owner of Herban Arts and a compounding herbalist who’s made a career from studying them inside out.

“I’m very focused on sustainability and improving people’s lives,” Sweet says. “It’s important to me that what I make is not only good for people but not hurting anyone to be made.” Her herbs are all ethically harvested and pesticide-free, and she makes an effort to meet the growers and always verify their practices. She reuses milk jugs for containers, selects materials for packaging that can be recycled, and decorates her space largely with secondhand furniture.

Sweet sat down with Earth911 over cups of tea — her very own blend of earl gray, peach, chrysanthemum and lavender — to talk the power of plants and why she loves her job so much.

Next page: Becoming a compounding herbalist

Poppy Soap Company: Organic Handmade Soap With A Cause

Poppy Soap Co. founder Lindy Laroche was working as a medical rep when she had her son Brody back in 2009. Like many young moms, Laroche said welcoming her first child was a life-altering experience, and she soon decided it was time to make a change.

By asking customers to nominate their local women's shelter to receive a soap donation, Laroche hopes to connect people around the nation with shelter services in their area. Photo: Poppy Soap Co.

Photo: Poppy Soap Co.

“It was almost this turning point in my life once he was born,” Laroche remembers. “I have this huge responsibility to him, to show him what life is really about and really live the authentic life that I’m supposed to live.”

With the support of her husband Sam, she left her 9-to-5 behind to start a sustainable company with a community-driven cause.

“I decided to leave what I was doing and pursue my dream of developing a company that not only has a vision of total sustainability and extremely high-quality ingredients without cutting any corners, but also had a vision for giving back to local U.S. communities,” Laroche says of the inspiration behind Poppy Soap.

Read on for an inside look at the Poppy Soap Co. studio in San Luis Obispo, Calif. and to learn more about the company’s handmade products and its powerful mission to help those in need.

Eco-Friendly Sunscreens for Summer

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Sunscreen is essential for all that summer fun outdoors, but some SPF products may contain chemical additives that can be harmful not only for you, but also for the environment you enjoy on summer travels.

When sunscreen washes off in oceans, lakes and rivers, it can leave chemical residues behind that may be harmful to marine life, particularly coral reefs – a concept supported by a 2008 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

So, with a little help from the Environmental Working Group’s SkinDeep database, Earth911 rounded up eight safe, nontoxic and eco-friendly sunscreens that are as easy on your skin as they are on the environment. Read on to find your new fave.

Editor’s Note: EWG’s SkinDeep database scores products on a scale of 1-10 based on the known hazards associated with ingredients listed on labels. Products scored from 0-2 are considered “low hazard,” while products ranked 7-10 are classified as “high hazard.”

Buy or DIY: Natural Handmade Soaps

Get your daily clean the natural way with handmade soap formulations you can either buy or make yourself. Read on for unique varieties that may just reinvent your morning shower.

Photo: Poppy Soap

Photo: Poppy Soap

Buy It: Organic Anise Bamboo Charcoal Soap by Poppy Soap

Don’t let summer skin woes like breakouts, shine and clogged pores get you down. This unique blend from Poppy Soap uses bamboo charcoal to draw out dirt and oil and leave skin feeling clean, soft and refreshed.

Much like a water filter cleans impurities using charcoal, this formulation will gently unclog your pores without harsh detergents. Made with natural and organic ingredients, each pick in the Poppy Soap line is carefully handmade by soap-master Lindy Laroche at the brand’s workshop in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

For another feel-good perk, Poppy Soap will donate a bar of organic soap to your local women’s shelter for each product purchased through its Bar for Bar program.

Click here to learn more about the Poppy Soap process and ingredients, or head to the brand’s online store to browse the entire product line.

Price: $12

BUY IT HERE

As an added bonus for Earth911 readers, enter the promo code “Earth911″ at checkout to receive $5 off your next Poppy Soap purchase of $30 or more.

Replace Your Cosmetics with These Eco-Friendly Alternatives

Research shows that the average woman applies as many as 515 chemicals in her daily grooming and makeup routine. These potentially toxic additives can not only harm human health, but also pose problems for the environment in the form of PPCPs (pharmaceuticals and personal care products as pollutants).

The EPA notes the problem of PPCPs, saying chemicals associated with pharmaceuticals and personal care products are proven to be present in our water supply – mostly as a result of normal human activity such as showering. So, with a little help from the Environmental Working Group’s SkinDeep database, Earth911 rounded up these 10 safe, nontoxic and eco-friendly replacements for common cosmetics and beauty products. Read on to clean up your beauty routine, keep harmful chemicals off your skin and help prevent PPCPs from entering the environment.

Editor’s Note: EWG’s SkinDeep® database scores products on a scale of 1-10 based on the known hazards associated with ingredients listed on labels. Products scored from 0-2 are considered “low hazard,” while products ranked 7-10 are classified as “high hazard.”

Homepage Image: Shutterstock

EcoScraps Organic Potting Soil Now Available at Target

Food waste at an EcoScraps facility. Photo: EcoScraps

EcoSraps, maker of an organic, chemical-free potting soil made from composted fruit and vegetable scraps, announced recently that their products will be sold at more than 1,700 Target stores nationwide.

“There is no national brand that is bringing organic, sustainable lawn and garden products to consumers like EcoScraps is,” said Nancy Pfund, managing partner at DBL Investors, in a press release. “The growth that this company has seen in just a few short years validates that EcoScraps answers a large consumer need that has not been met until now.”

The company has formed a unique partnership with Target that will divert produce waste from the retail chain’s grocery departments to EcoScraps’ production facilities. There it will be turned into organic potting soil and then sold in Target stores.

EcoScraps says their line of organic garden and lawn products is designed to address  several environmental problems, including food waste, methane gas pollution, loss of fertile soil, toxic fertilizers and the growing prevalence of low nutrient foods. The products are safe for children and pets.

Read: The Simple Science of Composting

“EcoScraps recycles food waste into nutrient-rich garden products. Instead of clogging landfills and gassing the air we breathe, EcoScraps products enrich your soil, helping you grow healthier plants in the most environmentally friendly way,” the company says on its website.

The company was founded in Provo, Utah in 2010 by Craig Martineau and Daniel Blake, who got the idea for the product after noticing the significant amount of food that got wasted at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

“There is no way to overstate what a big milestone this is for us,” said EcoScraps CEO and co-founder Dan Blake in a press release. “This partnership with Target underscores the drive for consumers to find simple, easy ways to use sustainable, high-quality products, and we are excited to be a part of that.”

You’ll Love: What’s Being Done to Fight the World’s Food Waste Problem?

Eco-Friendly Reusables for the Kids

Living sustainably while raising children is often easier said than done. From prepackaged snacks to single-use wet wipes, parents encounter loads of hard-to-recycle disposables while caring for their kids. To help eco-minded moms and dads cut back on waste while raising happy, healthy children, Earth911 rounded up five common disposable parenting products, along with clever and reusable ways to replace them.

Homepage Image: Shutterstock

Green Your Happy Hour with a Sustainable Sip

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Launched in 2006, Square One Organic Spirits produces America’s first organically-grown, organically-fermented 100 percent rye vodka. Photo: Square One Organic Spirits

We’ve dined on organic food and toasted with organic beers and wines. But what about sustainable spirits? That’s the question Allison Evanow, founder and CEO of Square One Organic Spirits, asked herself in a San Francisco Bay Area bar back in 2002.

A longtime resident of the Bay Area, Evanow visited farmers markets and enjoyed knowing where her food came from and how it was made. A self-described “foodie” and a longstanding spirits fan, the former bartender became frustrated that she couldn’t find a natural, organic alternative to conventional cocktails.

“I remember going to restaurants and ordering a cocktail before dinner and just not feeling like what I was able to drink felt natural in any way, shape or form,” Evanow told Earth911. “I became, by default, a beer or a wine drinker, because I just really never felt that the opportunity existed to drink something that tasted a little more natural and fresh.”

After sticking to beer and wine for years, Evanow noticed that Bay Area bartenders were beginning to source cocktail ingredients from local farmers markets and assemble drink lists the same way chefs create seasonal menus.

“That was kind of what brought it together was watching what these guys were doing but realizing they didn’t have organic spirits to work with,” Evanow remembered. “So, I have to give credit to the bartenders, because they basically gave me the idea.”

Want Some Ideas for Your Next Party?: Jump to Square One signature cocktails

Eco-friendly processing

All Square One vodkas are made from organic rye grown by a group of farmers in Montana. Oddly enough, sourcing organically-grown rye turned out to be the easy part for Evanow in the early days of Square One. The hard part was finding a distiller who was willing and able to turn the rye into vodka without synthetic chemicals.

Conventional vodkas are made with genetically-modified laboratory yeasts and a range of synthetic chemical agents that regulate fermentation of grain into a mash, which is then distilled into a spirit.

These synthetic agents have become standard in the industry because they ensure high yields and a uniform, speedy process. But companies can’t use synthetics and still label their products as Certified Organic, so Evanow had to track down another option.

To solve the dilemma, Square One worked with a master distiller for nearly two years to develop and refine a production process that is able to create rye vodka without chemical additives. By utilizing natural wild yeasts and a fermentation aid allowed under organic standards, Square One became the first rye vodka in America to attain organic certification for its distillation process.

“For us, it’s as much about what isn’t in our product as much as what is in it,” Evanow said.


NEXT: Nothing wasted, everything gained: Giving leftovers second life

HOW TO: Green Your Romantic Winter Getaway

Trips to cozy cabins, posh ski resorts and warm-weather getaway destinations are pretty common this time of year. But are there ways to  make your getaway a little greener? If you’re planning a romantic vacay for your sweetheart this winter, Earth911 has you covered. From low-priced staycations to low-impact luxury, here are five ways to green your winter getaway (without skimping on the aww factor).

ski resort, ski slope, ski slopes, mountain, mountains, snow, couple at ski resort

Photo: Flickr/Skistar Trysil

1. Plan a staycation

Most of us start browsing travel sites when planning a romantic vacation. But why inflate your carbon footprint – and your monthly bills – when you can enjoy a touch of relaxation right in your own home?

Consider this: the average North American vacation for two will cost $244 per day for lodging and meals, according to the American Automobile Association. Add travel expenses to the mix, and you could be looking at a pretty hefty price-tag for your getaway. Minimize the hassle (and your credit card bill) by planning a staycation instead.

Clear your work schedule, find a sitter for the kids and take a moment to truly enjoy your home with your partner. For those cozy nights in, prepare a tasty candle-lit meal, or pamper each other with homemade spa treatments.

To stave off cabin fever, plan day-trips to unexplored locations in your hometown. Take a walk through a local park or botanical garden, visit a new sustainable restaurant or take in a show at a nearby concert venue. Turn off the cell phones, and don’t check your email for the duration of your at-home vacation to make you feel “away from it all.”

READ: 8 Ways to Green a Staycation

2. Travel green

For an eco getaway that’s a little farther from home, consider choosing a destination accessible by train or bus to cut down on your carbon footprint. Using public transportation also minimizes the stress of your trip (read: no driving or security lines). Check out our handy regional guide to finding a hot destination near you.

READ: Green Winter Weekend Getaways

If you’re set on a far-off destination for your trip, the question often becomes: To drive, or to fly? Most people think road trips carry a smaller footprint than air travel, but that isn’t always the case.

A round-trip, non-stop flight for two people creates approximately 0.9 pounds of carbon emissions per mile, according to the TerraPass carbon calculator. So, flying creates a fairly sizable footprint compared to driving a small, fuel-efficient car – which creates about 0.6 pounds of carbon emissions per mile, according to Sightline Institute.

But if your car gets 21 MPGs or less, flying may be better than road-tripping to your vacation destination. Sightline Institute estimates that larger, less fuel-efficient cars can produce a whopping 1.1 to 1.6 pounds of carbon emissions per mile, making the footprint of your airline ticket seem much smaller.

To banish both planes and cars from your winter vacay, consider traveling by boat like eco couple Barnali Ghosh and Anirvan Chatterjee. Over 12 months, the planet-friendly twosome visited 56 cities in 14 countries, including China, Turkey, Russia and Italy, and rode in only one car – cutting their travel footprint by more than half.

READ: Couples Travel the World Without Planes, Cars

3. Choose a planet-friendly destination

From buying all-local to heating with renewables, a growing number of hotels and resorts are upping the ante when it comes to sustainability. So, when choosing lodging for your getaway, opt for a hotel or resort with a conscience.

Check out our top romantic eco getaways and winter destinations to get you started, or search the Green Hotels Association database for sustainable picks from across the country.

READ: How to Find the Best Eco-friendly Hotels

4. Pick an organic sip

No romantic retreat would be complete without a bit of vino. So, why not choose a wine that’s good for you and the planet? Organic wines are made from sustainably-farmed, Certified Organic grapes – meaning less impact on local ecosystems. Many also say these wines are tastier and better for your bod.

The Organic Wine Company provides a huge selection of Earth-friendly wines, including reds, whites, blushes and bubblies for the sip that suits you best. If you can’t find this brand at your local grocer or prefer to save shipping costs and emissions, look for other sustainable wines from your area.

READ: New Company Refills, Reuses Wine Bottles

5. Get outside

Whether you’re staying home or traveling for your winter getaway, the greenest thing you can do is get outside.

Enjoying the outdoors helps you remember why protecting the planet is so important, and you’ll save on energy, too! Instead of setting the thermostat to the perfect temperature and turning on the lights in every room, plan some fun outdoor activities to feel at one with Mother Nature.

Take walk, hike or bike ride to explore your destination sans-car. And don’t be afraid to try something different! If you and your partner are typically skiers, give snowboarding a try. If you’re visiting a warm-weather destination, take a surfboarding, snorkeling or parasailing lesson to add some outdoor fun to your getaway. Learning something new together is a fun bonding experience and a great excuse to get outside.

READ: 10 Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors