Local Green Living Tips

Go green the Knoxville way with these easy local tips


Dress in your second-hand best. Save money, resources. and landfill space by buying your clothes at thrift stores, says Ben Epperson, farm manager at Beardsley Community Farm, a sustainable urban demonstration farm. "A lot of the clothes at secondhand shops are made better than the ones at cheap retail stores and you'll always save money," he says. "One of my favorites for young, active adults is the Council for the Blind store on Clinton Highway, and I also like Rummage on Sutherland Avenue. The AmVets (4105 Holston Dr.) has lots of selection—it's huge, the size of a Kroger."

Perish the packaging. You can buy everything from spelt flour and other baking staples to pasta, spices and legumes in bulk at the Three Rivers Market (937 N. Broadway), formerly the Knoxville Community Food Cooperative, and if you look lively you can also avoid any disposable packaging at all. "You can bring your own containers to the store and place bulk items directly inside," says produce manager John Bohnenstiel. "You just have to make sure to mark down the weight before filling so you're not paying by the pound for the container." Three Rivers also sells some liquids that are appropriate for the "refill your own" approach, including honey, cooking oils, and soy sauce. "They're almost always less expensive than comparable quality pre-packaged products," he says.

Break the packaging habit at chains. Just because you're grocery shopping at a big chain doesn't mean you have to settle for shrink wrap. At Food City and Fresh Market, for example, you can still pick up a few items from bulk containers, and you can always look for produce with minimal packaging, says Beardsley's Epperson. "Avoid all that triple-wrapped stuff, especially items like citrus fruit, bananas, and those plastic-wrapped ‘microwaveable' potatoes, none of which need any wrapping at all. Don't let up just because the options at a big store aren't as evident."

BYOB at Earth Fare. When a customer remembers to bring reusables, Earth Fare donates 10¢ per plastic or paper bag saved to a local non-profit, with the beneficiary rotating each month. This year, Earth Fare has already donated around $55,000 to non-profits throughout the Southeast as part of the program.

Go to school on environmental savings. Save bucks while you save the Earth's resources by using 2007-2008 school coupons for used goods at stores like Disc Exchange (15 percent off CDs and DVDs), Goodwill Industries (25 percent off total purchase), KARM Thrift Stores (20 percent off clothing, 15 percent off other merchandise, one per month), Shiny Kids Resale Boutique (20 percent off total purchase) and WeePeat Boutique ($10 off $50 or $20 off $100).


Tap TVA freebies. Log on to kub.org and take the Home Energy Audit (the hot link's under "Power Tools" on the home page) before June 30, 2008, and TVA will send you an Energy Efficiency Kit complete with two compact fluorescent bulbs, outlet and light switch gaskets, two faucet aerators, a hot water temperature gauge, a home thermometer, and the ubiquitous "How to Save" brochure.

Wheel and deal with Knoxville Freecycle Network. Currently, 6,446 active members in town (and 4,852,000 across the globe) negotiate via a moderated web group to give and receive items no longer needed, averaging around 700-800 transfers of property per month. Like the name says, the transactions and membership in the non-profit organization are free.

Consider a couple of cloth diapers. Nestled on Main Street in Strawberry Plains, Child Organics (childorganics.com) carries soft Egyptian cotton diapers, organic cotton diapers in fun colors, and an assortment of Hemp diapers that are naturally anti-bacterial and made from fibers grown without the use of chemicals and pesticides. Aside from avoiding insidious additions to the landfills, Child Organics says cloth diapers cost 25-50 percent less than disposables, add just one or two loads of laundry per week, and most appealing, encourage babies to potty train earlier.

Concentrate on oil-saving laundry detergent. Even though they cost more and are only available at stores like Nature's Pantry, Fresh Market, Three Rivers Market, and Earth Fare, environmentally-friendly laundry detergents are kinder to your clothes and the waste water disposal system. "They're soy-based, petrochemical free, formaldehyde free, neutral pH, with no artificial colors, fragrance or preservatives," says Knoxville Earth Fare's Community Coordinator Suzanne Curtis. But another advantage comes with any highly concentrated laundry detergent. "If every U.S. household used 2x concentrate instead of regular laundry liquid, we'd save over 2 million gallons of oil per year and the equivalent of 550 billion plastic shopping bags," says Curtis.


Get Smart about carpooling. Turn to technology to find a potential carpooler in the Knoxville area. Kindly sponsored by the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization and funded by TDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, the Knox Smart Trips automatic ride matching system for Knoxville is free to users. Register to find your match at knoxsmarttrips.org.

Ride less, hike more at House Mountain. Take a hike a little closer to home at House Mountain, which sits 10 miles northeast of town off Rutledge Pike. "You'll travel fewer miles to drive there than heading for the Smokies and you'll also have less idling time, which saves emissions and gas," says Lisa Huff, East Tennessee regional manager for the Division of Natural Areas. Directions to it and all 77 of Tennessee's natural areas are featured at this Department of Environment and Conservation website.

Dear Litterbug... Seen someone tossing styrofoam clamshells and six-packs of empty cans on the highways and byways and felt powerless to do anything? For next time, jot down the number for the Keep Knoxville Beautiful litterbug reporting hotline ( 877-8-LITTER) and keep it handy in the car. In days of old, the end of the line was a letter from KKB, but now it's a friendly lecture note from a state trooper. No "real" consequences; still, plenty of apologies and second thoughts have resulted from the 25-30 letters a month issued from the Knoxville area.

KAT and Co-op cooperate. Spend more than $10 on bulk ingredients, organics, and food from vendors in a 300-mile range of the city at Three Rivers Market (937 N. Broadway) and qualify for a free bus pass for all Knoxville Area Transit routes. For details, go to KAT's website.


Weed out picky pollinators. Growing bedding plants, vegetables, and herbs from seed is already a huge ease on the environment compared to using plants that have been shipped from who knows where. But take the seed strategy one step further by choosing open pollinators, says food co-op Three Rivers Market (937 N. Broadway) produce manager John Bohnenstiel: "A lot of them are heirloom, and they are self- or wind-pollinating, which means they will grow true if you save the seed and replant, unlike hybrids."

Lessen your lawn. "Like most Americans, East Tennesseans have a love affair with grass lawns," says Lisa Huff, East Tennessee regional manager for the Division of Natural Areas, part of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. "But we should be replacing grass with mulched areas, shrubs, vegetables, and flowers. To reduce carbon emission and improve conservation of water without completely giving up a lawn, the ideal is mostly garden and then only as much lawn as you can comfortably mow in 30 minutes with a human-powered push mower or even an electric mower."

Go native in Knoxville. Huff's favorite source of native plants is Sunlight Gardens in Norris, 19 miles north of Knoxville. "They offer a website where people can figure out their needs and the plants that will meet them," she says.

Bypass Wisteria Lane. To discourage non-native invasive plants that eliminate diversity in the suburban landscape (and require more fertilizers, water and pesticides), request that your most-favored nursery stop offering them for sale, says Huff. "Make the owner or manager aware you don't like them carrying wisteria, English Ivy, bush honeysuckle or Oriental bittersweet, for example," she says. "Weigh in at the chain nurseries, too. A few of them are already starting to carry native plants and you want to encourage them."