From the hardworking white button down shirt in the closet to a few spare potatoes in the pantry, some things that aren’t necessarily “green” are the greenest of all simply by virtue of how versatile, useful and long-lasting they are. We’ve compiled a list of must-have multitasking basics – from clothes to foods to tools – that get amazing mileage.
1. The Little Black Dress
The little eco black dress is the updated version of the ultimate wardrobe staple and statement that is always in style. Opt for a little stretchy (give or take five pounds) with understated lines (your energy should be the wow factor) and the dress you slip on year-round can be dressed up or down with the right accessories. No wonder Audrey’s number from Breakfast at Tiffany fetched more than a million at auction!
2. A Pair of Distressed Jeans
“I would just wear it with a pair of jeans!” salespeople like to say. Denim does double duty from a basic under a cover-that-paunch tunic, tank top or biker jacket to nighttime gallery hopping with a sleek blazer. Distressed can be $200 of intentionally torn or the most broken-in pair in the closet. Slightly skinny or very minimal flair will be the longest lasting pair.
3. White Button Down Shirt
An organic cotton or hemp basic button down for day or night can take you to a business meeting or formal dinner, depending on the other layers you choose (classic navy or black jacket, Michelle Obama cardigan, recycled fur vest). Of course, his big shirt is great to throw on for eating Chinese in bed. Soy sauce stain? No worries. (See natural toothpaste, below).
For a toxin-free smile you brush with an eco alternative, but you also can use toothpaste for a myriad of other minty tasks, like scrubbing the rubber clean on your sneakers, cleaning your keys, brightening jewelry, removing watermarks from furniture and stains from clothing, nixing zits and cleaning your silver.
2. Baby Shampoo
Not just for washing sensitive little heads of hair without dyes and surfactants, organic baby shampoo is great for bathing pets and for hand washing dedicates, such as lingerie or that favorite hand knit sweater.
1. Brown Rice
Brown is the new white when it comes to starches. Brown rice is a high fiber, healthy side dish for steamed veggies, an ideal grain for homemade soups, a main dish as a curry, a favorite low impact choice for a detox cleanse, a winner for puddings and a healthy carb for that veggie risotto.
2. A Dozen Lemons
Lemon has the peel, the zeal, the juice and the vits. No wonder it is such a versatile squeeze, from that glass of hot water and juice to cleanse upon waking to the favorite back porch summer tonic. It replaces mayo in salads, enhances protein and offers a natural diuretic boost to water. Lemon brightens cocktails, adds flavor to sauces and is a must in many baked goods. Lemon can also be used for many cleaning tasks. Buy ones that are firm and smooth with no green spots. Stored in the fridge, they can last two to three weeks (room temperature, up to two weeks). Lemon juice can be frozen for six months.
1. A Roll of Painter’s Tape
Painters like this masking tape because it sticks temporarily without damaging surfaces. This also makes it is so useful around the house from hanging memos or light art on your painted walls to sealing those boxes of granola (a clothes pin can also do in a pinch). Tear off a strip to remove lint from your black tee or brown cotton quilt. I have a roll that is used constantly until the very last half inch of tape.
2. A Black Sharpie Pen
Write notes, label everything from clothing to reusable lunch containers and backpacks. Do some art while you are watching Project Runway. Address that folder or box before shipping. Those who want to make their mark boldly are simply lost without it.
1. Accordion Folder
There’s a reason teachers highly recommend these expanding cardboard file folders with sections: They are so great for keeping order, and can be reused for various projects (event planning, recipes, bill filing). They are thin enough to fit into a backpack or satchel and are pretty indestructible. Let’s face it, we haven’t abolished paper just yet, so until we can live without filing, this style is more versatile than most.
Craigslist usually has mega lists of this venerable classic. The armoire looks good and holds everything, from electronics to clothing, books and photographs. They can travel from room to room, be stripped and repainted and passed down to the next generation of people in need of extra storage.
3. Moleskin notebook
Classics never go out of style, and the strong yet slim and comfortable moleskin works for everything from notes to sketches to to do lists and beyond.
VERSATILE TRAVEL GEAR
1. An Indian Tunic
Tory Burch swears by them because they are so chic and versatile for throwing over leggings or jeans, using as a bathing suit cover up or nightgown, and hanging on an armoire knob to give your room a touch of BoHo flair. Longer lengths (just above the knee) are the best and embroidery is a huge plus.
2. A Fleece Jacket
Day or night, arctic or tropical, day hike or beach stroll; the fleece jacket makes a good basic for covering up. Who needs a robe when you can throw on your fleece? Some of us literally live in our fleece zip-ons, because they’re so inviting. Reversible styles with wind breaking fabrics on one side are a great way to go, as well, for lightweight warmth. Many fleeces are now made from recycled materials, so check the label.
3. A Train Case
We all remember the vintage Samsonite, which you can still find used at eBay or new for under $100 at other sites. Even Etsy has them upcycled with cool decals from its GetReadySetGo section, as shown above. This small hard-case traveler has made a big comeback because you can carry it on board for precious non cosmetic items (jewelry, small electronics) to check it through with all your toiletries, make-up, hair care, etc. Most have a mirror that can be used and an upper tray that can be removed and used in a hotel drawer or on a counter, or even as a stand for those champagne glasses while bathing.
4. A Soft Duffel Bag
Bring an extra on every trip for packing for home (dirty laundry, gifts generously purchased for friends and family, traveling materials such as maps and journals). They can be handy for day trips or for lugging to the ski mountain or gym for extra gear after showering or hitting the slopes. Great when for train travel or easy-to-get-to items from the main suitcase.
5. A Good Pillow
I never leave home without my own healthy pillow. Why versatile? In the suitcase it can protect breakables, or as a carry on can aid your REM sleep. Most hotels do not invest in good pure pillows and using one of those feedbag cheap pillows can really interrupt a proper night’s sleep. When packing up, use the pillowcase for dirty laundry or excess cargo. These are a must on car trips, too for passenger comfort. A good, organic pillow will last you years, so it’s worth spending the money.
1. Strand of Pearls
Julia Child, Michelle Obama and Carrie Bradshaw prove classic strands go with just about everything from the classic shifts to Oxford blouses. They evoke Chanel and bridge club preppy as well as clean and modern when chunky and paired with punk pieces. If you have to have one investment, string these along.
2. Small Hoop Earrings
The one style that literally works with almost anything in your wardrobe: Biker jacket and jeans to A-line skirt and platforms. Shoot for hoops in silver or gold or just about any finish.