Join the local eco-living challenge

Join the local eco-living challenge
Plastic grocery bags are not recycled in Alexandria, but can be dropped off at a bag recycling container available at most grocery stores. But to avoid making the extra trip, consider bringing reusable shopping bags with you — leave them in the car for easy access. (file photo)

By Mara Benner

Have you heard the name Greta Thunberg? She is the 16-year-old girl who recently orchestrated student-led demonstrations in 100 countries to bring attention to climate change. More than 1,600 locations throughout the world were involved, along with more than 150,000 students. Her concern for environmental issues has several local Alexandria businesses launching a one-week “eco-living challenge.” 

Mellenie Runion of Alexandria’s Truly-Life, Eco Skin Care is joining with Alexandria-based businesses Greener Cleaners, Maid to Clean, Bon Vivant, Juniper Eco Salon and Mom’s Organic Market for the challenge. The businesses are encouraging individuals to rethink how they use electricity, plastic, glass, paper, cardboard and even compost. During the one-week challenge, participants are encouraged to change their habits and lessen their carbon footprint.

Mara Benner (courtesy photo)

To join the challenge, incorporate environmentally friendly habits into your life and share your experiences through the Truly-Life social media platforms. The challenge begins April 7 with the eco businesses listed above determining winners who will be announced on Earth Day, April 22. For details, visit

Runion’s lifelong passion has been environmentally friendly living, which is what inspired her to launch Truly-Life. Runion grows most of the herbs used in her biodegradable natural product line in her back yard. I recently asked her a few questions about environmentally friendly living.

Benner: What are you currently doing to help the environment?

Runion: I am pleased to offer all natural products that are grown locally and support  greening the city. I also serve on the Alexandria Beautification Commission which is focused on recognizing those who support the greening of our area and ensuring a sustainable city. … We are finalizing a new park at Bellefont and Route 1. The one-acre lot will be transformed into a natural habitat absorbing pollution and supporting wildlife through a wildflower and grass meadow with 14 additional trees. 

B:  What simple things do you recommend residents do to reduce their carbon footprint?

R: Let’s start with plastic straws. When you are at your local restaurant for a meal, please do not request plastic straws. It is a very simple task that helps to really reduce our carbon footprint.  If you really like straws, then purchase a metal or paper straw to use with your drinks.

B:  Speaking of plastic, the plastic bags from the grocery store are not able to be recycled in Alexandria, correct? What should we do with our plastic bags?

R: Correct, you can’t recycle the plastic bags in with regular home recycling. Collect them and drop them off at a bag recycling container available at most grocery stores. This includes all the plastic films that are around purchased items such as toilet paper, or sliced cheese. … Take shopping bags with you to the store for your purchases.  Leave them in your car for easy access when you do errands. 

There are two types of plastic bags. The thinner plastic gets recycled in the grocery store bins.  Your heavier Zip Lock bags or those bags with a perforated top like a potato chip bag should be collected too and separated from the thinner plastic. There is only one grocery store that helps to recycle the heavier plastic bags: Mom’s Organic Market at 3831 Mount Vernon Ave. 

B: What else would help with our carbon footprint?

R: As Alexandrians, we are focused on our health and wellbeing so when possible, walk to do your errands.  It is a win-win because you get exercise in while you are helping reduce your carbon footprint by not driving cars.

B: How can readers learn more and participate in the challenge?

R: Be part of the solution by joining us for the eco living challenge.  You will receive additional tips on how to incorporate simple tasks into your life. Learn more by visiting and join other environmentally-friendly Alexandrian businesses through social media using the hashtag #2019EcoLiving.

The writer is founder of Four Directions Wellness, intuitively connecting body, mind, emotions and spirit, which is affiliated with the GW Center for Integrative Medicine.