Green Resolutions that Really Matter

From our friends at Living Green Magazine

Experts say that the most successful New Year’s resolutions are those where an action is practiced regularly to achieve an important goal. What could be a more important resolution than to make your life (even) greener and reduce your impact on the environment.

Here are six simple actions you can take for a greener 2012.

Educate yourself about the environmental concerns important to you. Pick one environmental topic you want to know more about (climate change, renewable energy, organic food, etc.), and make a commitment to educate yourself about that topic. Start reading books on the subject that you find at your local library, or go to your local bookseller for books. Search for nonprofit organizations and green news sites that provide information on your topic.

Use your knowledge to get involved. Contact your elected officials when an environmental issue will affect you or your community. Join the local chapter of a nonprofit organization that works on your area of concern and help them be successful.

Eat healthy, with less meat and sugar, and more fruits and vegetables. I’m not just talking about the usual January resolutions to lose weight. I’m talking about developing new healthy habits and eating more vegetarian. Have you tried meatless days, using beans and rice for your protein? How can you add more fruits and veggies to your meals?

Reducing your meat consumption has a positive effect on the environment, and for the animals too. Livestock production accounts for nearly 20 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and about 25 percent of all global water used in agriculture. Websites such as Meatless Monday and Eating Well offer numerous vegetarian recipes that are healthy for you and the environment. (To see some of our recent vegetarian articles and recipes, visit LG’s Food & Health Section.)

Go on a low-carbon diet and cut your energy use. We each have to take personal responsibility for the energy we use each day—and the estimated 20 tons per year of carbon dioxide we generate daily. Replacing your light bulbs is a start. Rethink the use of your car(s), make public transportation more of a daily feature in your life, and walk whenever possible. Insulate and caulk your home to cut heating and cooling bills, and turn out the lights around your home and business.

Adjust your thermostat to save energy and money—or do it automatically with a programmable thermostat. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that consumers can save up to 15 percent on heating and cooling bills just by adjusting their thermostats. Turning down the heat by 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours can result in savings of 5-15 percent on your home heating bill.

Cut your consumption, and recycle everything you can. Before buying anything, think about the environmental impact of that purchase—from the use of raw materials and water and energy to make the product, to the transportation and packaging—and whether you really need it. Make it easy to collect and take your paper, cardboard, and containers to your nearest recycling bins, which are often located in grocery store parking lots. Give used clothing, furniture, and toys to Goodwill or another charitable group.

Rethink your need to own a car if you live in a city with a car share service. Already more than half a million people in the U.S. are sharing instead of owning.

Strive to eliminate plastic from your life. It’s estimated that 10 percent of all the plastic created each year eventually ends up in an ocean, where it harms marine life that accidently eats it. Set a goal today of not accepting a single store bag with a purchase. Then avoid bags for a week, a month, and the rest of the year. Take your own reusable containers to a restaurant for your leftovers.

No more bottled water! Americans use an estimated 2.5 million plastic bottles an hour! The bottled water industry made nearly $11 billion in profits in 2010—money that could stay in your wallet if you used tap or filtered water and your own containers. Only about a fourth of plastic bottles are ever recycled. Recent studies have found that bottled water often contains more pollutants than city tap water. Fill up your glasses and reusable water bottles with filtered water from your kitchen.

Get involved with like-minded people in your community. As one of our 1776 patriots noted, “We must all hang together, for surely we shall all hang separately.” Margaret Mead long ago noted that we should “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Many people like your are looking for ways to connect with others to solve local, regional, and global environmental problems. Each geographic community has numerous eco-oriented groups, and myriad ways of finding out where they are. So what are you waiting for? Join your local Sierra Club, Green Drinks group, or another nature-loving group.

OK, what’s your green resolution that matters? We want to know!

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