New year's resolutions often lean toward the diet and health related, and ultimately green issues ARE health issues, many even diet-related, so why not create a completely green new year's resolutions list for 2012?
There really are countless ways in which we can improve as a society and as individuals when it comes to respecting and preserving our natural environment and resources, so if some of these don't speak to you, do some research and find others that do.
Here's my list:
- Stop with the plastic bags! We all know this one, but I'm a big offender. Way too often I'm caught shopping without my reusable bags. Always keep a reusable grocery bag (or 2) with you. Read this article about the garbage pit in the middle of our Pacific Ocean. Most of the pit is plastic. There are other plastic products in our daily life, too, that we need to curb use of -- plastic drinking bottles, food "jars" -- begin buying more bulk goods, re-use old jars and containers or buy glass ones that can last a lifetime as storage containers.
- Get involved! Volunteer or join a community group, place of worship, take a class. Building strong social networks and closer community are good preventive measures when it comes to protecting the environment and our health.. Perhaps you make a new friend or acquaintance in a class who can drive with you to the grocery store or on other errands, you both can save money, a precious resource, and keep our air cleaner. We share information and things. Maybe you tell a new classmate about the local farmers' market she hadn't known existed, or she shares her children's old clothing with you for your children. This list could go on and on.
- Unplug 'em! Many of the techno devices hanging around our homes and offices use nearly as much energy while off as they do on. The remedy is either to unplug them entirely or plug them into a power strip that can be turned off when they're not in use. The money and energy savings can be hefty.
- Grow some of your own food! Even if you live in the city you can plant a window box with tomatoes and herbs, or join or start a neighborhood community garden. If you've more space, good for you! Growing food is good for body and soul. It connects us to nature, to our families and neighbors, it CAN shrink our food bills, it's good exercise. It's also local and hopefully organic, so lessens our footprint with regard to petroleum products.
- Vote green with your green! Daily voting with our wallets is one of the best ways to influence companies to green their practices from top to bottom, side to side. Newsweek makes knowing the largest national and global companies' footprints an easy task. They survey, crunch and regurgitate relevant information and data to give us their now yearly Green Rankings.
- Educate yourself and your family! There are so many good books, websites and documentaries helping us to understand the nature conservation and resource misuse issues we must all deal with, and most of them offer very positive visions and realistic and empowering resolutions to these often gloomy problems. Just a few to get you going: The Great Disruption, The Big Thirst, The Dirty Life, Last Child in the Woods, The Spell of the Sensuous, Real Food, and Little Heathens.
- Plant a tree! Shel Silverstein was right, trees give and give to us. They provide not only shade and color, but substantial and necessary social, environmental and financial benefits. They can cool your home in the summer and reduce your energy use, indirectly they can increase your home and community value. Planting trees and shrubs can attract local birds, insects and animals and restore it to a more serene and natural setting. And it's advised to enlist an expert arborist to care for those trees you already have and to assist you in choosing new ones that are appropriate for your landscape and home placement.
- Re-use items! It saves money and earth's resources, reduces air and water pollution. There are so many items we use daily that we CAN re-use repeatedly if we just take the moment to clean it, fold it, wrap it. A few examples of items I try to re-use regularly are rubber bands (I've created a colorful ball that contains them and looks like a small sculpture at my desk), paper (I print on the backs of all full-sized pieces and staple together pads for notes from envelopes and smaller pieces), foil, plastic bags, and many glass jars I wash, dry and re-use as long as I'm able. I will look for more ways in 2012 that I can re-use instead of buy new.
- Watch your seafood! Our oceans and sea life are vital resources integral to a healthy planet and people. The Monterey Bay Aquarium makes choices easy with their Seafood Watch website and handy pocket guides and smart phone and mobile apps.
- Plug the holes! Filling gaps around doors and windows is easy because we can see and fill them, but finding the usually plentiful "invisible" holes in our homes requires performing a blower-door test for a nominal (in the end money-saving/energy saving) fee. Most of our heat and cooling is lost through these larger "invisible" crevices that can run from basement to attic. Once you find them you can seal them with non-toxic caulk or foam.