7 New Year's Eco-Resolutions for 2008
Ideas even a toe-dipper in the green pool can deal with
By Annie Bell Muzaurieta, for TheDailyGreen.com
Updated: 12/20/2007 2:08:12 PM
1. I will relinquish my title of Most Likely to Acquire Useless Crap I Don’t Wear or Need.
Admit it — your closet is full of had-to-have items that have been banished to a life of hanging unworn. You have enough notepads, pens, books, magnets, and collectible tchotchkes to fill a ministorage unit. Yes, our purchases keep the economy going, but most of us buy far more than we need. (There are whole TV shows dedicated to demonstrating ways to unclutter!) Remember that packaging, waste, and pollution are created to make these items available to you. If you trash those once-new goodies when you’re no longer interested in them, they will live in a landfill for years and years. It’s time to clean out, and stop collecting crap.
2. I will avenge my phantom load.
Phantom load has nothing to do with the pounds that mysteriously appeared on your midsection over the holidays. The term refers to the energy wasted by electronics and power chargers when they are plugged in but not in use. That’s right — your computer cord, cell phone charger, and time-telling DVD player are all sucking energy from the outlet even when there isn’t anything attached or being watched (hence the spookyphantom-ness). Actually cut the power to your electronics by plugging them in to a power strip and flipping the switch to “off” when you’re not watching or listening.
3. I will be smarter than bottled water companies and drink for free what they are trying to sell me.
Kicking the plastic water bottle habit might sound like an impossible feat if you’re as addicted as the average thirsty American; last year we consumed enough water to fill about 50 billion plastic bottles. If the fact that plastic is bad for the environment doesn’t get you to quit, just think: Several bottled water brands use the same H20 that’s available from your faucet. So buy an eco-chic reusable stainless steel bottle, and refill it throughout the day — for free. If you’re parched at the mere thought of quitting cold turkey, ease into a plastic-bottle–free life by bringing one less bottle a week to the gym, or by giving them up at the office.
4. If I can remember to TiVo “Dancing with the Stars,” I can remember to bring my own bags to the grocery store.
It’s as if plastic shopping bags are required to exit a store—the disposable sacks are forced on customers even when the purchase is just a can of soda. But plastic bags are made from petroleum and only about 1 percent of the estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion Annie Bell plastic bags consumed worldwide are recycled each year. Most end up in landfills (where they take perhaps 1,000 years to decompose) or in the sea. If you start bringing your own bags now, you’ll be ahead of the curve if plastic ones become outlawed in your community.
5. I will switch to recycled paper products at home (but not if they make me chafe).
We know there are some folks out there who must have two-ply, but even you can commit to changing just one thing. If you have a Larry David-like aversion to recycled toilet paper, try the paper towels. If brown won’t match your kitchen colors, look for recycled paper towels that are whitened without chlorine or stick with washable dishcloths. By purchasing recycled paper products you’re preventing trees from being chopped down, and paper waste from ending up in landfills. In addition, less energy and water are required to produce a recycled paper product.
6. I will consider whether my meal came from the farm or the factory.
Big agriculture isn’t all bad. Everyone has a guilty culinary pleasure that comes from a big factory (see: Oreos, and Cap’n Crunch). But while you’re worrying about your own carbon footprint, remember that your food has one too. Think of how many miles your food has traveled (do you really need berries from Chile?), how many chemicals are used, and how much pollution and waste have been generated in the production of your foodstuffs. Support local agriculture by shopping for food at a farmers market. The goods will be fresh, and you might enjoy meeting some of the people who grew your dinner.
7. I will take a day off from road rage and take mass transit or car-pool one day a week.
If you have public transportation options available to you, try switching to the train or bus one day a week. According to the American Public Transportation Association, public transportation use saves 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline each year, and can reduce household expenses by $6,200. Plus you’ll get a day off from road rage. If you don’t live near public transportation, try organizing a once-a-week carpool with your neighbors or coworkers. You’ll save on fuel, tolls, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by removing cars from the road. As a bonus, you’ll gain access to that exclusive carpool lane.