After all of the holiday decorations come down, presents have been unwrapped and leftovers have been stored away in the fridge, its time to put on your party hats and ring in 2012. With the end of each year and the beginning of another, we celebrate a clean slate and make resolutions to live healthier and happier lives. On January 1, the gyms are packed, everyone’s on a diet and smokers are trying to kick the habit. It’s great to see, but unfortunately not all New Year’s resolutions work out.
This year, let’s make resolutions that are good for both the planet and us, and ones that we can actually stick to. Here are a few suggestions on ways we can all live greener lifestyles in the New Year. The good news is that when making changes to be more eco-friendly, even little changes can make a big difference. Here are a few of our suggestions:
Make sure your home is energy efficient. Conduct a home energy audit in which you can assess how energy efficient it is, which corresponds to how environmentally friendly it is. A professional auditor will check the insulation as well as heat and cool air distribution. Contact your utility provider to arrange for a free or discounted audit. To further ensure efficiency install weatherstrip windows, which can prevent drafts. To ensure your energy comes from 100 percent renewable sources, like wind and solar power, sign up for green power, also through your utility provider
Preserve Water. Turn off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth and when you are in the shower. Saving even a little bit of water is helpful. To go a step further, install a low-flow faucet or aerator that use 30 to 50 percent less water. Adding one of these to even just one faucet will yield results.
Unplug electronics when not in use. Even when we turn appliances off, gadgets like TV’s, cell phone chargers, laptops and kitchen appliances are still sapping energy, or what’s become known as “phantom energy”. When electronics and appliances are not in use its best to unplug them, you’ll save energy and cut down on your bills too, or you can purchase a smart power strip, which protects against phantom energy.
Buy Food Locally: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 16 percent of energy usage throughout the country is accounted for by the U.S. food system, which includes the transporting of food from coast to coast. Buy foods locally to cut down on fuel emissions while at the same time supporting local farmers. In particular, make sure to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season.
Meatless Mondays: Celebs like Gwenyth Paltrow, Russell Simmons, Alicia Silverstone and Oprah are hoping on board the Meatless Monday movement. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock is responsible for approximately 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and is a huge contributing factor to global warming. Even having one meatless meal a week can make a huge impact. Vegetarian Times and VegWeb offer tasty recipes for meatless dishes.
Start a compost: Composting is a great way to recycle decomposed materials like coffee grinds, food scraps, saw dust and yard trimmings that you plan to throw away, and using them for planting. Check out the Environmental Protection Agency website for a full list of items that can be composted.
Switch to eco-friendly products. Make the transition with products you use in your every day life to save both money and the environment. For a start, use a reusable, aluminum water bottle instead of a disposable plastic water bottle, shop with reusable shopping bags instead of plastic ones, and purchase green cleaning supplies that have less toxins in them and are less harmful. You can even incorporate green products into your feminine hygiene products. Reusable menstrual cups like the DivaCup, are environmentally friendly, reducing landfill waste, and prevent women from exposing their bodies to harmful toxins.
More and more eco-friendly products are cropping up on the shelves of our local supermarkets so you have a wider variety to choose from, but not all eco-friendly products are created equal. Check labels for ingredients and certifications and if you can, do research on the product before purchasing.
Find new ways to recycle. When its time for spring cleaning, don’t throw out old clothes and electronics, have a neighborhood yard sale instead. Yard sales are a great way to get rid of old belongings while also recycling them and making a little extra money. It goes the same when shopping, check out your local thrift store or websites like FreeCycle.org where you can get free products that are used instead of purchasing new products off the shelves. You can also easily recycle old electronics like laptops and cell phones at places like Best Buy, Circuit City and Radio Shack
Find alternate methods of transportation. Try walking or biking to work instead of driving your car, or if it’s too far, try and carpool with a coworker. Public transportation is also a great option and according to TreeHugger.com, saves 855 million of gallons of gasoline each year. If you’re going to purchase a car this year, upgrade to one that has improved gas mileage. The average car gets 17 miles per gallon, shoot for 22 miles per gallon to help save on gasoline, which not only helps you save money, but also reduces car emissions. FuelEconomy.gov is a great resource to help calculate miles per gallon on your car and compare different car’s fuel efficiency.
Whether you are just starting to learn about living a green lifestyle, or consider yourself a pro, there is always room for improvement. It’s a New Year and the perfect time to start fresh. What will your green New Year’s resolution be? Share with us in the comment box below!