Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ten Resolutions for 2010

I was looking up some statistics on how many new year's resolutions are kept, and found highly-variable numbers, from 46% to 3%. One site said that "going greener" is the ninth most common resolution. That's a pretty vague resolution, and bound to put one in the failure column when 2011 rolls around. There are lots of resolutions you can make, however, that are easy enough to be successful and specific enough to give you a real goal to shoot for. Here, then, are ten easy resolutions that can make a difference in twenty-ten (I'm not suggesting you do all ten. Picking one or two is a great start. If you're successful at those, why not try something else in February? Who says new year's is the only time one can make a resolution?)

1. Turn off the lights when leaving the room. This seems like a no-brainer, but when to turn off the lights actually depends on the type of bulbs you have. The Dept. of Energy has this guide to help you. For incandescent lights, they recommend turning them off whenever they are not needed.

2. Turn off the computer. It's become common for folks to leave computers on almost all of the time. Putting it in sleep mode saves about 70% more energy than a computer without a power saving feature; however, when a computer is on it still uses energy. Why not try shutting down and unplugging when you're done for the night?

3. Avoid drive-thrus. Idling your car wastes gasoline. And besides, have you ever noticed that it seems as though it's often faster to walk into a store than to go through the drive-thru? Click here if you want to read some more energy-saving tips for driving.

4. Go paperless. If you're still paying bills by check, see which ones you can pay online. Most banks and cell companies also allow you the option of getting statements only electronically. If you've simply forgotten to change to a paperless account, new year's is a great opportunity to do so.

5. Go glass. We all know by now that using disposable plastic bottles for water is a no-no. Some re-usable plastic bottles, however, also contain chemicals which may be harmful. As a cheap alternative, buy a bottle of Voss Water. It's about $2, and comes in a glass bottle, which you can re-use for all eternity (well, until, like me, you break it. But then the pieces are recyclable!). Click here to read more about the dangers of plastic bottles, but be prepared to be scared.

6. Give up paper towels. I'm not saying that you need to give them up for everything. There are certain gross situations (dog poop in the kitchen, say) for which a paper towel is a good option. However, for most day-to-day cleaning, rags made from old T-shirts or towels work as well or better. Cloth napkins can also replace paper. Click here to read about the best options for towels and napkins.

7. Walk more. Most of us just don't live in a world where we can walk everywhere. Our cities and suburbs weren't designed for it. However, I bet there are places to which you can walk, but you still choose to drive. For me, it's the post office. I can walk to the post office, but sometimes I don't. I'm going to try to walk there more often, and I'll get some exercise too.

8. Eat less cow. A recent study recommends that carnivores cut meat consumption by 10%. While it may seem like everyone you know is claiming to be a flexitarian, mean consumption is rising around the world as people in developing countries gain access to red meat. Greenhouse gases are produced by the stinky little cows themselves, so the only way to reduce these gases is to decrease demand itself. Maybe say that you'll save red meat for weekends only, or for Wednesday steak night at your favorite pub.

9. Take shorter showers. A nice long hot shower is one of my great vices. According to this site, however, the average shower uses 7-10 gallons per minute. Most Americans, according to a few studies, take showers of around 8 minutes. Using a low-flow shower head, or shower timer set at 6 minutes, will save water and expense.

10. Chill out. Most of your laundry will get clean in a cold water wash. 90% of energy use from laundry goes to heating water, and you can get a lot of savings by switching from hot to warm -- but warm water is rarely necessary. Click here for more laundry energy-saving tips from the Dept. of Energy.

100 years ago, would the people who sent this card have dreamed of the world we're living in now, both the problems and the blessings?

Coming up this week: My resolutions for 2010.

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