It's the end of the year as we know it (the end of the world is apparently 12 short months away). But let's just assume that the world isn't going to end next December. If that's the case, and we're going to be around a little while longer, then it probably would behoove us to take better care of the planet. So why not ignore that perennially-failed weight loss resolution and try out a green (yet simple) resolution this year?
In fact, this very blog was started as part of my New Year's resolution to be greener, and it's spawned several other green resolutions - such as a resolution to shift to greener beauty products and a resolution to eat more sustainably.
I started small, however. It seems as though one big reason that New Year's resolutions fail is that folks aim to make a complete lifestyle change in the split-second between December 31 and January 1st. To make resolutions stick, it can be helpful to scaffold. Start with a small green resolution, and then, if you conquer it by March, you can make a new one. There's no reason that January is the only time one can set goals.
So here are some suggestions for some green resolutions in various shades from light green to dark (I'm not there yet).
These light green resolutions won't require much effort on your part, and are a great place to start if you haven't thought much about greening your life, or have thought yourself too busy to make greener choices. Some small reminders, like a sticky note next to your faucet telling you to turn off the water, will make these even easier.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth, saving up to 8 gallons of water per day.
- Start carrying a reusable, BPA-free water bottle instead of a single-use water bottle. Those single-use bottles will cruddy up our planet for up to 1,000 years!
- Switch to compact-fluorescent lightbulbs - those are the swirly-looking ones. They are 75-80% more efficient than regular lightbulbs.
- Switch to reusable shopping bags. Not only will this switch save marine animals and cut back on waste in our landfills, but reusable shopping bags are easier to carry and hold more without tearing.
So, perhaps you're ready for more of a challenge. You want to make a resolution that has the potential to make you feel much more virtuous than your next-door neighbors who throw out a giant bag of beer bottles every Monday morning. These medium green resolutions should give you enough green cred to allow you to glare disapprovingly at those around you for at least five minutes per day.
- Observe Meatless Monday. Or Tuesday. Or Friday. But one day a week, go meatless. The benefits of a vegetarian diet are plentiful, but you don't have to go full veg to help yourself and the planet. The production of meat places a huge burden on the earth, and the U.N. recommends that all of us cut back. The Meatless Monday site can help you with tips and recipes for this resolution.
- Try out No-Buy Month. For the month of January (or a different month), don't buy anything. Lower consumption is always green! You can decide how restrictive you'd like this month to be: maybe you try not to spend anything. Or maybe you just stop buying non-consumables. If no-buy January works out, you might want to set a goal for other no-buy months throughout the year. I've found that no-buy month brings a sense of peace and calm to life that is an even better reward than the money you save.
- Tele-commute one or two days a week. If your job will allow you, work from home when you can (and many employers will consider it if you lay out the energy savings that they'll have as well as the ones that you will). Click here for some tips on making this work.
- Give up paper towels. You might want to keep one roll around for really gross messes, or for cleaning the toilet. But really, paper towels are mostly unnecessary. Just cut up some old T-shirts or towels and you've got enough rags to do almost any cleaning job.
Ready to go big? (And let me just tell you, I'm not there yet. I'm still medium green). Here are a few ideas:
- Stop (or greatly reduce) your driving. You can ride a bike, take public transport, or walk. Of course, the feasibility of this depends on where you live and where you work. But most of us can do better than we do when it comes to using fossil fuels.
- Start producing your own food. Even city dwellers can make this work; you can be part of the growing trend of urban farms.
- Make your own cleaners and beauty products. There are tons of websites and books that can tell you how to make green products that are healthier for you and for the earth.
So dark green, these resolutions are almost black
If you're really looking to change your life:
- Give up air travel
- Become a zero-waste family
- Move to a smaller dwelling
- Buy all of your clothes at thrift stores
Do you have a green resolution this year?