If you’re making New Year’s resolutions for 2013, why not make them green? Below, we offer ten easy green tips to get you started. Don’t worry: we’re not suggesting you try to tackle all of them (although if you do, let us know and we’ll send you a shiny gold star!).
1. Take an ‘Eat Local Challenge’. For one month, attempt to eat all local foods, including all groceries and prepared food. Or do as my sister did in Northampton, MA: try it for a year, eating 70 percent local.
2. Make your home as efficient as possible. Even if you can’t afford to complete remodel your home to include geothermal heating or solar panels, you can have a home performance for energy efficiency conducted by a heating and air professional, saving you money as well as help the earth.
3. Make 2013 the year you buy used. Can you do it? Buy only used and recycled items for a year? If you take on this huge challenge, remember there are a few items families should never buy used, such as bicycle helmets, car seats, cribs, and computers, unless refurbished.
4. Make your local farmers’ market a routine weekly stop. If you divide your regular grocery shopping between a number of stores, add the farmers’ market to the list, and consistently shop there. It takes time to get to know what foods are regularly offered and to get to know local farmers and artisans.
5. Leave your car parked at least one day per week. Pick a day of the week that works for your schedule, and vow to not drive. Maybe a weekend day is best, during which you’ll ride a bike, walk, or just stay home. Maybe a weekday works, on a day your kids don’t have obligations or are picked up by others in a car pool, or you car pool to work.
6. Recycle more than you throw away. In the past year, my recycling bin has consistently been fuller than my trash bin, and I couldn’t be happier. Check your local garbage service details to make sure you’re taking advantage of all you can recycle. I didn’t realize so many items were eligible for recycling until I asked for a full list.
7. Start composting. This is on my personal New Year’s list! Composting is inexpensive and easy once you get the hang of it, and even if you don’t have space or time for a garden, many local nurseries and farms will buy your compost to take it off your hands. Many cities, such as Seattle, now have composting service.
8. Hang clothes to dry. I’ll admit it: this is one that seems like way too much work. However, with three school-aged boys, we go through a lot of laundry each week, and it seems like the dryer is always turning. We’ll switch to a low-energy dryer such as those sold at Laundry Alternative or hang clothes on a line in the spring and summer.
9. Volunteer with a local outdoor effort. You don’t have to wait until Earth Day to plant a tree or build a trail. Every REI outdoor store runs a volunteer program that’s fun as well as helpful to the planet. Parks and Rec departments and local forest services also run programs in many areas.
10. Ban processed foods from your house. Once you’re trying to avoid them, you’ll be shocked to see how many of the foods we buy are heavily processed. Not only are processed foods terrible for us, but they almost always involve extensive packaging that is harmful to the environment. Replace snack food purchases such as granola bars, fruit leathers, chips, and store-bought frozen waffles with their homemade counterparts for healthier options.
What are your eco-friendly New Year’s resolutions? We’d love for you to add to this list in the comments!