When you first start out on a journey to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, the list of things you need to change right away can feel insurmountable.
That’s why it’s so important to take a step back and evaluate how much change you’re capable of taking on at one time. It’s a good idea to make a list of everything you would like to change, then prioritize that list based on what’s most important to you.
Then, tackle one thing on the list at a time. As soon as you’ve mastered that item, move to the next item. By taking this baby step approach, it’s much easier to stay the course on your journey and not get sidetracked or overwhelmed.
If you’re thinking about making a list of green resolutions for the New Year, here are 10 ideas to get you started.
Make Healthier Food Choices
Now is the time to look at your diet and identify where you can make some changes. Are you switching to organic? Do you want to purchase only sustainably raised meat? Do you need to cut sugar or high fructose corn syrup out of your diet? Do you want to avoid GMOs or artificial food colors? Making small changes to your diet can add up to several items on your green resolutions list, so think through all the changes you might want to make and itemize each of them.
Green Your Cleaning Routine
Which products do you use to clean your home? If you buy cleaners at the grocery store, it’s likely that they aren’t green or natural. Moreover, it’s very likely that they contain harmful chemicals like volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Lots of eco-friendly brands are now available. Check the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning to learn more about green cleaning products. Vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils also make great choices for DIY cleaning products.
Choose Natural and Herbal Remedies
Have a headache, tummy ache, or a cold? Instead of running to the pharmacy for some over the counter meds, educate yourself about natural remedies. Lavender and peppermint essential oils help alleviate headaches. Ginger and peppermint tea can soothe tummy aches. And there are lots of herbal remedies that can support your immune system when you have a cold.
Switch Up Your Personal Care Products
Did you know that there is no governing body regulating the ingredients in skin care and other personal care products? Ingredients like parabens, propylene glycol, synthetic fragrance, sodium lauryl sulfate, and more have been linked to everything from skin sensitivities to breast cancer. The Cosmetic Ingredients Review database is a helpful resource for researching the ingredients in your personal care products. The U.S. FDA also offers cosmetics ingredients information, as well as articles about areas of concern, such as beta hydroxy acids, phthalates, and talc, which is under continuing investigation as a source of asbestos in cosmetic products.
Choose to Reuse
Instead of tossing that jar or bag, think of a way you can repurpose it. Could you make a vase or a rug from it? Pinterest has lots of ideas for upcycling otherwise disposable goods. Better yet, instead of purchasing a disposable item, choose a reusable alternative. Everything from napkins to menstrual products are available in a reusable form now, so do your research before you make your next purchase.
Ditch the Plastic
Everywhere we turn, it seems like plastics abound. Our food comes in it, our personal care products come in it, and our children’s toys are made with it. Unfortunately, plastic can leach many toxic chemicals, and have been shown to be estrogenic. Try choosing stainless steel, glass, or wood over plastic whenever possible. Check out My Plastic Free Life for more ideas on avoiding plastic.
Invest in a Good Water Filter
The water coming from your tap can contain a wide array of harmful chemicals, including lead, chlorine, and fluoride as well as bacteria, viruses, and even pharmaceuticals. Strive to install a whole house water filter at some point, but in the meantime, you can use a reverse osmosis or Berkey water filter in your kitchen to filter your drinking water. Getting a shower head filter is another easy fix since what goes onto our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream.
Improve Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality can be up to five times more toxic than outdoor air. It’s a good time of year to evaluate how the air in your home is being cleaned. Do you air out your house frequently? Do you have enough house plants? Have your HVAC filters been replaced recently? Do you have a HEPA filter? What changes can you make to improve the indoor air quality of your home this year?
Grow More of Your Own Food
No matter where you live, you can grow some of your own food. Whether you can just have a few pots on your balcony or you have space for a huge garden, take steps to start growing your own food. And make sure you’re not contributing to environmental and human harm by spraying your garden with toxic chemicals like Round Up. Study up on organic farming practices and see how many of those you can incorporate into your garden. What you can’t grow yourself, strive to buy from local farmers.
Walk and Bike More
Do you live close enough to walk to the store or the park? Instead of hopping in your car for the short drive, go for a walk or bike ride instead. You’ll be conserving fossil fuel and getting exercise at the same time — two more items from your resolutions list!
Which of these green changes do you still need to tackle?
Feature image courtesy of Christopher Chan
Editor’s note: Originally published on January 15, 2012, this article was updated in December 2018.