With the start of a new year comes hope and change and most importantly, opportunity. In reaction to such inspiring settings, most of us turn to the old pad and pen to set up our course for the next year. So, what is on your list?
As you start to compile your outline for the next 365 days, let us throw in our two, green cents. But this year, let’s do it a little differently. We are tackling the most common New Year’s resolutions and applying a little environmental know-how. You still get what you need while keeping Mother Nature in the mix.
Get the ball rolling (or dropping) and start by actually making your list:
- Keep it real– Set the bar at an attainable height. You want the goals to stick, not just have the list stick to the fridge till 2011.
- Be specific – Add details so you know what to expect and have a jump start on how to accomplish it.
- Think tiny – Big goals are made up of a bunch of small ones, so start little and build up.
Resolution#1: More Family Time
According to About.com, “Recent polls conducted by General Nutrition Centers, Quicken and others shows that more than 50 percent of Americans vow to appreciate loved ones and spend more time with family and friends this year.”
Sounds good to us! But what to do with all that time…
The kids – Explore the great outdoors
To inspire an appreciation of nature, give your kids a chance to really explore it. Do some quick research to find out more about the environmental treasures in your own backyard.
Your significant other – Get up, get out and do something
Getting involved in your local community can be a fast, easy way to get connected. A simple trip to the farmers market can help sustain local growers, hook up with your neighbors and find some fresh, organic grub. Also, a Saturday of volunteering at your community garden can help you better understand the use for your own compost or those old tires you were storing in your backyard.
Parents – Food, glorious (organic) food
Mom and Dad probably prepared, literally, thousands of meals for you as a child. Repay them with a delicious family feast made from sustainably sourced ingredients. Sustainable Table has some great suggestions, or you can also whip up your mom’s favorite recipes using environmentally conscious ingredients like free-range eggs, locally raised bacon and organic fruit.
Resolution #2: Resurrect the Workout
Weight and overall health often take the top spot on the list of resolutions. In fact, diet and health awareness is growing now more than ever, and not just among adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2006:
- 18 percent of adolescents age 12-19 years were overweight.
- 15 percent of children age 6-11 years were overweight.
- 11 percent of children age 2-5 years were overweight.
While motivation may be your biggest hurdle, starting with simple steps is both healthy and green. Though gym memberships can be convenient and provide an opportunity to meet people, adding up membership fees and the amount of energy it takes to power a 24-hour gym may be cause to reconsider your routine. Get back to the basics and try taking your activities outdoors:
- Take a jog around the neighborhood instead of on a treadmill.
- Swim laps in a community pool instead of using an elliptical machine.
- Lift yard waste in your garden instead of free weights in the gym.
Resolution #3: Kick the Nic
Maybe you tried last year, and the year before that…but if it didn’t stick, just try again.
For more motivation, let’s start with your wallet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S., cigarette smoking costs more than $193 billion annually. And smoking doesn’t just wreak havoc on you, secondhand smoke costs more than $10 billion in health care expenditures.
But what do cigarettes cost the planet? According to TreeHugger, “Each year, nearly 600 million trees are destroyed to provide fuel to dry tobacco. Put in another way, one tree is destroyed for every 300 cigarettes. Globally, tobacco curing requires 11.4 million tons of solid wood annually.”
But once the crop is stable, it takes quite a bit to keep it going. “Tobacco is a sensitive plant prone to many diseases. It therefore requires huge chemical inputs: up to 16 applications of pesticide are recommended during one three-month growing period.”
But the planetary harm of cigarettes doesn’t stop at production. One of the most environmental damaging results of the cigarette industry lies in the trash. During the 2008 International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers collected 1,362,741 cigarette butts along U.S. coastlines.
Ready? Check out SmokeFee.gov for some helpful info.
Resolution #4: Balance Your Budget
Debt is on everyone’s mind nowadays, but where does the average consumer stand? According to Money-Zine. com:
- Consumer debt in 2009 now stands at $2.5 trillion.
- The average household in 2009 carried nearly $5,100 in credit card debt.
Many believe that balancing a budget and going green don’t exactly fit together, but the truth is, the two go hand-in- hand. Though many eco-luxuries may still be out of reach for most, many daily green activities can actually save you money. Check out our 8 Ways to Go Green and Save Hundreds and in just one year, you could save a minimum of $762.30! And this doesn’t even factor in the long-term savings.
Resolution #5: Up Your Volunteering Efforts
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor, “About 61.8 million people, or 26.4 percent of the population, volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2007 and September 2008.” As those millions can tell you, volunteering is an excellent way to meet new people while benefiting your local community. Check out our 8 Ways to Get Involved as well as HelpOthers.org to find ways to get out there and get involved.
Already have a volunteering gig? Whether it is for an organization with an environmental focus or not, volunteering in general can be an eco-friendly experience. Here are a few things you can do to green the act of helping:
- Carpool with others from the same organization.
- Bring a stainless steel water bottle instead of a disposable plastic one.
- Set up a recycling system at the organization if one doesn’t already exist.
- If a recycling system cannot be put into place, collect papers, plastic bottles and cans and recycle them at home.
Resolution #6: Take a Load Off!
The American Psychological Association (APA) makes it crystal clear: Americans are too stressed. In fact, in a 2007 APA press release stated that “One-third of Americans are living with extreme stress, and nearly half of Americans (48 percent) believe that their stress has increased over the past five years.”
Although there are many ways to add relaxation to your list – yoga, mediation, organization – a good ol’ fashion vacation can often do the trick. While planning and saving for your next trip, keep in mind the keys to green traveling.
Eco-tourism is about respect for the environment. If you’re traveling by car, remember to reduce your potential waste by using reusable storage containers for travel snacks and other take-along items. And, for optimal gas mileage, ensure your vehicle is in tip-top shape before hitting the road, therefore reducing its environmental impact.
And for eco-centric locales, check out our list of top eco-destinations.
Resolution #7: Train Your Brain
Keeping the brain active and in shape is a daily need that can be accomplished in a ton of ways. If you’re looking to start off with a great read, William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s Cradle to Cradle is the ultimate in-depth look at the science and research behind some of the most innovative ideas in the sustainable scene. If you’re into the DIY movement, Lori Bongiorno’s Green, Greener, Greenest is chock full of tips for going green on any budget, schedule or lifestyle.
Want to bite off a smaller chunk of know-how while still learning about the world you live in? Sign up for the Earth911.com weekly e-newsletter and keep exercising that frontal lobe.