Easy New Year Resolutions for the Eco-Challenged

You want to live more healthfully and with less of a footprint on the planet and maybe have vowed that this year it will really happen.  But it can sometimes be tough to do and by the second week of January you’re already slipping back to your old ways.

So here are ten easy resolutions that any eco-backslider can successfully take on.  And even if you’re too sad a case to stick with even these, every time you try you’ll be making a difference, for you and your world.  Happy New Year! 

Plastic water bottlesCredit: http://www.villagecoachfitness.com/get-out-your-water-bottle1. Enough with the bottled water

If you really don’t trust your tap water, then trade your bottled water habit for an at-home filter on your tap or water pitcher.  The Container Recycling Institute estimates that Americans purchase 34.6 billion plastic water bottles each year, with nearly 80% of them going to landfills and incinerators.  840 a second, all day long! Get a couple of cool looking reusable bottles to carry around instead. Plus, using tap water instead of imported bottles helps you meet your Shop Locally resolution, below.

2. Take control of your shopping bag

Plastic shopping bags are cheap and convenient, at least for the store.  And if they work for you then resolve to recycle each one.  Chances are you can’t add them to your home collection of cans, bottles and paper - thin bags tend to jam the plastic grinders – but many stores realize that they need to be part of the solution and have recycling bins specifically for plastic bags.  Take advantage of that and add newspaper wrappers, clean food wrap and other plastic film to their box.

Or, remember to bring along your reusable bag.  Remembering could be the hardest part of this commitment, so store bags near the house door or in a convenient place in the car.  But be sure to keep them clean.  Leaking food can cause health issues that will have you back in the throwaway plastic habit again. 

3. Cut back on paper towels

If you’re using paper towels for wiping up spills, counter cleaning, window washing and tidiness at dinner, you may be spending about $3.50 per week on something that likely gets used only once and is then sent to the landfill. A cloth towel costs about $1.37 and can last for over a year.  Adding a few cotton cloths or napkins to the regular wash adds virtually nothing to your laundry expense.  This is an easy one.  

Neighborhood Bike RidingCredit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=6970&picture=girl-on-bike">Girl On Bike by Bobby Mikul4. Use a bike for short trips

It’s all too true that most American roads are not bike friendly, but if you live in an area where you can comfortably get to the store, the park, to school or to work by bicycle, why not do it?  If not daily, then try it every now and then.  Every trip by bike instead of car is a good thing in so many ways.  Even if you don’t have a bicycle doable errand to run, just take a leisurely ride around the neighborhood.  It’s better than video games, TV or other mindless stuff that you might do indoors and you’ll be improving your health, if even just a little bit, with every bike trip.

5. Shop locally

You want strawberries in winter?  You can probably buy them in a nearby store.  But you can bet those babies have got more miles on them than a travelling circus.  Fresh, locally produced food is more and more an easy option for you to chose, is likely produced with fewer chemicals, doesn’t require the fuel and storage needs of well travelled food, supports the workers of your local economy and keeps the countryside as countryside.  You’ll have to pay a reasonable price for it, but do you really want to keep eating cut-rate food?

6. Become a weekday vegetarian

Doing the vegetarian thing may sound nice, but how can I live without a burger once in while? If you can’t make 100% vegetarian status then try for the weekdays only.  When the weekend comes chow down on the barbequed wings, grilled steak and all of that heavy party food if you want.  You’ll still be doing a lot for your health and you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint by 0.7 tons or 1400 pounds over the course of a year.  According to Planet Green that’s about the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated by one round-trip flight from Boston to Wichita, Kansas.  Enjoy your trip!

7. Eliminate phantom power

Your electronics really don’t take very long to get recharged.  Don’t leave them in the charger all day.  And when you’re not using it, unplug the charger.  Or invest in chargers that stop drawing current when the device's battery is full. Another option: Use a power strip to turn off all of your chargers at once.  You’ll also know where everything is if they’re all in one place.  Or add a timer to the power strip so that it automatically shuts off after an hour. 

8. Add some green power to your home

This doesn’t take much more effort than picking up the phone and calling a contractor.  Solar hot water heating, a tankless hot water heater, more insulation or just a little caulk and weatherstripping can have a big effect on your home energy consumption and a pretty quick payback.  Plus, your local energy company will likely help you decide which step to take first and may even give some money to help do it.

9. Replace your light bulbs

Despite what you may have heard, it only takes one person to change a light bulb – you.  Replacing your light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights can cut your energy use for lighting by as much as 80 percent.  And if you want to be part of the rising LED tide, change out frequently used lights to very long lasting, very low heat producing, dimmable and cheap to operate LED fixtures.  Installation costs can be high, but they continue to fall in price.

10. Go paperless

Look at all the clutter around your house.  Paper may be a big part of it.  If you’re not receiving your routine bills online or paying most of them that way, this may be the year to do it.  Though paying the Post Office the price of a stamp to deliver an envelope from your door to the people that you do business with may still be one of the greatest service bargains around, the cost of paper, envelopes, mail trucks, paper check handling, is usually unnecessary and so, 20th Century.  You may even get a prize from those that you do business with to go paperless.  Plus if your cash flow requires that you delay a payment until the last minute, doing it online fits the bill.