Every year at this season, we sit back after the warm glow of the family holiday and reflect on what we want for the new year to come. For most people new year’s resolutions usually take the form of personal things we want to achieve for ourselves…whether losing weight or having more time for family, taking up a new hobby or getting rid of an old bad habit like smoking. But how often do our new year’s resolutions take the form of things that could actually help change the world we live in, while also bettering our own lives? And how often do we carry our new year’s resolutions throughout the entire year?
Well, here are some ways you can gain a fresh start to the new year, be more sustainably responsible, benefit your life and your family’s and at the same time save money by living a more carbon neutral lifestyle. Counting down (or is it up?) to all of the ways you can start the new year off with tips that you can be sure will let you turn around at the end of next year knowing you carried your new year’s resolution through the entire year and beyond to the benefit of all.
Tips to Your New Year of Sustainable Living:
1. Simplify Your Life:
In our modern complicated culture with all the stresses of buy more, want more, hurry, hurry hurry…simplifying our lives can go a long way in creating not only a greener lifestyle, but one that is healthier and less stressful as well. Here are a few simple ways to start moving your life toward more simplicity:
• Minimize things in your life – Use less, conserve more.
What can you use less of? Makeup, toilet paper, printer paper, paper napkins, just to name a few.
• Maximize your usage – Use it up, wear it out, get the most out of everything from your clothing, to food, to cleaning products, and you’re your personal energy.
• Prioritize – Make time for what matters. Eliminate the things that don’t
matter. Don’t waste time, money or natural resources on the wrong things or in the wrong ways.
• Consolidate – Get organized. Learn to plan better. What can you do to consolidate things in your life…Sometimes simplifying just means learning to reorganize and plan your day better. Instead of making multiple trips out to shop, run errands or pick up the kids, plan to do it all at once. Do your food shopping on the way home from work, or pick up your laundry while you are out and about at lunchtime. Planning things to minimize your travel or consolidating the things in your life can go a long way to creating an easier and at the same time more sustainable lifestyle.
And here are some more green New Year resolution ideas that you can take action on that are easy to keep on going throughout the year.
2. Save Energy to Save Money:
The price of energy still eats into many family budgets and our natural energy resource reserve continues to dwindle. While it’s not possible for everyone to get off the grid, it is easy for everyone to reduce personal consumption. From electricity to natural gas, these tips will help.
• Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer to save on heating and cooling costs.
• Change out your regular light bulbs with LED light bulbs that have a longer lifespan and take up less energy, saving you money at the same time as reducing energy usage.
• Unplug appliances when you’re not using them. Or, use a “smart” power
strip that senses when appliances are off and cuts “phantom” or
“vampire” energy use.
• Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating the water.
• Use a drying rack or clothesline to save the energy otherwise used during machine drying.
3. Save Water to Save Money:
• Take shorter showers to reduce water use. This will lower your water and
heating bills too.
• Install a low-flow showerhead. They don’t cost much, and the water and energy savings can quickly pay back your investment.
• Make sure you have a faucet aerator on each faucet. These inexpensive appliances conserve heat and water, while keeping water pressure high.
• Plant drought-tolerant native plants in your garden. Many plants need minimal watering. Find out which occur naturally in your area.
• Skip the bottled water and use a water filter to purify tap water instead of buying bottled water. Not only is bottled water expensive, but it generates large amounts of container waste.
• Bring a reusable water bottle, preferably aluminum rather than plastic,
with you when traveling or at work.
4. Home Conservation:
Conservation begins at home in so many ways. By considering the true value of what we use and how we use it, we can find better ways to conserve and in fact enhance our life and health.
• Try Natural Home Care – It’s important to rethink the way in which we care for our home. Not only are many of todays chemically based products damaging to our environment, they can also cause a myriad of health problems.
Cleaning your home and managing pests can easily be achieved without all of the risks to health and planet. Try using natural household cleaners like those made by Method, Greenworks or Meyers. Or better yet….Timeless and best kept secret, yet effective non-toxic cleaning products your grandmother probably knew well and used…Make your own from simple ingredients around the house like baking soda, vinegar, lemon, and soap. Making your own cleaning products saves money, time, and packaging-not to mention your indoor air quality. It’s a great way to minimize your usage and maximize every day household ingredients inexpensively and efficiently.
• Use Organic Pesticides – There are many natural, more sustainable options to controlling household pests. Through prevention and the use of organic pesticides like citrus oil based products, almost all home pest issues can be prevented.
• Improve the Air Quality of Your Home Using Air Purifying Houseplants –
Why invest in expensive electrical air purifiers when you could purchase a few air purifying houseplants to clean and filter your air naturally and inexpensively? While all indoors plants are able to purify indoor air to some degree through their normal photosynthesis processes, according to NASA scientists, some were found to be more beneficial than others in removing harmful household toxins, even removing 90% of chemicals in the air in only twenty-four hours! Some especially good plants include Areca Palms, Baby Rubber Plants, Boston Ferns, Bamboo Palms or Reed Palms, Ficus Trees, Snake Plants, Unbrella Plants, Spider Plants, Marginata or Dragon Trees, Moth Orchids and Peace Lilies…to name just a few. Choosing plants for your house that can clean the air as well as make a decorative statement can be fun as well as a healthy way to add something special to your New Year’s sustainability resolution.
• Going Green in the Kitchen – Now that you are on a roll with creating a more sustainable home as part of your living more sustainable resolution, here are a few more fun things you can do to crate a more sustainable kitchen. Try using more sustainable cookware such as cast iron for frying or glass for baking…Yes, the ones your grandmother used to use. Cooking and baking with environmentally-friendly and safe pots, pans and ovenware is important both to the environment and your health. Instead of Teflon, make the switch to cast iron cookware: it’s easy to clean, simple to use, energy-efficient and versatile. And if you season the pan well with oil it won’t be nearly as tough a clean up job as you remember from childhood. Another simple swap out for a more sustainable kitchen choice…Cutting boards. Get rid of those old unhealthy plastic cutting boards and go with a marble one. They are not only beautiful, but make for an easy to clean antibacterial surface that will last for ages. Or try a shatter proof glass one. A third choice, though in many ways may be your #1 choice, is wood. It’s naturally antibacterial (bet you didn’t know that) and will actually neutralize 99.9% of bacteria left on the wood within 24 hours. Best choice is bamboo, for sustainability. The only downfall of bamboo or another woods, of course, is that they must be hand washed and dried thoroughly after washing…so they do take a little more work. Wood may also be a little bit pricey, but the lifespan will make up for the cost if well cared for. And of course, it also goes without saying that you can swap our some of your unhealthy plastic cooking utensils for bamboo as well…Or at least opt for non Teflon metals that are nontoxic. And lastly, replace your plastic containers for reusable glass ones. Leftover foods will keep longer and make for less waste.
• Eat smart – If you eat meat, add one meatless meal a week. Meat costs a lot at the store-and it’s even more expensive when you consider the related environmental and health costs. Buy locally raised, humane, and organic meat, eggs, and dairy whenever you can. Purchasing from local farmers keeps money in the local economy. Whatever your diet, try to eat low on the food chain. This is especially true for seafood.
5. Be Smart & Buy Smart:
Buying in bulk can in the long-run have many sustainable benefits, as well as financial.
• Purchasing food from bulk bins can not only save money, but also save on packaging.
• Buy clothes that don’t need to be dry-cleaned. This cuts down on toxic chemical use and saves money at the same time.
• Invest in high-quality, long-lasting products. You might pay more now, but you’ll be happy when you don’t have to replace items as frequently (and this means less waste!).
6. Recycle & Reuse:
It seems like a simple thing, but how many times have you thrown away things that could have been recycled, upcycled or reused by someone else? Making even this one thing a New Year’s resolution can be a dynamic change for the better. So try a few of these…
• Get to know your neighbors and try sharing things like power tools and other appliances.
• De-clutter your closets and throw a clothes swap party…It’s not only fun, but it’s like getting new things without spending any money.
• Clean out your garage and throw a neighborhood Yard-Take-Away Party. You’ll be amazed how many things your haven’t used in years that someone else has been looking for. And, you might find something you need that’s been hovering about in someone else’s garage.
• Keep electronics out of the trash. You really don’t need the latest, greatest, newest electronics just because the advertising want you to think you do. Keep peer pressure out of your psyche and keep your cell phones, computers, and other electronics as long as possible.
• And…when you do upgrade your equipment, donate or recycle them responsibly. E-waste contains mercury and other toxics and is a growing environmental problem.
• Borrow from libraries instead of buying personal books and movies. This saves money, not to mention the ink and paper that goes into printing new books.
7. More Sustainable Ways to Move Your Life:
Save Money on Gas, Decrease Emissions and Get Healthy…Getting from here to there is one of the biggest contributors to a carbon-heavy lifestyle, but there are great ways to start minimizing your carbon footprint and making both your life and the planet healthier. Try these simple things…
• Walk or bike more. This saves on gas and parking costs while improving your cardiovascular health and reducing your risk of obesity.
• If you live far from your work, consider telecommuting. Even a few days a week will save you time, money on gas, lessen traffic congestion and your stress at the same time. People who telecommute often are more productive as well.
• Or consider moving closer to where you work. Even if this means paying more rent, it could save you money in the long term.
• While our lifestyle and communities are rarely setup to support living without a car, learning how to minimize gas use and improve vehicle maintenance to help reduce our carbon footprint is another way in which to benefit the environment. A few simple tricks that work wonders include making sure your tires are inflated properly. Did you know that about 25-33% of vehicles do not have properly inflated tires and that this account for a 10% increase on fuel costs and countless more pounds of carbon monoxide emissions each year? This makes it the very first thing you should do, and do regularly for sustainability.
• Hypermiling and improving fuel economy…Hypermiling is the art of driving in a way that increasing your fuel economy. Some people have even doubled their gas mileage, making it a fun challenge for themselves to increase their success.
• Go the extra distance and trade your car in for an alternative fuel or electric car. From diesel fuel cars to vegetable oil conversions and a wide array of available electric and hybrid cars, you can drastically reduce your travel impact by trading your old gas-guzzler in for one of the newer eco-friendly models. Or just try driving a whole lot less.
• Car free living – Using cars less and less is slowly becoming a new lifestyle trend, especially for urban dwellers. There are several ways to live a car-free lifestyle once you start shifting how you live by drastically reducing your need for a vehicle. Think about what you most need a car for and then what other ways you can use to get from here to there. You can bike, walk, or use public transportation for most of daily activities and there are a number of great ride sharing services or part-time car rental programs that may work for your lifestyle better than owning a car. You will not only be living more sustainably, but you will save on car payments, gas and insurance at the same time.
As you can see, there are so many ways to create a more sustainable life without diminishing the quality of your life. You may not be able to do them all at once, but even making a resolution to take the step forward on any one of these tips, is the right way to start the New Year off.
So, here’s my challenge to you…This year, get inspired to take a more long term view and make some new year’s resolutions that have the ability to actually save the planet and create a better life for you and those you love.
Have a Happy and Healthy New Year and Live It Green – The World is Counting on You!