Sustainable New Year

Many people make resolutions for the new year to improve on a personal level. What about an environmental level? Here are a few ideas to jump-start your eco-friendly new year’s resolutions, courtesy of Green Peace (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/10-green-new-years-resolutions-making-2011-su/blog/32213)_:

1) Eat less meat. While not everyone is ready to become 100% vegetarian, there is little doubt that eating less meat is one of the fastest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Pick one or two days a week where you will only cook vegetarian food. Find a good vegetarian food cooking book to learn the best recipes, and you’re set!

Sara’s Note: Eating less meat makes your body feel better too…. even if it’s just one or two days out of the week. When they say “carbon footprint”, they mean the amount of energy, resources, money, time and pollution that is involved in meat production (not to mention injustices involving animals and people) – meat production, they way it is currently performed and in response to the enormous demand for it, is a huge environmental problem. If everyone ate a little less meat, may of these issues could be easily abated.

2) Pick seasonal and local fruits and vegetables. While it can be tempting to eat strawberries in winter, when they have been imported from halfway across the planet or grown in energy-hungry greenhouses, they’re hardly sustainable. Do some research into what is naturally grown in your area in the season, and prefer these. This way, you’ll also rediscover the pleasure of meals changing with the seasons!

Sara’s Note: Yes, we have grown accustomed to getting whatever we want, whenever we want it. But for most of history, people had to eat what was in season. They still practice eating this way in Europe (outside of big cities and major supermarkets). When you eat food that’s imported from some far off place, you are paying extra for it, contributing to environmental problems and filling your body with a ton of preservatives and chemicals – and I find that out of season produce doesn’t taste all that good (ie: tomatoes in January).

3) Take your bicycle out of the shed. People who re-start cycling to work and/ or the supermarket often say that it’s lovely to rediscover their neighborhood that way. In fact, unless you live in a very mountainous area, this could be the most relaxing resolution you take!

4) Use public transport more. Granted, in the middle of the mountains or when there is half metre of snow outside your door, cycling sounds less appealing. If that’s the case where you live, start using public transport to go to work and the supermarket. If public transport connections are poor in your area, then it’s time to wake up the local campaigner in you and ask for it – make 2011 the year when your community stood up for sustainability.

5) Make your home efficient. By now, I assume most of you have switched to CFL lightbulbs – so it’s time to take home efficiency to the next level. Check your house for heat loss (there are companies specialised in this if you don’t feel expert enough) and make it your DIY project in 2011 to fix them. If you haven’t yet, lower the thermostat during the night. The ideal temperature to sleep is around 16 degrees celsius. If that’s too cold for you, do it in steps – half a degree less each month. You might realise you even sleep better – and you will see it on your heating bill!

6) Become a toxics-free household. This might take a while in research, so plan to do it over the whole year. From beauty products to clothes detergent and computer parts, we have become used to toxics products in our daily lives. Time to stop it. When buying new products, check what they are made of, and pick the one that will have the least toxic residues.

Sara’s Note: It’s very easy to start off slow with this one. Many people complain that using eco-friendly cleaning products are not as effective. However, there are a ton of options with a ton a different products. You can start by buying recycled paper towels instead of regular (they are just ending up in the trash anyway, right?) or using eco-friendly laundry detergent (I particularly like the Seventh Generation line).

7) Keep your electronics for the year. New cellphone? Must absolutely have the latest iPad? How about the newly released gaming console? Our consumption of electronics is reaching records. Make a break, and promise not to buy new electronics this year, unless the one you already have breaks down (and when it does, ensure it is recycled properly!).

Sara’s Note: We are all guilty of wanting (and buying) the latest most awesome technology. Apple (and many others) love to put out a new gadget at least every year, because they make their money off of suckers like us who just can’t go on another day without this amazing device that we never knew we needed. Seriously, we do not need these things. We at least do not need every version of these things. By all means, embrace technology and progress, but your phone can easily last you a few years, as can your laptop or TV. All that electronic waste ends up somewhere, you know.

8) Take recycling to the next level. You probably have two different bins in your kitchen, sorting your waste to have it recycled. It doesn’t end here though. In 2011, try to reduce the amount picked up by the garbage truck. If you have a garden, start your own compost. When you’re at the supermarket, prefer products that are not overpackaged (you know the one: plastics wrapped in plastic, itself wrapped in cardboard…). If there are to many of these items in your local supermarket, time to start campaigning! Write to the store manager and express your concerns – and convince your neighbours to do so as well.

Sara’s Note: Having a compost is awesome!!! If you have a corner in your yard, make a compost! It’s fun, easy, and provides great planting soil.

9) Spend more time outdoors. Learn to enjoy nature again. Make a habit of taking a weekly walk outside. We have become so used to live in our houses and in our cars, many people have no idea what nature looks like anymore.

Sara’s Note: It’s so true. Living in a city deprives me of a lot of nature. However, taking the time to be in a natural green environment is good for the soul.

I’ve left out number 10 because it had to do with joining Green Peace, but these 9 suggestions are really straightforward and easy ways to make small contributions to your environment. Here are a few more of my ideas for the new year. What’s your sustainable resolution?

– donate old clothes instead of trashing them

– shop at farmers markets whenever possible

– get old coats/shoes repaired instead of buying new ones

– think about your diet, and the processed foods that are everywhere – do a little research about how meat and poultry are produced (only 10  minutes would get you most of the info you need)- and make better choices in the supermarket

– save documents on your computer, rather than printing them (take a screen shot if you can’t save it!)

Happy New Year!

Thoughts?

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