For those of you who want to have a serious resolution but haven't thought of one, there's a change that's needed desperately right now. The human race needs to have a resolution to reduce our negative impacts on the planet and increase our sustainable habits. Instead of buying an expensive gym membership that you'll only use for a week, make a commitment to living a greener lifestyle for 2014.
Going green can help you be healthier too: physically, mentally, and spiritually. And, an awesome thing about going green is that for many initiatives, it won't cost you any money or it will save you money!
There are lots of money saving, free, and cheap things you can do to be more sustainable, and I will try to list as many as I can think of here. Feel free to add more in the comments if I miss anything!
Picture courtesy of: http://homedesignpremier.com/2013/12/christmas-new-year-eve-party-2014/
- Eat less meat. Meat and dairy production take huge amounts of resources to be produced and then shipped to market, and studies have shown that it's healthier to eat less meat. This is especially true considering that in factory farms, livestock are pumped with antibiotics to make them grow faster and bigger, but this unnecessary increase in antibiotic use is causing more bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics, leaving us defenseless when we get sick. Factory farms are not only terrible for the environment, they're terrible for animals too. Raised in cramped, unhealthy conditions, many never know the feel of grass under their feet before they're slaughtered. Whether you decide to partake in Meatless Monday, make your weekdays meatless, or decided to go vegetarian/vegan, any reduction in the amount of meat you eat will be helpful. Delicious vegetarian recipes are abundant!
- Turn out the lights and turn down the thermostat. Turn off the lights every time you leave the room, and gently remind your family members/roommates to do the same. Do you really need that night light on? Does the stove light need to be on? If everyone's home for the night, can't you turn off the outside light? Open up the windows to let in some natural light during the day. Also, when you leave the house, turn down the thermostat a few notches. You don't need to heat an empty home. Consider doing it while you're at home, too– bundle up!
- Hang dry your clothes. Save energy and do less loads of clothing in the dryer. Hang dry your clothes and let nature do all the work! Even during the winter, you can find space inside your own home to hang dry: shower rods, staircase railings, chair backs, fireplace hearths, bannisters, etc. Hang drying your clothes helps preserve their colors and reduces wear and tear.
- Walk and bike more. Start thinking a little more seriously about when you actually need your car. For destinations that are only two miles away or less, do yourself a favor and get some exercise, and do the planet a favor and leave your car in the driveway. Keep track of your biking/walking mileage and calculate how much you've saved on gas– it's fun, and you might be surprised at the results! Check out this past "Green Challenge" to bike more.
- Ban paper napkins and tissues. Instead, acquire yourself a set of cloth napkins and handkerchiefs. You can make them for free by cutting up old clothing. If you want, get creative and sew different pieces together to make your napkins and handkerchiefs colorful and patterned. Of course, you can always buy new, but a big part of going green is buying less and using what you have! When they're dirty, just put them in with the laundry. Make enough napkins and handkerchiefs so you can have some to use while others are in the wash.
- Use less water. Change your bathing habits! Don't take baths; they use more water than showers. Shorten your showers. Share your showers with that special someone. Do less loads of laundry. While you're waiting for the water to warm up in the shower, collect the cold water in a bin to water your plants with.
- Ban wrapping paper and reuse gift bags. To learn how easy it is to make your gift giving paperless and more sustainable, check out my Christmas "Green Challenge."
- Ban plasticware. Just do your dishes! If you have a party and don't have enough plates and silverware for everyone, ask your guests to bring their own.
Picture courtesy of: http://www.ridetherubycountry.co.uk/ruby-country-activities/cycling/
- Use Goodsearch.com instead of Google. Make your Goodsearch account for free and then pick a charity that benefits animals, conservation, or the environment in some way. With each search you conduct on Goodsearch's engine, you will raise a penny for the organization. It adds up after a while and makes a difference! Each month, I raise money for Viridorari's Animal of the Month using Goodsearch. In total, I have raised $17.44. My boyfriend has raised $3.07 for the Sierra Club.
- Recycle more. Have you scrutinized the list of recyclables that your municipal recycling program accepts? If you're unsure about an item, call the company that handles your recycling and ask. When you put something into a recycling bin that isn't recyclable, you risk contaminating the entire bin. Does your local grocery store have a plastic bag recycling program? Are there any electronics recycling programs in your area? Here are 10 tips from Recycleopedia about how to recycle more and better in 2014.
- Boycott palm oil products. Palm oil is an ingredient found in a shocking amount of goods sold in American stores, most notably snack foods and cosmetics. Palm oil is produced in large plantations, and 85% of production is in Indonesia and Malaysia. Rainforests, which are biodiversity hubs, are slashed and burned to make way for these plantations, threatening animals, including tigers and orangutans, which are already endangered. Palm oil production is also a concern for human rights, because slave labor is commonly used on the plantations. When you cut palm oil from your shopping list, you'll be supporting animal and human well-fare. For many items with palm oil, you'll be able to find alternatives; for example, change the kind of peanut butter you by to a more natural version with less ingredients and additives. I often find that these peanut butters taste better anyways. However, you might find that there are some items you just can't replace, like Oreos and Nutella. It's hard to give up your favorites, but keep in mind, you'll probably be healthier without these junk foods. To learn more about palm oil and the movement against it, go here.
- Clean house and donate. De-cluttering your house will help you de-stress, and living simpler will likely make your happier. The holidays often bring us many new possessions, some of which replace the old. As you're finding places in your house for the new, take the time to clean a little and find stuff you don't really need or want anymore. If you can donate it, you'll be doing a good thing and helping someone else out. You can also try selling your unwanted items online or consigning them to secondhand shops to make a little cash. For things that can't be donated, consigned, and are difficult to recycle, search online for recycling options. There are many companies and organizations that will make use of your hard-to-recycle items if you mail them in. If you can't find anything, have some creative fun thinking of ways to re-purpose the item. If you go through all these steps, you might find that your trash can is just as empty as when you started cleaning.
- Make TerraCycle a part of your routine. Turns out you can recycle a lot of things that are usually considered trash! How? TerraCycle: a company that accepts your "trash" and turns it into new, usable items. They even pay for the shipping to send it to them. You can now recycle things like candy wrappers, writing utensils, Solo cups, and even cigarette butts. For more details, go here.
- Bring your own food containers to the restaurant. When you're going out to eat, bring along some of your reusable Tupperware instead of using Styrofoam and plastic to-go containers from the restaurant.
- Sign petitions like it's your job. When you get on the mailing lists for organizations like the Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, 350.org, Defenders of Wildlife, Organic Consumers Organization, and more, they will send you email alerts for petitions you can sign that will make a difference for the environment. You'll probably also get emails asking for donations, but of course, that's entirely optional. Follow me on Twitter to hear about various petition opportunities.
Picture courtesy of: http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0912-conflict-palm-oil.html
- Use fluorescent light bulbs. Not only are these light bulbs more energy efficient, but they will eventually pay for themselves. To learn more, check out this past "Ecofriendly Economics" post. What to do with your old bulbs? Check out this recycling project.
- Ladies: have a more sustainable period. Yeah, you read that right. Do you ever think about how much trash we produce with our feminine projects? It's a lot. And we also spend a lot of money on them, too. With reusable options such as the DivaCup, we can save the environment, and when you compare the price of a DivaCup to the amount we spend on conventional products, your wallet will smile. To learn more, check out this past "Ecofriendly Economics" post.
- Ban plastic bags. Acquiring a set of reusable bags is a small investment (I even got several of mine for free), and it will allow you never to touch a plastic bag again while you're out shopping. Plastic bags are just evil. They require oil to make, they're hard to recycle, they don't biodegrade, they often only get used once, they end up in waterways and animal habitats, and they even kill animals who get stuck in them or attempt to eat them. Get your reusable bags and feel better about yourself.
- Buy in bulk and buy less packaging. The two go hand-in-hand, usually. Do you really need individually wrapped stuff? For example, think of a box of Hostess Twinkies; there's the box, each Twinkie is wrapped in plastic packaging, and then there's also that cardboard slip in each of the packages. Actually, we get a lot of stuff like that; granola bars, Popsicles, hot cocoa mix, etc. There are alternatives to all this excessive packaging that can be found in buying in bulk, buying a different container, and making your own. Check out the fourth item on Inhabitot's list of six green things you can do for the new year for tips and ideas on how to reduce the amount of packaging you buy.
- Shop secondhand. I've never been much of brand-name clothing person. A lot of my clothes are from consignment shops. I got them for cheaper and they're just as fashionable as never-used stuff at the mall. Buying used reduces the demand for more products to be made with our planets dwindling resources.
- Buy local. Start shopping for as much as you can from your farmer's market and small local businesses rather than big corporations. Not only will you be benefiting your neighbors and local economy, but you will be purchasing less items that were shipped long distances, using fossil fuels to do so.
- Start composting. It's pretty simple, and once you start you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner. Composting can be come as much a part of your daily routine as recycling is! To learn more about the benefits, how to do it, and estimated expenses, check out this Guest Writer's post about composting.
- Buy a metal water bottle. Think bottled water is healthier and cleaner? You'd be surprised to find out that many bottled water companies just bottle tap water and market it as "clean." Boycott bottled water and bring your metal water bottle with you. Take back your faucet and drinking fountains. To learn some "Harsh Facts" about water bottles, go here, and be sure to watch this awesome video from the Story of Stuff Project.
Picture courtesy of: http://www.kzoz.com/jeff-and-jeremy/2012/01/10/
- The Great March for Climate Action. This is certainly a big commitment, but if you're willing to take some time off and you've been wanting to do something more for the planet, this march could be perfect for you. And, hey, I'm doing it! The march begins March 1st, 2014 in California, and over the course of eight months will progress across the country to Washington, D.C, with an expected arrival date of November 1st, 2014. It is expected to be the largest coast-to-coast march in American history. You can choose to walk the whole thing or you can walk a section, even if only for a day. I am walking from Taos, New Mexico to D.C., which is a 2,000 mile stretch. To see the complete route and timeline, go here. If you can't participate, consider donating to the march or an individual marcher (like me *cough*). Each marcher has to raise his/her expenses for the walk. To learn more about how I'm fundraising and how you can help, go here. Stay tuned on Viridorari for more updates on the march and my fundraising progress.
- Solar Spring Break. Instead of going to the beach, many college students use their spring breaks as an opportunity to perform community service. If you're looking for a service opportunity that will also benefit the environment and allow you to travel, look no further than Grid Alternatives's Solar Spring Break, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund. Your volunteer service will be installing solar panels in under-served communities. Students, want more ways to be green at college? Check out this special "Ecofriendly Economics" post.
Logo courtesy of: climatemarch.org.
Keep reading Viridorari for tips, projects, and challenges you can do to be more sustainable, as well as interesting facts and reading material. If you want to know more about anything I talked about in this post, ask in the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always happy to hear new ideas from viewers, so let me know if you have any! If you have expertise or experience in something related to the environment, consider being a Guest Writer for Viridorari. And of course, have a very happy and green 2014.