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Truth be told, I’m not a super “resolutions” person. I don’t necessarily think it’s a successful strategy to just pick one day of the year to transform yourself. Plus, if you were going to pick any day, doesn’t it make more sense to make it your birthday?
Nevertheless, January is a time when we all think of new beginnings and how to make better decisions, recommit to our values, and work on goals. It’s a launch point and it’s as good a time as any to mark a fresh start.
If you’re hoping to be more “green” in the New Year, you don’t have to do anything extreme. Don’t worry about swearing off spending, or going zero waste (although of course, that’s great). Instead, think of a few simple changes you can make that can help you save money, help the planet and live more simply and healthfully.
1. Watch for Energy Vampires
Energy vampires are those appliances that suck energy from your house, and show up on your electricity bill. Chances are you’ve hardly noticed them, but they can add up, and suddenly you’re paying $40-50 extra for electricity you aren’t even using.
Turn off and unplug your appliances when they aren’t in use. Running the clock, having that little “on” light, and just being plugged in can add up to extra charges on your power bill, and extra use of utilities you don’t need. If you’d prefer the convenience, try using a power strip, and just switch off the power button when you aren’t using the electronics.
Switch out your light bulbs for eco friendly, longer lasting CFL bulbs or LED lights. While they cost a little more up front, they save you money in the long run ($30-80 over the life of the bulb). Making little switches like this can make a pretty big dent in your electricity bill. In fact, just by switching out our bulbs, and cutting back on our peripheral electronics use (and unplugging), we’ve halved our electricity bill in the last 18 months!
Composting sounds super complicated and challenging, right? To me it always seemed like a big, messy hassle. I was so surprised when I started composting and found out that it takes almost no effort at all!
Now you can be a super composter and measure the PH and take temperatures and all of that. Or you can be a lazy composter like me. All we do is keep a little compost pail on our counter top. It has a charcoal filter and it doesn’t smell at all. We’ve been using ours for a few years.
We put all vegetable scraps in the compost tumbler. Coffee grounds go in there too. Paper towels go in (we use eco-friendly cleaning products so even paper towels used for cleaning can go in the compost bin). The only things that can’t really go in are meat and dairy products, printed paper packages, and plastic. Rip up cardboard into small pieces so it can break down more easily.
When the compost fills up we take it out to our our big compost outside. You can also make an outdoor bin. Simply drill holes all over a Rubbermade garbage can. When we need to “turn” the compost, we just shake the garbage can. The lid keeps out any furry friends, and the stuff breaks down fast. We add our yard waste–grass trimmings and leaves–as well. In the spring we spread out the compost in our garden bed, and work it into the dirt.
Super simple and it means less garbage goes in the landfill!
Our town offers bi-weekly recycling. Most towns do, although some charge a fee for the service. It’s well worth it, in my opinion. For a small fee each month, they will pick up your recyclables–aluminum, glass, and most types of plastic.
These recyclables are made into new products, or broken down properly, so they don’t end up being piled in the landfill. If you want to make money off of your recycling, you can also take in aluminum and metal scraps (cans, etc) and trade them in for extra change.
My mom lives in a condo, and her sister lives right down the street. They don’t generate much trash or recycling, so they combined forces and share a recycle bin. If you aren’t so into the idea of paying a fee for your recycling, see if you can work with a few neighbors to share the bin, especially if you don’t generate much waste.
4. Try a Vegetarian Meal
The merits of a vegetarian diet are pretty high in terms of health. Lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, more energy, and less risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes (I could go on…), but we often forget about the environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet.
Factory farming uses water, grain and other resources and generates a great deal of runoff and waste that contributes to greenhouse gasses, and other issues. Veganism and an increase in plant-based eating can have a big impact on hunger, water shortages and other side effects of animal agriculture.
Now, I know vegetarian and vegan living isn’t for everyone, but even switching to a meat-free meal once in awhile can have some healthy side effects for your body, the environment and even your wallet. Meat and dairy cost more money and add up on your grocery bill as well.
5. Try Walking
You want to have an impact on the environment? Try walking! Rather than taking your car on errands, try riding your bike, or going on foot. If you must run errands in the car, try parking in a central location and walking to all the stores on your list.
Walking is good for your health, your mental health and the environment as well. Being in nature connects you to the earth and helps you enjoy the world around you. The great thing about walking, running or biking, is that you don’t need any special equipment. You can just put on your most comfortable shoes and go for it.
Walking and running outside helps us be more mindful and helps us notice things in our environment that we might otherwise overlook. In fact, it was during an outdoor run that Sam first noticed all the garbage around Lake Michigan, and came up with the concept of Eco Running to take on some personal responsibility and start cleaning up the world around him. You never know what you might come up with the next time you’re on a walk (or run)!