10 Resolutions for the Green Revolution

Photo: LaurenC

Environmental awareness is enjoying an all-time high, which means that more and more people are making choices aimed at helping rather than hurting the planet. If you’re reading this, you’re probably also interested in this quest for sustainability — how to provide the best for people and the environment, both now and in the future. The good news is that 2011 can be a GREAT year to live a greener life, but you have to make it that way. We’ve been talking the talk. These 10 activities will enable us to walk the walk:

1. Join Up

Going green shouldn’t be a solo activity. To amplify your impact on the green revolution, it’s important to support local, regional, and national initiatives that promote sustainability. There’s plenty of opportunity for creativity here because green advocacy is needed in many organizations: the local chamber of commerce, state or regional historic preservation organizations, scouting or 4H clubs, planning and zoning committees, and so on. Make this the year you make your voice count by getting more involved.

2. Bring Your Own Bag

They may look harmless, but plastic bags are clogging our oceans and killing tens of thousands of marine animals every year because the bags are mistaken for food. Between 60 and 100 million barrels of oil are required to make a year’s worth of plastic bags, and once they enter the waste stream, the bags persist for hundreds of years. It won’t be easy to break our plastic-bag addiction, but we need to get serious about it. The simple solution is to bring along your own reusable bag whenever you go shopping. You can also lobby for a limited ban on plastic bags in your community, as some citizens have already done successfully.

3. Make Your Representatives See Green

The representatives who (are supposed to) look after your interests in state and national governments need to know specifically what those interests are. You can communicate green concerns by email or phone, but old-fashioned letters actually have the greatest impact. Contact info is available on the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate websites.

4. Support the Local Economy

Many experts believe that local economies will recover (or reinvent themselves) faster than the national economy can. That’s because you and your neighbors get to vote with your wallets every day. It’s surprising how often you get to choose between a local business and a national chain — restaurants, lumber yards, opticians, jewelry stores, etc. In your day-to-day activities, you can help the mom-and-pop businesses stay in business. Whether you’re getting vegetables at the farmers market or patronizing the corner coffee shop, it’s usually worth paying a little extra to support the local economy. 

5. Improve Home Energy Performance

Residences consume nearly a quarter of the all the energy used in the U.S. every year, and most houses are extremely inefficient in terms of energy performance. When a homeowner adds insulation, replaces inefficient HVAC equipment, installs new windows, or completes any of numerous energy-saving upgrades, the impact of these improvements goes way beyond increasing green value. The house becomes more affordable to own and more valuable for resale. Energy-saving upgrades also lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and the foreign countries that supply most of what we use.

6. Grow (More of) Your Own

It’s greener and much more satisfying to eat a salad harvested in your own backyard than to buy vegetables that have traveled across the country in a refrigerated truck. In the year ahead, you can take an existing garden to the next level or take the first steps toward growing your own food. Thanks to the effectiveness of container gardening, even a back porch or balcony can serve as a garden site.

7. Lighten Your Landfill Load

There are a number of ways to reduce the amount of garbage we ship to landfills. Since we currently throw away about half the food we buy, it makes sense to take more care when shopping for food and planning meals. Composting organic waste helps gardens as well as landfills (see point six above). Practice more rigorous recycling to prevent cans, cardboard, newspapers, and plastic from entering the waste stream. Have your name removed from mailing lists that send you flyers, catalogs, and other junk mail. Finally, you can make an effort to select products that aren’t enshrouded with excess packaging material. Express your green-packaging preferences where you shop.

8. Aim for More Companionship and Less Gas

In other words: carpool. It may take some initiative to discover who’s duplicating your journey to work, but once you make contact and establish a routine, the rewards are significant. In addition to cutting your carbon footprint and saving on gas, you’ll be able to ease your way into and out of the work day with some good conversation.

9. Up Your Miles Per Gallon

There’s never been a better time to buy a greener ride. There are plenty of super-efficient vehicles available, from Toyota’s proven Prius and Honda’s new Insight to the hybrid Chevy Volt and the all-electric Nissan Leaf. The diesel-powered sedans and wagons from VW also belong in this high-mileage category. With such variety, there’s bound to be a high-mpg vehicle that suits your needs.

10. Sell, Sell, Sell (or Give It Away)

How about recycling some of the forgotten, unused items that have been gathering dust in the basement, garage, or attic? It takes a bit of work, but organizing a tag sale brings some major benefits. You’re sure to meet neighbors you didn’t know you had, and some of these folks will pay to prove that your trash is their treasure. What you don’t sell can go to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill store, earning you a tax deduction.

This is a guest post by Tim Snyder. A journalist specializing in sustainability, energy efficiency, and home building topics, Tim writes frequently for Dr. Energy Saver, a nationwide network of energy improvement contractors. Read more about saving energy on Dr. Energy Saver:

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Guest's picture

Great article! I wspecially like the part about giving things away.

Guest's picture

I agree. I feel green about my ebay account now.