If, like me, you’re concerned about the state of our world from an environmental standpoint, you might be pondering a New Year’s resolution that has more to do with making a change on a global scale rather that on your bathroom scale. Implement some – or all – of these ideas to make a positive impact with your commitment to change and teach your geeklings to be responsible residents of this Earth.
2. Paper NOR Plastic. Somewhere between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. Those free bags that your grocery store and shopping mall provides for your convenience are smothering the earth in plastic. Not to mention the fact that plastic bags are a petroleum product and thus unnecessarily depleting our oil supply. While there are plenty of reusable bags to choose from, I find that the ones that fold up and tuck into my purse are always there when I need them. You can also get reusable produce bags for fruits, vegetables, and bulk food purchases.
3. Skip the zip tops. If your lunch is littered with single use zip top or sandwich bags, consider trying something a little bit different. The reusable Kid Konserve Food Cozy is made from recycled (and recyclable) bpa-free plastic and closes with Velcro. Or try a zero-waste bento-style lunch system or the PlanetBox.
4. Compost. If you’re still tossing out your egg shells, vegetable trimmings, and sandwich crusts, rethink that plan. Composting is easy, not stinky, and can divert a substantial amount of your home’s waste from the landfill. Don’t have room in your yard for a compost bin? Consider vermicomposting. It’s easy to do and fits under your sink. Plus, you can consider it a science experiment. Is there a kid out there who doesn’t love worms?
5. Produce some of your own food. Even if you’re limited on space, you can produce some of the food that your family consumes. Start a small herb garden in a pot. Grow green onions. Tuck a tomato plant in your flower border. Turn your lawn into a garden bed. Raise a few hens so you have fresh eggs on hand. Need a little inspiration? Consider the Dervaes family who produce close to 6,000 pound of food annually on a 1/10 acre urban city lot in Southern California.
6. Go local. When you buy produce that’s grown locally, you’re getting fruits and vegetables that haven’t been shipped across miles to get to your nearest superstore. Seek out farmers markets to buy direct from the grower. 6b. Buy in season. When you buy a U.S. grown apple in April, you’re buying a piece of fruit that was harvested six months ago and then stored in power-sucking cold storage just so you can have some “fresh” fruit in your lunch. Want to know what’s in season in your region? Check out this cool interactive map.
7. Strip. When you head off to bed, you likely leave an awful lot of gadgets and gaming devices plugged in and on standby. By plugging those electronics into a power strip, you can turn them all off with the flip of a switch. You’ll save a few bucks on your electric bill plus reduce the amount of energy your home loses to vampire power. The U.S. as a whole spends almost $4 billion annually on this lost power – and that power is primarily generated with environmentally damaging oil and coal.
8. Stop the junk. If your mailbox is overflowing with catalogs and junk mail, there are a few ways to reduce the load. Visit the Direct Marketing Association or Catalog Choice where you can register for free and then opt out of receiving certain mailings.
9. Cooperate. Have a Wii, but wishing for the chance to try out the new Xbox Kinect? Ask around the neighborhood to see if any gamers would be interested in an occasional trade of gaming systems and you’ll virtually double the fun. And what about other big-dollar items? Does your neighborhood really need a snow blower for every house? Does every gardener on the block really need a rototiller? Instead of owning one of everything, talk to your neighbors about sharing equipment. Offer the use of your extension ladder in exchange for your neighbor’s hand drill. A system like this will save money for you, put less strain on the environment, and build a sense of community.
10. Switch to CFL. If you’re still using incandescent light bulbs consider making the switch to compact fluorescent light. A CFL uses a third of the energy of a comparable incandescent. A 25-watt CFL bulb (comparable to a 100-watt incandescent) can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1,000 pounds over the lifetime of the bulb. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, if every household replaced just three 60-watt incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, we would reduce as much pollution as if we took 3.5 million cars off the roads.