January is always a time for new beginnings, reflections and resolutions.
Although it’s been reported that as many as 40 percent of American’s make New Year’s resolutions, only a very small percentage of us manage to achieve our goals. In fact, it’s been estimated that 35 percent of resolutions are broken by the end of January, if not sooner.
Mark Twain may have said it best, “I don’t know why people say it’s so hard to quit smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times myself!”
Or perhaps the fact that studies indicate how the average dieter gains back 107% of the weight they lose is more telling for those who are choosing to munch on a carrot over a leftover Christmas cookie right now.
So this year, since saving money and losing weight are among the most common New Year’s resolution, I propose an environmentally friendly plan.
When you reduce, reuse and recycle, you not only hold on to more of your money but also change some of the behaviors that contribute to weight gain (while not actually weight loss, it’s definitely a step in the right direction - unlike dieting which has been shown to actually cause weight gain in the long run).
For example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests the following New Year’s Resolutions (you can learn more at epa.gov):
• Turn off lights when they’re not needed.
• Buy Energy Star appliances.
• Compost food and yard waste.
• Pick up litter when you see it.
• Reuse and recycle whenever possible.
• Use less water.
• Walk or take public transportation instead of driving.
• Use green cleaning supplies.
Reducing consumption and/or waste are key components for accomplishing any of these goals. Along with reducing the amount of waste created by unnecessary packaging – try buying in bulk, packing lunches in reusable containers and carrying reusable bags when shopping – consider switching to other reusable items instead of single-use – rechargeable versus disposable batteries, washable water bottles, plates, cups and utensils instead of paper and plastic products, etc.
Reusing is intertwined in the tips above. With the EPA estimating that each person in the US generates 4.3 pounds of waste daily, there are many opportunities for us to explore reuse instead of waste.
Recycling is one option. By turning materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources, recycling generates financial, environmental and social returns both locally and around the globe.
When it comes to conserving energy and materials, the importance of waste reduction is pivotal. So while many traditional resolutions may not survive the first week of January, consider how a commitment to going green – no matter how small or large – can result in a healthier world, a healthier home and a healthier you!
Get started by reusing everything you can and donating whatever someone else would appreciate. Review your community’s recycling guidelines and follow them as often as possible. Watch for other recycling opportunities/special events in your area as well. Choose locally produced food, and consider growing your own seasonal vegetables to swap with neighbors. Use your “good” china more often, and make your everyday dishes the preferred choice over paper or plastic when entertaining.
Enjoy the outdoors. Turn off the computer and/or television and take a walk in your neighborhood or a hike in the woods. Explore a park or participate in a beach clean up. Build a snowman or go ice skating (try gardening and bike riding in the spring).
Just as it’s easier to be lazy and not get outside, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not minimizing waste, not saving energy or saving water. I’m getting started by using the reusable containers I already have when making my daughter’s lunch this year. Instead of wasting 2-3 plastic bags 5 days a week, I will keep more than 240 zip-loc bags out of a landfill (along with all the brown paper bags we replaced with a reusable lunch bag at the beginning of the school year).
Small steps can gain momentum. Consider Janus, the Roman god of new beginnings who the first month of the year was named to honor. Frequently shown with two faces, he became the symbol of resolution. Looking backwards and forwards, Janus saw both the past and the future. Each time you measure the positive impact of reducing, reusing and recycling – especially if you can measure it in dollars and cents and possibly even your waistline – you’re bound to want to try more.