Blog 12/31/10: 7 Easy Tips for a Healthier, Happier, and More Planet-Friendly New Year

New Years brings a time to reflect on the previous year and resolve to make changes for the better. We tend to make big resolutions about improving our relationships and ourselves, which often start off well but can become difficult to sustain beyond the first month.

If we truly want to make lasting changes, it’s important for us to approach our goals in a more manageable way by incorporating small changes into our habits.  This helps avoid the inevitable loss of momentum that comes with overly ambitious resolutions.

Many people may resolve to live a ‘greener’ lifestyle this year. I know we constantly hear about “going green,” a concept that can be vague, confusing, and, quite honestly, overused. While advertisers may make it seem much easier to purchase a greener lifestyle, ‘greening’ your life actually doesn’t require much money or effort. In fact, it can save you money.

An environmentally friendly lifestyle is within reach of all of us. It begins by being aware of our habits. Here is a list of little things you can do (or you might already be doing) that will help you reduce your environmental impact this year without breaking the bank!

1)  Before you buy, use what you own.
It’s always appealing to get the newest and greatest thing, but it’s often unnecessary. How many times have we bought things that we already own? Many people think that in order to be greener, they need to get rid of their things and replace them with products that are labeled as environmentally friendly.  However, reusing is one of the simplest things we can do to reduce our environmental impact and reduce waste.

It’s a good idea to take inventory of what you have every once in a while – your kitchen supplies, wardrobe, etc. Sometimes quality items are forgotten or misplaced.

If you do need something, I recommend checking out your local thrift stores before you purchase it from a conventional store. You never know what you’ll find, and plenty of unused, great quality items end up on the shelves. Craigslist is also a great resource for finding a wide variety of new and used goods.

2) Pass things on or donate to your thrift store
It’s amazing what ends up in the trash these days.  Donating to a friend, a thrift store or a homeless shelter not only reduces unnecessary waste, but it makes a huge difference for those who are unable to buy new things for themselves and their families.  If you have furniture to get rid of, you can call your local Habitat for Humanity office to donate furniture that they will use in their new houses. Another great resource is Freecycle.

3) Group your errands by geographical location
Reduce the number of trips you need to make, and you’ll use less gas and save time and money! If possible, try to use public transportation.

4) Buy produce from local farmers markets whenever possible.
The production, packaging, and transportation involved in our current food system put a tremendous stress on our environment.  Eating local produce reduces your intake of chemicals and additives, keeps you healthy, and provides support for your local economy.

Another great option is becoming a part of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a program where you pay up front for a full season of fresh produce from a local farm.  Most farms offer this option, and you receive a wide variety of fresh, tasty local produce weekly.  We definitely recommend it!

5) Use power strips and turn them off when you leave the house.
Your appliances constantly drain electricity from your power outlet, even when they are turned off.  This is referred to as a “phantom load,” which can contribute to 10-15% of your electric bill.  An easy way to save electricity and reduce your electric bill is to plug everything into a power strip and turn the power strip off when you leave the house.

6) Shut off the water when brushing your teeth
Letting the faucet run can really add up over time. According to Wasauna Bath of Scottsdale, AZ, a standard bathroom faucet uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute.  If you brush your teeth for 45 seconds per day (an average from the American Dental Association) and let the water run, that’s 1.875 gallons of water going down the drain each day – and 684 gallons a year per person!  Turning off the water is an easy way to make a big difference.

7) Use reusable grocery bags
The number of plastic bags we bring home from grocery shopping can pile up quickly.  Some grocery stores have bins for plastic bag recycling, which is a much better option than throwing them away.  To avoid the mass accumulation of plastic bags, try to keep reusable bags in your car.

However daunting or overwhelming the idea of ‘going green’ may seem, an environmentally friendly lifestyle is surprisingly easy and affordable.  Incorporate these tips into your daily lifestyle, and you’ll be able to feel good about doing your part.

Do you have any tips for a greener lifestyle? Send them our way! Email your tips and we’ll share them with our community.

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