Every year, the prospects of a new year bring a plethora of personal goals. Exercise more, binge watch less. Cook healthier meals, don’t eat out as much. By Valentine’s Day, these broad intangible goals feel like distant memories. Our desired life-style changes all too often feel like impossible chores.
Do you want a greener 2017? Living a more sustainable life can sound like one of those distant memories, but it doesn’t have to be. Start small. Watch the progress you can make, and then take the next step.
Start small: Recycle those water bottles. Whether you are at home, work, or on the go; take the extra moment to recycle any plastic bottles you may be drinking out of. That might mean holding on to it until you get home.
Next step: Don’t buy plastic water bottles at all. Invest in a stainless steel or BPA-free water bottle. Then, not only do you not have to worry about recycling plastic water bottles, you save money on buying them in the first place. This goes for coffee as well. Once you find a great coffee mug, you can make your own or bring it into your favorite coffee shop.
Long term: Work on conserving water. Find and fix any leaks you have in your home. Take shorter (5-10 min) showers or shower less. Did you know you can water your plants with ice cubes? The plant will absorb the cube slowly, so as to not waste any excess water. You could even purchase a water consumption monitor and set goals for lowering your overall water consumption.
Start small: Find the greener version. Whether it be hand soap, laundry detergent or paper products, support companies that not only create products that are better for the environment, but operate with sustainability in mind. Check out this FORBES article on environmentally friendly companies.
Next Step: Try DIY. Get creative with ways to mix up your own shampoo or a simple cleaning solution. Instead of buying tooth paste that comes in a plastic tube, give making your own a shot. Many DIY recipes include ingredients you already have in your pantry. Click here to check out a few great DIY recipes.
Long Term: Cut down paper towel and napkin consumption. Invest in cloth napkins you can reuse again and again. Be sure you’re doing your cleaning with cloths instead of paper towels. You can even use old t-shirts as rags to reduce clothing and paper product waste.
Start small: Buy organic. Keep an eye out for that “USDA Organic” sticker on your food. Keep a special eye out for the Dirty Dozen (pesticide prone produce) and focus on the Clean Fifteen (produce least contaminated with pesticides).
Next Step: Buy local. It may be frigid outside, but that doesn’t mean the farmer’s markets stop. Many towns operate indoor markets to support local farmers year round. The inventory will change from season to season, but you can find clean eating basics at most markets. You could even try growing herbs in your own home.
Long Term: Incorporate meal planning into your weekly routine, in an effort to prevent food waste. Make a list of everything you need before going to the grocery store, and be sure to use everything in your fridge before purchasing more.
Start small: Make yourself aware of what you’re throwing away. Is it food? Junk mail? Take out containers? Pack your lunch. You can unsubscribe from direct mail here and unsubscribe from catalogs here. Once a day, make note of what you’re throwing away.
Next step: Start incorporating products in your life that you can re-use or make use of the entire product. Avoid buying individually wrapped items.
Long term: Make a compost plan, and work towards a zero-waste life style. Contact your town’s department of sanitation about adding compost to you recycling and garbage plan. Seek out drop off centers like New York City’s Greenmarket drop off.
Start small: Do you keep your phone or computer charger plugged in even though you’re not charging? Save energy by keeping chargers unplugged when not in use. Turn off the lights and lower your thermostat before you leave for the day. If you’re going on vacation, unplug your appliances to save on your energy bills while helping the environment.
Next step: Convert the light bulbs in your home to either LED lights or compact fluorescent light bulbs. These lights last longer and use less energy. Overtime, you can make this sustainable change in every room in your house.
Long term: Solar energy is clean and renewable, and installing solar panels outside to power your home is no longer an impossible task of the future. Evaluate your options at energy.gov.