As the year draws to a close and 2012 is about to begin, people are making New Year’s Resolutions. Most of them are meant to make people feel better about themselves, like losing weight, starting an exercise program, and quitting smoking. And truth be told, most of those resolutions aren’t kept. So maybe it’s time that people use their New Year’s Resolutions to make the planet better. Maybe they’ll have better success at holding onto them if they’re easy enough to adopt and, of course, they still get to feel better about themselves.
I’ve come up with ten simple measures that you can adopt. Some can be part of the routine in your daily life, and some are measures you might only need to do once, but these should still be important considerations.
- Get a home audit. You only need to do this once but the money is well spent. You can identify places where you’re wasting energy and, therefore, money—such as leaky faucets, or doors and windows where heat is escaping. Although this costs you up front, it will save in the long run and sometimes you can get a rebate from the government if you make changes based on the auditor’s suggestions.
- Become more efficient at home. This one particular topic is huge, and most components are easy to adopt. People tend to know about the importance of replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs and turning off lights when they leave a room. But they may not have thought of getting motion sensors in rooms that will automatically turn lights on and off for you or the benefits of unplugging electronic items when not in use to minimize electricity drain. And nobody should be without a programmable thermostat these days.
- Shop for groceries with reusable bags. Even if your grocery store charges you a nickel for every bag you take home, you should feel guilty if you come home with any. Bringing your own bags to stores where you make your purchases minimizes the waste of plastic bags which are made from petroleum products and take way too many years to decompose.
- Get hybrid or electric cars with your future vehicle purchases. They cost a bit more up front but depending on your driving habits, especially with the starts and stops associated with city driving, you can save a bundle in fuel costs and minimize your emissions. If you can afford it, every new car should be something beyond a simple gas guzzler.
- Aggressively recycle and compost. It takes very little time to separate plastic, glass, tin, and paper. But since it minimizes waste generated by using new materials, it’s much better for the environment.
- Use the dishwasher and washer / dryer with full loads only. It’s about the same energy used to run a load no matter how much is in it, so if the dishwasher is only half full, that’s a lot of wasted electricity. Most family routines can adapt to this suggestion without much hassle. Don’t make certain nights of the week laundry night to suit your schedule; make it so that these appliances don’t run until they’re full.
- Purchase green electricity and natural gas. If you have greener sources of electricity and natural gas that generate less emissions than conventional utility companies and you can afford them, you should make the switch. Home use of electricity and natural gas is a huge source of greenhouse gases. If we were all able to make such a change, that would have a significant impact on helping the environment. Bullfrog Power in Canada is one place to look.
- Purchase carbon offsets. No matter how much change we can make, most of us travel by plane on occasion and by car as part of our daily routine. Since those activities generate emissions, if you can negate those by making donations to companies and projects that offset your emissions with activities such as planting trees, you can go a long way toward living a zero-carbon lifestyle.
- Buy local. Not only does it help your local economy to buy produce and meat from local farmers and butchers, but the emissions you save by avoiding the need to transport those items from great distances is also significant. You likely don’t need lamb from New Zealand for your dinner or Brazilian teak for your flooring to enhance your life. Local foods and other materials can do the job just fine, and you can use them with pride knowing you didn’t generate substantial emissions simply to get them into your home.
- Precycle. If you can make a purchase with less material and less packaging, then do it. The less you have to put into recycling, the better. In this modern era of digital music downloads and ebooks, make sure you think twice before getting a hard copy of anything.
If you can adopt even a few of these suggestions into your family routine, you can make a big difference to your carbon footprint. And you won’t have to feel guilty about letting another set of New Year’s Resolutions fall by the wayside.