2011 has arrived, and it's time to make resolutions and set goals about living a low-impact life in the New Year.
If you're overwhelmed by all the different environmental issues and causes that you can take up, it's important to remember that sometimes the littlest behavior or attitude changes can make the biggest different, both in the community and for the environment.
Here are some easy-yet-significant ways for you to challenge yourself to have a cleaner, greener 2011:
REDUCE YOUR PAPER WASTE
Even if you recycle, it can be painful to watch the amount of paper that's discarded after reading or using it just once. In the new year, think about conducting more of your business in a paperless format; opting out of your telephone book delivery, refusing unnecessary receipts at the store, and pledging to print double-sided when you have to print at all.
BECOME A LOCAVORE
Many people are unaware what a big impact their food-buying choices have on the economy and the environment. If you want to support small, sustainable farmers that take pride in producing high quality, nutritious food, think about joining a local food co-op or CSA this year. Not only will you enjoy the benefits of tastier food, you'll also be removing the harsh consequences of the pesticides, hormones, and carbon emissions produced by the conventional food system.
DITCH THE CAR
Chances are, one of the resolutions on your list is to lose a little weight or just get into better shape. You might not realize that you can achieve these goals and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time by looking for alternative transportation options. According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle. This year, pledge to make at least two of these short-distance trips by bike or foot, and you'll help keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, money in your pocket, and pounds off your waist.
TURN THE APPLIANCES OFF
Many electric appliances/devices are consuming power while they are switched off or in standby mode. According to a 2006 report published by The Economist, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (CA) study in 2000 found that phantom power can account for as much as 10% of total residential power consumption. Similar study in France found the loss at 7%. Results are similar for other developed countries. Turn off devices when not in use, unplug devices, especially older ones that become warm to the touch when plugged in, or plug the devices into smart power strips that can block idle current use and be turned off easily.
Recycling is a good idea, but it's not necessary when you switch to reusable containers instead. Bring-your-own water bottle or mug for your daily cup of coffee, and pack reusable shopping bags so you're ready for the next trip to the store. Many grocery stores offer five or 10-cent discount for each reusable bag you bring, and some coffee shops are following suit. You can also pack a cloth napkin and real silverware in your lunch instead of using disposable ones.
Beth Buczynski is a freelance copy writer and environmental blogger. She holds a Master's in Public Communication and Technology with specialization in Environmental Communication from Colorado State University, and is passionate about leaving this planet in better shape than she found it.