Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season to all!
Wait a minute…is it the end of the year already? I think I missed something here. But no matter, it’s time to start fresh. It’s time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions and how to enact some positive change in our lives.
If you’re looking for some eco-conscious resolutions in which you can engage your whole family, here are a few ideas!
Become a Veggie Monster
Most kids (and adults) complain about eating their vegetables, but in the new year, why not make a true effort to eat more of the “good stuff”? If you usually serve a vegetable with your meals, increase the portion size in relation to meat and starch. If you’re not a regular veggie eater, make a point to get something on your plate — even if it’s just a few carrots.
Stash an extra bag of veggies in your kid’s lunchbox, and have fun dressing up the veggies (remember putting peanut butter and raisins on celery to make ants on a log?).
When the farmers markets reopen, take regular family trips there to see what locally-grown goodies you can get — you might even find some treats, too. (Locally made honey, anyone?)
Bonus: you’ll probably support some local small business owners!
Phase it Out
Pick one or two items in your home to revamp and replace in the new year.
Want to save on your electric bill? Swap out your light bulbs for LED lights, one fixture at a time.
Tired of using a zippered bag once and tossing it in the trash? There are reusable replacements for that. (I’m a fan of LunchSkins.)
Don’t want to kill as many trees? Cancel subscriptions to catalogs, go paperless on your household bills, or switch to bamboo-based toilet paper (bamboo grows like a weed, so it’s way more sustainable than trees; click here for more information).
Curbside recycling stopped accepting your plastic detergent jugs? Switch to detergent capsules wrapped in alcohol-based film that dissolve in the washing machine with no waste (like this or this). The possibilities are endless.
Bonus: many of the companies I’ve just mentioned engage in profit sharing, have carbon-offset programs, or are made in the USA, so you can feel good about what you spend.
Give it Back
Carbon emissions are a big concern because in the U.S., we emit…a lot. (You can figure out your carbon footprint by taking an online quiz; I just took the World Wildlife Fund quiz. It’s eye opening!)
Since the vast majority of us are probably not in a position to go carbon neutral right now, you can consider offsetting your emissions with donations to carbon-reducing projects. Gold Standard has a good listing.
If you have an upcoming airplane flight planned, consider donating to a forestry initiative or to new wind power plants around the world. If you’re into charitable donations and want to do more in the New Year, this is a good starting point.
More locally, an old friend of mine has decided to start a group online to promote buying/swapping clothes and household goods second-hand; maybe this would work for your social group.
Bonus: this is a great way to teach your kids about philanthropy, especially if you find a project that catches their fancy.
Take the “Lights-Out Challenge”
Okay, I totally just made this up, but this is something I’ve worked on throughout 2019. The goal is to be conscious about turning off lights and electronics whenever you leave a room — and only keep the minimum amount of lights on in your space.
To add onto this, try bumping down your furnace settings by 2-3 degrees (or increase your air conditioning settings by 2-3 degrees in the summertime). Speaking from experience, I bet you will be surprised at how much your electric and gas bills plummet!
Bonus: with the money you save, you can buy some sweet Christmas gifts next year, or plan a family adventure.
Be an Activist
This sounds daunting, but in the Age of the Internet, anything is possible. This year, I started writing comments on Giant Eagle’s website to let them know I was concerned about the amount of single-use plastics sold in their stores and that I was looking for more sustainable options. Thousands of other shoppers did, too — and Giant Eagle recently announced plans to phase out single-use plastic in their stores by 2025 (with a pilot program to start in Cuyahoga County).
The point is, you can make a difference! Think of something you wish you could change and start writing letters, emails, Tweets, and posts about it. You could even pick up the phone and call someone or join a group, if you’re feeling ambitious. You don’t even have to do it every day. Maybe once a week or once a month. Set a goal and try to stick to it. Ask your kids what they’re interested in and make it a family project.
Bonus: you might meet some awesome new friends who are also getting involved in their communities.
Best wishes to you in the new year, from my family to yours!