It's time to say a fond farewell to 2008--and now we have an excellent opportunity to embrace the environment with some new Green New Year's Resolutions for 2009. We have recommendations for you, of course--and this time we offer resolutions for those of you we like to call "light green" or just getting started with eco-friendly living, as well as some more challenging ones for you Green Jedi out there who have already made lots of eco-upgrades in your lives. (Even if you are a Jedi, make sure you can check off all of the ones in the beginner list!)
And we would love to hear what you have planned for this year! Please share your ideas in the comments section so that we can all learn from you.
We wish you all a very healthy, safe and prosperous 2009.
For the Light Green, Aspiring Jedi (May the Force be with you!)
1. Put your outdoor lights on motion sensors. Do you need to light the night and burn all of that electricity? No, but you do want safety. Motion sensors are the answer. You'll save energy and money, too. And if you want to go a step beyond this, you can get LED lights--which are ultra-efficient.
2. Wash your laundry in cold water. We swear it works! Washing machines are major power hogs in our homes and using cold water is a great, easy way to reduce your energy use. If you want to go a step beyond this you can even start to air dry your laundry. This will help your clothes last longer and save even more energy.
3. Take reusable grocery bags to the store. This one is so easy and I still can't believe how few people do it! Reusable bags will cut down on the use of over 500 plastic bags per person per year (and don't forget plastic is made from petroleum) or save a slightly lesser number of paper bags. One 15-year-old tree only yields 700 paper bags!
4. Start using renewable energy at home. There are several ways you can get on board with green power. Many utilities now offer green power alternatives for a nominal monthly fee. Check with your local utility to see if this is an option. Click here to learn more about buying green power from your utility.
5. Make sure you've swapped out all of your light bulbs for energy-efficient models. Most people don't realize that lighting accounts for 15-20 percent of a home's energy use. So there's a major opportunity to save money and electricity with better bulbs. Compact fluorescents use 1/4 of the energy and last up to 10 times as long as normal bulbs. And LED lights are 2-3 times as efficient as compact fluorescents. And they come in all shapes, sizes and colors-find them here.
For the Green Jedi
1. Join a CSA or plant an organic vegetable garden. Why not make this the year that you decide to eat the freshest, healthiest, most local produce you can? You can either join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and get your produce from a local farmer, or you can go a step further and grow your own! Planting a vegetable garden will fill your kitchen with yummy produce and cut down on the carbon emissions from transporting the vegetables you normally buy. Click here to read our useful guide to starting an organic garden of your own.
2. Read your newspapers online. Or just convert to online for your weekday editions and keep your weekend papers to enjoy with your Sunday coffee. You'll save trees, energy, and money! If only 10 million people in the US canceled their Monday-Friday newspapers, we'd save almost 50,000 trees each year.
3. Find a way to drive and fly less and cut your carbon emissions this year. Can you bike to the grocery store? Can you walk to the bank? Can you talk your boss into letting you telecommute once a week? Better yet perhaps you can talk your boss into creating a telecommuting plan for your whole department? Or propose that you have meetings via teleconference rather than flying. Remember that the emissions from flying are a major contributor to global warming. Click here to learn about other ways to spread the good green word at work- Learn more about how to green your office.
4. Install a programmable thermostat. These nifty devices allow you to micro-control your home's heating and cooling. One of these can help you shave 15% off of your energy consumption (and save you money!). It's really quite simple to install--will take you only 45 minutes. Find programmable thermostats here, and learn how to install them here.
5. Really investigate solar and wind energy options for your home. Many of us have told ourselves that we simply can't afford solar or wind energy. (And this certainly may be true.) But incentives have gotten much better in some parts of the country and costs have also come down. If a full solar electric system is too expensive, consider a solar hot water system--which can be $4-6K to install and reduce your home energy use by 20-30%. Learn more about solar hot water here. And to get a quote on installation costs, you can find solar installers near you here and wind system installers here.
For many more ideas for how to make your home and lifestyle more eco-friendly, click here to visit our Green Projects page.