12 simple steps to going green - New Year's resolutions that really make a difference

Wednesday 28th December 2011

As we head into 2012, many of us will be resolving to lose those few extra pounds, save more money, or spend a few more hours with our families and friends. But there are also some resolutions we can make to make our lives a little greener. Each of us can make a commitment to reducing our environmental impacts.
 
"The global community, and particularly people living in industrialised societies, have put unsustainable demands on our planet's limited resources," says Robert Engelman, President of the Worldwatch Institute, a global environmental research organisation based on Washington, DC. "If we expect to be able to feed, shelter, and provide even basic living conditions to our growing population in years to come, we must act now to change."
 
The United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Broadening access to sustainable energy is essential to solving many of the world's challenges, including food production, security, and poverty. "With so many hungry and poor in the world, addressing these issues is critical," says Danielle Nierenberg, director of Worldwatch's Nourishing the Planet project. "Fortunately, the solutions to these problems can come from simple innovations and practices."

Here are 12 simple steps to go green in 2012:
 
(1) Recycle
 
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, for each pound of aluminium recovered, Americans save the energy resources necessary to generate roughly 7.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity----enough to power a city the size of Pittsburgh [pop. 305,700] for six years!
 
What you can do:

* Put a separate container next to your rubbish bin or printer, making it easier to recycle your bottles, cans, and paper. Keep collecting can tabs and wine bottle caps.

(2) Turn off the lights
 
On the last Saturday in March----March 31 in 2012----hundreds of people, businesses, and governments around the world turn off their lights for an hour as part of Earth Hour, a movement to address climate change.
 
What you can do:

* Earth Hour happens only once a year, but you can make an impact every day by turning off lights during bright daylight, or whenever you will be out for an extended period of time.

(3) Make the switch
 
In 2007, Australia became the first country to ban incandescent light bulbs. By late 2010, incandescent bulbs had been totally phased out and, according to the environment minister, this simple move has made a big difference, cutting an estimated 4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.
 
What you can do:

* Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which use only 20-30 percent of the energy required by incandescents to create the same amount of light, and LEDs, which use only 10 percent, helping reduce both electricity bills and carbon emissions.

(4) Turn on the tap
 
The bottled water industry sold 8.8 billion gallons of water in 2010, generating nearly $11 billion in profits. Yet plastic water bottles create huge environmental problems. The energy required to produce and transport these bottles could fuel an estimated 1.5 million cars for a year, yet approximately 75 percent of water bottles are not recycled----they end up in landfills, litter roadsides, and pollute waterways and oceans.
 
What you can do:
* Fill up your glass and reusable water bottles with water from the tap. By eliminating bottled water you can help to keep millions of bottles out of the landfill, as well as save money on water costs.
(5) Turn down the heat
 
It is estimated that consumers can save up to 15 percent on heating and cooling bills just by adjusting their thermostats.
 
What you can do:
* Turn down your thermostat when you leave for work, or use a programmable thermostat to control your heating settings.
 

(6) Support food recovery programmes
 
Each year, roughly a third of all food produced for human consumption----approximately 1.3 billion tonnes - gets wasted, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Grocery stores, bakeries, and other food providers throw away tonnes of food daily that is perfectly edible but is cosmetically imperfect or has passed its ‘best by’ date. In response, food recovery programmes run by homeless shelters or food banks collect this food and use it to provide meals for the hungry, helping to divert food away from landfills and into the bellies of people who need it most.
 
What you can do:

* Encourage your local restaurants and grocery stores to partner with food rescue organisations, like Kai Bosh in Wellington.
* Go through your pantry and donate any non-perishable canned and dried foods that you won't be using to your nearest food bank or shelter.
 

(7) Buy local
 
Author and consumer advocate Michael Shuman argues that local small businesses are more sustainable because they are often more accountable for their actions, have smaller environmental footprints, and innovate to meet local conditions----providing models for others to learn from.
 
What you can do:

* Instead of relying exclusively on large supermarkets, consider farmers markets and local farms for your produce, eggs, dairy, and meat. Food from these sources is usually fresher and more flavourful, and your money will be going directly to these food producers.
 

(8) Get out and ride
 
We all know that carpooling and using public transportation helps cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as our petrol bills.
 
What you can do:

* If available, use your town's bike share programme to run short errands or commute to work. Memberships are generally inexpensive and by eliminating transportation costs, as well as a gym membership, you can save quite a bit of money!
* Many cities and towns are incorporating bike lanes and trails, making it easier and safer to use your bike for transportation and recreation.
 

(9) Share a car
 
Car sharing programmes are increasingly popular, especially as petrol prices continue to rise. Check out www.carpoolnz.org/, www.jayride.co.nz , www.letscarpool.govt.nz or ask your local council.
 
What you can do:
 

* Join a car share programme! Even if you don't want to get rid of your own car, using a shared car when traveling in a city can greatly reduce the challenges of finding parking, as well as your environmental impact as you run errands or commute to work.

(10) Plant a garden
 
Whether you live in a studio loft or a suburban McMansion, growing your own vegetables is a simple way to bring fresh and nutritious food literally to your doorstep. Researchers at the FAO and the United Nations Development Programme estimate that 200 million city dwellers around the world are already growing and selling their own food, feeding some 800 million of their neighbours. Growing a garden doesn't have to take up a lot of space, and in light of high food prices and recent food safety scares, even a small plot can make a big impact on your diet and wallet.
 
What you can do:

* Plant some lettuce in a window box. Lettuce seeds are cheap and easy to find, and when planted in full sun, one window box can provide enough to make salads throughout a season.

(11) Compost
 
And what better way to fertilise your garden than using your own composted organic waste. You will not only reduce costs by buying less fertiliser, but you will also help to cut down on food and other organic waste.
 
What you can do:

* Websites such as HowToCompost.org provide easy steps to reuse your organic waste.

(12) Reduce your meat consumption
 
Livestock production accounts for about 18 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for about 23 percent of all global water used in agriculture. Yet global meat production has experienced a 20 percent growth rate since 2000 to meet the per capita increase of meat consumption of about 42 kilograms.
 
What you can do:

* You don't have to become a vegetarian, but simply cutting down on the amount of meat you consume can go a long way. Consider substituting one meal day with a vegetarian option.

The most successful and lasting New Year's resolutions are those that are practiced regularly and have an important goal. Thankfully, simple practices, such as recycling or riding a bike, can have great impact. As we prepare to ring in the new year, let's all resolve to make 2012 a healthier, happier, and greener year for all.  


About the Worldwatch Institute:
Worldwatch is an independent research organisation based in Washington, DC that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State of the World report is published annually in more than 20 languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

 

 

 

 

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