Ah, January. When the new year is pregnant with possibility, and we arise from our beds ready to greet our future as new beings who are fitter, happier, and more productive. Then we see the ice-covered ground outside our window and read on our phone’s weather app that it feels like -10 degrees Fahrenheit and we burrow back under the covers with a groan. Or maybe that’s just me as a southern transplant here in Pittsburgh. Regardless of how dreary the sky may look, the new year is a great time to set some goals for making the planet a little bit better.
So here are my environmental resolutions for 2017. Hopefully they inspire you to make some of your own (and send them my way because I’d love to hear them):
- Be more intentional with my purchases. I’m ashamed to admit how often this happens- I’m out for whatever reason and remember that our fridge is a barren wasteland. So I decide to dip into the grocery store on the way home and get a few things. Of course, these few things inevitably turn into more than a few, and I don’t have my beautiful reusable grocery bags with me because they’re tucked away in their special spot in the kitchen. So I begrudgingly answer the cashier’s “Paper or Plastic” question, all the while silently cursing myself for not being better-prepared. My resolution is to have dedicated grocery shopping trips, with a list and an armful of reusable bags. In addition to solving my bag woes, better grocery planning reduces food waste that’s bad for budgets and the environment.
- Walk more. I’m cutting myself a little slack on this one for the winter (see aforementioned frigid nightmare that is Pittsburgh in January). But as soon as that ice melts, it’s gonna be all-walk all-day. My calf muscles aren’t gonna know what hit ’em. I’m lucky enough to live in a city where there are grocery stores, restaurants, and parks all within a few blocks from me. Since transportation is a big contributing factor to U.S households’ carbon footprint, I’ll be doing both my body and the planet good.
- Start a Vermicompost Bin. Okay, this is cheating a bit because Jordan and I already did this in November. But I am re-affirming my dedication to feeding our little decomposers and expanding our operation. Vermicomposting is an excellent way to turn would-be-wasted kitchen scraps (and junk mail) into beautiful dark soil to use in your garden, or for houseplants, or just because you think it’d be neat to have a wriggly worm farm of your very own. Because of the way worms digest the food there is no smell, so you can do it inside and keep it going all year long! Here is a good set of instructions on how to build and maintain your own.
- Pressure my government representatives to advocate for the environment. They are called representatives for a reason, and in this administration it will be especially important to put their feet to the fire to maintain regulations that protect people and the environment. You can use this website to find their contact information, and many environmental nonprofits have calling scripts available online if you’re unsure of what to say. According to the New York Times, calling is more effective than emailing and can make a real difference in what politicians and their staffers pay attention to throughout the day. Plus, when you take action instead of sitting around feeling impotent, it becomes easier to…
- Spread hope whenever possible. All too often I see others (and myself) become bitter, cynical, or apathetic when looking at the challenges facing our planet. Not only is this bad for my mental health, it makes me a less effective agent of change. Promoting solutions that work with people (check out this wonderful series of articles at Grist) instead of inciting despair is our best bet for helping the environment that we love. So I plan to seek out experiences that allow me to revel in the beauty of our natural world, feel amazed at the complexity of life, and admire the ingenuity of the scientists, conservationists, and others who are working on behalf of the environment. If you need a dose of hope, be sure to listen to our podcast each week, where we end our episodes with a handful of stories that are giving us hope for the earth.
Happy New Year!