Resolution? - Yes, the same word that makes you cringe around New Years every year when you're bombarded with discount gym memberships, Groupons for far-off travel adventures saying this year is the year, coupons for the next widget that'll help you stop smoking or drink less or become more organized or dig your way out of debt. This word quickly takes on a meaning not of resolve & encouragement, but more along the lines of unattainability, disconnect, or just pure b.s.
So let's face it: it's mid-April, and you've most likely already forgotten about that generic New Years resolution you clutched firmly for a few weeks, revisited a bit in February, then let vanish like a fart in a wind tunnel.
Yet have no fear, Earth Day is here! Plus, sustainability is for everyone. The realization of the big impact even small lifestyle changes make will eventually take you straight to the altar of sustainability (a Vegas drive-thru style wedding here is acceptable).
Now, before I dive into the good stuff, these resolutions will only work if you first reboot & recognize some key points:
So, without further ado, here are some green resolutions you can commit to (sans treadmill).
I don't list this resolution first because you're reading this on a website dedicated to selling exclusively products made from recycled materials. For the most part, you buy something every day. You might pay your electric bill once a month, but it's a total of your daily energy purchased. You buy food, you buy transportation, you buy toiletries - you even buy things indirectly (what'd your tax dollars buy today?).
Today's retail offerings serve up a harmful mix of cheap imports, fast fashion and overabundance (the U.S. leads the world by far in retail space per capita at nearly 23 square feet per person1). With convenient, cheap options all around, your greatest impact starts when you simply slow down and consider the impact each purchase will have on our environment. Where did it come from? What is it made from? Who is the company behind it? How do I recycle it? - and etc. Ask yourself these types of questions about everything you buy, and you will soon be voting with your wallet.
Look around you right now at all the things in sight that you have no idea how to recycle. If it is still usable, you should always look to first donate it or give it to someone in your community who can use it. There is actually a term for this: freecycling, which is to give away used goods or materials to people who want them, or to obtain such items for free.1 There are apps for freecycling, such as Listia, TrashNothing, Craigslist Pro, Olio and others.
If the item is beyond use, the material itself still holds value and can be recycled. Familiarize yourself with your community's guidelines on recycling, then educate your friends & family too. Earth911 maintains one of North America's most extensive databases of recycling centers for various materials. If you find that your community does not recycle a certain material, speak up! Contact your city representatives and start the conversation.
Just remember: both environmental and economic reasons exist to recycle. Recycling creates local jobs, preserves natural resources, stops landfill waste buildup (which affects the waste disposal fees you pay), saves energy, boosts local economies, prevents pollution - many great things!
I'll start with a few questions here. For example, what's your return on investment (ROI) on your monthly power bill to the electric company? - Answer: $0. Do you know how much it costs to have a solar consultant come to your home to assess your property for installing solar and estimate your energy cost savings & investment payback period? - Same Answer: $0. The point here is that with minimal research, you can find many ways to save green by going green. I find many times that residents are simply unaware of the local or Federal programs available to them that provide significant financial incentives to change.
Even the smallest changes will accrue noticeable savings over time. Here are 6 changes I made last year to lower my footprint while saving money:
Even the smallest monetary donations are great - and many purchases you make have an alternative option that benefits an environmental non-profit. For example, instead of buying just any coffee table, you purchase one from a furniture company that donates a % of profits to preserve forests. Or, if you need a belt, buy one made from fire hoses that donates 10% back to local fire departments.
Kids activity or date idea? - Find a local community clean-up, or CHaRM event (Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials), or tree planting event, etc. This year I am looking forward to volunteering for the SLCgreen FruitShare Program, which connects volunteers with homeowners needing assistance harvesting their trees. Each year, tens of thousands of pounds of fruit fall to the ground and rot: by harvesting these trees, the food is not wasted. In fact, it is split three ways between homeowners, volunteers and local food assistance programs. How cool is that!
If anything, locate some local environmental non-profits on Facebook or other social media outlets and support their pages.
Let's be honest: I once thought "greenies" were weirdos who I could not relate to, or basically decided not to just to maintain my assumed hardass image. I didn't care about my impact whatsoever. I was sustainable perhaps only in that I did not litter, that's about it. So versus then, my words here are spoken from the other side. The better side. It's awesome living sustainably and I can't imagine living any other way at this point. Just to take a minute to consider your impact and be proud to leave the world a better place: it is a very rewarding feeling.
Remember: you're not going to know how to do everything perfectly "green" at first, so don't worry about asking others your silly questions (I've asked more than my fair share). Your dignity will remain intact, trust me. When you start to try something new, you are leaving your comfort zone, and that my friend is a good thing.
About the Author: Jason Utgaard is the founder of The Spotted Door and loves discovering & sharing everyday products made using recycled materials. He encourages everyone to see beyond trash and to stop thinking of ourselves as "consumers" but rather as "temporary users." He enjoys spending time outdoors in the Utah mountains or on the lake in Minnesota, and of course, chatting about sustainability.
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