Hola, Spinachheads! Thank you all for wishing us happy new year, and happy new year right back to you. We thought we would post on new year’s day, but then realized that the glare of the computer screen and our brilliant writing might merely serve to exacerbate your pounding headache. So! Now that you have recovered with several bloody marys and an extra day of sleep, welcome to 2012.
You are probably all back at work now, and thinking about all the ways in which you can become a better person during the upcoming year. (Either that or weeding through unanswered emails. Hard to tell.) Regardless, we thought we would compile a short list of recommendations for your new year. Some suggested resolutions, so to speak, or if not resolutions, then just little-bitty steps that you can take daily to benefit your planet. Don’t worry – there are only ten, and as always, they are in no particular order.
#10. Resolve to start recycling everything. This one should be a no-brainer. Paper, plastic, metal, glass, plastic bags – we consume pounds of raw materials daily, and sometimes in the oddest ways that you don’t even think about. Think about how many little post-it notes you use on your desk, or the amount of plastic in all the pens you’ve ever used in your life. The little things really do add up! Fortunately, most cities and municipalities now have recycling facilities. If yours doesn’t, talk to your community about starting a grassroots effort to establish a recycling facility. It saves energy, and land, raw materials.
#9. If you can’t recycle, re-use. Okay, so maybe your building doesn’t have a facility to recycle plastic bags. Re-purpose the larger ones as garbage bags rather than buying MORE plastic bags at the store. What about the cardboard rolls inside toilet paper and paper towels? Many animal shelters will accept those as chew-toys for puppies that are waiting for adoption. Websites like Real Simple, EcoSalon, and a host of others are chock-full of ways that you can re-use things around the house rather than throwing them away. While you’re at it, become more ingenious with repairs. I don’t mean getting smarter, per se, but smarter about how you manage the stuff around your house. Learn a craft. Learn how to fix things. Stop throwing away everything that is old, slightly worn, or not quite working immediately, and instead think of how it can be re-used. Maybe that shirt is out of style, but the fabric would make a great pillow case. Maybe the clock that stopped working is actually a quick fix.
#8. Donate your stuff. If you don’t have a use for it, someone else will. If you don’t have the time to fix it, someone else might. If it doesn’t fit you any more, it will fit someone else. Unless something is really, truly past its useful life, find a goodwill or thrift store near you and give it away. You’d be amazed the things they will accept – old costume jewelry, purses, bags, electronics, furniture, household items, kitchenware, clothing, shoes, books, and more.
#7. Donate your time. We’ve so far been harping on the things you can do at home (mostly to reduce waste) but this one gets you outside the house and into the community. Stream cleanups, park restorations, and maintenance for green spaces in communities is often handled by volunteers and local organizations that are looking for help. It’s a great way to get outside, make new friends, and help a cause!
#6. Know who you’re voting for. Whether the election is local, state, or federal, don’t cast an uneducated vote. The Great Almighty Internet makes it easier than ever to learn about where candidates stand on key issues, including energy and environmental issues. Similarly, be aware of what ordinances, regulations, and measures might be passed in your area and what impacts they can really have long term.
#5. Know what you’re buying. This might be the most important item on the list (so I guess I should save it for #1?) because when you get down to it, money talks. If you’ve going to splurge on something, whether it’s a beauty product, a household item, or an article of jewelry or clothing, know your source. There are loads of resources compiled by nonprofits such as Environmental Working Group or Lazy Environmentalist that rate companies real track records in terms of how ecologically and socially well-source their goods are. A particular pet peeve of mine, ladies: beauty products. If you’re going to spend an arm and a leg on cosmetics, body care, or hair care, you might as well do it right.
#4. Turn off the lights. When you leave the room, turn off the lights. When you don’t need your computer anymore, turn it off and unplug it. When you’re not charging your cell phone, take the charger out of the wall (yes, it has a very small current draw which can add up over long periods of time.) These little things add up to thousands of kW/hrs of energy consumed per year, which translates into a heck of a lot of coal and natural gas that we don’t need to be burning.
#3. Walk or bike whenever possible. You will get into better shape, you will be happier, you will save money, and you will save the environment. In many urban locations, traffic patterns are actually slow enough that biking can be just as expedient a way to travel during rush hour as anything else, too. If the weather is bad, use public transit.
#2. Eat less meat. I’m not saying to give it up entirely – I also enjoy a good steak now and then. But, you probably don’t need meat with every single meal. (Seriously. I’m an ultra-long-distance runner myself, and I don’t need protein with every meal. Unless you’re trying to bulk up for some particular reason, most of the protein you’re consuming is probably being processed out of your system. Nifty!) Eating meatless means less land, energy, and water went into your meal. Take a look online and you’ll find some great options for very filling and tasty meals to make a meatless lunch or dinner every now and then.
#1. Eat in and eat right. So you want to lose weight this coming year? Great! So does everybody else. I’ll give you a hint: it’s probably not going to happen if you’re eating out a lot, or eating a lot of fast food. It is time consuming, but preparing more food at home can lead to smarter and healthier choices. Not everyone can afford to go full-on organic or locally sourced, but with certain veggies it can be a huge step towards improving your health and fitness. Even items like baked goods can be made at home, and you’ll consume fewer preservatives and artificial ingredients than the pre-packaged varieties. Additionally, making meals with fresh fruits and veggies rather than eating processed and packaged items reduces waste and saves you dollars and calories in the long run. Win – win! Side note: we highly recommend spinach.