Yes, 2020 was a year for the history books, and not in a good way. There were some bright spots during the year, but I must admit that I’m looking forward to a new year. As you think about your new year’s resolutions, why not make some – or all – green, for a Green New Year!
Table of Contents
- A Green New Year at Home
- A Green New Year on the Go
- A Green New Year in the Yard
- A Green New Year for You!
A Green New Year at Home
Get a Home Energy Audit
Start your green new year with a home energy audit. It’s an excellent way to understand the full scope of your home’s energy footprint so you can determine ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home and prioritize energy-saving home improvements.
DIY Energy Savings Projects
Did you know that the average family spends almost $2,000 each year on their home energy bills? Keep that money in your wallet by undertaking some simple home energy savings projects. The Department of Energy offers easy, step-by-step instructions to tons of home energy efficiency improvements that will save you both energy and money.
Go Meatless (Mondays, and More)!
Here’s a simple resolution with a positive environmental impact: eat less meat! One of the chief contributors to climate change is meat production. Resource-intensive animal-based foods carry a higher carbon footprint than plant-based foods and account for approximately one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Start with Meatless Mondays, but try to make this year the one where you significantly reduce your meat consumption. Try substituting meat with nutritious, local, organically grown plants including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Minimize the Food Waste: Eat Your Leftovers!
Food waste isn’t just wasteful. It’s also an enormous contributor to climate change. Instead of throwing away uneaten food, store, freeze, or re-purpose food for future meals. For easy ways to store and repurpose uneaten food, see Green That Life’s post on how to store leftovers.
Try Air-Drying Clothes
Clothes dryers are one of the most energy-intensive appliances in your home. This year, save some money and air-dry your clothes, either inside or out. You’ll also reduce your household carbon footprint!
Ditch the Disposables
Make it a green new year at home by pledging to ditch your use of single-use disposable items: plastic straws, styrofoam and plastic containers, coffee cups, coffee pods, plastic water bottles, disposable snack bags, and/or plastic checkout bags … the list is, sadly, endless!
Start with a couple to eliminate and then add a few more to your waste-reduction resolution. You have the power to make a world of difference for this planet!
Ditch the Toxic Chemical Cleaners
Keep your cleaning green by eliminating, or at least minimizing the use of cleaning products with toxic ingredients that are harmful to you, your loved ones, and the planet. See Green That Life’s green cleaning products guide for information and green product picks.
Reuse, Repair, Repurpose Instead of Buying New
One of the most impactful ways to make 2021 a green new year is to reuse, repair, and repurpose what you already own before making new purchases. It’s also a terrific way to keep expenses to a minimum.
Before you toss unwanted items in the garbage, donate or sell them. Check out Green That Life’s guide for tips on how and where to donate and sell used items.
Recycle, but Recycle Right
Although recycling has its problems, when done right, it can be an effective tool for repurposing unwanted plastic, metal, and other materials. Before you recycle any item make sure you’re recycling properly in order to avoid wish-cycling and contamination of recyclables.
A Green New Year on the Go
Leave the Car at Home
When possible, leave the car at home and walk or bike to your destination. You’ll get some exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and reduce your carbon footprint in the process. You’ll also save money on gas bills.
When it’s safe and healthy to do so, take public transportation. You’ll save the aggravation of traffic jams and fuel expense. The planet will thank you for reduced car emissions!
Make Longer Trips Sustainable
I bet when life returns to normal and it’s safe to move freely, most of us will be itching to travel. I know I will! Instead of automatically hopping on a plane — which places a heavy carbon footprint on your trip — consider traveling by train or car-pooling. Another option is to vacation closer to home with a staycation.
If air travel is a must, make the trip more climate-friendly by purchasing a carbon offset to lessen the greenhouse gas impact of your flight.
If You’re Driving, Make it an Electric Vehicle
In the market for a new car? Make it an electric one! Many states, including New York, offer a number of rebates for EV purchases and incentives for EV owners. For more information on environmentally-friendly vehicles, see the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide.
Don’t Idle! Turn Off Your Car Engine
Here’s an easy resolution for a green new year: don’t idle and pollute the air! Turn off your car when parked.
Bring Your Own Bag and Other Reusables
Keep your reusable bags by the door or in your car so you don’t forget to bring them with you on your next shopping trip. For a complete guide to all types of reusable bags and other on-the-go essentials, see Green That Life’s post on the topic.
Bring Your Own Lunch
Whether it’s for school or work, try bringing lunch from home, even if it’s just a few times a week. You can make lunch eco-friendly by bringing reusable lunch supplies and make planet-friendly food choices. You’ll also save money!
Whether you’re shopping for a blowout party or just for yourself, keep your purchases eco-friendly by buying bulk for food, produce, and household items. Bring your own reusable bags and containers, or simply leave items loose in your cart.
Minimize the carbon footprint of your shopping trips by shopping at local stores. Not only will you support local businesses you’ll also lessen the environmental impact of your purchases through reduced vehicle travel time. Even better, walk or bike to the shops.
Instead of buying new, consider purchasing pre-owned items. The pre-owned market is booming, making it possible to purchase pretty much anything you want at second-hand stores or online. If you still want to buy new, consider purchasing products made from recycled and post-consumer material.
A Green Dry Clean
Keep dry cleaning green by using a reusable garment bag (one suggestion, the Green Garmento). You can also recycle your hangers. Most municipalities will take hangers curbside as part of their scrap metal collection, or you can return them to your dry cleaner.
A Green New Year in the Yard
Transform Your Yard into a Healthy Yard
The perfect way to make this year a green new year is to make your yard into a space that’s healthy for people, wildlife, and the planet by using natural remedies for combating pests while feeding the soil and plants with natural fertilizers and soil amendments.
Even if you live in an urban setting, there’s always space for plants in an apartment, small yard, or rooftop.
Go Native (With Your Plants)!
Wondering what to plant now that you’re committed to a healthy yard? Plant native plants and trees to attract wildlife. They’re also more resilient and able to withstand diseases and pests. That means less maintenance and lawn care for you!
You can also try creating a well-being garden in part of your yard to optimize the therapeutic effects of nature.
Install a Rain Barrel or Rain Garden
Install a rain barrel to capture water from your roof to use for watering the lawn or indoor plants. It’s a terrific way to conserve water and it’s free!
Another way to conserve water and control excess water is to install a rain garden. For tips on how to build a rain garden in your yard, see the Family Handyman’s post.
Get the Dirt on Composting
Composting, or food scrap recycling, is an excellent way to repurpose food waste, transforming it into nutrient-rich soil for your yard or potted plants. (It also makes an excellent gift!) For a detailed how-to guide on composting, see Green That Life’s post on the topic.
Say No Thanks to Leaf Blowers
Leaf blowers blow! Not only are they a noisy nuisance, but they’re also a significant source of air pollution. Part ways with that noisy leaf blower. Instead, mulch, rake, or compost your leaves and grass clippings.
Be-Leaf in Yourself: Leaf Mulch!
This fall, instead of raking, blowing, and bagging, mulch your leaves! Learn the what, why, and how of leaf mulching here.
A Green New Year for You!
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
First, if you don’t know what carbon footprint really means, take a moment to read all about it. Then use one of the carbon footprint calculators to determine your own footprint so you can work towards reducing the environmental impact of your actions.
Make a (Regular) Date With Nature
Even if it’s cold and damp outside, spending time outdoors has powerful healing effects, acting as a stress reliever. Take a look at these resources for nature-related experiences:
- Nationwide trails: visit Hiking Project and All Trails directories.
- Nature-based activities: try a nature scavenger hunt or the iNaturalist app, a social network of over 750,000 scientists and naturalists where anyone can record, discuss, and share their photos of living things.
- Kids’ activities: visit the NY Department of Environmental Conservation’s Nature Activities page or Natural Start Alliance’s guide to Nature Play.
Learn Something New (and Green)
A simple but effective way to go green this year is to learn something new about the environment, sustainability, or climate change. There are thousands of online resources to help inform and educate. See Green That Life’s pick of reputable media sources to get you started. Or pick up a book! For suggestions, see Green That Life’s Best Environmental Books.
Join a Cause
Make 2021 a green new year by supporting an environmental cause. The simplest way to help is through donations and financial support to worthy causes, but you can also volunteer your time, in person, or virtually.
Where should you volunteer your time? Think local: a community-based environmental activist group; a local nature center or conservation organization; a municipal sustainability or environmental committee. Looking farther afield, check out the opportunities on VolunteerMatch, an organization that lists volunteer opportunities across the country, many related to environmental causes.
And during election season, vote for climate-friendly candidates!
Start Something New
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, start something new this year in support of an environmental issue. It could be as simple as starting a climate change conversation with friends and neighbors to raise awareness about our climate crisis; or encouraging them to join you in pledging to reduce the use of single-use disposable items this year. You could take it to the next level and lead a community-wide environmental campaign. All are worthy and necessary endeavors.
At this point, it’s all hands on deck: whatever you can commit to environmental protection or climate action is welcome. The planet needs you!