Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
—Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Ring Out, Wild Bells”
Happy New Year! Whether 2017 was the best year in your life, the toughest, or somewhere in between, it’s time to say goodbye and look forward to a whole new year of growth, success, and excitement. The best part of the New Year—besides that midnight toast—is getting to reflect on the past year and decide what changes you want to make as you move forward into the future.
Going Green for New Years
There are a lot of different changes that people seek to realize in themselves as the year changes. Maybe this will be the year you finally get fit, switch to a plant-based diet, or take a chance on a new career. But as we move into the future, one resolution that is becoming more and more common is finding ways to go green—to be friendlier to the environment and more conscious of our role in the global ecosystem.
Going green may seem like a big goal. After all, how much can any one person do to slow climate change or reduce waste? But as we witness the effects of more powerful hurricanes, the shrinking of our polar ice caps, and the steady increase of global temperatures, there’s never been a more important time to make whatever difference you can. Going green doesn’t have to mean setting up an off-grid yurt in the woods. Even making small changes to your routine can have a positive impact and you might be surprised at how easy it really is to live in more ecologically-responsible ways. Here are a few simple tips to go green in the new year:
Think About What You Buy and What You Throw Away
We live in a consumer culture where there always seems to be something new to buy. But the manufacture and distribution of new goods can have a significant environmental impact. Instead of purchasing new items, reduce your carbon footprint by checking out secondhand goods. Everything from clothing to furniture to electronics can be found online, at garage sales, and in secondhand stores, helping you prolong the lifespan of consumer goods and saving you some money at the same time. When you do purchase new, consider how much packaging is being used, choose items that will last, support locally-made and environmentally-friendly products, and think about whether you really need the item in the first place.
When you do get rid of something, be smart about it. If the item is still usable, consider passing it on to someone else so they can enjoy it. Recycle as much as you can, including electronics that can be left at appropriate recycling centers.
Avoid Plastic Water Bottles
In 2017, one million plastic water bottles were purchased every minute globally. Most of these plastic water bottles end up in landfills or in the ocean. Not only does the production of plastic water bottles contribute significant amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, their litter lingers, causing damage to thousands of terrestrial and aquatic species. Nowhere is this more evident than in the plastic islands floating in our oceans, harming wildlife, endangering ecosystems, and even threatening human health.
Luckily, it’s easy to cut down on the usage of plastic water bottles. Instead of buying single-use bottles when you’re out and about, buy a renewable water bottle you can take with you and refill as needed. At home, drink tap water. If the taste turns you off, invest in a water filter. Not only does this reduce plastic waste, it can also save you money.
Bring Your Own Shopping Bags
Amazingly, we use even more plastic shopping bags every year than we do plastic water bottles. According to the Earth Policy Institute, nearly two million plastic shopping bags are used each minute and these bags cause the same issues as water bottles—their production contributes vast amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and their remains degrade our land and our oceans.
Just like with plastic water bottles, it’s simple to cut back on your use of plastic shopping bags. When you go grocery shopping, bring your own bag to the store—it’s that easy. Many supermarket chains now sell cloth or other reusable bags to their customers. Also, in some municipalities, consumers must pay a tax for each plastic bag they take home from the store. By bringing your own shopping bag, you’re saving the environment while also avoiding an unnecessary expense.
Be Conscientious About Your Food
Be thoughtful about your food choices and make sure they’re not just healthy for you, but for the environment. Minimizing meat consumption, avoiding packaged foods, and buying locally-produced and organic items can all help you reduce your carbon footprint. Eat low on the food chain (think vegetables, fruits, and grains) and avoid contributing to overfishing when selecting your seafood.
Walk, Bike, or Take Public Transit
If it’s an option in your area, choosing to walk, bike, or take public transit to work, shop, and play can easily help you cut down on emissions. Walking and biking eliminate your emissions entirely, and taking public transit is much more energy efficient than driving your own car. Plus, if you don’t drive, that’s one less car on the road. This reduces the amount of time people have to sit in traffic, which helps lower emissions even further. Walking and biking are also great ways to ensure you stay on track with that fitness resolution.
Green Your Home
You might not want to move to that off-grid yurt just yet, but there are still ways to meaningfully reduce the environmental impact of your home. When it’s time to replace your appliances go with ones that are Energy Star® rated to maximize efficiency. Switch out your incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, put timers on your lights to avoid unnecessary electricity use, and invest in some smart power strips. Keep your house well-insulated to maximize heating and cooling efficiency and set your thermostat a few degrees higher or lower to reduce reliance on your HVAC system. When it comes to laundry, wash on the cold setting whenever possible and try line-drying your clothes and linens. All of these little changes can make a big difference for both the earth and your pocketbook.
Switch to Renewable Energy Credits
Much of the electricity in the United States is produced in generation facilities like coal plants that contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. However, renewable power plants, such as wind farms or solar arrays, offer an environmentally-friendly, zero-emission alternative to traditional power sources. Although you can’t decide where your specific electricity comes from, you can purchase an energy plan that includes Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). RECs ensure the amount of electricity you use is offset by an equal amount of electricity produced by a renewable source. It’s the on-the-grid way to know you’ve done your part in emissions-free electricity production.
Of all the resolutions on this list, purchasing RECs is possibly the easiest to keep. All you have to do is choose an electricity supplier that offers electricity plans with RECs. As soon as you sign up, your carbon footprint starts to shrink. Then, for the rest of the year—or the rest of your life—you can rest easy knowing that the dollars you spend on electricity go towards renewable energy production. And when it’s time to make New Year’s resolutions all over again for next year, you’ll have environmentalism so covered you can focus on something else—like those abs.
Liberty Power shares your passion for the environment. That’s why we offer green energy plans that include Renewable Energy Credits. If you’re looking to live a greener lifestyle in 2018, check out the plans available in your area and get started on making the switch to clean energy. May health and happiness find you in your New Year!
Photo Credit: Ian Schneider