Eight Ideas to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Green

It’s that time of year again for you to set your New Year’s resolutions, which will serve as goals for you to implement over the next year and will hopefully turn into lifelong healthy habits. This year, go green! Incorporate into your goals for 2024 some small changes that will play a part in creating a greener earth for future generations. Even some small easy tasks can m

Bring your own water bottle

Buy a nice reusable water bottle and pledge to stop buying bottled water. According to Earthday.org, Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year. Much of this plastic ends up in landfills and our oceans and waterways. By trading in your disposables for a refillable water bottle, you can do your part to reduce the approximately 17 million barrels of oil used to make plastic bottles annually in the U.S. Additionally, you could save your household hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars every year. If you don’t like the taste of your home tap water, purchase a reusable filter pitcher or add a water filter to your tap and you’ll have unlimited access to healthy, cheap, and good-tasting water.

Be water-smart

Just changing some simple things at home can help to reduce your water use drastically. Some ways to be water‑smart at home include simply minimizing water usage during routine household tasks. Make sure you have a modern energy and water-efficient washing machine and dishwasher, and only wash full loads. Some other easy home adjustments include turning the water off while you wash your hair or brush your teeth, setting your toilet water tanks to fill to a lower level, and reducing the flow rate on your shower. You could also try collecting rainwater or installing a rain garden. Install a rain barrel to capture water from your roof to use for watering the lawn or plants during the dry season. Plant native plants and trees that are more resilient and able to withstand drought, diseases and pests. That means less maintenance and water use for you!

Reduce your carbon footprint

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by transportation. Even if it’s not realistic for you to permanently give up your car for a bike or public transportation, there are many ways you still can cut down on your use of a car and therefore reduce your carbon footprint: Carpool to work, ride your bike to the grocery store, take public transportation or walk to complete nearby errands. 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. Also, reduce your home energy use through the following energy-saving strategies: unplug electronic devices while not in use, switch to smart power strips and modern appliances, replace your incandescent lightbulbs with efficient LEDs, purchase a drying rack and air-dry your clothing, or get a home energy audit to improve the energy efficiency of your home.

Ditch the chemicals

Eliminate or minimize the use of cleaning products with harmful ingredients and transform your home and yard into a space that’s healthy for people, wildlife, and the planet. Many of our everyday cleaning products contain chemicals that can remain toxic in the earth’s soil, water, and environment for generations. Instead, use green remedies for cleaning, choose all natural self-care products, and combat pests while feeding your plants with natural fertilizers and soil amendments. Try buying eco-friendly cleaning supplies or making your own. Find stores in your area that carry less toxic solutions for your garden problems by visiting rrwatershed.org/project/our-water-our-world. You can also visit ZeroWasteSonoma.gov or MendoRecycle.org to learn where to dispose of unwanted chemicals.

Use reusable shopping bags

Plastic bags are convenient; however, the environment pays a price for their convenience. They are difficult to recycle and are usually thrown away. Plastic bags can be caught by the wind and end up littering our forests, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Reusable bags are a great alternative to plastic bags. They are cheap, last a long time, and help preserve the planet.

Recycle more and recycle right

When done right, recycling is an effective tool for repurposing unwanted plastic, metal, and other materials. Before you recycle any item make sure you’re recycling properly to avoid contamination of recyclables. Check with your local solid waste service provider to obtain recycling guides and find out which items are eligible for recycling. Not everyone knows that most household electronics can be recycled. When electronic devices end up in landfill, it adds to plastic waste, and many harmful chemicals can be released into the environment. Many local transfer stations and recycling centers will accept electronics for recycling at no charge, along with other items such as mattresses. Before throwing something out, check to see if it can be recycled, or if it is something that could be donated or sold.  Visit ZeroWasteSonoma.gov or MendoRecycle.org to learn more about the services in your area.

Change your eating habits

Look at how your diet and eating habits are impacting the environment. Start working on this goal with small steps such as purchasing local meat and produce at the farmer’s market or planting a small vegetable garden. Eat more seasonal fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Avoid the “boxed” processed foods and lean towards foods that come from the earth. Local organic foods will be free of pesticides and also don’t take so much energy to get to you. Lastly, instead of throwing away uneaten food, store, freeze, or re-purpose food for future meals. If food is spoiled, compost it rather than throwing it in the trash.

Lead by example and take action!

One last suggestion for a green New Year’s resolution is to resolve to lead by example and take action. Start by learning something new about the environment, sustainability, or climate change. Then use your knowledge to help inform and educate those around you. It could be as simple as encouraging friends and neighbors to join you in pledging to reduce the use of single-use disposable items this year.

Show youth how to recycle or get them involved in volunteer opportunities at a young age. Volunteer by yourself or as a family for a cause to help the environment. Start locally and join a community-based environmental group or volunteer for an annual cleanup event. During election season, educate yourself and vote for climate-friendly candidates and ballot measures. The planet needs you!

This article was authored by Amber Fisette, of the County of Mendocino, on behalf of RRWA. RRWA is an association of local public agencies in the Russian River Watershed that have come together to coordinate regional programs for clean water, habitat restoration, and watershed enhancement.