Friday, December 31, 2010

Green Resolutions

Well, 2011 is upon us. I am one of those people who make New Year's resolutions. I am also OCD enough to create a tracking mechanism to see how I'm doing. That may be why I am reasonably successful in achieving many of my resolutions--I write them down and make myself track progress. I hate to see no movement in the direction I want to go. So I may not achieve all of the resolutions I make, but I almost always make progress

Generally, I don't share my resolutions. I figure they aren't important to anyone but me and unlike many, sharing them doesn't seem to make it any more likely I'll succeed with them. However, I'll make an exception in the case of one of my resolutions, since this blog is about living more sustainably.

Last year I resolved to recycle everything possible and to not use any bottled water in the courses I teach for my business. I now put out a trash bin only once a month, if that--everything else has been going into the compost bin. I expected to get bad feedback on course evaluations over the lack of bottled water in my courses, but that didn't happen. I had ice water in pitchers available and everyone seemed fine with that.

So what's on the docket for this year? This year, I have decided to eat more sustainably. I don't do a bad job of that now, as I cook from scratch pretty much all of the time. However, my husband is a confirmed carnivore, and I have been catering to his preferences in cooking. For a variety of reasons, we have been on different eating schedules this past year, so I am going to go back to fixing more vegetarian meals for myself and eating out less.

I like eating in restaurants, but there's no doubt I eat more and know less about what I am eating than when I cook for myself. I am not going to cut out eating in restaurants, but I am going to eat out less and order more vegetables when I do go out. After all, I do want to help support the local economy, right? (OK, so that bit of logic was thrown out to support what I want to do anyway.)

What's your green resolution? If you're not sure, here are some ideas that won't force a huge change in your lifestyle but can be beneficial. If you're already doing all of these, there are many other things you can do. Anyway, here are some ideas:

  • Eat one vegetarian meal a week (or add one more vegetarian meal per week if you are already doing this.) Why? Meat takes more water and food to produce. Eating more vegetables reduces the amount of water used in agriculture and also, leaves more food to feed everyone. Americans eat more meat than they need for good health (yes, I know vegetarianism is a healthy diet and people can choose not to eat any meat and be healthy, but it does require paying attention--so go with me here) and for most, a reduction in meat will have a positive effect on cholesterol.

  • Turn up the thermostat in the summer and turn it down in the winter. Just a couple of degrees can make a difference. My husband has been sneaking the thermostat up to 70 this winter and in the summer, he wants the AC on 65. What sense does that make? I try to keep the heat between 65 and 68 and the AC between 78 and 80. When it's 100 degrees outside, 80 feels darned good.

  • Start a garden. If you don't have the room or the inclination for a large garden, think about starting some herbs on the kitchen windowsill and planting some tomatoes or peppers in a pot on the patio.

  • Buy local produce. Some foods in our stores is trucked thousands of miles when the same type of produce is grown in our local area. Reduce the carbon footprint by buying from local farmers at the farmers market, when it's open.

  • Eat more seasonally and put up produce for later. Again, we spend lots of carbon fuel to bring in crops that do not grow in our area (or the US) in the winter. Change up your menus to allow for root and cold weather crops in the winter and take full advantage of in season fruits and vegetables in the spring and summer. Can or freeze in season crops for a winter treat. I have some peaches in the freezer an acquaintance gave me in the summer when he had too many for his family. I am looking forward to a peach cobbler soon.

  • Fix water leaks and change out plumbing fixtures to water saving devices as you do so.

  • Look for energy saver devices when updating appliances.

  • Don't buy bottled water. The water in Wichita Falls tastes good most of the time. If you can taste the Lake Kemp water at certain times of the year, consider getting a filter for the tap or a filter pitcher to keep in the refrigerator.

  • Consider buying/cooking in smaller amounts. Americans throw away a LOT of food. This is a waste of money and also uses more resources than needed.

  • Make a compost pile. If you don't have room for a big one, consider a small one targeted toward food waste.

  • Eliminate some invasive plants from your yard. Although many invasive ornamentals are pretty, they tend to use more water and they provide less food for our native wildlife. We tore out a lot of invasive shrubs this fall and are replacing them with native plants.

  • When landscaping, buy native and reduce your dependence on chemicals and water.

  • Eliminate plastic shopping bags by getting cloth bags. Remember to take them to the store when you go. It seems my bags migrate into the house, and I don't always remember to put them back in the truck when I go to the store.

  • When purchasing cleaning supplies, switch from products with ammonia and bleach to those with natural ingredients. You may have to experiment with different products to find ones that do a good job that you like, but they are out there. I like Meyer's products myself, but there are more to choose from all the time.

  • Get a rain barrel. In our area, rainwater harvesting can have big benefits. If you want to experiment, try a rainbarrel first to collect water for your houseplants. Trust me, they prefer rainwater.

  • Try to reduce use of your car/truck. Wichita Falls is not laid out for a walking community and public transit is admittedly not as efficient as it is in some larger cities. However, we can all reduce the number of trips by combining errands. I pass by my favorite supermarket and my favorite used book store when I have to go to Wild Bird Rescue, so I often combine those errands on the way, rather than make separate trips.

  • Consider buying used. I buy almost all of my books used at this point, although since my husband got me a Sony Reader for my birthday, I am also buying many books as electronic downloads, eliminating paper and transportation altogether. The Wichita Adult Literacy Council book sale is coming up in early March--read cheap and support a great organization at the same time. I also stop in the Goodwill store for shirts and consignment shops for work clothes. I don't always find what I need, but often I do, saving me money and keeping these items out of the landfill.

  • Change your newspaper to e-edition. I am still trying to decide whether I like this or not since I made the switch. I just need to develop discipline to read the paper this way each day. I am enjoying less paper cluttering up the house though.

  • Spay/neuter your pet. There are way too many unwanted dogs and cats euthanized each year.

  • Keep your city cat in the house. Cats kill many wild birds and other wildlife. Cats outside live shorter lives--cars, disease, injury and predators do in many pets. I can understand those who have rodent problems in their barns, etc. keeping outdoor cats, but for most of us, we should take better care of our pets.

  • Produce less waste. Consider packaging when purchasing. Making more of your own food from scratch will help a lot, but consider the amount and type of packaging in your purchasing decision. Is the packaging made from recycled materials? Can the packaging be recycled? If you eat out, consider getting To-Go Ware.

These are just a few ideas. Pick one or come up with one of your own. We don't have to make a huge change to make a difference. If we each did one thing, we could make a big difference in our environment. What's your green resolution for 2011?


  1. This is a helpful list. I found a few things to adopt. Thanks for posting.

  2. Thanks, Elizabeth. Happy new year! I love to hear from you.

  3. Big group discounts available for orders of ten or more rain barrels from Made of 100% recycled plastic in NC and Ohio.
    Contact for more details.

  4. Great, Mike. Glad to hear it. For followers in the Wichita Falls area, I did pull up the retailers for this companies products and there appear to be products available in Norman and Ardmore. Neither is exactly next door, but it's a source. If anyone knows of a good local source, please post.