New Year's resolutions don't have to be hard to be worthwhile. Here's a quick guide to easy, green resolutions you can make in 2009. Not only do they help the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams by reducing pollution and trash, they're also good for your wallet and your well being.
- Start a carpool, or use public transportation more often. Air pollution is harmful by itself, but it also becomes water pollution after a rainfall as it is washed into waterways. In fact, 30 percent of waterway pollution comes from emissions in the air.
- Turn off the lights whenever possible. If your work station or desk is near a window, there may be enough daylight to illuminate your work. And always turn off the lights at the end of the day.
- Eliminate disposable eating and drinking utensils and encourage co-workers to bring in their own coffee mugs, plates, forks, etc. from home to reuse. Bringing your lunch to work in reusable containers not only saves gas and trash from over-packaged fast food places--it's healthier and less expensive.
- Adjust the thermostat and dress accordingly. Reducing the heating temperature by just two degrees in winter, and raising the cooling temp by the same in summer not only saves your company money, but decreases pollution by using less coal burning electricity.
- Recycle. If your company doesn't currently recycle office paper, cardboard, and drink containers, volunteer to coordinate the effort. Assign a recycling captain for each floor or department. Put bins in break rooms and at copy and fax machines. Rotate the responsibilities of carting the recyclables home if there is no recycling container on your company property.
- Conserve water and use Bay-friendly household cleaning products. The harsh chemicals found in most home cleaning products end up in the wastewater and are harmful to aquatic life, including crabs, oysters, and the things they feed upon. A mixture of baking soda, borax, and hot water cleans everything from greasy pans to toilets. Keep a reusable spray bottle of water and white vinegar for kitchen countertops and window washing.
- Buy locally grown produce and other products. Many foods from grocery stores travel an average of 1,300 miles before they get to your city! Buying food that's grown on local farms greatly reduces transportation-related emissions. It also keeps farmers in business, which is good for Bay lands and water quality. And it tastes better because it's fresher! Shop at local farmers' markets or join a community supported farm.
- Bring your reusable shopping bags whenever and wherever you shop. They're inexpensive to buy, but they could even be free if you sew them yourself from old jeans. Need a gift bag? Wrap birthday gifts in a reusable bag for an extra gift.
- Replace light bulbs with fluorescents. They use about 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than standard bulbs. If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than three million homes for a year, save more than $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars.
- Clean out closets, garages and attics and donate unwanted items to charity thrift stores. Or advertise them on Freecycle, Craigslist, or eBay to keep them out of the landfill.
- Be sure to join CBF's Action Network. Take a few minutes to write an individual note to your state and federal lawmakers, expressing your concern about government's failure to reduce pollution and the need to enforce regulations and preserve funding to help clean up our waterways. Get a list of your local legislators at votesmart.org You can also contact your local CBF advocacy manager.
Even in winter months, there are plenty of no- or low-cost activities that are fun without impacting the Chesapeake Bay and your surrounding environment.
- Bundle up and take a hike! The same paths in parks and nature centers that thrive in warmer months can be fascinating places to explore signs of winter wildlife. The more we learn about the marvels of nature, the more we'll want to protect our precious natural resources. Pull the kids away from video games for a bit, and go outside where you can teach them to be environmental stewards.
- Attract a variety of birds to your backyard for delightful winter entertainment. You can make your own feeders from such items as pine cones, plastic soda bottles, or produce netting. Provide prime real estate for upcoming mating season and make birdhouses from scrap wood. Get the kids to paint them creatively using eco-friendly paint. For instructions on these projects, explore the web or check out books from your nearby library.
- Prepare for warmer weather fun. Go online to shop for a used bicycle, canoe, kayak, or sailboat, and be ready for eco-friendly fun at the first sign of spring.
- Empower yourself to be an active, effective advocate for the Bay.
If you have more ideas or other green resolution websites, please share them through our comment form.
Make 2009 your greenest year yet! Incorporate green resolutions until they become part of your routine.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation