It’s a new year, and the writing is on the wall: This tumbling rock we call Home is not happy with us.
The Earth is changing rapidly, and entire species of plants and animals are going extinct before we ever get a chance to understand them. Under our constant and growing demand, precious natural resources like fresh water, fertile soil, and forests are becoming depleted, destroyed or much harder to find.
The industrial toxins we’ve put into our air, water, food, medicine, furniture, clothing, workplaces and homes are taking a massive, synergistic toll on our public health—in the form of cancer, autoimmune disease, autism, mental illness, and more.
The climate has gotten downright scary.
This year, it seems like we need more of a New Year’s revolution!
But before you sink into despair, know that there are minor lifestyle changes we can all make, that—if even a mere 10% of the population did them—would create a revolution, and make a HUGE difference for our health and the wellbeing of this fragile planet we love.
Here are 10 things you can resolve to do this year to help make a big difference in the world, and save you some money, too.
10 Green New Years REVolutions
I hope that the following ideas will inspire you, and the related links will give you the tools you need to live more healthfully, naturally and sustainably in the coming year.
Shopping with reusable bags everywhere you shop is a simple way to reduce ocean pollution and prevent unnecessary sea mammal deaths. It also helps you reduce consumption, prevent deforestation, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Plastic bags are the second most prevalent form of litter after cigarette butts, and over 4 billion bags get caught by the wind and end up clogging storm drains and littering our forests, rivers, lakes, beaches and oceans every year. Plastic bags are also known to kill over a million birds and hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales, seals, and other marine mammals every year.
Plastic bags are made of petroleum-based polyethylene and require 12 million barrels of oil to produce each year—a nonrenewable resource that creates more greenhouse gases and increases our dependency on foreign oil. That’s over $500,000,000 that we’re spending on oil, just to throw it away.
There is an easy way to always remember your reusable bags. Let’s make the plastic bag industry extinct this year, not sea turtles!
2. Cook from scratch.
This is a harder resolution to stick to, but your health, your wallet, and the environment will thank you for it. From farm to factory to store to table, processed, packaged convenience foods are dripping in wasted energy, oil, water and trees. This is especially tragic, since processed foods contain little to no nutrition, and usually have to be sweetened, fortified, preserved and “flavor enhanced” to be edible.
Batch cooking on weekends, meal planning, and cookbooks specializing in easy, fast preparation can make cooking from scratch much easier. Having something home-cooked in the freezer is invaluable for those nights when you are just too tired or too harried to cook. (This is my favorite whole food, grain free, dairy free “Quick and Easy” cookbook.)
Start with just one or two days a week, or a batch-cooking session every weekend, and then work up from there. Take the opportunity to slow down, spend time with family or friends, and enjoy taking care of yourself.
3. Eat organic as much as possible.
Organic costs a bit more up front, but this is money well spent because your food will be more nutritious and you won’t have to worry about the health effects of eating GMOs, toxic pesticides, or sewage sludge. (Ew.)
Plus you can be sure that your food was grown in a way that helped protect and enhance the ecosystem it was grown in. And if your food is also locally grown, then you can be sure that it is also supporting your local economy, too.
You can get organic food cheaply if you join a CSA, start a buying club, visit the farmer’s market at the end of the day when they are trying to get rid of everything, or wait for and stock up during sales. Of course, starting an organic garden is perhaps the best way to reduce your food costs and improve your nutrition. You actually need less than an acre of land to grow all you need to eat.
Vegetarians have their environmental argument against today’s mass-produced meat right: The highly industrialized way in which we raise most livestock is inhumane, unhealthy and extremely unsustainable. Let there be no doubt: Conventional, grain-fed meat is a home-wrecker!
But here’s where environmental argument for vegetarianism ends: Whether you feed the grain to livestock or people doesn’t matter. An industrially farmed corn or soybean monoculture is a major source of greenhouse gases, air, water and GMO pollution either way. But a permanent grassland ecosystem is a biodiverse, ever-cycling pump that continuously pushes carbon back into the soil where it increases fertility and builds topsoil.
The irony of all of this is that the very prairie we destroyed to grow grains to feed livestock not only released most of the carbon dioxide that harms our climate today, but was already the perfect, natural habitat for raising healthy, happy cows, sheep, chickens and pigs virtually for free.
According to a Scientific American article “Future Farming: A Return to Roots?”, healthy grassland sequesters substantially more carbon dioxide from the air than even rainforests can. (Wow!) Because of this, scientists and sustainable ranchers alike see managed holistic grazing on restored, permanent prairie as the very best solution to desertification, air and water pollution, and even climate change.
They have calculated that converting just half the U.S. corn and soy acreage back to pasture might cut carbon emissions by as much as 144 trillion pounds—and that’s not even counting the reduced use of fossil fuels for vehicles, machinery, fertilizers and pesticides that would also result. To put that in perspective, that’s enough carbon sequestration to offset the emissions from all the cars and trucks on the planet!
Then there are also the benefits of healthier, happier animals, better nutrition, greater biodiversity, less antibiotic use, no manure lagoons, reduced seasonal flooding and water pollution, no GMOs, better farmer livelihoods, and more.
Healthy grassland simply cannot exist without predators, ruminants, fowl, and foragers to make the ecosystem function. And since we don’t have trillions of wolf, coyote, bobcat, bison, bighorn sheep, guinea hens, wild turkeys and boar roaming the Plains anymore, we can only reap the enormous benefits of grassland restoration by mimicking nature and putting ourselves and our domesticated animals in their places. And decades of research proves this works very well.
So this year, resolve to eat clean, grass-fed, pasture-raised meat, dairy and eggs whenever possible, and make a big difference for small farmers and the environment by supporting pasture restoration with your wallet. You could even pledge to eat only “clean meat or no meat,” like we do at our house.
Animal foods that have been raised sustainably and humanely on pasture cost more, no doubt. Their prices reflect the true cost of what it takes to sustainably produce clean, safe, healthy animal products. So you might consider changing the way you eat meat by eating more like our ancestors—who were dependent on grassland ecosystems for their survival.
This means eating less of it, cooking with the organ meats and bones (which are more nutritious anyway), and using the fat to flavor and improve the nutrition of otherwise vegetarian dishes.
You can also make eating pasture-raised animal products cheaper by joining a livestock CSA, starting a buying club, or buying a half or whole animal directly from a farmer or rancher who uses holistic managed grazing practices.
5. Avoid fast fashion.
Big chain stores with insanely cheap clothing seem to good to be true—and that’s because they are. America’s insatiable appetite for cheap clothing that we wear for only one season couldn’t be more destructive.
In order to meet our demand for the latest fashion fad, Asian and Indian farmers ravage their fertile soils and deplete precious ground water to grow millions of acres of GMO cotton for export—instead of food for their hungry people.
Cheap fashion also supports the petroleum-based, highly toxic synthetic fabric and dye industry, and uses tons of fossil fuels during farming, manufacturing and shipping. Our love affair with cheap clothes-on-demand also sustains inhumane, often toxic, sweatshop conditions for garment workers all over the world.
This year, consider whether you need any new clothes at all, and if so, only buy what you need. When clothes shopping, try to choose timeless styles that won’t go out of fashion in six months, choose high quality materials and manufacturing so they will last, and buy domestically-made garments whenever possible.
Also consider organizing clothing swaps with friends or buying at thrift stores and consignment shops. It’s amazing what you can find at a good thrift store!
6. Get the chemicals out of your cosmetics.
Did you know that everything you put on your skin gets absorbed into your bloodstream? It’s true, which is why your personal care products should be so pure, you could eat them!
Just as you would read the labels on your food to make sure you aren’t eating any questionable or toxic ingredients, you should read the labels on your cosmetics and personal care products to make sure your not consuming toxins through your skin, too.
Use less chemicals on your body this year by checking out your products on EWG’s Skin Deep Database. The huge database will tell you just how safe any cosmetic or sunscreen is to use. This year, choose eco-friendly and non-toxic brands of personal care products whenever possible.
Better yet, start making some of your own personal care products. Toothpaste, deodorant, lotion and even liquid soap are pretty easy to make at home, and there are tons of recipes on the internet for everything from DIY mascara to homemade bath salts.
You could also try reducing your need for a ton of products by practicing oil cleansing for outstanding, natural facial skin care and the “No Poo” method of shampoo-free hair washing. Many women swear by both of these non-toxic techniques for beautiful, healthy, easy-to-maintain skin and hair.
Did you know that, every year, the oil used to produce plastic water bottles in the U.S. alone is enough to fuel about 1,000,000 cars? The more we squander what little accessible oil we have left on this planet on really stupid things like single-use plastic bottles, the more we have to procure from other countries and dangerously and expensively drill out of pristine ecosystems.
Anything we can do to quickly and permanently phase out disposable plastic bottles would help improve our relationship with the people living in oil and gas-rich nations, protect ecosystems, save resources, reduce waste and deadly pollution, and save money.
If you’re still buying bottled water, take a trip to the store and check out the many great reusable water bottles on the market. We don’t go ANYWHERE without our BPA free Camelbak water bottles. Get into the habit of treating your reusable water bottle like your keys or your wallet. Make sure it goes to work, school, and around town with you.
According to Project Laundry List, commercial, industrial and residential clothes dryers use a whopping 15-20% of domestic energy in the U.S. In 2007 alone, clothes dryers in U.S. homes emitted 54.72 million metric tons of climate changing carbon dioxide.
If all Americans used a clothesline or folding drying racks just once a week, the savings would be enough to close several coal fired or nuclear power plants! Throw in a high efficiency, front-loading washer, a cold water wash, and your own homemade laundry detergent, and 21st century laundry couldn’t get any greener!
Nothing would protect the environment and decrease our dependence on oil more than taking steps to reduce your transportation footprint. Transportation accounts for more than 30 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.
In big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, and Washington, D.C., car pollution causes the grey smog that leads to hotter summers and those horrible orange, red and even purple air-quality days that cause asthma attacks in children and other health problems in adults.
That $4 a gallon you pay for gas does not even begin to cover the costs that the use of that fuel places on our economy. American’s end up wasting 1.9 billion gallons of gasoline just sitting in traffic jams every year. This costs American’s over $100 billion dollars per year in fuel alone. Then there are pollution remediation costs, loss of productivity due to asthma and poor air quality, healthcare costs, and more.
Any thing you can do to reduce your transportation footprint this year by walking, biking, taking public transportation or telecommuting will be a boon to both the environment and your wallet.
10. Detox your home.
According to the EPA, household cleaning products rank among the most toxic everyday substances to which people are exposed, and most chemical brands are not safe and contain ingredients that have never been tested for safety. And to top it all off, to protect “trade secrets,” manufacturers are not even required to disclose the ingredients in their cleaning products at all!
Some especially toxic household cleaners include ammonia, chlorine bleach, aerosol propellants, detergents, petroleum distillates, drain cleaners, and toluene. Many of these substances are not only absorbed into the skin, but they also give off toxic fumes that affect the person using the product and everyone else in the area.
Everything from dermatitis to headaches to cancer have been associated with the chemical products we use to clean our furniture, bathrooms and clothes—including air fresheners. Traditional cleaning agents assail our skin and lungs with carcinogens, assault our immune system, and expose us to unnecessary physical stress. They are also typically made from petroleum, and remain toxic in the earth’s soil, water, and environment for generations.
In contrast, green cleaning products are typically made with common kitchen ingredients like water, white vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap. Some also include coconut or orange oils, and other powerful plant-derived ingredients. Plus, making your own green cleaners, disinfectant, and laundry detergent is easy, and significantly cheaper than buying them at the store.
Many blessings to you in the New Year! May it be a healthy, abundant and prosperous one!
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50 Ways to Love Your Mother contains 50 simple, “entry-level” ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Not only will these baby steps go easy on the planet, but they will go easy on your wallet, too.