New Years Resolutions

You know the drill. You spend a few weeks thinking of resolutions to make for the New Year: bad habits to stop, good habits to start, places you want to go, people to see and things to do. By Valentine’s Day, however, your list has been conveniently lost or forgotten. Keeping resolutions isn’t as easy as making them.

Here are some resolutions that are healthy for you, healthy for the environment and easy to keep.

  1. Start Small to Create Big Changes

If exercise is on your wanna-do list, here is the secret to making and keeping that resolution: Don’t call it exercise. Instead, make small changes to your daily routine. Start your day with simple stretches you can do just sitting on the edge of your bed to help you wake up. Take the stairs down and back up at lunch or walk around the interior or exterior perimeter of your office building.

After work, but before dinner, take a walk around your block. Simple, easy-to-do changes can increase your metabolism throughout the day and get in that “exercise.”

The impact on the environment? The time you spend stretching as you wake, walking at lunch and after work is less time you will spend in front of a television or computer screen. If you take the stairs instead of an elevator, you are saving on energy. The relaxation you will get from simply being a little more active during the day will help you sleep better at night and spend less time with house lights, televisions and computers turned on.

  1. Use Reusable Mugs, Napkins and Plates

Bringing your own reusable coffee mug to work or your favorite coffee shop can help to reduce the impact on landfills, CO2 emissions and timber resources. Each year an average of 25 billions of paper coffee cups are thrown away, and that’s not even counting the cup sleeves. The manufacturing process to make four — just four — paper coffee cups creates one pound of CO2 emissions. That can be as much as 6.25 million pounds of CO2 emissions in one year — for paper coffee cups.

You might even be able to check off two items on your list of resolutions with this one. Some coffee shops will give you a discount for bringing your own mug. Take that discount and put the equivalent change in your piggy bank each day. If you are a six mug a day coffee drinker, and get $0.10 off for each mug, you could save enough to buy yourself a good pair of walking shoes by the end of the year, or even a non-electric French Press coffee maker and bank that money you used to spend completely!

While you are saving trees from becoming coffee cups, save even more by replacing your paper towels and napkins with washable cloth ones. Go one step further and purchase inexpensive silverware, reusable plates and cups to put in your picnic basket for the beach instead of using paper plates or single-use plastic silverware and cups.

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  1. Support Your Local Farmers

Buying Fair Trade coffee you can brew at home instead of going out for a franchise brand supports coffee farmers internationally. Finding a local business that roasts Fair Trade beans helps support small business owners in your community. When you add organic milk, or locally farmed milk, instead of artificial creamers, and raw sugar or local honey, you can support local dairy farmers, beekeepers and your local farmer’s market.

Your support of local community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) reduces the amount of pesticides, herbicides and GMOs that can get into streams through runoff from large commercial farms. As an added perk, you keep the bees and butterflies happy, too.

Eating healthier can be a challenge if you try to do it all at once. Instead, start with eliminating one “bad” food a month and substituting a “good” food. One less sugary soda each day replaced by a healthier, life-sustaining water is an easier habit to maintain than suddenly going cold turkey off sodas. Replace candy bars with antioxidant-containing fruits and nuts. Salty, fried chips and fatty dips? Baked chips and crackers or vegetables with hummus is a healthier option.

  1. Create a Habitat

Building a habitat for humanity is sometimes more than just building a house for a family in need. It can also be planting wildflowers that will attract and feed bees and butterflies that help to pollinate local farm produce and make honey. Adding a bee or butterfly “home” to your garden will help to attract them, and a water dish with rocks in it allows for them to land and have a quick drink.

Bats may have a bad rap in some parts of the country, but they can help to pollinate flowers and control unwanted flying pests, like mosquitoes and destructive garden pests — without needing to use sprays or chemicals. Adding a bat “cave” to the far end of your garden will give them a safe place to rest in their migrations. Bird houses, feeders and baths can also bring them to your garden to help control some unwanted bugs.

The benefit for you by keeping this resolution? Flower gardening and spending time in nature can be relaxing and therapeutic. It can also give you a beautiful yard to enjoy, fascinating birds, bees, butterflies and bats to watch and learn about.

  1. Unplug Your Electronics

If you could reduce your energy bill without making any major sacrifices, would you? Small changes like swapping out your light bulbs for compact fluorescent lights, or CFL bulbs, can reduce your energy use by 25-80%. They also last longer than traditional bulbs, so you can save even more. If you’re interested in making bigger changes, you can upgrade your appliances or invest in a programmable thermostat that can save you up to $180 per year.

For additional savings, keep all your cell phone, mp3 and e-reader chargers plugged into a power strip you can turn off when you aren’t charging them. Kitchen countertop appliances, like toasters and others not used on a daily basis? Power strip. Coffee pot? Unless you’re using it 24/7, unplug it or keep it on a power strip.

When something is plugged into a wall socket, such as a lamp, even if the light itself is turned off, it still draws electricity into the cord. It does that so that when you clap or twist, push or flip a switch to turn it on, it will come on. That “phantom power” adds up quickly on your energy bill, especially if you have lamps in every room and other items such as televisions, DVD players and game systems plugged in.

While you are unplugging to reduce your energy usage, consider unplugging to improve your sleep as well. If you have a television in your bedroom, remove it. Leave your laptop, tablet or smart phone turned off in another room. The blue light emitted from LED screens in many of those electronic products can disrupt your internal sleep-wake cycle.

Making New Year’s resolutions that can improve your life, health and the planet is a win-win for everyone. Choosing to make changes you will be able to maintain long-term and even positively impact the health of your family is a resolution you can bank on.