January 2, 2013

Liz Swafford: Resolutions for a greener new year

Happy New Year! Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? Maybe you decided to train for a marathon this summer, or drop a dress size, or re-organize your garage or even learn Chinese. Did you also make a resolution to be a little greener in 2013?

It’s much easier than learning another language, and there are plenty of ways to start small when striving to be more eco-friendly. A lot of small things add up to a big impact in the long run. Small wins encourage you to do even more. Pick at least one of the following resolutions to get started.

1. Make a recycling area at home: You’ll be more likely to recycle if you have convenient ways to collect recyclable materials inside your home. Use two or more cardboard boxes, bins, or reusable shopping bags to pre-sort materials. For example, one container can be for paper, while another can be for plastic bottles and jugs. Label the container so everyone knows what types of items to add. Visit www.earth911.com to learn where to recycle.

2. Recycle plastic shopping bags: Many retail and grocery store locations have bins set up at the entrance to accept plastic shopping bags given to customers. Simply collect the bags at home for a few weeks then drop them off at the store next time you go shopping. Some locations may even accept plastic film, like the plastic wrap that holds together rolls of paper towels, along with shopping bags. Visit www.abagslife.com to learn more.

3. Use reusable shopping bags: Instead of relying on plastic bags, you can use reusable ones made of cotton or recycled materials. Reusable bags are more sturdy, durable and colorful than their thin plastic counterparts. Keep them in your car or by the front door so you won’t forget to take them next time you go to the store. Store multiple bags in one bag for easy carrying.

4. Drink less bottled water: At home, use a pitcher or sink attachment with a water filter to fill your glasses and reusable water bottles. You’ll have less plastic bottles to recycle and maybe even save a little money. Take a pre-filled reusable water bottle with you to avoid having to buy bottled water on the go.

5. Use less paper towels: Spills, stains and sticky hands at the dinner table all contribute to our use of paper towels. When shopping for paper towels, look for those with the most recycled content. Better yet, start replacing paper towels completely with cloth napkins and kitchen towels made from cotton or linen. Next time you do laundry add them to a load so they’ll be clean and ready to use again. Old T-shirts cut into squares also make good rags for cleaning cars or bad messes.

6. Precycle: You’ve heard the phrase, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Now there’s “Precycling,” the practice of reducing waste by not bringing home items or products that will generate waste. Precycling includes taking your own reusable containers to the store when buying food from bulk bins. Also, using an electronic device to read books or magazines instead of using the paper version of the product that needs to be recycled after use. This is different than reducing, which focuses on buying less and using less in all types of categories from groceries to water use.

7. Take your bike or walk more: Depending on where you live, you may be able to walk or ride a bicycle to the park, to a store or to work. Using your bicycle instead of the car for trips that are two miles or less from your home will save money on gas, vehicle maintenance and even help you stay fit.

8. Compost: Make this beneficial soil amendment at home by mixing food, paper scraps and yard trimmings. If you have the space, set up a compost pile or bin in the backyard. For indoor composting you can use a vermicomposting bin. Over time the items will decompose into a nutritious hummus that can be added to your garden, potted plants or soil. Visit the U.S. Composting Council at www.compostingcouncil.org to get started.

9. Use less toxic cleaning supplies: Conventional cleaners used around the house have many chemicals that can cause indoor air pollution problems, especially for those suffering with allergies and other respiratory issues. Make the switch to cleaners with fewer ingredients, those labeled as eco-friendly or ones that you can make at home. To make cleaning supplies at home, you’ll need some basics like baking soda, white vinegar or borax. Get started with free green cleaning recipes at http://ow.ly/ge2CV which links to Women’s Voices for the Earth.

10. Spend more time outdoors: Make it a habit to spend more time outside by taking a walk once a week. The more time we spend in nature, the more likely we are to make choices that are beneficial to conserving the environment.


Liz Swafford is the recycling and education program coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority. Contact her at (706) 278-5001 or email lswafford@dwswa.org.

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