10 Green New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

Let’s make our 2015 New Year’s resolutions green and easy to achieve. I propose we get started by heading off to our local grocery markets.

Line of Shopping Carts

Grocery markets are ideal venues for undertaking our New Year’s resolutions for several reasons. First, we already shop for groceries on a regular basis so will not need to squeeze another activity into our already busy schedules. Second, grocery shopping is a recurring task giving us plenty of opportunities to practice and reinforce our new habits. Third, grocery shopping involves making straightforward decisions like to buy or not buy a particular food or item, switch to a different product, or try something new.

10 Green New Year’s Resolutions We Can Accomplish at the Grocery Market

We grocery shoppers are more powerful than we may realize. Each time we buy or do not buy a product we contribute to the data pool that farmers, manufacturers, and retailers analyze and use to make decisions about what to grow, make, and sell.

When millions of people make a change, even a small one, it all adds up. Take organic food, for instance, once considered a niche market, organic food is now available at national grocery chain stores and even some big box retailers. In part, this is due to a few people requesting and buying organic food, then more people, then many people, and eventually millions of people.

Imagine the positive impact we can achieve if each one of us chooses one of the ten green New Year’s resolutions below and incorporates it into our weekly grocery shopping. We can cut carbon emissions and reduce waste, make healthier food choices and even save money.

New Year's Resolution - 2015 Happy New Year Sign and Target with Arrow in Bullseye

Avoid Aluminum

Making single-use disposable aluminum beverage cans is a wasteful application for a valuable material with a huge environmental impact. Since we are likely to buy beverages during each shopping trip, eliminating drinks that come in aluminum cans from our grocery lists is a green choice that keeps on giving week after week.

Bring Your Own Bags

Bringing our own reusable bags to the grocery market gives us an opportunity to be on the leading edge of a growing trend of people, municipalities, and even states saying no to single-use plastic bags, which are wasteful on so many levels. If we can remember to grab our wallets, we can remember our bags.

Reusable Shopping Bags of Various Styles and Sizes

Pass on Packaging

Skipping single serve packages, buying in bulk, and bringing our own reusable produce bags are just a few of the options available for cutting down on the amount of throwaway packaging we bring home and later toss in the trash or recycle bin. Recycling is a good habit, but not having a package to recycle is even better.

Opt for Organic

Opting for organic fruits and vegetables over their conventionally grown counterparts supports environmentally and people friendly farming practices. If millions of shoppers purchased just one organic fruit or vegetable a week, surely produce department managers across the country would take notice.

Organic Fruits, Vegetables, and Packaged Food Items

Recycled Fiber is all the Rage

Choosing paper goods like toilet paper, facial tissue, napkins, and towels made from 100% recycled paper fiber reduces deforestation. Selecting chlorine-free products is even better.

Soap Switch Up

Manufacturers have spent millions of dollars on advertising trying to convince us that we need to buy liquid soap in decorative plastic dispensers, even though it does not clean any better than bar soap. Spending less by switching to bar soap makes sense economically and environmentally.

Liquid Soap Dispenser and Stack of Bar Soap

Ban Bottled Water 

Bottled water is not an environmentally friendly product and recycling the plastic bottles, which few people do, does not make it so. Banning bottled water from our shopping carts is green and good for our wallets.

Look for Local

Looking for and buying locally and regionally produced foods cut carbon emissions by reducing the number of miles our food travels. Locally grown produce is fresher (often picked the day we buy it) so it will last longer in our fridges and fruit bowls. Trying new local food products instead of buying our usual national brands can be fun and tasty too.

Grocery Market Locally Grown Produce Section

Fair Trade Fan

Purchasing fair trade products ensures farmers receive a fair price for the food they grow like cacao beans, coffee beans, and bananas. Farmers receiving fair trade certification are required to follow eco-friendly and sustainable agricultural practices, making buying fair trade products good for people and the planet.

Make More Meals Meatless

Buying less meat (especially beef) is perhaps the greenest New Year’s resolution we can accomplish at the grocery market. Growing grain for livestock feed and raising animals for meat has an enormous environmental footprint, which is growing as more people around the world eat more meat. Implementing meatless Mondays is an easy way to remember to eat less meat but any meal or day will work.

Hopefully, you found at least one of the above New Year’s resolution ideas appealing and decided to go for it. To increase your chances of success keep it simple, specific, and doable. For instance, make a resolution to buy bar soap for your shower, switch to recycled fiber toilet paper, or make one dinner a week meatless.

Let’s do it!

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Thanksgiving Reflections – What are You For?

Thanksgiving Harvest - Pumpkin, Gourds, Berries and CornThis Thanksgiving let’s ignore all the pro and anti Black Friday hype to reflect on what we believe in, what we are for, and what we are willing to do about it.

Last week I was pondering what to write about for this post. I confess Black Friday has a certain allure for me, it embodies everything I believe is wrong about consumerism, but I already wrote about it last year. Besides, I was seeking to deliver a positive message this year, so Black Friday was off limits.

Hmm, what could I write about for Thanksgiving?

An idea came to me a few days ago while I was walking back from the grocery store carrying a loaded reusable shopping bag.

I recalled a recent conversation with my brother from several weeks ago. After I had excitedly shared the news with him that California had just passed the first statewide single-use plastic bag ban, he made an interesting comment. His actual words elude me but the gist was “Environmentalists always seem to be trying to get something stopped, banned, or prohibited.”

His observation stayed with me.

I am delighted with the bag ban, but just banning stuff is only part of the solution to living in harmony with the balance of the natural world. There needs to be a lot of beginning, enabling, and implementing too.

After mulling all this over, I knew I wanted my Thanksgiving post to be about things that I am for. Since I am an avowed treehugger, I selected a dozen green things I strongly believe in, advocate for, and use or do myself.

I am For:

  1. Composting – putting supposed waste to good use by nurturing the soil.
  2. Fingerless Mittens – staying warm and being able to type on a computer keyboard.
  3. Local Food – supporting local farmers and buying food grown closer to home.
  4. Low Flow Showerheads – getting clean and saving water.
  5. Organic Food – buying and eating food that is good for farmers, the land, and us.
  6. Personal Action – living gently on the earth and standing up for what you believe.
  7. Refillable Water Bottles – drinking water from the tap and refilling the same bottle.
  8. Reusable Shopping Bags – transporting stuff and reusing the same bags.
  9. Solar Panels – using the sun’s clean renewable power and supporting local jobs.
  10. Walking – keeping in shape, running errands, and enjoying being outside.
  11. Water Saving Toilets – flushing and saving water.
  12. Wood Chips – preventing erosion and helping soil retain water.

Pinecone with words Happy ThanksgivingOn this Thanksgiving, I am for family, friends, turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, relaxing, conversation, and playing games. I am for being thankful for the wonderful people who touch our lives and the amazing, beautiful Earth we all call home.

What are you for?

America Recycles Day – Start at the Store

America Recycles DayAmerica Recycles Day 10 in the Bin Flyer on November 15, 2014 offers people an opportunity to drop off recyclable materials at collection points across the country.

In addition to dropping off cans, newspapers, and bottles, take advantage of events that allow you to safely dispose of recyclable stuff that requires special handling and should not be put in public or curbside recycling bins like batteries, Styrofoam™ packaging, fluorescent light bulbs, household hazardous waste, and electronics (e-waste).

I am a fan of recycling and an avid recycler so when I ran across America Recycles Day last year I decided to dig into its history and purpose and then wrote Every Day Should Be America Recycles Day.

Container and Packaging Recycling

For this year’s post, I decided to focus on containers and packaging, something everyone deals with on a daily basis. It seems like most things we buy come in some kind of container or packaging, sometimes multiple layers. As soon as we open or use the product, the container and packaging becomes waste unless we recycle it.

According to the EPA, at 75 million tons, containers and packaging accounted for a staggering 30% of all solid waste generated in the United States in 2012. 1

Beverage manufacturers, consumer product companies, and recycling industry representatives tout the container and packaging recycling figure of 51.5% as a recycling success story. That still leaves 48.5%, or over 36 million tons of steel, aluminum, glass, paper, plastic, and wood containers and packaging in landfills across the country. 1

Egrets Standing on Garbage in a Landfill

Making boxes, cans, bottles, pouches, canisters, bags, tubs, wrappings, sacks, and cartons consumes energy, water, resources and generates waste. So does collecting, transporting, sorting, and processing recyclable materials. Not all containers or packaging is recyclable.

Clearly, our first priority should be to reduce containers and packaging in general. Next, make sure recyclable items do not end up in landfills.

Recycling Starts at the Store

If you think about it recycling starts at the store. While shopping, we have an opportunity to look at a product’s container and packaging and consider its recyclability before we bring into our home.

Grocery shopping is a universal activity that has a significant impact on what goes into our recycle bins, from cereal boxes to shampoo bottles. Let’s look at some ideas for shopping with reducing and recycling in mind.

Pile of Single-use Plastic Bottles - Photo: WikipediaSkip It – some products are wasteful regardless of whether they come in a recyclable container or not. Leave these items on the shelf, like bottled water.

Less is Less – buy in bulk, it usually results in less packaging overall, is more cost effective, and does not necessarily involve buying a huge amount of something.

BYOB – putting three apples in a plastic produce bag and toting groceries home in single-use plastic bags has become a habit for many America shoppers, but it can easily be broken by bringing your own bags or in some cases not using a bag. It’s easier to convert than you may think.

Just Add Water – cut down on plastic bottles by purchasing concentrated cleaners and adding water at home. Spray bottles conveniently marked with fill lines help unhandy people like me pour in the correct amount of solution and water, no measuring needed. By eliminating unnecessary water, which adds bulk and weight, these products have the added benefit of reducing transportation carbon emissions.

Confusing Recycling Label Collage - Image: Recycle Across AmericaCheck the Code – materials like cardboard and glass are relatively easy to recognize and are highly recyclable. Many plastics are recyclable too, but not all. Look for the recycling symbol and become familiar with recycling codes and which plastics your recycling company accepts.

Lose the Laminates – some foods and drinks come in pouches and bags made with recyclable materials like aluminum and plastic, but once the materials are fused together, they cannot be separated for recycling. I cringe when I remember the drink pouches we used to buy for our kid’s lunches.

Watch Out for Wrappings – what is the difference between eating a handful of cookies directly out of a box or grabbing three 100-calorie individually wrapped bags of cookies out of a box? One option involves three times as much packaging. By the way, the first box of cookies probably costs less.

Cases of Soda Cans Stacked to Resemble American Flag - Photo: Daniel OinesMaterial Matters – it doesn’t make sense to use certain materials for disposable containers. For example, aluminum is valuable, recyclable, and has a huge environmental footprint. It is an important material for making cars, electronics, and building components. Think twice before putting a six-pack of single-use aluminum beverage cans in your cart.

If you are you already a savvy shopper, then celebrate America Recycles Day by safely disposing of your household hazardous waste or e-waste at a local event, reducing junk mail by getting off catalog mailing lists, or swinging by a local retailer and dropping off your used batteries or fluorescent light bulbs.

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References:

  1. U.S. EPA – Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012

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