10 Easy Steps to a Green New Year

How to Have a Green New Year

There are so many resolutions for a green new year.  Some people choose not to mess with resolutions at all because they know how difficult it is to actually follow through. Making a resolution, especially one to be more green, really doesn’t have to be hard. The trick is to narrow down that resolution to a specific goal and make a plan. It’s also not about overwhelming yourself with resolutions, this can also make it difficult to complete the resolution. Hopefully, this post will give you some ideas for baby steps for a green new year and once you conquer those, come back for the tips to step it up!

here are so many options for sustainable resolutions. If it seems a bit overwhelming, start with these 10 Easy Steps to a Green New Year.

1. Reusable shopping bags

As Americans, we go through 100 billion plastic shopping bags every year, costing retailers about $4 billion dollars.

Although people think plastic bags are “free,” not only do stores hide their cost in higher prices at the register, but plastic bags actually cost taxpayers .17 cents per bag in pollution clean-up costs too. In the state of California alone, public agencies spend more than $25 million annually to manage plastic bag pollution.

As far as sustainable efforts go, I’m sure this ranks high on everyone’s list for a green new year, but there is always one small problem. We can’t ever remember to bring them… This used to be a huge problem for me, but then I started shopping at Aldi’s. For those who haven’t experienced this joy, one of the many joys of Aldi’s is they charge extra for shopping bags. Generally, stores have the price of bags built into the cost of its products, but at Aldi’s they encourage you to bring your own bag or they’ll charge you extra to buy theirs. This practice helped me into the habit of bringing my own.

Tips

But for those, who don’t have an Aldi’s to remind them, having a routine that makes it easy to remember your bags is extremely important. I would recommend always having your bags put back in the car. If you have two cars that might end up with you at the store, then stock them both with your own bags. If it’s too much of a struggle to get the bags back to the car, maybe have a spot by the door to store them, so you can grab them as you go out.

Another solution is to get bags that fit easily in your purse, pocket or on your keychain, so you can have them at all times.

Step It UP

Even without plastic bags, we still bring in tons of plastic items into our homes. To take this step to the next level, you can opt for plastic-shopping. Bring your own produce bags or bulk items sacks.

2. Take your own cup

It is estimated that 500 billion disposable cups are discarded to landfill every year. That’s one million cups a minute, every hour of every day of every year. One-hundred forty-six billion of those are dedicated to our morning coffee.

One way we can easily change this is to simply bring your own cup to get your coffee or drink your water.

Although, I’m not a coffee drinker, I’ve been drinking from a water bottle for about a year now and I love it. I’m never thirsty or searching for the nearest water fountain because I always have a water bottle at my side.

Step It UP

Once you’ve started bringing your own cup for a while, it’s time to spread the joy so others can have a green new year. Having a New Year’s party or some other gathering throughout the year? Don’t use single-serve cups. Be an example for your friends and family with reusable cups and glasses. Sure it might require an extra step, but the benefits for our Earth and future are limitless.

3. Eating at the restaurant

Take out is full of single-use items that have no other purpose than to be thrown away. Generally, restaurants buy food in bulk, so while eating out might not be better for your health or pocket book, eating in actual restaurants is better for the Earth when it comes to packaging. You’ll get extra bonus points for eating at restaurants that serve locally-grown produce.

Step It UP

To take this step to the next level for a green new year, cooking at home is much better for your health and pocketbook. It’s tough to go from a lifestyle of eating out all the time to cooking at home, but it definitely gives you more control over where your food comes from, it’s quality, how it’s packaged and so many other factors.

4. Recycle cardboard

Cardboard is probably one of the easiest things there is to recycle, it also is more valuable for recycling companies, however many people still don’t see the value in recycling it. Recycling centers generally don’t take greasy or dirty cardboard, so it takes little effort just to put clean cardboard into the recycling bin rather than the trash.

Step It UP

Other recyclables take a bit more effort to recycle, but in the end are totally worth it. Once you’ve seen how easy it is to recycle cardboard, take a look at your current habits and see what else could easily be recycled. It will depend on your location and the services offered, but it is a great opportunity to help your local recycling company and help the Earth at the same time with minimal effort.

5. Don’t Litter

This one really should be a no-brainer, but there is no end to the amount of damage litter does to our eco-system. There is no reason to litter, just wait until you reach the gas station or your next rest stop before throwing that cup or cigarette out the window.

Step It UP

A lot of the pollutants out there might not be caused by careless folks, but rather trash that got caught in the wind. No matter how it got there, it can wreak havoc on animals and waterways. If you see a piece of trash, pick it up. It might seem small, but those pieces will add up. Your good example might inspire others to do it too.

6. Walk to places close by

Not just a suggestion for a green new year, but walking is good for your health and  cuts down wear and tear on your car. It’s up to you and your schedule, but a good goal would be to walk anywhere that takes 15 minutes or less to get to. If you have multiple stops within close proximity, you can park the car on one side and walk to the farthest location and work back toward your car.

Step It UP

Again, this is kind of up to an individual’s schedule. But try to add some extra steps to your routine and replace driving time. Plan your route to reduce driving or maybe make a commitment to walking any place within a mile.

7. Donate instead of throw away

Christmas just passed and if you’re anything like me, you have to get rid of some stuff to make room. It’s easy to just toss everything, but donating used items can be better for the Earth and your local thrift stores that probably use that money for charities.

Step It UP

This takes a bit more effort, but a minimalist life style can really be of great benefit for your every area of your life. It’s a lot less stress, requires less cleaning and effort in the long run, and is much better for the planet because you’re not buying as many new things.

8. Buy nothing one day a week

There are so many benefits to not buying things. Take one day a week to assess you budget and purchases for the week. Are these things you really need or that you have money for? Yes, there was probably a good sale, but when you stop and think that you could actually save 100 percent by not buying anything at all, it really is a no-brainer.

For me, buying nothing for a day, week or month is also about showing solidarity to the workers who make it. Especially in the electronics department, there is so many human right’s violations that went into making that. I try to live a simple life so that others might simply live. Buying less and letting go of the mentality of keeping up with the Jones’ is so freeing. I can focus on saving up for a house or investing my money, instead of living paycheck to paycheck for things I don’t really want or need.

Step It UP

Expand your buy nothing day to a week or even a month. This challenge really helps get your focus on planning ahead and only buying what you need, instead of whatever catches your attention. If you expand this practice to a greater length of time, maybe think of a buy nothing new year. Instead of getting new products made, you can purchase used products from thrift stores, Craigslist or maybe even check into a Buy Nothing New Facebook group or site. Finding a new sale is always exciting, but so it the liberation of buying things you don’t need. The hunt can go the opposite way. You can hunt at thrift stores or around your local stores and find the cheapest option.

9. Meatless one day a week

The benefits of eating less meatless are endless. A lot more of the planet’s resources are spent on meat as opposed to veggies. Going meatless once a  week is a great start to a more well-rounded diet. As a rule, eating more vegetables is better for your budget, too.

Step It UP

If you decide doing one meatless day a week is doable, try to expand to do more than one day or as many days as you feel comfortable.

10. Water plants with leftover water

This may seem small, but it can make a big difference over time. Cooking water can be used in a variety of ways.

Leftover non-salted water is a great thing to use to water your plants. Let the water cool down before you disperse it on any plants. If you don’t have any plants that need watered, keep the water for making soup.

Salted or Boiling water can be used as a weed killer.

Ice cubes that fall on the ground are great for small house plants.

Step It UP

Install a water collection system. This can be a huge benefit for your water usage. Once the collection system is in place, you can free, non-chlorinated water. There are many uses for this rain water including using it for garden or agriculture, using it in place of water used for washing pets, cars, driveways and side walks, refill your pond or swimming pool, some people even use to wash their clothes and flush. For more information, check out this great link for Rainwater Harvesting 101.

I hope this list inspired you to live a green new year. Leave a comment below on your tips and tricks for a green new year!

Don’t forget to pin these for later!

here are so many options for sustainable resolutions. If it seems a bit overwhelming, start with these 10 Easy Steps to a Green New Year.

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Finding New Beginnings in Acts of Kindness

New Beginnings

Sometimes finding new beginnings a joyful thing seems utterly impossible. They usually come off the end of something, which might leave just the shell of a person.  I remember when I first moved from kindergarten to first grade, even then I felt like life was falling apart because I had to leave the comfort of what I knew. Even after all these years, I have to chuckle to myself at all the times I freaked out at common life changes. Moving from grade school math to pre-algebra caused a major meltdown because I was so scared I couldn’t make it. It seems a bit absurd now, but then I just thought the worst was happening. Boy, if I only knew.

The New Year always brings me hope. Despite being in a sorrowful ending, I feel joy as I am finding new beginnings in acts of kindness.

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How Upcycling Gave Me a New Beginning

How Upcycling Gave Me a New BeginningNew beginnings are hard. Although nothing has really changed between December 31 and January 1, this new year has already had it’s ups and downs. One minute is great and just as I start skipping along whistling my favorite tune  someone runs into me with scalding hot coffee, metaphorically. My job has been a little rocky with the need to constantly be learning something new, my documentary has definitely run into some problems and I’m generally just tired of always worrying that something else is going to go terribly wrong.

But you know what gets me through it? The idea that something ordinary, discarded, unwanted, even ugly can change into something beautiful or useful or both. We see it all the time in nature with butterflies, the different seasons where trees are losing their leaves, go to sleep and then wake up refreshed and flourishing, or a seed germinating to make a beautiful flower or something yummy to eat.

I think that’s why I find upcycling to be such a fascinating thing for me. I guess because if an ol’ pop bottle can have a new beginning as something as beautiful as this hummingbird feeder then maybe someday I, someone ordinary, unfinished, inadequate, will find my purpose that brings fulfillment in my life and makes me feel useful.

(At the beginning of this post, I was feeling quite down, pessimistic, confused and frustrated, but I still felt hopeful as I wrote the rest of this post. Because like I said, if someone can take care of a discarded pop bottle, then surely I will find a purpose too. It has been on my mind until this past Sunday when I randomly went to a new church service and they played this song. It validated the hope I still felt as finished this post.)

Take this orange fruit netting. Do you see a use outside it’s original purpose of holding these oranges? Although it’s not as bad as plastic bags that blow away so freely, this orange fruit bag net does still cause problems for wildlife. They might try to eat it or get tangled up in it. Fruit net bags can cause problems for the environment and animals, but they can be repurposed. Click to find out more!

Oranges are super easy for me to grab on the way to work, so I tend to buy a lot, but I have never been comfortable with throwing these nets away. Another problem, we don’t have a dish washer and sometimes even with the scratchier sponge, which we don’t always have anyway because we go through them so fast. We just can’t get our pans clean.

I spent 10 minutes trying to get this plan clean. Find out how I did it!

I spent like 10 minutes trying to get that clean and it wasn’t even budging. Then I saw an empty net just sitting there and I grabbed it out of desperation. It worked like a charm. It still took a few minutes, but I haven’t seen it that clean in months.

Ever have burnt food impossible to get off your pans? Find out my secret to getting clean dishes every time without a dishwasher.

Before, that little net had a very temporary use, but now it has a new beginning that will extend its use many times over.

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What about these boxes?

Do you see potential for these boxes outside the landfill, never to be used again? Click for inspiration.

Obviously someone didn’t see enough use in them to throw them in the recycling bin, not even 20 feet from that dumpster. Other than metal, cardboard is one of the best recycling markets. Recycling would give it a new life and that could help a local business owner striving to make the city cleaner, but nope, that particular person didn’t even see enough potential to take the time to throw it in the bin. What do you think? Do you see a new beginning for it?

Did you know this is made with a diaper box? How Cute!

I found this upcycled project using diaper boxes, but these projects could have easily been used. I thought it was the cutest thing and if you’re interested in making it, check out this post.

What about light bulbs. Light bulbs are a pretty practical thing and they last for quite some time, but a new beginning could extend their life more. How can you say no to these cuties???

Upcycled Lightbulb Penguins

Need an idea for a homemade gift? These penguin and snowmen are made from used light bulbs. You can decorate them with extra scrap yarn or fabric.

I think my favorite thing to give new beginnings to are plastic bags. America use 150 billion plastic bags, which equals 150 million gallons of gas just blowing around our planet or wasting away in the landfills.

They really are the most impractical things ever invented. They cause problems for everyone. For the grocer that charges you extra to compensate for their cost, you, as they fill every nook and cranny in your house until you remember to throw them out or take them back to the store to be recycled, the recycler because they clog machines and are extremely expensive to recycle, and the environment as they choke animals and get stuck on every tree. The only exception is the industry that makes a killing off destroying the environment. Occasionally, I will bring some home because I need something to put the used cat litter in, but other than that I try not to use them.

Normally, when I see plastic bags I see a nuisance and beyond that a careless action that led to them being blown in the wind or stuck in a tree. But now instead of being annoyed, I pick them up, dust them off and take them home because even if someone else doesn’t care, I do. I see a new beginning for them.

Although many people tried to teach me to crochet over the years, it wasn’t until my grandmother gave me this beautiful bag made from crocheted plastic bags that I finally got the motivation to keep trying until I got it.

plarn crocheted bag

It is extremely sturdy and I have since learned to adapt the use of plarn for other projects and sometimes add colored yarn to add a little extra texture and color to them.

Here are some of my favorites:

You can watch this video to learn how to make plarn

Change is hard, but as I look back on my life, I can see when things ended it’s because something great was about to start. And when I get down, I just binge on pinning upcycling projects and it just makes me feel so much better! I hope you found encouragement in this post. I wrote as part of a collaborative post, so if you interested, click on the pictures below to see what my group members wrote about.

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Stillwater’s 10 Easy Ways to Go Green in 2016

I’ll be honest. New Years is my favorite holiday. I’m not idealist (don’t tell anyone but I actually am) but it gives you a clean break.

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10 Easy Ways to Go Green in 2016

I don’t always wait until the New Years to try to start something new, I mean that would just be an overwhelming and daunting task, but it gives me an official goal, if that’s what I need. While there is nothing different between December 31 or January 1, really, but I can make it one if I want to or need to.  You can also just make a clean slate in certain areas of your life. The past was last year and this year is a new opportunity to be different.

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