There’s a great temptation in this business to do year-end lists, but this is a column where I like to look forward.
Looking back can be frustrating, especially when you write a column on environmental living. The past shows how much we waste. But the good thing about the New Year is that we can always change our habits.
I learned so much this year as I started to write this column.
The best tip came from the next desk over from Eagle colleague Suzanne Tobias. She said she’d found a use for the bag that comes inside cereal boxes. While you can recycle the box, you can’t recycle the bag. Suzanne puts it back to use as wax paper for baking.
“I’ve found if you cut it open, it fits perfectly in a baking pan,” she said.
It works. Now we’re reusing cereal bags and buying less wax paper by the roll. That’s reducing waste.
That brings me to my first list of New Year’s resolutions for the environment. These are just suggestions of what each of us can do. No need to do it all. Just pick one.
• Waste less. If you don’trecycle
, start. It doesn’t cost anything if you take it to a
yourself. Or you can pay for convenience. You can reuse stuff, like the cereal bag idea, which cuts down on what we buy and what we throw away. Ask yourself whether someone else could use what you throw away, such as Goodwill or the DAV.
• Compost. It takes
, or less, and it helps reduce waste in landfills that can cause problems.
• Putmore than food and grass in the compost
. Used paper towels, toilet paper rolls, cotton swabs, cotton balls and shredded office paper can also go in the compost pile, reducing what you send to the trash.
• Stop getting stuff you don’t need, like junk mail. Most junk mail comes from unwanted catalogs. You can reduce getting those atCatalogChoice.org
. If you haven’t shopped out of that catalog in the past year, stop getting it. You can always shop for what you want online.
• Take yourown cup
to the coffee shop. Why get another paper cup to throw away, or send to the recycling? You can also carry glass containers in your car to use as packages for carry-out food, or to take home leftovers from restaurants.
• Stop styrofoam. We know it’s bad. We can gently encourage our offices and the businesses we frequent to stop using styrofoam. Or we can take our own containers (see above).
• Make plastic grocery bags a thing of the past. Goal: Try to remember to take the cloth bags inside the store with us. We all forget. But let’s try to limit the number of plastic bags we take in a year. Pick a number.
• Use cleaners that won’t make you sick. Many household cleaners contain chemicals that contaminate the air of your home. It’s not difficult to find cleaners without those. You can evenmake your own
. For example, baking soda and water will clean your kitchen and bathroom counters.
• Unplug it when you’re not using it. Only about 5 percent of the energy used bycellphone chargers
actually charges your cell phone. The rest is wasted by leaving the charger plugged in — creatingvampire power
. And it costs you money — about $9 billion a year for American consumers.
• Encourage our policy makers, from City Council to Congress, to stop looking at the water we drink and the air we breathe as political issues. Sustainability is a non-partisan issue; it simply means we can keep living and maintain our communities. Unfortunately, our leaders occasionally need to be reminded of this.
Find more ideas for eco-New Year’s resolutions at the online Kansas Green Guide.
What will you do?