Green New Year’s Resolutions

by Shawn Dell Joyce

Lucky for us, Santa is very kind, or we would have received a lump of coal in our stockings for being major contributors to climate change. Instead of giving us more stuff, I imagine Santa probably snuck into our houses and swapped out those incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescents. He’s probably pretty peeved about the warming happening at the North Pole, and that his flying reindeer may soon join all the other Arctic creatures on the endangered species list. Indeed, we Americans have been very, very naughty.

Most of us realize that we can’t go on this way. We are running out of planet to consume, and will need 3-5 more earths to keep up our current consumption. We cannot continue to gorge ourselves at the all-you-can-eat buffet created by our fossil-fueled agricultural system. Nor can we keep adding more and more coal burning plants to feed our lust for power. Or continue driving gas-guzzling SUV’s. We have already burned through our share of the world resources and are now dipping deeply into our children’s and grandchildren’s meager allotments.

Each household has to commit to change, changing light bulbs and changing paradigms. Let’s embrace a culture built on conservation of resources instead of waste and excess. Here are a few New Year’s resolutions that will set us on the right track:

  1. Go on a “low carbon” diet; Woodstock author David Gershon leads you through energy-slimming actions to lose 5,000 pounds of carbon or more. Considering the average American household has a carbon footprint of 22,000 pounds per year, there’s plenty carbon to cut.


  1. Take the “100 mile diet” challenge; Eating local is the single best thing you can do to curb climate change in the Wallkill Valley. The average American fork-full of food traveled 1500 miles to reach your mouth. By eating locally, we save emissions of transporting food, livelihoods of local farmers, eat fresher, more nutritious food, and we become intimately connected to the land and the seasons.


  1. Set the “zero waste” goal; Make recycling, composting, washing & reusing a common practice. Carry your own mug or reusable water container to avoid generating more petroleum-based plastics. Stash a set of tote bags in your car for shopping, and refuse to accept any disposables.


  1. Take the 10 percent challenge; Try spending 10 percent of your income at locally-owned businesses. Move your mortgage to a local bank or credit union, buy from consignment stores instead of chain stores, and eat at locally-owned restaurants. This keeps your money flowing locally, where it grows and multiplies as local businesses frequent other local businesses. This one act will improve your local economy, save our Main Streets, and your neighbor’s job.


  1. Convert to renewable energy; Curb 30 percent of your family’s emissions by switching to renewable energy. If solar panels or a wind turbine are out of your price range, consider buying wind energy through your utility for about $15 per month.


  1. Exercise your political will! We need real leadership at all levels of government willing to address climate change. It is time for creative direct actions. We can convert every light bulb in America to a compact fluorescent, but until we have a moratorium on coal burning power plants we are still contributing to global warming.


  1. Create Community. Be the change you want to see. Take time to know your neighbors, walk to the store and see what small businesses you could be frequenting that you didn’t even know existed. Spend precious time and energy getting involved in your community by volunteering and becoming politically active. Become deeply rooted in your community and bloom where you are planted!

Shawn Dell Joyce is a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist and director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

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