For many of us, the transition to a new year causes pause for reflection and inspires goal setting. I have seen several stories listing “top ten” resolutions for 2013 and it likely comes as no surprise that spending more time with friends, losing weight, and giving up vices rank high on such lists. But I did not see much concern for the environment revealed in these lists. At the start of 2013 we also found ourselves teetering at the edge of the fiscal cliff. So herein, I offer a handful of suggestions for eco-resolutions that can have a positive impact on the environment and also create financial savings.
1. Invest in better light bulbs. If you are still using incandescent bulbs you are missing out on some low hanging fruit. According to the Energy Star website:
If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a light bulb that’s earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.
2. Drive less. Think about carpooling, using public transportation or better yet – bike or walk to work if you can. All of these options will no doubt save money on gas, parking and car maintenance while reducing CO2 emissions. According to the EPA’s Household Carbon Footprint Calculator, the average US vehicle is driven 240 miles per week, emitting 12,500 lbs of CO2 per year.
3. Consider your water bill. I fixed a leaky toilet recently and found that a one-time $7.00 investment will return over $15.00 in savings each year. Plus that annoying sound of the tank refilling goes away. If you are looking for other ways to reduce your water footprint, consider the impact of washing (and drying) clothes. A life cycle study analysis (LCA) conducted by Levi’s found that a pair of jeans consumes over 900 gallons of water in its lifetime (roughly half of which is consumed in the supply chain and the other half from washing). They also found that 50% of the climate impact of a pair of jeans can be saved by washing in cold water and then hanging them to dry.
4. Drink tap water. If you don’t have a refillable water bottle by now, it’s time to splurge. At one point the Grand Canyon National Park found that 20% of their waste stream was comprised of disposable plastic bottles. In an effort to reduce their waste handling costs, they banned the sale of bottled water within the park and installed free water filling stations. They also make affordable souvenir bottles available for visitors. Water quality in the US is outstanding. I am personally not in favor of banning bottled water because I think it’s a great alternative to other drinks for people on the go. But when you can drink tap water, it’s a cost effective option that can reduce consumption of packaging materials.
5. Recycle more. We’re getting better and better about recycling paper products in the US – but there are still many opportunities for improvements. I personally don’t think I can do much better with paper, but my own goal for 2013 is to focus on plastic bags and especially plastic films. Many towns have implemented Pay-As-You-Throw systems for household waste - charging for trash bags whereas recycling is free. So every little bit helps and, for me, focusing on plastic is my next recycling frontier. What’s yours?