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New Year’s resolutions, as we all know, are for the most part entirely pointless — made in one breath, forgotten in the next. So in that spirit of general futility, I offer a few ideas for green resolutions that, either through novelty or just ease of use, may inspire more than a passing commitment. Please leave your own ideas below.
**Idea #1: help make “livable streets” a reality in your community**
All politics is local, said Tip O’Neill, but most of us still don’t pay much attention to local politics. Issues at a community level are often driven by the triumvirate of homeowners, business owners and car owners — good people, no doubt, but narrow in their interests.
This won’t change if you don’t help make it change. Happily, a thriving network of community organizers is doing great work to promote a people- and environment-centered development agenda, ranging from this new bus system in Cleveland to this bike-sharing program in Tulsa to this massive street festival in New York.
Support their good work! A few ideas for getting involved:
1. Get smarter about development issues by spending some time with the great resources at the Livable Streets Network. Subscribe to their blog, subscribe to an affiliated blog focused on your community, watch their films, or read and contribute to their wiki.
2. Find or start a local group using the Livable Street Network’s online tools.
3. Get involved with a local organization like Transportation Alternatives (based in New York). Or support them financially by attending some of their fun events.
**Idea #2: eat more plants**
I’ll take it as given that no one is going to adopt vegetarianism as a result of this blog post. But, speaking as one omnivore to another, perhaps I can convince you that reducing the environmental impact of your diet is both easy and enjoyable. The carbon footprint of food is an insanely complicated topic, so I’m going to organize these food-related resolutions around a radically simple proposition: eat less beef. Some possible resolutions:
1. During your weekly shopping, substitute chicken, pork, or fish for beef. Better yet: beans, pasta, or veg.
2. Spend the few minutes necessary to figure out the provenance of your non-beef meat, and find a convenient source of stuff that isn’t evil.
3. Read anything by Michael Pollan. If your Pollan library is full stocked, start working your way through Taras Grescoe.
4. If you cook, learn one new vegetarian entree per month.
5. If you don’t cook, start. Make one dinner per week from scratch. No burgers.
6. Pick one day a week to go fully veggie.
7. Or go completely meatless for all your lunches.
**Idea #3: downgrade your gadgets**
I hesitate to post this, because, well, it smacks of treacly feel-goodism. But anyway: I recently lost my spiffy web-enabled cell phone. I replaced it with a comically out-of-date, refurbished flip phone, with the intention of riding out the last few months of my service contract and then getting a shiny, shiny iPhone.
Here’s the heartwarming bit. Since switching to the junky, used phone, my quality of life has gone up appreciably. Turns out that when you’re stripped of mobile email and web, your heart rate decreases, you have more serendipitous encounters with puppies and wonder-filled children, and your bursitis goes away. I miss the mapping functionality of my web phone, but I find the survival skills I honed during my pre-mobile-internet years slowly returning.
So no iPhone for me. The key to this act of voluntary simplicity was making it involuntary. Resolving to spend less time stating at little screens never would have worked.
Do you have a love-hate relationship with any electronic encumbrances? Now is as good a time as any to cast them off (read: recycle them). The environment may or may not benefit, but your pocketbook probably will, and your sanity almost certainly will.