We started 2013 with the best of intentions, fired up about lifestyle changes that were going to make our homes leaner and greener, but somewhere in the middle, life happened.
I still think eco-friendly New Year’s resolutions are important, and I still make them every year. But this time, I’m going to skip the fluffy stuff like “compost more” and “grow your own food.” You know all of that already. And depending on who you are and where you live, some of that may not be possible.
This year, let‘s get real. Let‘s think about what really matters, and let‘s not sweat the small stuff. So you can’t eliminate paper towels or go car free. So what. Neither of those things is going to stop global warming or slow the extinction of honey bees. For every one of us that remembers to bring our reusable bags, there are 1,000 people who don’t give a crap. While these “small changes” make us feel good (at least when we remember to do them) what we need is a massive overhaul of our entire society.
This year, let‘s resolve to participate in more meaningful behaviors. Things that will make us feel proud on our deathbed, not just in the grocery store check-out line. Behaviors that increase joy, relationships and access in our communities, rather than ostracizing those that can’t participate.
And finally, let‘s not be content to just be “one of the aware.“ Yes, we realize that the system is broken. Yes, we read articles about issues and sign petitions. But this year, let’s do more. Let’s be the organizers, planners and volunteers. Let’s take a stand and spread the word. As the quote goes, let’s “be the change” not just talk about it.
7 New Year‘s Resolutions for an Eco-Friendlier 2014
1. Share – The gift economy, collaborative consumption, the sharing economy — regardless of what we call it, sharing is on the upswing in our world. After decades of me-me-me consumption, many of us have had enough. People all over the world are opening their hearts, minds, homes and garages and learning how to share again. In doing so, we’re slowing resource consumption and helping our neighbors make a little cash. We’re also remembering what it means to be a community of humans, invested in each other’s success and interested in each other’s stories. Learn more about how to save money, time and resources through collaborative consumption.
2. Attend – When’s the last time you went to the meetup of a local environmental organization? Or a city council meeting? Or the screening of an indie documentary? Between our busy lives and the time-suck of social media, we’ve exchanged conversation for poorly worded emails and thumb-upping someone else’s viral image. This year, let’s go do stuff. Let’s talk with people. Let’s argue, debate and expand our minds. When we accept a Facebook event invitation, let’s actually make an effort to go, instead of changing it to ‘maybe’ at the last minute so we can watch five hours of Netflix.
3. Donate – If you’ve got some to spare, make 2014 the year when you put your money where your mouth is. Constantly posting pictures, signing petitions or sharing stories from your favorite organizations isn’t enough. Throw them some money. Your favorite organizations fight back against the status quo 365 days a year. If you like celebrating victories every once in a while, and can afford to, take the next step and give a few dollars to the cause.
4. Organize – No money to spare? I feel ya. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to watch from the sidelines. There are plenty of opportunities to organize direct actions in your own community. It could be something as small as a movie screening in your living room, or as big as a picket line in front of City Hall. We all have friends and coworkers. We all have access to social media. Google “how to organize local action” and you’ll find a plethora of digital toolkits designed to help you rally the troops and communicate your message.
5. Volunteer – You know the one thing awesome organizations and cooperatives need more than money? People. There was an awesome non-profit bookstore in my town last year, but it had to close. Not because of a lack of books or customers, but because of a lack of volunteers to help with store duties and behind the scenes stuff like accounting. If there’s a service, group or cause that you love and often take advantage of, consider saying “thank you” by offering your time. Find volunteer opportunities in your community.
6. Talk – In an effort not to be “that person” who’s constantly criticizing others’ lifestyle, we’ve retreated to the point of almost silence. Here’s the thing: we NEED to talk about climate change. We NEED to talk about not supporting corporate polluters. We NEED to talk about why organic farming is better for our future than factory farming. Word of mouth is still the best form of marketing. If we’re not talking to those we care about WHY we avoid the things we do, why even bother making changes? You don’t have to be condescending, you just have to be passionate. Learn how to talk to conservatives about climate change.
7. Vote – In a time when our entire democratic process has been gutted by corporate money and special interests, this is perhaps the most important action of all. All year long we complain, point fingers and fire off angry comments, but how many of us actually get out there and vote on issues when the time comes? And I’m not just talking about voting for the Presidential election every four years. I’m talking about local issues and local elections. This year, take time to learn the ballot issues in your town. Mark the election day on your calendar and cast your vote when the time comes.
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