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Top Five New Years Resolutions That Make A Difference

December 31st, 2008 by Alison · 1 Comment · energy, lifestyle, money, simplicity, sustainability

I’m back after a break spent with family, helping my mother-in-law Joan pass away peacefully at Providence Hospital here in Portland. Joan was a passionate  soul who believed in making the world a better place. For that reason and because she cultivated thrift during the Great Depression like most of her generation, I think she would approve of these suggested New Years resolutions that help address global warming. Most of them save money, as well.

I’ve done many New Years resolutions in my life, with varying degrees of success, and I’ve also worked as a counselor, helping people to help themselves.  I know this to be true: what gets measured, gets managed. If you want your 2008 to be any different than 2007 and years prior, put a steady system of measurement in place. I like to use the ‘recurring events’ function of Outlook to remind me to measure whatever I’ve decided to manage.

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1.) Monitor and reduce your consumption of a luxury item. I am doing this with wine, and donating the money saved to increasing my giving to Women For Women International. I actually wept for joy when I received my first letter in 2006 from the mother in the Congo whom I sponsored into literacy.A small sacrifice for me made a stunning difference to her and her family.

2.) Use your car less than in 2007, reducing, for instance, your annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT’s) by 20% to 50%.  (I’m told average annual VMT’s per car in the U.S. are 5,000). Research shows less hours spent in your car is likely to help you lose weight. Moreover, it is your car’s VMT’s, not its age in years, that ages it, depreciates its value, and hastens the need for costly repairs.  Wondering how to go about driving less? Find a number of tips here.

3.) Reduce your electricity bill (and therefore usage) by 15%-45%. The electricity bill itself makes this easy to track and measure.  Here are tips on how we use half the national average. The bulk of electricity in the U.S. comes from coal-burning, the biggest single contributor to global warming. We make a difference when we use less electricity.

4.) Fly less miles. I love going places as much as anybody. But flying creates the huge bulk of our carbon footprint. Calculate the non-work-related miles you flew in 2007, and decide to reduce it 20% to 50% in 2008. Dubious about this idea? More about it here. Remember that train travel uses fossil fuels much more efficiently than air travel. Here’s the link to Amtrak.

5.) Buy carbon offsets quarterly or twice a year. These create investment in projects that either reduce carbon emissions or absorb them, as in tree-planting. My household uses this easy carbon counter and then buys offsets online from the Climate Trust, a solid non-profit outfit here in Oregon. Our offsets for 2007 came to only $100. The beauty of doing this quarterly is that it keeps us steadily measuring our carbon footprint — which makes us more mindful of reducing it.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • leslie a

    Thank you for sharing a very constructive program for the new year! I have been thinking of you and Thor in this time of deep loss and love your sharing of the intimate time with the family and Joan. We enjoyed meeting her and was so impressed with the way you included the family in your busy lives. We pray happiness will stay with you throughout the Year of the Ox

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