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I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, mostly because if I feel a change is necessary or wise, I try to put it into practice immediately. Since about 50 percent of Americans do make resolutions however, it seemed a good time to consider some fairly easy changes that can make a big impact on our environment. Even better, we can make many of these changes anytime of the year. We could even do some research and pledge to implement one change a month and by the end of 2019 we’ll have 12 new green, healthy habits! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. If you’re not a gardener yet, become one. I don’t have a piece of ground to call my own right now, but I’m a gardener both indoors and out. It is amazing how many flowers, vegetables and herbs apartment and condo dwellers can grow in containers on a deck or in a sunny window. New gardeners might be interested to know that gardening is a form of exercise, and is good for you in many other ways, as well. Burning calories, reducing stress and unplugging from our electronics are just a few benefits of adopting a gardening practice. Gardening will also teach patience; Mother Nature will not be rushed!

2. Reduce the amount of lawn you have to maintain. Lawns are expensive and high maintenance; you’ll spend less time pushing a mower and less money on fertilizers (and other toxic chemicals), spring re-seeding and watering during summer dry spells. Consider replacing some of the grassy spaces with shrubs, perennials or even garden beds for growing your own food.

3. Go native and simplify your life. Native plants are all the rage right now, and for good reason. They adapt easier to periods of stressful, extreme weather like our legendary cold snaps and periods of drought. They also sustain bird and beneficial insect populations and attract birds and other pollinators that may not be drawn to non-native plants.

4. Use green bags to reduce plastic consumption, waste and pollution. Bringing your own reusable shopping bags — and smaller ones for produce, as well — prevents deforestation and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels.

More than 4 billion plastic bags are caught by the wind every single year. These bags end up littering our forests, beaches, lakes and oceans, clogging our storm drains and killing hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, seals, whales and other marine mammals and over a million birds each year. It is the most prevalent type of litter after cigarette butts and nearly as simple to prevent in the future.

5. Buy second-hand clothing, accessories and household goods. Repurposed or vintage clothing use significantly fewer chemicals and water than new fabrics, plus buying “nearly new” clothing and other items saves a lot of money! If you cannot quite bring yourself to wearing clothing previously worn by someone else, consider purchasing items made in the USA or of recycled materials — or both. Buying American-made reduces transportation costs and supports local and other small businesses. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose!

There are so many great ways to reduce our carbon footprint and live greener lives in the garden and out. Consider the suggestions above, or come up with your own list of positive changes to improve your stay on planet Earth for this generation and those to come.

Here’s to a healthy, happy and green New Year for us all! Cheers!

Rae Punzel is a Kenosha writer and horticulturalist. She owns Bennu Organics, a horticulture services and consulting business. Contact her at bennuorganics@gmail.com.

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