Today is January 1, 2011. It’s the dawn of a fresh New Year, a lump of clay ready to be sculpted into something unforgettable. It’s also the day after after the infamous New Year’s Eve; after a fabulous night of kicking the former year out the door, many of us like to make pledges for a better year to come. Many of these pledges are based upon recent or temporary dissatisfaction, such as a bloated waistline from holiday indulgence, or the headachey aftereffects of too much NYE fun. Most of these promises are made in the hopes that our lives will be happier and healthier than they were in 2010.
Why not make a promise that will bring a happier, healthier earth? There are so many easy changes, large and small, that we can make in our lifestyles that impact our environment in positive ways.
Here are some ideas:
-Fill up a reusable cup instead of a landfill
According to the Clean Air Council, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour… no, not every year, or even every day– every hour. That is a whole lot of plastic going in our landfills, and doesn’t account for the plastic bags, straws and lids that go in as well! To add insult to injury, most cups sold at fast food restaurants and coffee shops aren’t biodegradable either (meaning they cannot be decomposed naturally, by biological agents). The truth is, we produce a whole lot of mess, and while some of it is recyclable, facilities simply don’t exist in many places, and though they are cropping up more and more, public bins are few and far-between. So, why not cut the waste and the hassle, and switch to reusable cups and bottles for your beverage enjoyment? They’re quite easy to find for both cold and hot beverages; coffee shops like The Coffee Bean and Starbucks have carried many options for quite some time, but they’re becoming easier to find at mainstream stores like Target as well as online hubs like Amazon.
-Embrace Meatless Mondays
The evils of factory farms are no longer a secret. Recent books and documentaries such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma and “Food, Inc.” have awarded much-needed exposure to this nasty underbelly of the American food industry. The environmental impact of commercial meat production is major; the toxic runoff (visible in the above photograph), often tainted with antibiotics, from factory farms is only one scary side effect of this industry. According to an article in Yahoo!’s Associated Content, 65% of human-produced nitrous oxide, one of the major gases involved in global warming, comes from raising livestock.
One way that we can help as responsible consumers and stewards of the Earth is to cut back our consumption of animal products. Of course the most drastic– and most effective– way to do this is to drop all animal products and go vegan. Mercy for Animals, a Chicago-based animal welfare organization, has a wonderfully informative slideshow of the environmental benefits of veganism, located here. However, given our meat-centric food culture, this may be too much at once for many omnivores; simply practicing more thoughtful consumption is helpful in itself. One way to do this is to embrace “Meatless Mondays,” a project associated with John Hopkins University aimed at reducing meat consumption by 15%. Click here for more information, facts, and recipes to enjoy healthier 2011 Mondays for yourself and the planet. The Malibu Farmer’s Market, too, has plenty of delicious vegetarian meal options and ingredients, as well as free range meat and dairy options (which are kinder to the earth and the animals), for other days of the week.
–Get out of your car.
If you’re reading this from the Los Angeles area, I probably don’t need to say anything about air pollution; we live in it. Look at the city from the coastline, and you’ll see the snot-colored layer of haze shrouding our city. According to an article by “Bicycle Universe,” “Most ozone pollution is caused by motor vehicles, which account for 72% of nitrogen oxides and 52% of reactive hydrocarbons (principal components of smog).” The problem is, in sprawled-out cities like Los Angeles, it really is difficult to survive without a car… however, there are lifestyle changes we can make that will reduce our car-based emissions; every little effort counts:
–Carpool. According to the same article in “Bicycle Universe,” “If every commuter car in the U.S. carried just one more person, we’d save eight billion gallons of gas a year.” So, coordinate with others who work in your area. Not only will your friendliness save fuel, if you live in Los Angeles, you’ll be able to legally use the often-faster carpool lane!
–Give public transportation a chance. Contrary to what some believe, we actually do have a bus system in the Los Angeles area, and given our horrendous traffic situation, it runs surprisingly regularly. Pepperdine students: the 534 bus picks up right by the entrance of campus. If you’re heading to Santa Monica, it’s a great way to save gas and parking money (a ride is only $1.50!). The timetable and map can be found here.
–If you are looking to buy a car, research fuel efficiency beforehand. “The Daily Green” has a slideshow of the most fuel-efficient cars of 2011, located here.
I hope these resolution ideas have inspired you to commit to positive change in 2011! Happy New Year, one and all!
Wishing you a healthy and green 2011,
Elizabeth Neville at the Cornucopia Corner