6 Simple Ways to Live Green in the New Year

1. Recycle Electronics Responsibly: Out with the old device? It’s easy (and important) to recycle it.

The Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff program has tested cell phones and children’s tablets and found brominated flame retardants, lead, and PVC. When put into the trash, electronics such as cell phones, printers, monitors, keyboards, remote controls, and VCRs leach lead and other hazardous materials into the environment. Currently in the U.S. we only recycle about 25% of disposed of electronics.

Most mobile phone, TV, and computer manufacturers have take back programs. Staples, Target, Best Buy and Office Max all have programs that accept certain used electronics. Items that still work can be donated to local charities, such as Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Goodwill, and Purple Heart.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Registers Electronic Waste Recyclers, including GEEP (Global Electric Electronic Processing) in Redford, a facility that processes items locally.

2. Diet Resolutions: Remember the environment. Opt for local and sustainably-grown food, including antibiotic-free dairy and eggs.

Join a CSA (now is a great time to reserve your spot), shop your local farmers’ market, start a small garden in your yard or in containers.  CSAs and farmers markets are not just for veggies.  You can also get eggs, dairy, and meat that is locally grown and produced.  And whether you are shopping directly with the farmer or at the supermarket, ask for antibiotic-free animal products.

These options will reduce fuel consumption, provide you with fresher, healthier food (more nutrients and fewer chemicals), and preserve the viability of antibiotics for human use. (Did you know that 80% of antibiotics used today are given to livestock?)

Two great local resources are the Michigan Organic Food & Farm Alliance, which has an on-line guide to Michigan’s Organic and Ecologically Sustainable Growers and Farms and Edible WOW magazine, which features local food entrepreneurs, restaurants, and growers each season and includes a list of in season foods. LocalHarvest.org is another great on-line resource.

3. Healthy Handwashing: Ditch the antibacterials. The active ingredient in antibacterial soaps is known to interfere with our bodies’ hormone systems and may lead to bacterial resistance to antibiotics.  The ingredient is triclosan and the FDA says its use may not be worth the risks.  There is no evidence that triclosan is more effective at reducing illness than plain soap and water. Remember to wash with plain soap and water for 20- 30 seconds. Read Antibacterial Soaps May Carry Unnecessary Risks says FDA.

4. Lower Your Transit Carbon Footprint: And fulfill your exercise resolutions! Walk more, bike, carpool, ride the bus. Individuals who use public transportation get over three times the amount of physical activity per day of those who don’t (approximately 19 minutes, rather than six minutes) by walking to stops and final destinations. And you will also pollute less. By switching a 20-mile round trip commute by car to public transit, an individual can reduce his or her annual CO2 emissions by 4,800 pounds per year. Overall, public transit reduces U.S. petroleum consumptions by 1.4 billion gallons annually (the equivalent of 300,000 fewer auto fill-ups each day).

Find a carpool at www.erideshare.com . And support local efforts for more transit.

5. Conserve Home Energy—Weatherize by insulating, putting plastic on windows, sealing leaks and drafts.  Save money and the environment (and have a more comfortable home!) You can save $200 – $800 per year on energy costs with proper weatherization.  Buildings are responsible for more CO2 emissions than transportation (39% vs 33%) in the U.S. Eco Works, a local non-profit, has helpful guides for conserving energy and sealing air leaks.

6. Consume Less! Buying less stuff will save you money, use fewer resources, and create less waste. Think about how necessary your purchases are before you buy. Studies show a simpler life is a happier life.

Happy 2014!

Published on January 13, 2014