New Year's Resolutions for Climate and the Environment

2018 Take Action!

This year, Americans have seen unprecedented roll-backs on protections for public health and the environment. Do you ever wonder, “What can I do?” After all, we each have a part to play.

We can take a page from the playbook of the 380+ mayors across the country, including those representing Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Ypsilanti, who have dedicated themselves to continuing the important work of slowing down climate change.  By adding up all of the smaller actions of these cities (as well as counties, states, and businesses) the U.S. can stay on track to meet our Paris Agreement commitments. It is the same with us as individuals and in our families. Our small actions add up for greater impact. Here are some concrete ways to create a positive impact on climate, as well as other critical environmental health issues.

Get civically involved - Fight rollbacks. Find a locally organized group. Sign up to receive text alerts from advocacy groups. Load your phone with your representative's phone numbers. A phone call from a constituent is worth the voice of 200 people. A few places to start locally:

  • Sign up to work against partisan gerrymandering.
  • Campaign for and support local and regional initiatives to expand public transit. Support AAATA, SMART, and RTA
  • Push your community to adopt a plan for 100% renewable energy. The City of Ann Arbor just made a commitment for 100% renewable by 2035.
  • Volunteer with a program working toward zero waste and recycling promotion, such as Recycle Ann Arbor's Waste Wizards and Zero Waste Detroit.

Climate: Get locally involved - These tools for action are adapted from the Ann Arbor Climate Partnership that asks that families and individuals pledge to act on climate. Check off the ones you are already doing and pick three more to prioritize:

  • Transit: The transportation sector now contributes over 1/3 of our carbon emissions. Use alternative transportation, such as biking, walking, taking the bus, carpooling whenever possible. Check out electric options if you have a car.
  • Compost: Whether you have a backyard bin, vermiculture (worm) bin, or utilize curbside pick up, composting benefits the environment. Food scraps and yard waste are typically about 30% of the waste going to landfills and incinerators. There is a two-fold climate benefit to composting:    
    • Reduces the amount of methane gas released into atmosphere.
    • Carbon sink: Adding organic matter (compost) to your garden can increase the soil’s ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere (and fertilize your plants without chemicals).
  • Reduce your consumption of consumer goods, reuse everything possible, fix and repair items, recycle those items that can’t be used again. Buy local when you purchase food or new or used items. Buy “ugly” fruit and vegetables.
  • Consider solar: Find local programs, such as Washtenaw County’s A2 Solar Power Club and Highland Park’s Soulardarity, to help residents and businesses add solar.
  • Install a rain garden. Climate change means more dramatic weather events, including flooding. Rain gardens are beautiful additions to any size yard and will relieve burdens on municipal water treatment systems, filter runoff pollutants, and protect local waterways.
  • Energy efficiency is as important as ever. Weatherizing, using energy efficient appliances and light bulbs, and unplugging devices top the list to impact your energy bills.
  • Plant a (native) tree: Ann Arbor’s Climate Plan has the goal of 60% tree cover for residential areas by 2025. The city is currently at 37%. Wherever you live trees will clean the air, capture carbon, provide habitat and food for native wildlife.
  • Donate to your local environmental advocacy organization. Thank you!

Stay informed on toxics. The current administration argues that there’s no more to do for the environment. Yet, we continue to learn about new chemical contaminants in our homes, in our everyday products, in our drinking water, and in our air. The Ecology Center’s Healthy Stuff program works with (or pushes) industry to make and sell non-toxic products. Manufacturers have been listening! We’ve seen major canned food companies (Campbell’s and Del Monte) pledge to get BPA out of their cans. Four children’s car seat companies now offer seats without brominated flame retardants. Your voice strengthens the impact of our reports. We ask that you join thousands of others and sign up for our HS mailing list. Sneak peek for 2018:

  • Store receipts are the number one way people are exposed to BPA. Find out which retailers are using BPA/ BPS-free receipts and who needs to switch to safer alternatives.
  • Graco Children’s Products is not taking any action in response to over 40,000 people asking them to detox their seats. We will continue to test children’s car seats and push Graco and others for affordable non-toxic options.
  • Kids lunches don’t need to be contaminated with phthalates. We will keep pressing Kraft for phthalate-free mac-n-cheese and keep testing more of children’s favorite foods.
  • Fluorinated compounds are a class of chemicals tied to cancer, thyroid problems and other diseases. They are showing up in drinking water all over the country--and in our bodies. We will test products to see where they are coming from. In the meantime, avoid clothes, carpet, drapes, and other products labeled:
    • “Stain Resistant”
    • “Wrinkle Proof”
    • “Durable Water Repellent” (DWR)
    • Brands: Teflon, Scotch Guard, GoreTex

Published on December 21, 2017