New Horizons: Sustainability in Action

A column by Robyn Wilson

New Year’s Resolutions that Make a Difference

New Year’s resolutions do not often come to fruition, even with the best intentions.  Perhaps losing those extra ten pounds is not a big enough motivation to really make us change our lives.  This year, consider making resolutions that benefit our amazing planet, and see if a greater cause can bring extra motivation for seeing the resolutions through.  

In 2017, we witnessed some of the effects of climate change, including flooding, droughts, wildfires, record high temperatures, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans, hurricanes, the sixth mass extinction, and water shortages.  According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, humans have caused climate change through the use of fossil fuels, greatly changing our atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  While the United States is the only country in the world that has pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, there are still many actions we can take to reduce our impacts on the third rock from the sun.

Some ideas to get started are:

  1. Personal Responsibility: Take an assessment of your carbon footprint to assess the areas where you use the most energy, and where you can cut down.  Most people in the United States produce over four times the world average.  Take your carbon inventory here:
  2. Transportation and travel: Air travel is the biggest personal contributor to greenhouse gases according to several studies. Make serious decisions about your air travel, use major airports only, reducing short connecting flights.  Drive less, walk and bike more, use our public transportation, and carpool.  Reducing the mileage of the average car from 15,000 to 10,000 miles a year will save more than a ton of CO2. You will lose those extra ten pounds and be happier too!
  3. Food: Reduce the amount of store-bought meat in your diet, especially beef.  A vegan lifestyle can reduce greenhouse gases by 20% (The Guardian, 2017).  Eat fresh produce instead of packaged food, and choose seasonal and local, preferably organic.  Buying food from the southern hemisphere in winter uses unnecessary resources, and our bodies evolved eating seasonally.  Winter squash, dried beans, potatoes and apples are versatile and store well, mix with greens for taste and nutrition.  Organic certification restricts the use of pesticides, fertilizers and additives, conserve biodiversity, and are healthier for you and the earth.  Also, buy the amount you can eat and learn to cook with dated produce, in order to decrease waste.  Food in landfills creates methane gas.  Compost instead of trash, reducing greenhouse gases and it builds the soil.  Have your own garden, herbs, greens, and other cold hardy plants do great in Grand County.
  4. Home Energy:  Insulate and seal cracks to make your home more efficient.  Lower your thermostat by two or more degrees.  Learn about passive solar techniques to maximize the winter sun.  Use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.  Turn off the power strip to appliances not being used.
  5. Consumption: Buy less.  Reduce and Reuse.  Use your money to support companies that care about the environment, they usually care about people too.   Buy from local companies and products, and use natural materials instead of man-made.  Divest from companies that support fossil fuels.
  6. Vote: Support candidates who support climate change mitigation and science.  While individual efforts to reduce carbon emissions is important, governmental regulations will make an even bigger impact by supporting 21st century technology.  

Make those New Year’s Resolutions, but think global, and see them through.  The world depends on you.

Robyn Wilson has master degrees in Sustainable Communities and Bilingual and Multicultural Education.  She teaches permaculture at Colorado Mesa University.  Robyn returned to Grand County after 17 years to manage the cabin community of Grandma Miller’s New Horizons.