Welcome to 2009. Now make one resolution. Make one simple decision, about one thing in your life that you can change to reduce your impact on the planet. Make it something achievable. Make it something that’s important to you.
Statisticians have estimated that only 29 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions these days, and only two out of 10 of them actually follow through with their goals. Be that minority. You have 358 days to become a better version of yourself. Get on it.
Typically it seems that New Year’s Resolutions center around large, nebulous topics such as losing weight or increasing our net worth. What follows is a list of some more fine-tuned suggestions for resolutions. Some are specific, others are a bit more abstract. There are no real surprises in the mix, considering that this is an environmental column after all. But I do encourage you to pick a few of them and really make the effort to improve your lifestyle.
Personally, I’m going to put a lot of focus on the foods that I eat this year. I’m finally going to get around to reading Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Changing dietary habits is a very simple and direct way for me to reduce my impact and feel better in the process. Like most other college students, I’m a convenience-oriented eater. I’ll eat whatever is around at the time, without much regard for my personal health or the origins of the products. But that’s going to change this year.
– You are (as green as) what you eat. If we cut down our meat consumption and buy organic when possible, we will also be reducing our consumption of land and water and our contributions to the pollution of both. We can begin to implement positive daily food changes now, in big or little steps. Eating local is the single-best thing you can do to curb climate change. The average American forkful of food traveled 1,500 miles to reach your mouth. By eating local, we save the livelihoods of local farmers, and we save emissions from transporting food. Eating local also allows us to eat fresher, more nutritious food and become more closely connected to the land and the seasons. Go on a “low-carbon” diet. Author David Gershon has devised a detailed plan of energy-slimming actions to individually lose 5,000 pounds of carbon or more annually. Considering the average American household has a carbon footprint of 22,000 pounds per year, there’s plenty of carbon to cut. For more information, go to www.empowermentinstitute.net.
– Set the “zero-waste” goal. Make recycling, composting, washing and reusing a common practice in your daily life. A mature tree will produce just 14 newspapers. The energy saved by recycling one aluminum container will run a television for three hours. Recycling one glass bottle will save enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours. Carry your own mug or reusable water container to avoid generating more petroleum-based plastics. Stash a set of tote bags in your car for shopping, and refuse to accept any disposables. The Grassroots Recycling Network has plenty of tips on their Web site, www.grrn.org.
– Drive less. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an individual’s transportation choices represent their biggest impact on the environment. Less is more, and efficiency is key (gas-guzzling is so 2004). Take responsibility for climate change and cut your emissions now. Much of our wealth has been built by generating greenhouse gas emissions during the past 100 years.
Of all countries in the world, the U.S. needs to step up to the plate the most to curb emissions by 80 percent or more in the next 40 years. Be active! If one of your resolutions is to get more exercise, try doing your shopping and errands on foot, or by bicycle, as part of your exercise program. Walking will help keep automobile pollution down and, like carpooling, helps ease traffic congestion. Rather than driving to the gym, get outside, enjoy this Central Coast weather and get fit.
-Educate yourself, outside the classroom. Check out this great list of books that WorldChanging compiled: http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/008884.html.
If you’re studying Business, Architecture, Engineering, English, or any other major, you’ll find at least one book on the list that directly links your future career path with the global sustainability movement. Whether you’re an early adopter or a dinosaur is completely up to you.
-Get involved. Shift your values away from individual materialism and toward stronger, more connected communities. Life satisfaction depends heavily on living a more meaningful life – rich in interactions, community involvement and volunteerism.
Have a sense of your own power and autonomy to be happy. Follow your talents and passions and join a club or organization that you share a common belief with. You only have 4 or 5 (or 6) years here at Cal Poly, so make the most of it.
For a complete list of all of the clubs on campus, check out ASI’s Web site, http://www.asi.calpoly.edu/join_a_club, and click on the ‘Directory’ tab.
Take the opportunity to make some simple, yet life changing New Year’s Resolutions that will benefit you and the environment.
Ben Eckold is a business senior, the president of the Empower Poly Coalition and a Mustang Daily columnist.