Be it resolved!

Some late but eco-friendly New Year’s resolutions

I’ll drive less!

I’ll drive less!

Welcome to Green Town, a column by Sena: Eco-Warrior Princess, which rotates with Green House, her occasional musings on SN&R’s green building project.

What, do you guys always do everything you’re supposed to right when you should? Doubt it! So stop judging me for being a couple of weeks late on my eco-friendly New Year’s resolutions. Then maybe I’ll stop judging you for being so judgmental.

As someone who already has a relatively small carbon footprint (compared to other people living in this industrialized country), attributable primarily to me being—hmm, how should I put this?—well, low-income, I struggle with how to become more environmentally friendly.

You see, my consumption habits are minimal. I cut our air conditioning and heating to save energy, while reducing my monthly electric bill. I use compact fluorescent light bulbs, unplug every appliance besides the refrigerator and television when not in use, take canvas bags to the grocery store and turn off the water while brushing my teeth. Shoot, I even refrain from drying my hands with a paper towel after using a public restroom, out of respect for trees. And as a vegetarian, I eat low on the food chain. But there’s always room for self-improvement, and here’s what I hope to do in 2009 for the sake of Mama Earth.

Take shorter showers: Ah, long showers, my evil vice! I’ll reduce my cleansing sessions to 10 minutes. The average American uses roughly 1,190 gallons of water daily; based on the H2O Conserve online calculator, I use about 580. As an apartment dweller, I don’t have the option of changing to a low-flow toilet or Energy Star dishwasher, or cranking down my water heater to the recommended 120 degrees Fahrenheit, but if you’re one of those hoity-toity homeowners, perhaps you’ll make these eco-friendly changes for the rest of us.

Reduce my vehicle miles traveled: Although I drive a compact car that gets good gas mileage, I’d like to drive less, as transportation-related emissions are a major contributor to global warming. My job necessitates a car, but for leisure activities, I’ll commit to riding my bike more often. You heard it here first, kids!

Recycle less: Before you get your underwear all worked up into a tizzy, allow me to explain. I recycle pretty much everything, which ends up filling about a bag a week, but recycling requires energy and water. Cutting down on buying pre-packaged goods will limit the leftover stuff I have to recycle.

Don’t mooch off people: Oops, that’s for a different list. Never mind! Forget I mentioned it!

Say “no” to chemicals: Synthetic chemicals permeate our lives—they’re in the air we breathe, water we drink, makeup we use and food we eat. While there’s no way to completely escape toxins in modern society, I want to reduce my exposure as much as possible, because some chemicals have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, birth defects and other chronic illnesses. I’ll make a concerted effort to use natural personal-care products without phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde and artificial dyes or fragrances. I’ll use household-cleaning products that are phosphate-free, or make my own from vinegar and baking soda. I’ll try to eat more organic food.

Keep up the coal fight: Coal seriously needs to curl up and die. Grassroots activists have the right idea in combating coal-fired power plants, and this year I hope to follow their lead by signing petitions, participating in protests and engaging in direct action. As outgoing Greenpeace executive director John Passacantando recently said of civil disobedience, “It’s really a beautiful, empowering tool.”

Never forget: President George W. Bush didn’t hold back when it came to devastating the natural world in the last year of his presidency. But this jerk wasn’t the only eco-villain in 2009. Stephen Johnson, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, made an entity responsible for safeguarding the environment a complete joke. David O’Reilly, chief executive officer of Chevron; Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (who called humanity’s role in global warming “voodoo” and sponsored a bill to stop the phase-out of incandescent light bulbs); Don Blankenship of coal giant Massey Energy Company; and others also set the environmental movement back a few decades.

In the upcoming year, I resolve to remember these names, because I don’t want to forget that when it comes to curbing climate change, we have plenty of damage left to undo.