Ask Eartha: Sustainable New Year’s Resolution (column)
January 11, 2018
My New Year's resolution this year is to be more mindful of my environmental impact. I recycle at home and take reusable bags when I go grocery shopping, but I know this isn't much. What else could I be doing?
Way to start 2018 out right, Lisa! I'm proud of the environmental commitment you've set for yourself. There's always something more each of us could be doing, even in the most dedicated of households. So, it's good practice to review your current habits and figure out where (and how) you could make improvements.
Here's a list of suggestions for you to consider — ranked from lower to higher levels of effort.
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By researching the issues that interest you most, you can discover the ways your lifestyle impacts these areas and what other people have done to minimize these impacts. Reading about actions other people are taking is a great way to get new ideas and to feel confident giving these ideas a try. For example, if you're interested in supporting local food movements, you might learn more about gardening and sign up for a garden plot this summer.
Since you already recycle, take your waste diversion efforts one step further by collecting your food waste for composting. All you need is a container to collect your food scraps in. At home, I use a 5-gallon bucket with a screw-top lid. Then you can sign up for High Country Conservation Center's Food Scrap Recycling program which allows you to compost up to 10 gallons of food each week. I bet you'll find that after recycling and composting, the amount of trash you send to the landfill is pretty minimal. You could save on your trash bill by reducing your service as well.
Energy Assessment and Improvement
How efficient is your home — is it poorly insulated or does it leak air? A residential energy assessment is a foolproof way to find out. Once you know what your home is lacking, then you can work on incorporating suggested improvements — saving both energy and money. Sign up for HC3's Energy Smart Colorado program to get started.
Unless you're sourcing locally raised meat, chances are the meat products you purchase come from factory farms. These operations are very resource-intensive, cause water pollution and contribute to not only aquatic dead zones, but also climate change. Eating a more plant-based diet — even once a week — can have a significant impact on your environmental footprint.
Don't worry… I'm not suggesting you give up your vehicle completely. But if you're fortunate to live near one of the free bus routes, think about your daily schedule and whether you might be able to take the bus to work or to play once a week. Or ask around your workplace to see if any of your colleagues live near you. You can cut back on your carbon emissions and save gas money by figuring out how to drive your personal vehicle fewer miles each week. And when you find yourself in the market for a new car, consider a model that gets at least 40 miles per gallon or an all-electric model.
Buy Clean Energy
For most of us in Summit County, our electricity company is Xcel Energy. Currently 20 percent of the electricity Xcel provides is generated by renewable resources, and the company aims to increase that to 55 percent by 2026. But you don't have to wait nine years to increase the renewable energy you use at home. Xcel also offers renewable energy plans to account holders. For about an additional $100 per year, you can sign up for the Wind Source program or — coming soon — Renewable Connect. Check out Xcel's website for more details.
Lisa, these are just a few suggestions, and none of these is too life-altering once they become ingrained habits. You can work on the first item on this list by attending the Wild and Scenic Film Festival this weekend in Breckenridge at the Riverwalk Center. On Saturday, Jan. 13, enjoy 12 films designed to inspire and motivate you to make a difference in our community. Tickets are $20 in advance and can be purchased online at HighCountryConservation.org or by calling 970-668–5703. Otherwise, you can buy tickets at the door for $25. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the show starts at 7 p.m. The Wild and Scenic Film Festival is a family-friendly event, so the whole Steward household will be there, and like you, we're looking forward to being inspired and reaffirming our personal commitments to conservation!
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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