Durban - At the start of each year, most of us resolve to be better, nicer, more balanced people. Many of us also promise to take better care of the environment, to be healthier, and to live a “greener” life. And, inevitably, we’re all disappointed when February rolls round and our lives haven’t really changed that much.
The fault often lies in the resolutions themselves. They’re usually very idealistic and often impractical. They’re too vague, or too vast, and we don’t give ourselves an infrastructure within which to achieve them.
This year, take a different approach and set achievable, realistic resolutions that you will actually be able to keep, benefiting both yourself and the environment.
Be specific. Instead of resolving to finally install a geyser blanket, for example, make a specific goal to call an electrician for a quote. Better still, set a deadline and attach a phone number. Rather than saying: “I will stop using chemicals around the house”, make or purchase a month’s supply of organic cleaning agents so that you have them on hand the next time you need them.
Be selective. Don’t be surprised if you don’t manage to lose 10kg, quit smoking, double your income, run a half-marathon, get a degree and go carbon-neutral by February 1. Choose one or two goals that are important to you, and focus on those.
For example, resolve to take a long family walk or active outing at least once a week. It’s a manageable commitment, and it combines goals for fitness, family time and spending time outdoors to nurture your spirit.
Reinforce. Write or print out your resolutions and put them somewhere you will read them often; on the fridge, the bathroom mirror, or next to your bed. Let your resolution become your mantra (just don’t start chanting “I will remember to turn the water off when I brush my teeth” in your yoga class…)
Follow through. Star charts aren’t just for kids. Track your progress by giving yourself a star each time you cycle to work or share a ride instead of driving alone. Use stars to tally each plastic bag you keep out of landfills by taking your own to the store. You’ll be shocked – and proud – at what a difference one person can make.
Incentivise. Reward yourself when you reach specified goals. Indulge in a new haircut or body treatment once you’ve changed every last light bulb in the home to compact fluorescents; treat yourself to lunch each month after you’ve dropped off the recycling.
There are lots of things both big and small that we can do to ease our impact on the planet. If you’re not doing them already, you could consider 2014 as the year that you finally try one of the following:
Big Green Resolutions
l Start recycling. Using separate bins, amass paper, glass, cans and plastic (including polystyrene) and take them to your local recycling depot. Alternatively, find a service that will collect from you (try www.yesrecycling.co.za).
The Durban Solid Waste/Mondi orange recycling bag initiative will collect paper, cardboard, plastic, tetrapak and polystyrene directly from your home on waste collection day.
l Make your garden totally indigenous. In addition to crowding out many beautiful and useful indigenous plants, alien plants often consume an inordinate amount of water and can increase the range of disease-causing organisms.
To find indigenous plants and professional contractors who remove alien plants, contact the Botanical Society’s KZN Coastal Branch at 031 201 5111 or visit www.botanicalsociety.org.za
l Grow your own food. Fruits and veggies packed in plastic and transported over great distances (consuming vats of petrol) aren’t great for the environment. Furthermore, shop-bought produce can hike up your grocery bills. This year, grow your own salad ingredients in your garden or window box. It’s cheaper, and you can be sure they are free from pesticides, herbicides, and other potentially harmful substances sometimes used in conventional farming. It’s also a great, educational family activity – planting, watering, nurturing and harvesting your crops.
l Start composting and/or worming. Once organic waste is mixed with non-organic waste (for example, in a landfill) it cannot biodegrade efficiently. Build or buy a system to collect organic matter and turn it into compost for your garden. There is a wealth of information on the internet to suit every person’s space, technical ability and pocket. Worm farms are also a great, compact way to keep organic waste out of landfills while nurturing your garden or window-box (try www.wizzardworms.co.za).
Small Green Resolutions
l Unplug. As much as 10 percent of home electricity is burnt by appliances when they are turned off. Standby mode still requires some carbon to power the machine, so do your pocket and the planet a favour by unplugging the TV, cellphone charger, computer, etc when not in use.
l Close the curtains. The added insulation keeps your house cooler in summer and warmer in winter. It’s especially easy (and important) to keep the curtains closed in rooms you’re not currently using, or when you leave the house. Also consider keeping the windows open in summer (to let in the breeze) or closed in winter (to keep out the cold) before resorting to electrically controlled air systems.
l Line dry. Tumble dryers guzzle energy, so take advantage of KZN’s glorious sunshine. If you don’t have access to a washing line, hang your laundry on a collapsible drying rack next to your bed in the morning. By the end of the day you’ll have dry clothes and a clean conscience.
l Make informed choices. Often we don’t choose green options because we don’t know. The energy required to produce a single aluminium can from virgin ore is enough to produce nearly two glass bottles, so go for glass whenever you can. Similarly, soap uses less plastic packaging than body wash, and because it is small and light, requires less carbon to transport it. So when standing in the shops faced with a myriad personal hygiene products, pick the soap.
l Carbon offsetting. Calculate your carbon footprint (try www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx), and consider offsetting it by purchasing carbon certificates.
l Spread the word. Here’s one we can all do. Tell everyone you can about going green, and encourage them to make the same small steps. Together, we can make a huge difference.
l For more great green ideas, visit Lauren’s blog, Veggie Tots, at www.veggietots.com - Daily News