Eco Wise

Put a Green Spin on Those Same Ol' Resolutions

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Each holiday season, many of us make similar New Year's resolutions -- and then, just as inevitably, let them slide. Going green may be the most effective resolution of all: Making planet-friendly choices is not just a selfless act, but also a way to improve your quality of life. Here, five of the most common resolutions and how living more sustainably can help you achieve them.

Resolution 1: ExerciseGreen Solution: Bike or Walk to Work

Taking your polluting car off the road can raise your physical fitness. For the average person, bicycling at a moderate rate burns 300 calories per hour, a figure that nearly doubles for speeds faster than 10 mph; walking briskly can burn 460 calories per hour, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If getting yourself to and from work without a car isn't an option, use public transportation and walk or bike to and from the station to get your heart pumping.

And if you must drive, carpool. The American Lung Association gave Washington a grade of F on its 2007 State of the Air Report, so cutting down the number of cars will help all exercisers breathe easier.

Resolution 2: Spend More Time With Family and FriendsGreen Solution: Switch Off and Get Out

Instead of passing your free time in front of a giant flat-screen TV, surfing YouTube or slaying digital monsters on your Wii -- and consuming extra electricity in the process -- focus on enjoying the company of loved ones. The simplest group activities, such as charades or a good conversation, are often the most fulfilling.

If you're itching to get out, hop on the Metro for a museum excursion or start a family garden (you'll strengthen your bonds while your plants are absorbing carbon dioxide).

Resolution 3: Go on a DietGreen Solution: Eat Organically and Locally

Whether you're looking to lose a few eggnog-related pounds or simply want to be healthier, resolve to base your diet on organic vegetables and fruits -- preferably local produce from farmers markets or a community-supported agriculture service, which would reduce the amount of fuel needed to transport the food to your plate. (Organic TV dinners and "natural" cheese puffs don't count!)

Though it takes more time and effort to cook using straight-from-the-farm produce, slow, home-prepared meals are great for enjoying with others (see Resolution 2) and make you far less likely to shovel down fattening fast food on the run. Not only will a nutritious, high-fiber, unprocessed diet help you keep a trim figure, but your overall health (and mood) will improve. And you may have better breath (thanks to the chlorophyll in fresh greens) to boot.

Resolution 4: Save MoneyGreen Solution: Consume Less

Next time you have a hankering for a new gizmo or handbag, think twice. Unsustainable spending and unsustainable use of the planet's resources go hand in hand. If you must redecorate or find a cute belt for Friday night, buy wisely. Secondhand or vintage clothing and furniture are usually cheaper, save resources and often make for a more interesting style.

Also, conserve electricity at home: Swap your incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent ones, turn off the lights when you leave a room and keep the thermostat down this winter (don a sweater if you're chilly). Your bank balance will get a boost when you reduce your footprint, and you might be surprised at how spending less makes you want less -- and be more satisfied with the life you have.

Resolution 5: Help OthersGreen Solution: Help the Planet

Anything you can do to help the well-being of the planet -- reducing your carbon footprint, choosing pesticide-free products, avoiding polluting plastic -- will help the well-being of all its inhabitants. Supporting local businesses, manufacturers and farmers, which keeps shipping fuel use down, also strengthens community ties.

Finally, mark your calendars for such events as the Green Festival, held in the fall. You might also volunteer for environmental organizations such as Earth Day Network ( Eco events are a great way to get informed, get connected to others and expand your awareness.

-- Eviana Hartman

© 2007 The Washington Post Company