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APRIL 2014: Banish those guilt pangs! You've already done more than you realize for the planet -- but that doesn't get you off the hook this Earth Day. ;)

Earth Day Resolutions
First on the list: Be positive!

Like New Year's Day, Earth Day always gets me looking back as well as forward. But I try not to focus on the things I've failed to do. That would be too much of a downer. Instead, I review what I have accomplished, which always turns out to be so much more than I realized.

It's a positive approach to Earth Day resolutions. If you haven't tried it, do.

Begin by thinking back to the time before you became aware of the unsustainability of the modern American lifestyle—when you were still happily accepting plastic bags from the store and didn't know enough to question where and how your food was grown.

With that as your starting point, go down the Earth Day Checklist below and mentally check off the sustainable practices you've made part of your life. For each check, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Those changes were hard.

Now, look down the list again to decide which mentally unchecked items you'd like to tackle this year. I've included tips for each to help get you started down that road.

Earth Day Checklist


Take reusable bags to the store.

TIP: For heavy-duty food shopping, get tote bags with rectangular bottoms and, if you usually drive to the market, store them in the car (but not in the trunk or you'll forget about them). If you walk, bike or use public transit to get around, get bags that can be rolled up so you can carry them with you easily. Store a couple at work, too.

Use reusable containers, lunch boxes and bags for on-the-go meals and drinks.

TIP: Consult The Smart Lunch Box for sustainable sandwich wrappers, bento boxes, thermoses, water bottles and more.

Buy organic food whenever it's affordable.

TIP: Some conventionally grown fruits and vegetables carry a higher pesticide load than others, so if you must pick and choose, spend your money on the 12 most important foods to buy organic. If money is not an issue, get everything organic; it's always a good buy for the environment.

Eat seasonal, local food during the growing season.

TIP: The best place to get local food is straight from the farm, CSA or farmer's market. Find one near you at Local Harvest. In the grocery store, shop from the "local" section if one's available, and avoid foods from faraway places as much as possible.


Eat less meat—or none at all!

TIP: For some people, the easiest approach to cutting back on meat is to observe Meatless Mondays. Others find it easier to cut the meat portion size and serve larger helpings of plant-based dishes. Either way works. The one thing that's necessary is some great vegetarian recipes. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is one of many good resources for that.

Avoid fish whose populations are plummeting.

TIP: Get the Monterey Bay Aquarium's regional seafood pocket guide or app so you can always find sustainable alternatives.


Buy LED or compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs instead of halogen incandescent bulbs.

TIP: In the old days, the brightness of bulbs was specified in watts, but today, it's lumens. Use NRDC's handy light bulb pdf guide to find out how many lumens you need. For bulb recommendations for individual fixtures, use the free mobile Light Bulb Finder app. The app will also tell you how much money and carbon pollution you stand to save. Go to the Energy Star site to find the most efficient LEDs and CFLs.


Cut down on waste.

TIP: Buy less and more wisely, repair your stuff and compost your food scraps.


Reduce chemical use outdoors.

TIP: Grow native plants and a truly green lawn.


Leave the car home.

TIP: Walk, bike, carpool and give public transit a chance.


You'll notice I didn't put the really big things on the list, but if you've installed solar panels, gotten a home energy audit and plugged the leaks or done something equally wonderful, you're a star.

Big or small, whatever you've done, keep it up. Then add one more thing to the list.

You are one of the people making a difference.

Thank you.

—Sheryl Eisenberg

Girl with Earth Day checklist

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On This Topic


Man hanging laundry
Woman examining butterfly in the garden
Woman petitioning

What are the most important goals? Here's my list.

1) STABILIZE THE CLIMATE - Climate change is our most pressing issue as it affects everything—biodiversity, health, safety and the economy. The answer, ultimately, is in the hands of the government—ours and other nations'. What you can do as an individual is cut your energy waste (and waste generally), switch to renewable energy sources, eat less meat, press the case to your elected officials and put your environmental goals front and center when you vote.

2) PRESERVE WILDLIFE HABITAT - It is not just development that destroys habitat. Climate change and pesticide use are among other factors responsible. What you can do as an individual is change your energy habits (see above), control your contribution to pesticide use (see below) and create wildlife habitat in your own yard (with native plants and non-toxic gardening methods). Also, quit using plastic bags, which endanger birds and marine mammals, and recycle any you do use at a grocery or drug store that takes them.

3) STOP THE TIDE OF CHEMICALS - Use non-toxic cleansers and cosmetics, control pests with natural methods instead of synthetic pesticides and buy organic. Also, avoid using plastics as much as possible.

4) CHANGE THE CULTURE - Speak up, challenge the consumerist culture and don't be afraid to be different.


Resources


The New York Times
Be It Resolved

The Huffington Post
10 Tricks to Help You Keep Resolutions

NRDC
Green Gifts for Earth Day



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Sheryl Eisenberg is a writer, web developer and long-time advisor to NRDC. With her firm, Mixit Productions (mixitproductions.com), she brought NRDC online in 1996, designed NRDC's first websites, and continues to develop special web features for NRDC. She created and, for several years, wrote the Union of Concerned Scientists' green living column, Greentips, and has designed and contributed content to many nonprofit sites. Sheryl makes her home in Brooklyn, where—along with her family—she tries to put her environmental principles into practice. No fooling.