Green New Year’s Resolutions

Dear EarthTalk: Since December 31 is almost here, what New Year’s resolutions might my family and I make to lessen our impact on the environment?

—David Schink, Chicago, IL

The dawn of a new year is always a good time to consider how our actions and activities affect the environment. Here are a few ways to be greener in 2006:

– Buy organic and fair trade. Organic crops grow without the chemicals that pollute our environment and cause health problems for sensitive consumers. Meanwhile, “fair trade” goods won’t exploit third world workers or their environment. Purchase organic and fair traded food and clothing and you”ll help make a difference while often enjoying higher quality goods. (;

– Travel Lite. Driving gas-guzzling SUVs is a sure way to keep warming the globe and polluting the air. Even small steps—like driving a fuel-efficient hybrid or taking public transit—can have major impact. And don’t forget that walking and biking cause no pollution, use no oil, keep you fit and get you to appreciate the great outdoors more. Vacationing? Choose an “eco-tour” that minimizes impact and benefits the host community. (;

– Batten Down the Hatches. Upgrade appliances to greener models, add insulation and replace leaky windows and you can make your home comfy and save lots of cash. A slew of new tax incentives make it more lucrative than ever to do the right thing. Jimmy Carter’s advice to lower the thermostat and don a sweater still holds. In summer, turn off air conditioners and open the windows. (

– Dump the Chemicals. Green cleaning products, from a growing list of manufacturers, are safer than conventional cleansers, especially for children who spend a lot of time on the floor. And since dioxin traces have been found on everything from bleached paper towels and diapers to tampons, look for alternatives made with unbleached paper or organic cotton. (

– Eat Lower on the Food Chain. By eating less or no meat and more fruits and veggies, you”ll not only improve your health by reducing fat and cholesterol, you”ll also help the environment. Meatless diets mean far less land and water usage and reduced pollution from the animal waste that is now a major contributor to water and groundwater pollution. (

– Don’t buy fur. Give wildlife a break—they have enough trouble surviving as it is, with so much habitat threatened by booming human population and rampant development. And the ones raised on “ranches” aren’t having a picnic either. (

– Invest in your principles. Mutual funds like Calvert, Domini and others will invest your money in good corporate environmental citizens. And a growing number of credit unions and banks will lend your deposits to green-friendly businesses. Buy stock in companies you don’t like, too—then effect change from within by speaking up at shareholder meetings for better practices. (

– Teach Your Children Well. A good place to start is with curbing consumption. How many Beanie Babies, Barbies and iPods will be in landfills 10 years from now? You decide. (