Going green: 15 ways you can make the new year more eco-friendly

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1) Educate yourself, read blogs, research eco-issues that you are passionate about, and if you're duly motivated, try your hand at contributing your own blog posts to the websites that you regularly read. Become a thoughtful and involved greenie who constantly spreads the word about treading lighter on the planet.

2) Break free of old lifestyle habits, especially that little thing called excessive consumerism. The cure to chronic global clutter is definitely not another trip to the shopping mall.

3) Instead of buying it, make it. Enlist the help of friends and family so that DIYing becomes a social event rather than a chore. Homemade items possess far more charm than store-bought versions anyway, plus they tend to last a lot longer.

4) Steer clear of fast food joints, which embody our country's excess, and try cooking at home more often. While such palaces of instant gratification offer an admittedly cheap and quick meal fix, the fare is notoriously unhealthy (especially if you consume burgers, which are typically made with a 50-50 blend of beef and slaughterhouse fat trimmings treated with ammonia to potentially kill microbes) -- plus the industry is responsible for generating billions of tons of waste annually.

5) Please stop wasting food. If you can't consume your refrigerator, freezer and pantry staples in a timely manner, buy less, freeze your leftovers or give excess edibles to someone else who will really appreciate them. There is always a far better alternative to the garbage can!

6) Try dining on vegetarian food for a single day...or once a week...or commit to a plant-based lifestyle for one full year. Your blood test results will be squeaky clean, you'll have a noticeable pep to your step and you just might help to reduce the overall demand for factory farmed protein, which would be a very green thing, indeed.

7) Resist the urge to chuck household objects. If you are prepared to part with a dust collector or two, place an ad on Craigslist or Freecycle...donate items to charitable organizations...ask a neighbor, friend or relative if they might use your unwanted item...breathe new life into outdated tchotchkes by putting a little upcycling twist on them. Someone out there happens to need precisely what it is that you don't want. Put feelers out and make their day.

8) You may think that your clothing is out of style, but it can still be a valuable resource. If you are crafty, upcycle your old threads...refashion them...create unique fashion accessories or household items. Some quick options: bring old duds to a consignment shop, donate them to local veterinarian hospitals and pet shelters, trade them with other fashionistas, cut them into household cleaning rags...the possibilities are almost endless.

9) Change your perspective of garbage. Throwing something away merely relocates it into someone else's backyard. Think carefully before you toss. Ask yourself, "Is there a way that I can turn this into a valuable resource?" and then make it happen.

10) Lay off of the gas and try biking or walking to town every so often :)

11) Declare your home a chemical-free zone by cleaning with simple, pure ingredients such as good old fashioned vinegar, steer clear of air fresheners which release astounding amounts of volatile organic compounds and filter your air with houseplants, instead!

12) Drink real water out of a real glass from a real faucet -- just filter it. Rinse and repeat.

13) Be vigilant about recycling every last bit of material that can potentially take on a new life, including all paper, glass, plastic, scrap metal, cardboard, electronics, furniture, construction materials, etc.

14) Enroll in consumer-conscious programs spearheaded by TerraCycle, RecycleBank, NuRide, MyEex, Neighborhood Fruit, etc. which all help the planet but in the process, also deliver a nice pat on the back for your super greenie efforts.

15) Perhaps the greatest thing that all of us can do as environmental stewards is to share what works in our own lives with others. So, the ball is in your court....would you please add to the list?

Elizah Leigh | @elizahleigh
Elizah Leigh's master's degree in education combined with her passion for the written word and deep-seated interest in environmental issues has proven to be the ideal trifecta for her present status as a green journalist. Currently commissioned to write a reference book on vegetarianism, Elizah hopes to inspire people through her words. Follow Elizah on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/sheeshoo

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