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What Can I Do?

Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010

Four R's for the New Year

Reduce your spending

Some polls suggest that one of the most popular New Year's Resolutions is to get out of debt (save money, spend less, etc.), perhaps as a result of being financial traumatized from the holidays. However, there is more than one reason to be motivated to save your cash, aside from recovering from an expensive season. Adopting a general mentality of consuming less not only allows you to save up for expenses that are more important and/or necessary, but cutting back on unnecessary expenses such as Starbucks Coffee (sorry Starbucks!) will also result in the creation of less waste. Think of all the plastic you would avoid dumping into the garbage, not to mention the $3 or $4 dollars you could save by switching to making coffee at home! With all the fancy flavored creamers and sugars available in supermarkets, there's no reason why you cant have a gourmet coffee experience at home (in a reusable mug) for less. Coffee is just one example of a way that you could cut back your spending this year, but you get the general idea!

Reuse gift cards

Chances are you probably received at least one gift card this holiday season, whether it be for coffee, gas, or your favorite clothing store. When you've finished indulging in a little post-holiday shopping with your gift cards, consider putting more money on the card (if possible) either for yourself, if you know you will return, or to re-give to a friend or family member at a later date instead of throwing them away. Most gift cards are rechargeable, yet if you give your gift card back to the store after using it, it will most likely be thrown away. Reusing gift cards will help save a bit of plastic waste, as well as provide a little safety net in case you need a last-minute gift!

Recycle your clothes

It's a new year! If you're looking to do something that will help you start your year off with a clean slate, consider going through all of your old clothes and giving away pieces you don't wear anymore. In general, a good rule to follow is if you haven't worn it in over a year, you most likely wont wear it again. But who knows, maybe a stranger, or even one of your friends might like you're old gear. So consider throwing a New Year's get-together with some of your pals and have a clothing swap! Ask everyone to bring some of their old clothes (make certain they are willing to part with them first) and let the party begin! Any unclaimed clothes left over at the end can be donated to a Goodwill or other local thrift store. An extra plus: your donation is tax deductible! You will thank yourself in April, and you and your friends will be glad to go into the new year with a little less clutter, and maybe a few new treasures to boot.

Respect your body

It's probably true that almost everyone has made their New Year's resolution to lose weight at least once (if not every year) in their life. This year, try going a little deeper with some newfound motivation for becoming more healthy and physically fit. Eating smarter and eating less generally means reducing consumption, which can save money and the planet. Instead of trying some wacky new 2-week diet which limits the types of food you can eat, consider focusing on decreasing your consumption of processed foods and meats(that are often produced in an environmentally destructive way), and increasing your consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. When planning a meal, instead of having meat as the main focus, think about what type of vegetable you would like to eat, and go from there. We are not preaching vegetarianism, rather we are promoting more conscientious omnivorism! But consider this: individuals with vegetable-heavy, light-meat diets tend to have lower rates of diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancers, and obesity. Furthermore, livestock production accounts for 18% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and 8% of water use. Of course, if you don't want to go completely veg, you can always opt for more sustainable meats such as free-range, organic chicken, grass-fed beef, or wild-caught fish. The shift in the focus of your eating will be more beneficial for the environment and your body. Try it out and see if you notice any differences! Be proud of yourself for adopting a resolution that's good for you, and allows you to do your part at least 3 times a day! For more information on the statistics provided, visit

By Kristin Sterling, '10, Sustainability Intern

Tags: Take Action



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