Make 'going green' one of your New Year resolutions

"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right." — Oprah Winfrey

Again, it's the time many of us make New Year resolutions, and scores of of these resolutions are personal, like cut down on coffee consumption, eat less or lose weight, drive more cautiously and stop speeding, texting or any cell phone use, exercise and walk more, and so on. Each is valid, but adding resolutions outside ourselves and keeping them will not only help ourselves, but also family, neighbors, and expanding our reach to the earth itself.

I can remember years ago when to conserve our natural resources was a movement in infancy, and we began to train ourselves to conserve water simply by not leaving the tap running while brushing our teeth or to turn off the light when we left a room (or the television when no one was watching it). These remain among the most basic "green" resolutions we can make for 2017. And if you think the term "green" is too tree-hugging for you; think of it as saving a precious resource-water, while reducing the electric bill and at the same time cutting down on air pollution, however minuscule your part may be.

If you are looking for a few "green" items to add to your list, consider these, some of which will also save on expenses.

- Avoid purchasing bottle water. Annually, the oil used to produce plastic single-use water bottles in the U.S. is enough to fuel roughly one million autos. Another source says one and one half million barrels of oil are used to make plastic water bottles each year. And think of how much you will save annually by converting to a reusable water containment device and filling it at home or at an often convenient water fountain.

- Use reusable shopping bags and do your part to cut down on the millions upon millions of plastic bags ending up with the trash every day. It is estimated that the world throws away a million plastic bags every minute. Locally made reusable Blue Q shopping bags are both comical and each makes a statement that, among other positives, you are fun-loving. It is far more responsible using reusable bags, however you come by them. We sponsored a bag-share project not long ago where we got together with other like-minded folks and sewed our own shopping bags at Saint Stephen's Church in Pittsfield, Mass.

- Limit paper towel use. It's an addiction to grab a paper towel for every spill, contributing both a wasteful use of paper and thousands of tons of paper ending up in landfills every day. Cotton hand or dish towels work well and have for many years before our affluent use of resources.

- Switch to LED lighting. Not many years ago, at home, I switched over to compact fluorescents and our use of electricity dropped. During the past year or two, LED lights have become more economical than when I first wrote about alternate sources of light. LED lights draw very little power, last for years and produce different shades or temperatures of light, making them ideal for home use.

- Think again before buying a cup of coffee in a paper cup. While most of us know Styrofoam cups are made from oil and in many communities are non-recyclable, paper hot cups are. Wrong, it has recently been reported that most of these "paper" cups are made with a layer of polyethylene inside meaning they cannot be recycled with paper and cardboard. Unless you are absent-minded like this writer, take along an insulated reusable cup and have it filled at your favorite java joint. Often you will be charged only for the coffee.

- Eliminate "Phantom Power." How long does it take to unplug your cell phone, iPad, or laptop charger? A second or two? These devices continue to draw power even when not in use, though plugged in. You may invest in special chargers that stop drawing power when the device's battery is fully charged. Televisions, DVD players, stereos, and game systems also draw power when turned off. These can be unplugged or put on a power strip when not in use. Some sources say a household can save as much as 10 percent annually by following these recommendations.

Thom Smith welcomes your questions and comments. Email him at or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201


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