How to save the world - at least try - in 2011

Ah, yes, it's that time again - a new year, a new you. Yup, I said it. (Keep reading. It gets less hokey...)

Resolutions definitely serve a purpose, yet, I think the way they are portrayed in weight loss ads/special news segments, they're a little vapid, selfish and self-important. I've compiled a list of things I try to live by. They're easy resolutions that will help you feel better about yourself in the coming year, improve the health of the planet, and, hopefully, establish long-lasting lifestyle patterns.
  • Support local, regional and organic:  Did you think I'd say otherwise? I feel like 2010 saw a record number of new farms and farmers' markets; talk of all things local food seemed to be covered in some form in media outlets. A common debate in the local food sphere is local vs. organic. My answer is local/regional and organic. I'm the last person who wants to see a small, family-owned, non-organic farm fail but I can't reconcile paying for food that still contains toxic chemicals and contaminates groundwater, local waterways and land. Consumers have immense power to change what their local stores carry - so, demand local and organic. Not too many organic farms in your area? Well, learn about outdated farm subsidies (see "cookbooks + such" + "resources" to get a head start), join a farm advocacy group and demand more funding opportunities for organic farmers or those conventional farmers who want to transition their land. 
  • Grow your own food: The cheapest way to eat better, lose weight and enjoy the outdoors is to start a garden. Start-up costs for a garden and relatively inexpensive when you consider how much money you'll save in food costs when your garden is at its peak. Don't make excuses: You can grow food on a windowsill and in your window and in containers on your deck/porch. I cannot tell you how rewarding it is to grow your own food! Want a larger garden and don't have the space? Check out your local community garden or visit the American Community Garden Association for more info.
  • Help save the bees! Entire populations of our pollinating friends are disappearing due to Mother Nature Network recently reported that 4 species of bumblebees are on the decline in North America. What it means for us: No bees, no food. If installing hives isn't in your plan, at least consider planting flowers that attract bees. For now, continue to support your local apiary! (Read this article about how the EPA defends its approval of Bayer's bee-killing pesticide.) Bees need our help!
  • "Can I make this?" Handmade is taking off - and can pay off. Prepared foods - even those wholesome looking ones - are convenient, often expensive and super easy to make at home. There's a time and place to buy from those who can make things better than we can, but before you buy something in the sake of convenience - food, clothing, cleaning supplies, toiletries, candles, homemade gifts - try to see if you can make it yourself. (If you keep this mantra when it comes to baked goods that you may otherwise buy at the store, you may find that you'll bake less!).
  • "Do I need this?" I guess this could go along with the prior point, but survey the inventory of your home, especially your closet, before you go on a buying binge. Get creative, think about pieces of your wardrobe/items in your basement, garage or attic in different ways.
  • Embrace homemade = reduce waste: Don't contribute to the Great Garbage Patch - learning to make your own food and gifts will automatically reduce and/or eliminate the waste that ends up in landfills. 
  • Take a walk: It's common sense: walk, bike or take public transit instead of jumping in your gas-guzzling car. But walks are more than that: They are totally no-impact, require no special equipment (despite popular belief, butt-shaping sneakers are not necessary) and do wonders for your physical and mental health.
  • Turn off the phones/computers/TVs/whatever and go outside: This is not meant to sound like an in-my-day argument, but portable devices suck a lot of non-renewable resources and a lot of our time. Technology is great and a necessary tool, but as much as I need it for my job, I'm making a concerted effort to limit online/computer screen time.
  • If you must buy, buy fair and humane: I'm vegetarian, so I feel compelled to say this: go meatless - and for more than just one day a week. Treat beef, poultry and other animal products, including dairy, as a treat and buy the best quality. It's not that expensive if you think this way and you'll appreciate it more. As for coffee, chocolate and other luxuries, always buy fair trade (see "Black Gold" or at least the trailer below) You can break many self-professed addictions when you treat these items as occasional goods rather than everyday necessities.

Another cool model? Try Yes! Magazine's "No Impact Week."

All this sounding a little homesteady for you? Check out this article from AlterNet to get you thinking.