It's the season for New Year's resolutions, and the California Department of Conservation has a few suggestions about small changes that can make huge impacts on the health of the environment. The department has published "Green Holidays Guide: Simple Ways to Protect Our Planet." The guide includes a wealth of information about how to be "green" during 2002. By committing to even a few of these resolutions, Californians can have a positive impact on the environment in 2002.
1. Recycle: Resolve to recycle wherever you are. A wide variety of beverage containers can be redeemed for cash under California's beverage container recycling program. Even containers that are not included in the program are recyclable. If you don't recycle, take time to find out how. Call your city or county recycling program or visit www.bottlesandcans.com.
2. Buy Products Made From Recycled Materials: Just as recycling is important, so is resolving to buy products made from recycled materials. Look for the recycling symbol (or why is this better? "Made from post-consumer material") on a wide range of products. In addition, there is a growing array of new products made from recycled beverage containers, ranging from backyard planter boxes to fleece vests.
3. Make Your Home a Toxic-Free Environment: Keep your home healthy by reducing unnecessary toxic chemicals. Paints, solvents and other chemicals should be disposed of safely, not flushed down the toilet. Toilet-bowl solvents. Substitute baking soda and vinegar, which are great all-purpose cleaners. Non-toxic household cleaners can be found at many stores. Cut down on pesticides and fertilizers in your garden and you'll limit what gets washed into rivers, bays and the ocean.
4. Get out of the car one day a week: Resolve to spare the air. Carpool, use public transportation or bicycle. Using alternative transportation a day or two a week can prove manageable, and getting out from behind the wheel can be relaxing. Plus, riding a bike fulfills the annual resolution to exercise more.
5. Enjoy the great outdoors: visit a local, state or national park: Take some time to appreciate California's world-class natural areas. Get to know some of the parks in your area and beyond. Ask about volunteer opportunities or special nature programs geared toward kids.
6. Start a compost pile to feed your garden: Convert those yard clippings and vegetable peelings into nature's fertilizer for your garden. Home composters can be found at most home and garden centers. Many counties now offer discounted rates for home composters and many more counties take yard clipping "donations" for municipal compost piles that provide soil for local parks. Call your city or county for more information or visit www.ciwmb.ca.gov/Organics/HomeComp to learn about composting at home.
7. Go local: volunteer in your community: Resolve to improve your hometown environment. Sign up for the local clean-up day, tree-planting effort or community garden. Take your kids to a neighborhood creek restoration effort to show them what an ecosystem is all about. Volunteer at a local park. Adopt your own space and turn it green.
8. Conserve energy: Cut your monthly energy bills 30 percent by replacing old equipment in your home with state-of-the-art Energy Star products. Get going on those energy-efficient home improvements you've been putting off all year. Turn off lights when you leave a room and keep the thermostat at 70 degrees. For more tips on conserving energy, visit www.flexyourpower.ca.gov.
For more information or to receive a copy of the "Green Holidays Guide", visit www.bottlesandcans.com or call 1-800-RECYCLE.