There’s nothing like New Year’s Day to make us feel like we can start over and do things right: this year I will stop procrastinating, exercise every day, be nicer to others, save money, eat more healthily… Of course, we all recognize we’re not starting from scratch, but coping with the aftereffects of previous less healthy decisions.
On your list of resolutions, be sure to include protecting the planet. We can, and should, reduce our carbon emissions in 2012. Of course, we are coping with the effects of previous levels of emissions. Carbon in the atmosphere will continue to rise, and the planet continue to warm, due to things that we’ve already done. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything.
There are two bits of good news to motivate us. One is that we can make a difference. Individual households in the US contribute approximately 38 percent of carbon emissions. It’s not just about industry. Here are some easy and effective things you can do: reduce driving – e.g., by carpooling; replace incandescent lightbulbs with CFCs; turn down your thermostat. Keep your tires inflated and wash your clothes in cold water. (Read more here. ) None of these things will reduce your quality of life. As a fringe benefit, research by social psychologist Nick Epley suggests that carpooling might improve your mood by building more social interaction into your day.
The second good thing is that we can multi-task. Eating more healthily (less red meat!) can protect the planet. Exercising (walk or bike instead of driving!) can protect the planet. Saving money (lower heating and electricity costs!) can protect the planet. And protecting the planet is one of the most important things we can do to be nicer to others, particularly those who will have to cope with the effects of our decisions.
Stop procrastinating. Happy new year!