January was named after the Roman god Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings. It seems fitting then that we celebrate January 1 as a new beginning, a fresh start, a time to change for the better in the new year. This new beginning gives us pause to reflect on choices that didn’t work in the past and gives us a chance to make a positive difference in the future.

Change can be difficult, especially when you are trying to do too much all at once. Take small steps that will ensure a greater chance for success. Nearly all changes toward living green come down to reduce, reuse, recycle, but within those categories there are so many small changes that make a real positive impact.

Top Ten Green Resolutions That Can Make a Big Difference

  1. Use reusable bags for groceries. It can take a lot of concentration to get in the habit or remembering those reusable bags when going grocery shopping or to the farmer’s market, but it is worth the effort: reusable bags can save more than 700 disposables in their lifetime! Already doing this? Take reusable bags every time you shop at any store or mall.
  2. Start composting. Composting your kitchen scraps and yard waste will not only reduce what is going into the landfills, but creates an amazing, nutrient-rich soil amendment that your plants, trees, and garden will truly appreciate. Composting has numerous environmental benefits and anyone can do it, even in an apartment.
  3. Green your clean. Unfortunately for our family’s health, most mainstream cleaners contain toxic ingredients that actually create indoor air pollution, include antibacterial agents that create superbugs resistant to antibiotics, and are expensive. There are two great options to green your clean: make your own or choose eco-friendly brands.
  4. Choose homemade over processed food. Processed foods are convenient, but also contain a lot of ingredients that are unhealthy for us and potentially toxic: preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and even sulfur, formaldehyde, and bleach among other synthetic chemicals added during processing that don’t need to be included on ingredient lists. In our reality, it is likely that you will need processed foods sometimes, but choose homemade whenever possible and be a savvy label-reader when it isn’t.
  5. Buy local, organic, and fair-trade. Think consciously about your purchases and the impact they have around the world. Supporting local businesses is proven to keep more money in your community. Supporting organic is healthier for the environment and for your family by keeping toxic pesticides from both. Fair-trade certified means you are helping farmers earn a fair wage, promote sustainability and community development, making an enormous difference in the lives of others.
  6. Buy used. A great way to save money, especially for our children who grow so quickly out of their clothes and toys, it is also a great way to reduce our environmental impact.
  7. Avoid toxic chemicals in personal care products. More than 80 percent of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products have never been adequately tested for safety. Become a savvy label-reader by understanding which ingredients are most harmful and choosing products that are safer. Have a question about the safety of a specific product? Check the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.
  8. Walk, bike, or use public transportation. Whenever possible, choose to walk, ride your bike, or take public transportation. This goes for commutes to work, getting kids to school, and weekend trips to the library. Doing this even once a week will make your family healthier and prevent a lot of wasted gas and pollution.
  9. Fix, repair, or mend what’s broken. Instead of throwing broken things away, first see if it can be repaired or mended. Choosing quality products first will have an impact, but for the inevitable hole in a sweater or broken toy, choosing to fix rather than toss and buy new will have a great impact on your own and the environment’s resources.
  10. Choose reusable. Ditch the disposables and choose reusable products. From cleaning cloths to diapers to napkins, things we use in our daily lives that get tossed effortlessly in the trash could be replaced by something reusable saving precious resources and money.

Happy New Year! Remember that these changes may not be easy, but if you take them in small steps, you are bound to find they become routine and fulfilling. Choose one or two, take it slow, and persevere!

Which one sounds like a green New Year’s Resolution your family can tackle?