The Sustainable Business Council Blog

• A noveau look at New Years resolutions
January 1, 2009, 6:36 AM
Filed under: Uncategorized

Welcome to a brand-new year! Ripe with possibilities, impregnated with hope, many of us enter the new year driven by a litany of goals (OK – maybe just one). We are certain that this will be the year that we adhere to our resolutions. But alas – few of us actually end up following through. Maybe it’s because our annual reflection typically produces nebulous goals such as “getting healthy” or “increasing net worth” or “spending more quality time with family.”

This year is notably different. As we look at the world around us, it is clear that many economic, environmental and social entities and ideologies are transforming in front of our very eyes. That may feel pretty uncomfortable and leave us with a sense of “What can I do?”

As Thomas L. Friedman points out in his new bestseller “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” the most transformative periods in history (the Enlightment, the Industrial Revolution, the Information Age) share one compelling thing in common. When things started changing, people could not fully grasp the magnitude of the paradigm shift.

What’s driving the global transition? A population explosion that is stressing our already-overburdened natural resources, biodiversity loss, the fear of financial collapse, climate change, growing social inequity, toxic food, overflowing landfills, and the mass transfer of wealth to dictators who control the world’s petroleum reserves – just to name a few.

Maybe in light (or heavy) of all this, it’s a perfect time to try something a little different on the New Year’s resolution front. Instead of establishing another reactionary me-centered resolution, why not embrace a holistic approach?

We’d like to encourage you to choose one step to get started from the list below. Clip this column out, post it somewhere visible and return to it throughout the year for additional steps.

Start by committing to one action. Some are more easily accomplished than others and will make such a tangible difference in your life, you’ll wonder how you made it to 2009 without them.

So, repeat after us: “My New Year’s resolution is to contribute, within my capacity, to a sustainable future by:

•Bringing my own bags to the grocery store (and every store). Each year billions of bags end up as ugly and toxic litter. It’s estimated that there is six times as much plastic in our oceans as plankton.

The only tricky thing about this behavior change is you’ve got to devise a system to get the bags back to your car for the next trip. Try putting them somewhere conspicuous immediately after you unload groceries. Before you know it, bringing your own bags will become automatic.

<div>•Buying fewer disposable items. Look for long-lasting goods that won’t have to be replaced as often. Did you ever notice that the items get smaller and smaller and those blasted impossible-to-open hard plastic containers get larger and larger?

As a society we’ve become addicted to convenience, and yet the collective impact on our planet of throwing away all our disposables is truly staggering. Catch yourself when you reach for individually packaged items and you will soon see how gratifying it is to reduce your family’s volume of waste.

•Recycling. The jingle from our friends at Missoula Valley Recycling says it all – “It’s the least you can do!” There are opportunities to recycle just about everywhere, you just have to look. Retrain yourself. Garbage is out, recycling is in. If you don’t have a recycling bin where you need one – put one there. Use a pretty basket or container that fits with your decor.

•Eliminating the energy vampires. Some of the biggest saps of energy are cell phone and iPod chargers and computers, printers and the like. Have a walk about – notice the proliferation of appliances and chargers that are idling, literally stealing money out of your pocket 24 hours a day. Energy vampires can be avoided by using a power strip and clicking it off or making sure you unplug things when they’re not in use.

•Buy local and organic food/products whenever possible. Start by looking at your food consumption patterns. The average grocery fruit or vegetable has 16 chemicals sprayed on it. Most stores have sections that contain the organic version of anything you need.

•This isn’t an “all-or-nothing” proposal – go out of your box a bit and give a few new food products a try. An added bonus of choosing organic and locally grown foods is they are often fresher, taste much better and are more nutritious – plus you’re helping to buffer Missoula from the recession by keeping our economy strong.

•Supporting locally owned, independent businesses keeps MisSOULa unique. Sustainable Business Council’s member list is a great place to start your adventure into the fabulous and unique world of Missoula’s own.

•Carpool one day a week. Find a co-worker or buddy to share your daily commute. It’s a great way to cut your fuel costs, reduce wear and tear on your car and make new connections. Ride the bus a couple of days a month. Don’t run errands until you have two or three things to do in the same part of town. And if exercising more is a must in the new year, do some of your shopping and errands on foot.

•Invest your hard-earned money in a socially responsible manner. We’ve watched many supposedly stable global industries spiral downward, and yet renewable and clean-tech sectors are booming ($148 billion into alternative energies last year alone). Nothing speaks louder than supporting green technologies – all the while growing green in your accounts.

•These are just a few of the many steps we can take on the road to a healthy existence: mind, body and planet. Visit for a comprehensive list of actions you can take and share your resolutions with us.</div>

It took us years to perfect our bad habits and decades for our culture to design its patterns of consumption. Change isn’t going to happen overnight, but another year will come and go whether you make the right choices or not. So, pick one – any one – from the above list and just do it. Each and every one of us is somewhere on the path and we can all resolve to live lighter on our shared island home in 2009.

– Genevieve King and Lisa Swallow


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