I am not one for New Year’s Resolutions. They sound good, and they make you feel good, but rarely do we really keep them for any length of time. However, with the latest climate news—animal species going extinct, trees dying around us, extreme wildfires—I’ve been thinking about resolutions we can promise to the earth and to ourselves.
I’ve written before about what we as individuals can do to combat climate change, but this list includes our health, too.
1. Stop using pesticides. There is a link between various cancers and pesticides, and I don’t mean just those sprayed on crops. Indoor bug sprays can cause cancer, according to the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund. And obviously, pesticides kill all insects, including the pollinators that we rely on for our food.
2. Eat organic food. Organic farming uses far fewer pesticides and herbicides, keeping ecosystems healthier, but they are better for us, too. (See #1)
3. Don’t use rodenticides. Before you decide to poison mice or prairie dogs or pack rats, think about what else you are poisoning at the same time. A recent study by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation analyzed 11 wildlife studies and found rat poisons in more than 90 percent of tested mountain lions, and 88 percent of tested bobcats, as well as seven out of 10 endangered Northern spotted owls and 40 percent of tested barred owls.
4. Eat less meat. Eating less meat and transitioning to a plant-based diet is better for human health—and the earth. If you do eat meat, eat grass-fed. Healthy grasslands support much more than our cattle; they are an ecosystem that supports many other critters and also sequesters carbon dioxide. If we resolve to eat grass-fed, pasture-raised meat, dairy and eggs, we are supporting small farmers—and treating animals much more humanely.
5. Stop using single-use plastics. We’ve all seen the horrid photographs of whales dead from consuming plastics. 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually, including turtles, seabirds, and fish. Here’s an interested fact, courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity: Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture. So—take your own bag to the grocery store, buy a water bottle, and stop using straws.
6. Work (and workout) outside. Plant a garden for food, or plant more native plants. Not only will you benefit the native critters, but gardening is great exercise. When you can, do your workout outside. You’ll actually burn more calories walking or running outside, plus you’ll have the added benefit of being in nature.
7. Don’t mow. Your HOA may require you to do so, but if not, think of all the benefits! You’ll be restoring native vegetation, conserving water, and not burning gas in a mower. You’ll be surprised at how fast wildflowers will return—as will birds and bees.
Of course there are many more lifestyle changes we can make: shorter showers, unplugging electronics, and joining a CSA. But I think the most important thing we can do is read and learn: stay informed! Have a Happy (and healthy) New Year.
Lynne Nemeth is Executive Director of The Arboretum at Flagstaff. To reach her with ideas or comments, please email [email protected].