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Going green for the New Year

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We are now entering a new year, which usually makes us start thinking of ways to make the next approaching year different. We set goals to improve ourselves, e.g., eat healthier, exercise, save money; however, what about making a different resolution this New Year’s Eve, such as living a more eco-friendly lifestyle? This can help you become healthier, save money, and improve the earth. Everyone wins!

- A good way to start this goal is learning more about what fruits and vegetables are in season and incorporate them into your meals. This will help you discover new recipes and enable you eat locally that will support local farmers and decrease your carbon footprint by not purchasing food that traveled thousands of miles before reaching your local grocery store.

- Utilize mass transportation or make it a goal to walk or bike to nearby destinations. Many cities are taking part in the new “bike sharing” program that allows you to rent a bike and return it to another nearby station so you can get to where you need to go without worrying about locking up your own bike. There are already many “bike sharing” stations throughout the Washington D.C. area and there is “talk” that it will soon be offered in Baltimore as well.

- Eat less meat. Unless you are purchasing from a local butcher shop, the meat you are consuming is usually full of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones. Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) are factory farms that supply majority of our meat. Large number of animals are placed in confined areas, treated inhumanely, fed poor nutrition diets, and produce large amounts of waste (575 billion pounds yearly, according to the American Public Health Association). Animal waste from farms can cause many environmental problems due to the amount of nutrients, bacteria, and antibiotics that make their way into our water sources. Excess nutrients causes dead zones, which are anoxic conditions caused by algae blooms in aquatic ecosystems, and antibiotics consumed by humans can cause antibiotic resistance for certain bacteria.

- Save money by using less energy. Turn down your thermostat, turn off your lights when not in the room, use less water, caulk around your window, and make sure your windows are efficiently limiting airflow.

The Nature Conservancy has additional ideas to help Marylanders live the next year greener as well. Their ideas also include eating locally to support farmers and watermen and also suggest composting and recycling more.

New Year resolutions do not have to be just about improving your image or saving money; it can also be about improving your way of living that also improves the lives of others. Maryland’s wildlife and ecosystems are in peril from population growth, urban sprawl, pollution, forest and habitat degradation, and disease in the Chesapeake Bay, among many other environmental problems. Be a part of multiple solutions with your 2014 New Year’s resolution.

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