Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Top Ten Green Resolutions for 2009

By Jill Velez, January 1, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Jill Velez
A few months ago a group of my friends and I were talking about global climate change and environmental issues. I was shocked to hear one of them say that until someone told her that she had to change her lifestyle that she was going to just keep living the way she was accustomed—i.e. not making any effort to conserve energy, recycle, reduce her carbon footprint, etc. It made me realize that the problem with this may be a lack of awareness of how to make some changes…some of us may be happy to change some simple things, if we were given some good advice on how to go about doing just that. So, in the spirit of the season, here’s a list to start with. I have done all these things and although some may involve a little bit of planning ahead (like sometimes I still forget to put that reusable to-go container back in my car after I wash it), it would be simple to start with one and make your way through the list throughout 2009.
  1. Carpool, ride the bus, walk or bike to work at least once per month (start slow, work up to once per week).
  2. Become conscious of/reduce the amount of packaging in what you choose to purchase.
  3. Vote with your dollars choosing to support local, environmentally-friendly, socially-conscious businesses (and for electronics, choose companies with take-back programs for recycling).
  4. Bring a reusable bag everywhere, not just the grocery store.
  5. Get a programmable thermostat that keeps the heat/air monitored while you are not at home.
  6. Recycle everything possible even if that means having to go above and beyond curbside convenience.
  7. Invest in a power strip so you can turn off your computer, monitor, etc. with one easy switch, at home and at work.
  8. Stop using plastic utensils/paper plates/napkins at parties and go reusable!
  9. Start a simple composting adventure in your back yard for food waste.
  10. Invest in reusable containers and water bottles for when you are not at home—no more plastic bottles! Put a reusable container in your car for restaurant leftovers and take-out – demand that your favorite places stop using Styrofoam!
Got more to add to this list? Share your ideas and plans for greening the new year.
Category: Green Action




Sher says ...
*Invest in inexpensive cotton napikins or tea towels (cut and stiched to napkin size) to cutdown on paper towel/paper napkin consumption in the home. This has been great for us in reducing trash. *Always clean up after your dog -- and use biodegradeable bags -- available at whole foods (Biobags) *Try to create at least one totally sustainable meal each week -- nothing goes to waste or to trash -- everthing is either recycled/reused, composted, etc. It's a great challenge! *Turn off your lights! and other power sources not being used. Become a warrior for this! We put our 6 year old in charge of this task! *Try to be meatless one day a month -- and then move to each week. Amazing what we could do if we would stop eating meat -- beef in particular. Cutting down on meat consumption would greatly green our air as we decrease the need for beef, their grazing and feed, their methane, their total carbon footprint to the marketplace!
01/01/2009 11:56:44 AM CST
Michael Carnell says ...
Great ideas. Already do some of them, but need to become more diligent The one in the first comment though about a totally sustainable meal - I don't understand that. Could someone please explain for me?
01/02/2009 9:31:45 AM CST
Sean says ...
Jill!!!!! Awesome article, so glad to see you making contributions to the web. Keep up the good work for the Green Mission! I will add in a 9.5, if you are in an apartment or a place without a backyard, you could always start a vermiculture experiment...no more stinky food trash and free fertilizer!
01/02/2009 10:38:15 AM CST
Jonathan Bloom says ...
That's an admirable list. I'd only add one thing: try to avoid food waste! Composting is important, but reducing the amount of food that you need to dispose of is even more so.
01/02/2009 12:06:12 PM CST
Nancy says ...
Jill/Sher, great tips! Regarding tea towels as napkins, etc... try to buy them at a thrift shop as well if possible. I also burn soy candles in winter to heat up the room so I can keep thermostat lower. Washing and re-using any form of 'ziplock' bags helps keep more out of landfills, as well as saves money. My 80 year old parents started recycling EVERYTHING they can! They do not have recycling in their neighborhood, but recently, recycling bins have been placed in a parking lot less than a mile from their home. They have almost no trash anymore!Just proof that ANYONE can do it!
01/02/2009 7:08:25 PM CST
Kristin says ...
I like the idea of bringing your own leftover container for eating out! Good list :) Instead of buying packaged goods, buy in bulk. Not only is it less packaging (especially if you bring your own bags) but you buy only what you need. Check out second hand stores for clothing first, especially at those that buy and sell clothes, because they only take the good stuff for resell. Wear a beanie and slippers in the house to keep the thermostat down and you warm.
01/03/2009 4:03:30 PM CST
BR says ...
I mentioned this on the money saving tips on the WF website, but it's also very earth friendly. I use in the dishwasher 1 T. Borax, 1 T. Super Washing soda. It's very earth friendly instead of the chemicals in dishwashing detergents. I also clean with vinegar and water instead of harmful cleaners. It's simple and it works great in a spray bottle!
01/03/2009 10:08:53 PM CST
Renewable Ray says ...
Taking the reusable bag everywhere is a biggie. Around here the Grocery store is the only place you see them. Great post!
01/04/2009 4:41:12 PM CST
Chad says ...
Great Tips! I live in an apartment and felt guilty about discarding food scraps. This past September, I set up a worm bin in my basement to compost my scraps. I must admit I was a bit hesitant, but now am loving it and would encourage others living in an apartment to do the same.
01/05/2009 12:04:01 PM CST
Pepper says ...
I have become quite accostomed to carrying the reuseable bags and now know the high points to the right bag for me: grogery-bag size, no bigger, or things get lost in them. Must have a loop for hanging while bagging the groceries, and a flat bottom with a cardboard or stiff bottom. I bought high priced bags in a nice canvas with a pithy saying and these were ok until I washed them. Now they can cart books, but pretty useless in the market becasue they don't stand up on their own. I bring my own container when I go out to eat and try to put half of my meal in before I eat my first forkful. ("try" being somewhat realative) I can use my own coffee mug at the fast food places if I go in, but not at the drive through. I tell them at the drive through No Bags or extra paper, please! because they sometimes give you a bag for your styrofaom coffee, a bag for your sandwich and a bag for your cream and sugar. Some places will put your sandwich in paper vs. styrofoam if you ask, but I have one place that won't even put my sandwich in one of their recycled, washed plastic containers. Claim it's a health risk for them. I have taught my children not to buy or consume water from water bottles. They are used to filling thier own bottle at the water fountain. I often run my dishwasher with half as much or even no soap at all. The high temp water gets things clean with less. Lights on-electronics off in our house, which means I tell the kids we have only so much electricity available to us, and if they waste their allotment on an appliance or light in a room they are not using, they lose a comparable amount of electronics time from thier recreation. That gets their attention. :-)
01/05/2009 2:19:19 PM CST
Regi says ...
I would love to see some ideas how those of us in restricted living spaces (RV's) could reduce $ and the CO2 imprint on the earth.
01/05/2009 4:00:16 PM CST
Carol says ...
If I have just one item, I tell at the stores, especially at the bookstore..."Save the plastic trees." And I walked with my books...normally from a resale bookstores and I do book swaps with my sister and my friends. I am a slow reader and end up spending the cost of the book from the resale store in library fines, so I buy or swap. I also do magazines swaps and then if conditions are bad then recycle. Normally schools will take used magazines for projects. I also try to hang the clothes out to dry, but I live in a very humid place, so it takes a bit longer to dry.
01/05/2009 7:15:25 PM CST
Michele says ...
In addition to using non-toxic cleaners for the dishes and house, I've started using less toxic personal care items, like soap, shampoo, conditioner, hair color and deodorant. It's scary how many truly harmful chemicals are contained in the products we use daily. You can check into what chemicals your personal care products have and find better alternatives at http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ Also, switch to a cloth shower liner instead of vinyl to prevent the chemical outgassing that occurs. The cloth liner will last longer and will be better for you.
01/06/2009 12:11:39 PM CST
Pat says ...
Use unscented laundry detergents and stop using the dryer sheets. They are full of toxins and perfumes. Your dryer will last much longer too-the filter and other parts of the dryer won't get all the sticky chemicals all gummed up on them. Hang out laundry when weather permits-you'll save energy and get exercise.
01/07/2009 12:45:44 AM CST
adi says ...
ashes to ashes rather than finding the fanciest coffin and carefully select plot,"green ceneteries" offer the option of a more natural resting place. burying bodies wrapped in biodegradable materials return loved ones to nature, letting them decompose naturally and allowing their remains to be born again.
01/07/2009 10:16:25 AM CST
Daniel says ...
I think these really are some excellent suggestions, particularly the re-usable bag elsewhere than a grocery store. Also here's a thought for students, dependent on your discipline and area of study it is sometimes nearly impossible to use up your notebooks from the semester, so instead of tossing out a 60% blank notebook, why not simply discard the used and continue using the notebooks. Also buy notebooks composed of a high concentration of previously recycled paper. Also someone mentioned about attempts of eliminating meat, particularly beef, from their diet occasionally, that is a terrific idea. The environmental impact of the meat industry actually outweighs the damage caused by automobiles.
01/08/2009 11:48:12 PM CST
Jen says ...
If you're not buying a hybrid (which are still expensive!), check the EPA's green list before buying a new car. Some more obvious ones but good ole reminders: don't run the dishwasher/washing machine until it is full. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. Many grocery stores have started recycling programs for plastic bags, if you do have/use them. Bring your reuseable tote everywhere - baggus are great for this, they come in a small sleeve. Don't buy wrapping paper for gifts - use comics, newspapers, and other common household stuff. That can be a lot of fun, especially if the comic reminds you of someone (e.g. Dilbert for someone in corporate, For Better for For Worse for parents...) Watch what you put down your drain or bathe in, put on your skin, in your body, wash your hair with...get a bike (with helmet). find out who your local farmers are and consider CSA - community supported agriculture. Don't bring anything new into your home without careful consideration - could I get this in bamboo? Can it be recycled someday? Is there a version in organic cotton? Just asking yourself "How long will this be in the landfill?" can prompt putting down all kinds of unnecessary items... a little vigilance goes a long way. make one change a week.
01/09/2009 3:24:54 PM CST
renee west says ...
when i shop for food i often shop without a pre-conceived idea of what i want. i just buy whatever looks great(mostly the in- season stuff) and that's what we eat. i don't spend any time driving around looking for the one ingredient that the store didn't have. in summertime i go to my local little farmers market and again shop without plans. i try to buy at least one thing from every single vendor so i support every one of them. i buy the nicest vegie each of them has to offer. then i go home and we eat simple amazing fresh food. i also make do with what i have which means throwing things together and not running around looking for specific ingredients. we rarely waste good food this way. i've learned how to use a few key spices and this helps.
01/09/2009 10:34:26 PM CST
velezj says ...
Wow! Thanks for all the great comments and suggestions! Love the tip about the cloth napkins. I hardly ever use the microwave, but when I do I am still in the habit of grabbing a paper towel to cover the dish. My daughter just asked me why am I not using my cloth napkins in the microwave? I never even thought about that. Michael – I think what Sher was referring to (great suggestions, btw Sher!) as a sustainable meal is one that doesn’t involve any waste, i.e., all the packaging used for the food can be recycled or composted (no Styrofoam!), and any leftover food is composted instead of thrown away. To me, a totally sustainable meal would be vegetarian and would only involve locally grown food. Speaking of…check out this cool “Eat Low Carbon Diet” calculator that a friend just sent me: http://www.eatlowcarbon.org/#. Talk to you soon!
01/26/2009 10:40:02 AM CST