About five years ago, I decided to give up plastic bottles as a New Year’s resolution. Not only was I alarmed by reports of an overwhelming quantity of plastic bottles being released into the environment, but I could see it happening around me. The hotels I worked for were giving out plastic bottles to their guests by the hundreds each day, co-workers would consume numerous plastic bottles throughout the day, and on the weekends, my beach volleyball friends would easily put away several large bottles of Gatorade over the course of a day. After mentally calculating the bottles being consumed in my small circle and multiplying that out across the country…I freaked out.
Once I gave up the bottle, I didn’t really miss the plastic. It seemed a small sacrifice to make with potentially large benefit to the planet. Giving up plastic bottles sends a message. It says that my own personal convenience is not more important than the environment. It tells the government that we are relying on our water department to provide clean and reliable tap water (contrary to popular belief, we have this today). By not consuming plastic, I’m also voting with my pocketbook, and only buying beverages from businesses with greener options.
This year, my New Year’s resolution was to give up plastic grocery bags. This was much more difficult since I would often forget to bring my re-usable bag to the store. But I was inspired by a visit to a small town in France where the bags were illegal. If you forgot your own bag, you had to figure out another way to get your groceries home. People were forced to get into the habit. I decided to make a commitment, and after the first few times of walking out of the market with all my pockets stuffed with produce and other merchandise (paid for, of course) I began to remember my reusable bag.
Last year, the leaders of the world gathered together in Copenhagen to create a strategy for reducing global warming. These leaders have a great deal of hope and blame cast upon them for both the promise and the threat of what could befall our planet in the future. But the future of our planet may be less about an accord between nation leaders on a winter day in Copenhagen, and more about the individual decisions that we make on a daily basis.
Let’s not put all of the responsibility for the health of our planet on the government. Our governments are making commitments to take us in the right direction. But what commitments will you make as an individual? What is your resolution to improve climate change? To draft your own green resolutions, consider the following:
• IT’S NOT JUST YOU. Rather than thinking your impact doesn’t make a difference, multiply the garbage you create, the water you use, and the energy you consume by 6.8 billion people in the world. Your actions contribute to (or detract from) the greater good of the whole.
• BE CONSCIOUS. Be aware of your actions and how they impact the planet. What is your contribution to our landfills? How much water do you allow to go down your drains? The more you measure your impact, the more motivated you are to lessen it.
• START SMALL. You don’t have to move to a commune and grow your own vegetables. You don’t have to walk to work every day. Instead, think about the smallest step you can take today to make a difference. Count every reduction in consumption as a huge victory.
There is a myth that a handful of leaders of nations have the power of the world in their hands, and that our future depends on their decisions. I believe the world of today is the outcome of billions of tiny decisions made by billions of people. We have more power than we realize. How we exercise that power with every choice, decision, and action we take determines our future. It is this power, the power of individuals multiplied across great numbers, that will either destroy the planet…or save it.