Resolutions are hard. For lots of reasons, but maybe mostly because they generally deprive of us of something that we’re used to having or doing.
On the other hand, taking on a new, healthy habit might be easier to adopt – especially if that habit brings value to your life, community and the environment.
So this year we’re giving you some green, local resolutions that you’re more likely to stick with because rather than giving something up, you’ll be taking something on – something that actually matters.
- Get Involved.
Volunteering for a nonprofit organization can positively impact your community, but did you know it can also positively impact your health? We’ve know for a long time that people who volunteer feel more socially connected and thus experience less depression, but a Carnegie Mellon University study in 2013 also showed that people over the age of 50 who volunteer have lower blood pressure. Hampton Roads is chock full of worthy nonprofit organizations who could use your time and abilities, but if you’re looking to go green, consider volunteering for a Clean the Bay Day with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, sign up for a committee with Lynnhaven River NOW, or help out with some watershed restoration with the Elizabeth River Project. All three organizations are working hard to make the critical waterways around Hampton Roads cleaner and healthier (and producing delicious seafood!), which is good for all of us.
Keep Norfolk Beautiful, a branch of the Norfolk Environmental Commission, also has monthly volunteering events that help lead citizens towards environmental stewardship. In February you can register to be a “Green Reader” in Norfolk Public Schools during the month of March. In March they’ll kick off the “Great American Cleanup” – sign up now to become a cleanup group leader. Then in April take part in their Keep Norfolk Beautiful Day. Then in May, get your recyclables together and come out for Norfolk Recycles Day.
- Go Outside.
Many scientific and psychological studies have shown various benefits of spending time outside, from helping us to age more gracefully to reducing the symptoms of ADHD. Spending time outside and in green spaces is probably one of the easiest things we can suggest you do in Hampton Roads. First off, there’s the Atlantic Ocean. So there’s that. But if miles and miles of sandy ocean surf doesn’t do it for you, take a walk in the woods in one of the many gorgeous city, state and national parks Hampton Roads boasts such as First Landing State Park, Paradise Creek Nature Park, The Great Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, and many many more. Visit the parks and recreation website of your city for more information, then shut off your computer and go outside already.
- Reduce Waste; Earn Recycle Rewards.
Not all waste can be thrown in the garbage. Cans of old paint, automotive fluids, CFL bulbs, and garden and household chemicals shouldn’t be thrown out with your curbside garbage because of the negative impact it can have in soil and groundwater once put in a landfill. Instead, bring them to the Norfolk Household Hazardous Waste Disposal. All items are accepted for free disposal at the Waste Management office on Pineridge Road, Monday – Saturday, 10am – 2pm. And at home, those empties can earn you real rewards if you sign up for the Recycling Perks program– the sponsor of this post. By registering your big blue recycling bin in their program, you’ll automatically earn points every time your recycling is collected. Points are good to use towards coupons and discounts at local businesses. Not bad for a few beers.
- Shop Local, Eat Local. Eating locally produced food is delicious, nutritious and good for the environment. The average piece of produce at the grocery store travels 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate (yes, that even includes certified organic produce). Food that’s produced locally doesn’t travel hundreds of miles on a tractor trailer truck, nor was it produced with the intention of surviving that long road trip without injury. Instead it’s grown to be as nutrient dense and delicious as possible – straight from the farm to you. And no, the winter is not a crazy time to start resolving to eat locally. Lots of local farmers and fishermen are growing, raising and catching delicious food year round in Hampton Roads. Sign up for a winter CSA with Mattawoman Creek Farms or Cullipher Farms. Drop into Pendulum Fine Meats for locally raised meats or Westside Produce and Provisions for local wine, cheese, meat, seafood, produce, honey and more. Old Beach Farmers Market (below) is also still held one Saturday a month during the winter in the parking lot of Croc’s on 19th Street at the beach. No excuses, people.
- Flex Your Green Thumb. Speaking of eating locally, there’s nothing more local than produce straight from your backyard. Again, winter is not a crazy time to consider this – in fact, it’s the perfect time to start planning your garden, ordering your seeds and get your plans started inside. If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of attempting to grow something you could actually consume, not to worry. Get in touch with your city’s Master Gardeners – they’re a veritable wealth of information and most of the MG’s I know are ready and willing to share their knowledge with us novices. Your local agriculture department will also have people who can help, including the city Extension Agent. It is actually their job to answer citizen questions about plants and gardening, including how to fight certain diseases or pests in the most natural or organic ways possible. They can also test your soil and give advice on how to make it the perfect environment for nutritious food. In addition to producing your own food, a backyard garden is a great excuse to install a rain barrel and start a compost pile. A rain barrel, which attaches to your gutter’s downspout to collect rain that you can then use to water your garden or lawn, cuts down on your use of this critical (and let’s all remember – limited) resource. A compost pile is a great way to reduce waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Leaf and grass clippings, newspaper and food waste can all contribute to a compost pile that will make your garden grow even greener than ever.
So this year, don’t deprive yourself with a restrictive resolution. Instead, make 2016 the year that you do something that matters – not just for yourself, but for your community and for this beautiful, blue ball we call home.
About the sponsor of this article: Recycling Perks is available in the Cities of Chesapeake, Suffolk and Norfolk. It’s already part of the recycling program, built as a way to reward the efforts of individual citizens choosing to recycle and beautify their community. Recycling Perks incentivizes saving the world with discounts and freebies from local businesses. It only takes 60 seconds to activate your account online at www.recyclingperks.com. What are you waiting for?