By Maurice Carter, Sustainable Newton President
With January safely in the rear-view mirror, perhaps it's not too risky to mention how those New Year's resolutions are going. I'm referring to the sustainability actions I committed to at the end of last year, along with my fellow Sustainable Newton board members.
For me, the focus was reducing my carbon footprint by driving more fuel-efficiently and adopting a plant-based diet one day a week. Overall, I'm happy with results so far, but neither resolution has been without challenges. (As it should be for any changes worth making.)
Today is my fifth "Meatless Monday." I was traveling in early January, so I elected to start my new regimen on Monday, January 13. But, since then, I've opened every week with a vegetarian (but not always vegan) diet. I'm allowing myself eggs and dairy products, but no beef, poultry, seafood, or other meats.
On New Years Day, we bring you another installment of our series focusing on personal resolutions Sustainable Newton Board members are making for 2020 to increase our efforts to live more sustainable lives with less negative impact on our planet and those who will inhabit it when we are gone.
By Julius J. Hayden, Sustainable Newton Treasurer & Lois Upham, Sustainable Newton Board Member
As some of my friends know, I have been on a crusade to raise awareness of the problems caused by plastic bags used to collect and transport our purchases. I am an old man and don’t mind playing the “ole’ geezer” card to make a point and perhaps change a mind -- if not, then raise awareness -- of the dangers of plastic endemic in our environment.
Almost without exception, I ask every clerk and bagger if they can tell me the source material for plastic bags. (It's petroleum or natural gas.) I go on to tell them, especially the young ones, that they will someday tell their grandchildren “we used to give away plastic bags by the handful, and that if they just had some of those bags now, how lucky they would be.” (Shades of back-to-the-future.)
Phrases like "climate crisis" and "tipping point" are scientifically sound descriptions of our current moment. But, such talk can also overwhelm us and lead to despair. It's tough to muster an appropriate sense of urgency and yet still maintain hope.
We founded Sustainable Newton determined to reject helplessness and convinced individual actions matter immensely, as we've stated elsewhere on this website. As board members, we've been sharing personal resolutions for 2020 this week. We're not asking you to emulate us, but we do hope we've encouraged you to find your own ways to make a difference. Happy New Year!
By Maurice Carter, Sustainable Newton President
My resolutions for the new year focus on two areas: food and transportation. The first is a common theme for nearly everyone come January 1. The latter carries over something I started this year. Let's tackle that one first...
Transportation: More Miles and Smiles per Gallon
In mid-December, circumstances put me in the market for a new car for the first time in 22 years. I was keenly interested in an all-electric vehicle (EV) to cut my carbon emissions to zero, so I talked with friends who'd made the transition with great results. But, I wasn't sure I could live within the mileage range most EVs provide between charges. With more time to investigate, I'm confident we could have made it work. But, needing a new car quickly, I compromised by choosing a hybrid.
Today's New Year's resolution inspiration comes from Sustainable Newton Vice President Theodosia Wade. Our board members are sharing personal commitments in hopes of giving our followers ideas for meaningful, but realistic actions you might take in your own life.
By Theodosia Wade, Sustainable Newton Vice President
I have never been one to make New Year’s Resolutions -- I just never wanted to set myself up for failure! However, I often think about ways I want to change for the better as the yew year arrives, and others around me are making their own resolutions. So, maybe those “thoughts” are my New Year’s resolutions. Lately I have been thinking it is time to offset my carbon footprint in a tangible way.
My husband Billy and I had a wonderful trip to Italy this fall, but I have been concerned about the carbon footprint created by our flight. Jets have a huge environmental impact. So, do we just stop flying like Greta Thunberg? I am not so sure I'm ready to make that commitment.
As we continue sharing New Year's resolutions from our Sustainable Newton Board members, today we hear from Mike McQuaide. Everyone's next best step is a personal choice, but we hope you each find a meaningful action to take in 2020. We strive to lead by example, but you can find many great ideas here.
By Mike McQuaide, Sustainable Newton Board Member
Many of us have been captivated by David Attenborough’s documentary films featuring various dimensions of the natural world. What is less well known is Attenborough has received considerable criticism from environmental activists for his lack of attention to threats to the sustainability of the natural environment caused by human activity.
My wife and I watched Attenborough’s most recent series, and it was obvious the criticisms had found their mark. Each installment featured graphic assaults on the natural processes of the earth. Some films were difficult to watch, as mother seals would not abandon their dead pups killed by plastics found everywhere in the oceans. After we watched Attenborough’s documentary on the state of the oceans, our conversation turned to the predictable question of “what can we do?”
With holiday decorations safely stored (right!?), our thoughts drift between reflections on the year just passed and anticipation for a new one fast approaching. It's a time for resolutions -- small and sometimes large promises to ourselves regarding changes we want to make in the new year. At Sustainable Newton, we see the impact our actions have on our environment and our neighbors. Our board members are going out on a limb to share our resolutions in hopes you too will embrace small changes that together make a huge difference.
By Sara Vinson, Sustainable Newton Board Member
One of my resolutions for 2020 is to finish transitioning our household light fixtures to light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs. Honestly, I thought this was something my family had already done. However, when a light bulb over my bathroom sink recently went out, and I had to change it, I noticed that it was a compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb. Then, I looked around and found that we still have a good mix of CFL, incandescent, and halogen light bulbs in the house.
Why go to the trouble and expense of switching to LEDs? According to the Consumer Energy Alliance, LED bulbs produce light up to 90% more efficiently than incandescent light bulbs and 80% more efficiently than CFLs. Since my family is trying to reduce energy use, this sounds good.