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About 44% of the 41 lbs. of junk mail sent to an average adult each year is thrown out unopened. More...

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January was named for the Roman god Janus, whose two faces look in opposite directions.  In January, many of us reflect on the past, and commit to positive changes in the future by making New Year’s resolutions.  Common focus areas are getting fit or unfat, and getting out of debt. Here are three suggested resolutions that can help you achieve these goals with the added benefit of protecting the environment.  Remember that while vague or lofty goals like “save the planet” might work for Bruce Willis in the movie Armageddon, in real life they are a formula for failure. You are ten times more likely to achieve a goal if it is explicit and specific.  

Janus, the Roman God on an ancient coin
January, named for the Roman God Janus, is a good time to reflect on the past and think about changing in the future.

Stop Junk Mail.  Every adult is sent an average of 41 lbs. of junk mail each year.  About 44% of it is thrown out unopened.  Catalogs we do look at encourage us to buy things we may not be able to afford.  To reduce unsolicited mail, tell companies and charities you deal with not to share or sell your name.  Get off many mailing lists by contacting the Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008.  They now require you to pay $1.00 by credit card or check for this.  You can also pay a professional.  For $41, half of which is donated to a non-profit organization, 41pounds.org will help you unsubscribe. They estimate they can reduce your incoming junk mail by 80-95% in just four months.  At catalogchoice.com you can opt out of catalogs for free.

Recycle More. In one study in Ohio, 60% of items thrown in the trash were recyclable (source: OH DNR, 2005).  Only one-third of PET plastic soft drink bottles are recycled (source: American Plastics Council, 2004.)  Recycling isn’t just the law – it helps keep our water, air and land clean, and saves energy, natural resources and landfill space. Redeeming recyclable bottles and cans can also net you hundreds of dollars a year. Commit to recycling all your junk mail and other paper, along with plastics, aluminum, metal and glass.  Get your kids into the habit, by having them help you sort, or using a free Planet Protectors Club Kit (EPA530-E-98-002) that takes children on a learning adventure with challenging activity books, games, and stories about recycling (call (800)490-9198 or go to www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/kids). Plan a visit to the CRRA Trash Museum on Murphy Road in Hartford, where you can all see how garbage and recyclables are processed, or check out the Children’s Garbage Museum in Stratford with a giant Trash-o-saurus and composting pile wriggling with worms. Share magazines by donating them to hospitals or clinics, or create an informal program where you rotate magazines among your neighbors.

Drive Less. Transportation is the source of 26% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Most car trips are less than 5 miles, which is a good distance for a walk or bike ride.  Walking is free, helps you get fit and lose weight, and provides an opportunity to truly enjoy the scenery.  Start small: when the weather is nice, walk to the bus stop to pick up your kids.  Carpool at least one day a week to work, your child’s soccer game, a meeting, or church.  Public transportation is limited in the Quiet Corner, but Rideshare vans do run in this area, and there is bus service in Putnam – see www.ctrides.com for options.  

Although some resolutions are broken before the ink dries, one study showed that 46% of resolutions were still maintained after six months (source: Changing for Good by J. Norcross).   Look at your resolution as a process, not a one-shot deal, where you can make a difference over the long term.  

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Originally published in The Woodstock Villager on 12/29/2006

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