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Looking back, looking ahead

At year's end it seems natural to look back and reflect on successes and failures, as well as look forward with high hopes of what is yet to come. I feel like I've taken a lot of little steps that have added up over a year's time and have given me motivation to continue reducing my family's consumption, reusing what we can and recycling almost everything. Mostly though, I'm struck by how different I feel -- like I've changed more in the last year than in the past 38. Developing a passion for doing my minuscule part to preserve the planet has made me so much more aware of my actions and purchases and motivations. I feel like if I can come this far, then anyone can, and that gives me hope for our future.

Here are three baby steps that I took that are now part of my everyday life. If you are new to green living, these are easy steps that anyone can take no matter where they live. Put 'em on your New Year's Resolution List:

1. Stop buying paper towels and paper napkins. Unthinkable, right? Now it is unthinkable to buy them! Instead, I now have three substitutes: 1) a stack of kitchen towels -- nice ones for drying dishes and hands, stained ones for cleaning up messes, 2) a pile of left over baby washcloths for cleaning sticky hands and faces, and 3) a collection of cloth napkins. I haven't noticed any significant increase in laundry loads. My goal for 2008: substitute handkerchiefs for facial tissue.

2. Carry reusable bags. It takes a few shopping trips to really develop the habit, so leave your bags on the front seat of the car, or put a sticky note on your dashboard as a reminder. You will eventually get to the point where you'll feel awful if you forget. Once you get into the grocery store habit, then you'll start taking them into Target and Home Depot and everywhere you shop. And a lot of cashiers will comment and say, "Wow. That's so cool." And it is. My goal for 2008: buy (or sew) a bunch of small, organic cotton bags for bulk foods, and a nice, big bag that will stuff down into a purse-sized pouch.

3. Put a recycling can in the bathroom. And bedroom, and family room, etc. You have an empty toilet roll. Do you schlep it all the way to the outdoor recycling bins, or do you toss it in the trash and think you'll pull it out later? Or those pesky magazine subscription cards that always fall out when you're reading in bed? Having a recycling can nearby will decrease the amount of recyclables that end up in the garbage can! My goal for 2008: Stop buying magazines impulsively!

What are some of your green-living goals for 2008?

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