Going Green In 2012

Instead of making unrealistic personal resolutions, commit to some green New Year's resolutions as a family this year. These eco-friendly lifestyle changes can help reduce your family's carbon footprint.

Girl drinking tap water

Stop buying bottled water

Purchase reusable water bottles and start drinking filtered tap water rather than buying bottled water. With 2.4 million tons of polyethylene terephthalate plastic discarded every year in the U.S. (and up to 41 percent of it from plastic water bottles, according to the Clean Air Council), we all need to make an effort to cut back.

Plant a garden

Homegrown fruits and vegetables are fun to grow, healthy for you and can reduce your family's grocery bill significantly. If you don't have a green thumb, head to your local garden center, where you can find classes on how to start your own garden at home. Whatever food you don't grow at home, buy from your local farmer's market. Try to eliminate meat and cheese from your diet at least three days per week.

Read our mom's guide to gardening with young kids >>

Reduce energy consumption

Reduce energy and water consumption with some inexpensive fixes and new habits around the house.

  • Get a programmable thermostat. Most energy providers offers these convenient thermostats for free.
  • Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs).
  • Check your insulation. If your home doesn't have enough, add more insulation and make sure it's formaldehyde-free and created from recycled content.
  • Caulk all your windows, add weather stripping to doors and seal your outlets.
  • Install low-flow showerheads, faucets and toilets. Also consider a tankless water heater. Limit showers to just five minutes, run only full loads in your washing machine and dishwasher, and install a rain barrel.
  • Buy energy efficient appliances when current ones need replacing. Also be sure to clean the vents, air filters and back of all your appliances on a regular basis. Getting rid of dust and dirt will allow them to run more efficiently.

Check out these 10 eco-friendly ways to green your home >>

Create an efficient recycling system

Surprisingly, a large number of Americans still don't recycle at all. If your family is slacking, make recycling very convenient by having clearly marked containers at various spots around your home. Never throw away anything without considering if it can be recycled, repurposed or reused.

Drive less

Make it a family rule -- never drive anywhere that you can walk or bike. Your whole family should resolve to drive less in 2012. Cycling and walking will benefit the environment and your health. Also, set up a carpool at your office and use it at least three days a week.

Clean out your closet

Clean out your closets every quarter and donate whatever clothing and accessories you don't need. If you (or your kids) want a new wardrobe, you don't need to head to the mall. Instead, host a clothing swap with a few other families. You can get rid of the items you don't want and acquire gently used ones without spending a dime.

There are a number of other simple green resolutions your family can make that will make an impact, such as cleaning with earth-friendly solutions, using reusable grocery bags and creating a compost pile.

More green family tips

10 Fun tips to green your kids
10 simple ways to green your family meals

How to teach your kids to go green

Tags: carbon footprint

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