Popular New Year’s resolutions: “Lose weight”, “Be nicer”, “Win the lottery.” Every year, most of us spend December 31st coming up with clichéd ways to improve ourselves over the next year, and on January 1st, when we finally wake up at 3pm, we swear to ourselves that we’ll see those improvements made. I mean, we’ve got 365 whole days to make them (and sometimes, 366!), so how hard can it be?
What did you pledge to do differently in 2010? A lot of people I know have added “Live a little greener” to their repertoire of annual promises. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. Half the work of the environmental movement is getting people to remember that they can contribute in their day-to-day lives. The downside is that when it becomes one of the standard New Year’s Eve clichés, it basically means that most people don’t take it seriously. Or, like the person who started going to the gym once every couple of weeks and called their resolution to get healthier accomplished, the idea of living in a more environmentally conscious manner gets paid lip-service, and little else.
The idea of going green has been a bit of cliché for a few years. So many companies have claimed that some trivial change to their products qualify them as “green” that there is even a term for it now (“greenwashing”). A community theatre I occasionally volunteer at has recently, in a bid to “go green”, encouraged people to drop of show programs in a bin near the entrance after shows if they don’t intend to keep them, so that they can be recycled, while, as I heard someone observe, still serving food with disposable flatware and single-use paper cups.
Examples of people making shallow attempts at going green are well-intentioned. But then, so are all New Year’s resolutions. Maybe companies that greenwash are trying to make a quick buck and generate some good PR, but the small steps they take are better than nothing. Still, baby steps are not the kind of thing one should make their goal for their next trip around the sun.
I’m not going to tell you to include or exclude living greener from your resolutions during the transition from 2010 to 2011. Rather, I’m asking that if you do tell yourself (and anyone else at the party who asks you what you’re going to do differently while you’re watching the ball in Times Square drop) that you are going to be a little more sustainable in the new year, please try and live up to it. This is one kind of resolution that can’t be met by going on a crash CFL lightbulb binge at the end of the year.