Reusable grocery bags carry more, reduce plastic bag waste and litter.
Reusable grocery bags carry more, reduce plastic bag waste and litter. (AP photo 2008)

Happy New Year!

Many folks make resolutions on this day -- to lose weight, exercise more, spend less, get a new job.  Major life changes like that can seem pretty daunting.  For those thinking they'd like to live greener in 2013, here are a half-dozen relatively easy suggestions, courtesy of guest blogger Laurel Peltier, author of GreenLaurel.com


1) Get a home energy audit.  A comprehensive "home energy audit" can tell you how many homes you are heating & cooling, and point you toward ways to saveClick here for details from B'More Green. Benefit: You can cut your utility bill by 30 percent & throw off cash for that fuel-efficient car you have your eye on.

2) Switch to green power.  Signing up for a green electricity supplier can cut your household's output of greenhouse gases by 24 percent, and it may save you a little money, too. Stay tuned to B'more Green for a helpful guide soon to what renewable energy plans are being offered  and what each would cost.

3) Pour your own. For a month, try not buying bottled water or single-serving drinks.  Gather reusable bottles in one spot or drawer.  Fill bottles for the week, place in fridge for easy grab & go. Get kids a bottle of a special drink as an incentive to pour their own. Benefit: You don't have to lug those heavy pallets of drinks for 30 days.

4) Change your outdoor lights. Outdoor lights run all evening, and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) use 90 percent less electricity. If that's too hard, just change out the basement lighting to start. Benefit: Saves money on your utility bill.

5) Unplug that 2nd refrigerator.  Try doing with out it for just two months, to answer the question: Do you really need it? Older refrigerators use much more electricity than expected. Benefit: Saves $. Most 2nd units hold single-serving drinks, which cost twice as much, and bottled water many times more expensive than filtered tap water.

6) Bring your own. For a month, try keeping bags in your back seat or trunk for grocery runs, and store more by the garage door as a visual cue to replenish the stock in your vehicle. Benefit:  Fewer bags to lug into the house because reusables hold more food.  Also, use travel mugs for coffee-on-the-go, keeping two or three extras in the vehicle.  Benefit: Coffee stays warmer, easier to sip.

No need to tackle all six changes at once.  Just pick one, write it into your calendar or planner, and try it for a month or so to see how it works for you. Research shows that changing behavior starts with small steps first, and if you commit something to your calendar, it's more probable the change will happen.

Who knows? By Earth Day (April 22), maybe you'll be ready to take another step on the path to being more green!