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by Leslie Garrett


   Sure, you could go the usual route and resolve to give up chocolate and reality TV. But this year, promise to not only make your family healthier, but improve the plight of the planet as well. You’d be surprised at how easy it can be…

Get rid of junk mail
   You could go the do-it-yourself route. Start by stuffing whatever they’re sending you back into the stamped, self-addressed envelope and letting them pay to get back all the junk they’re sending you. Or you can let another company do the work for you. Check out GreenDimes (www.greendimes.com) and 41pounds (www.41pounds.org).

Don’t flush your patch…or other pharmaceuticals
   It seems harmless — until we learn that entire species of some fish are no longer procreating because synthetic hormones from human birth control have rendered their piscine reproductive systems all but useless. National Geographic’s The Green Guide advises users to put their patches in the garbage. And if your pharmacy has a take-back program, use it for any pharmaceuticals you can. Turns out the old advice of dumping them down the toilet creates problems when the medications reach the sewage treatment plant — where zero to 100 percent of the drug leaches, depending on the active ingredient.

Take your lunch
   If eating healthy and saving money are on your list of resolutions, it might be as simple as packing a lunch. Look for a lead-free lunchbox (yep — lead isn’t just in lipsticks. It might be in your lunchbox!)  Laptop Lunches is a great option and comes complete with cutlery, compartments and a reusable drink container. Visit www.laptoplunches.com and pack healthy.

Support a sweatshop-free store
   The fair-trade logo is shorthand for a product that was made by workers paid a living wage. It frequently also means the product was created using strict environmental regulations as well. You can also find sweat-shop free clothing at American Apparel, and many fair-trade home décor products at Ten Thousand Villages.

Toss the toxins
   Resolve to bring into your home only products that are healthy for you, your family and the planet. That means no more cleaning products that rely on petroleum-based surfactants, bleach or other nasties. No more personal care products full of parabens, phthalates and lead. No more toys made of that most vile of plastics — PVC. Start reading ingredient labels and look for healthy alternatives. They’re out there — if you know what you’re looking for…and what to avoid.

Go veggie one night a week
   Believe it or not, those cud-chewing cows are greater emitters of greenhouse gases (think flatulence!) than SUVs, planes, cars and all those other fuel-gobbling machines. The solution? Less cows. Which means less burgers on our plates. By going vegetarian at least one night a week, you can help reduce emissions. What’s more, you’ll discover a whole new world of great-tasting food that kids (even fussy ones!) can embrace.

LESLIE GARRETT is a mother of three kids aged 4, 7 and 9 and author of ‘The Virtuous Consumer: Your Essential Shopping Guide for a Better, Kinder, Healthier World (and one our kids will thank us for!)’. Visit her at www.virtuousconsumer.com.

   The U.S. Green Building Council has launched a website, Build Green Schools, for students, parents, teachers and community members, filled with information about the benefits of green schools. With instructions for better lighting, temperature control and air quality, and alternatives to the dangerous chemicals used to cleaning and painting, the site encourages increased health, less absenteeism, and improved learning. Check it out at www.buildgreenschools.org.

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