By Lydia Krupinski

If you’re anything like me you’ve procrastinated with writing your New Year’s Resolutions for 2011. Seeing that we’re still in the first few days of the year I think there is no shame in getting them in a tad late. Perhaps this can be a resolution in and of itself!

To help you come up with at least one eco-minded goal for the New Year we’ve compiled the following suggestions:

Photo by Natural Remedies at Home

Ditch all the Chemical-laden Products in Your Home

Did you know that the air in our homes is more polluted than on the average freeway? This is due to the endless amounts of preservatives, fragrances, and other add ons to products like cosmetics, cleaning agents, plug-ins, wall paint and even furniture. While I don’t recommend throwing out items that still have a valid lifespan – consider buying earth friendly laundry detergent next time you’re out. Skip everything that contains fragrance and hence phthalates. Make your own deodorant, buy organic makeup, paint your walls with zero VOC products, and be careful purchasing vintage sofas. And follow this age old advice – if it’s not safe enough for a baby it’s not safe enough for anyone.

Reduce & Reuse

The future of recycling in Chicago is grim – but rather than mope about not having a blue cart or car to haul away recycleables – take action! It’s always better to reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ you buy in the first place. If you must buy that locally made blackberry preserve at the Green City Markey – save the jar and use it as a to-go coffee cup, almond stasher, or terrarium. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your crafty mind to it!

Photo by Meatless Mondays

Meatless Mondays

Unless you’re already a veg-head, Meatless Mondays are an easy and earth-friendly weekly marker for decreasing your carbon footprint. Many restaurants around the city participate at least once a month at offering several vegetarian and vegan options on their menu – making this resolution a tasty excuse to try something new. For recipes and tips on how to get through a Meatless Monday check out this site.

Eat Organic & Unprocessed Foods

It goes without saying that eating organic and unprocessed foods is one of the most beneficial resolutions one can make for their body in the New Year. The key to making this green is looking at the origin of your organic goodie. If it’s traveling across the country than even the tastiest certified brownie pales in comparison to one baked naturally and locally, like at Bleeding Heart Bakery.

I also added this below Meatless Mondays as to not let vegetarians and vegans off the hook since they can sometimes have worse eating habits than their omnivore counterparts (I know from my own experience). If it has more than five ingredients don’t even think of putting it in your cart!

Photo by Jimmy Samuel

Pledge to Buy Local

If only 20% of the average shoppers money was spent at small businesses it would be enough to keep them afloat. This is why shopping locally, buying from the farmers market, and seeking services with folks in your neighborhood makes for the most eco-friendly lifestyle. For a list of small Chicago businesses visit Local First Chicago.

Grow your Own Food

Ask any green thumb and they’ll tell you that there’s nothing more gratifying than planting and harvesting some of your own food. Whether it be just a flipped tomato plant or an entire plot of crops – you’ll find joy in each and every green onion, sage leaf, zucchini and raspberry that erupts from your yard or container. And with the endless variety of heirlooms and organic seed available from websites like Seed Savers Exchange this is a resolution you’ll be sure to carry over to 2012.

Photo from Green Wednesdays

Go Off the Grid on Weekends

This is something that Irena does regularly with her beau. Rather than turning on the lights, straightening your hair, or microwaving your meal – unplug yourself on Saturdays and Sundays. Candle lit dinners and au natural styling are just a couple of easy ways to lay off on your energy use. Be inventive and try something different each week! And if you need to leave the fridge plugged in we won’t judge you.

Plant a Native Garden

Rather than throwing more imported and genetically engineered plants and seeds into the already invaded soil, why not grow a garden using only plants native to the Chicagoland area? These stunning prairie plants are easy to maintain and will set your landscaping apart from the Jones’s. For a list of Cook County plants check out this list from the EPA.

Photo from Chuckman's Photos

Walk More

Even bikes need maintenance - so go for the most reliable source of transportation – your feet! I’ve really been forcing myself to use less wheels (even in these cold winter days) by walking more. The other plus side to this is that you’re keeping business in your own neighborhood – which means more economic sustainability as well!

Green It Yourself

I can’t stress enough how making things by yourself is the easiest and most empowering way to go green! Imagine fashioning your own spa products or coffee table out of earth friendly ingredients and materials. Snag a copy of Readymade at your local library to jump start your imagination. You can also sign up for classes like my Eco-Crafting series at the Peggy Notebaert Museum to help move you in the right direction. Take a vow to be a resourceful crafter in 2011!

If you have an eco resolution you’d like to share please list it in the comments below!

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