by Lydia Krupinski
Do a search for eco resolutions and you’ll see a flurry of articles that will encourage you to use fabric shopping bags, change your light bulbs and skip bottled water. These are great tips for the entry-level eco-curious – but if we really want to push ourselves we should set the bar much higher. Isn’t that the point of resolutions in the first place? To challenge us to change behaviors and grow as individuals?

My mother had a brilliant insight several months back. When discussing sustainability movements and green trends she commented that, “What you are describing is how I lived as a kid.” And she’s right! Growing up in rural Poland my mother and her family rarely drove, grew their own food, mended clothes, and lived life simply, yet fully.

To make 2012 the year you make a real change – try to “Go Retro.” You’ll find yourself living a simpler lifestyle that will reduce your ecological footprint while adding a bit of vintage spice to your life.

Here are some potential “Go Retro” resolutions:

Transition to Manual: Donate your electrical gadgets and replace them with manual tools. Some great examples include a hand cranked beater, traditional can opener, and stove in lieu of a microwave. You’d be surprised how many kitchen items are superfluous and can easily be replaced. Plus – you’ll save money on your electric bills and firm up your biceps!

Shop Vintage: In an age of perceived obsolescence keeping your wardrobe green is a true challenge. There’s always the temptation to follow the latest trend and run to the nearest fast fashion retailer to snag that new poncho or purse. Instead of giving in to consumerist sin head to your nearest thrift store, vintage boutique or clothing trader. Stores like Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s Closet and Crossroads will even take some of your older clothes off your hands and apply their value to your new (well, not really new, but you get it) duds.

Cook things from scratch: Sure you know how to bake – but what about trying your hand at breads, sprouted nuts, or other obscure foods? Learning to make everything from tea to spice rubs from the bare basics will cut down on your food costs while making each morsel healthier and more natural. Consider grinding your own peanut butter or coming up with your own simple syrups.

Grow it yourself. This won’t be a new suggestion by any means – but if you’ve been putting off starting an urban garden make 2012 the year you finally follow through. You can start with simple herbs and then slowly move your way up to things like lettuce or kale. By mid summer you’ll be experimenting with heirloom tomato seedlings and maybe even winter squash!

Be an alchemist. You don’t need to spend tons of cash on fancy eco-friendly cleaners or cosmetics. Learn to concoct the potions yourself! There are tutorials a plenty online from tile cleaners to laundry detergent  to deodorant and cheek stains. Making your own drug store products will give you control over ingredients and keep your home and body toxin free.

Learn basic skills. A fun and practical set of resolutions can include taking classes at local community or art centers that teach you tools of certain trades. Take a pottery class to create your own earthenware dishes. Ask a friend to teach you how to fix zippers or mend holes in sweaters. Enroll in an upholstery studio to learn how to give face-lifts to vintage furniture. Places like Lill Street or the Chicago Park District offer training on everything from basketweaving to quilt making.  Or, if your super ambitious, attempt to find a shoe cobbler who will allow you to learn the trade by becoming a short-term apprentice.

So as you’re making lists and preparing for tonight’s festivities, don’t forget to think outside of the traditional ‘green’ box. Come up with resolutions that will push you toward a more sustainable and fulfilling 2012.

What are some of your resolutions for the New Year?