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Poll: 49% of Americans say they'll Go Green in 2008.
Craig Neilson, 5 Jan 08
Article Photo

New Year's Resolutions have a bad reputation for lacking in true resolve.

But they do show what's on people's minds - and occasionally they can be the life-changing new leaf their owners had long-intended to turn over.

That's why the results of a GfK Roper phone-poll (commissioned by advocacy group Tiller LLC) on New Year's resolutions are so astonishing: a full 49% of respondents said they intend to make a green resolution for 2008.

Given a list of environmentally responsible lifestyle changes, reducing household energy usage was cited as the most likely to be undertaken in 2008, cited by 75% of respondents. It was followed by recycling more (74%) and reducing the use of harmful household chemicals (66%). Carrying fabric bags to the supermarket (42%) and reducing one's "carbon footprint" (43%) were the least frequently cited.

If 2007 is anything to go by, 2008 is going to be an iconic year in bright green progress. For massive change, the rate of adaptation seen in 2007 will need to increase, but the Tiller poll's indications of people's willingness to embrace green progress this year is welcome news indeed.

I'd like to share my resolutions, which are simple and sustainable. The resolutions above are nothing short of awesome - but if you want something else, maybe you'll find something here for you.

Be vegetarian
Walk
Free stuff.


Be vegetarian

OK, so I'm already vegetarian - but this is no cop-out. This is not a resolution to become vegetarian, it's a declaration of my intention to BE vegetarian in 2008. What's the difference? Becoming vegetarian is a resolution trap, because as soon as you slip up you'll think it's all over. If you're being vegetarian, you're making a conscious green choice at every meal. There's no need to make it sacred, because someone will undoubtedly sneak chicken stock or oyster sauce in somewhere. If you're being vegetarian, you're impervious to this kind of thing interrupting your regular vegetarian agenda.

The agenda is very much the same as everything else in the bright green movement - energy efficiency, water conservation, improving food availability, improving distribution, soil care and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That's in addition to a plethora of health, well-being and ethical rationales.

If you've "gone vegetarian" before - and it hasn't worked out - 2008 is definitely the year to try again. My city of Auckland has come a long way in catering for vegetarians since the year 2000 and I expect it to continue in the same direction until most of the city shares the diet. I've had no trouble being vegetarian in any city I've travelled to this year, and from what I've read this is a global trend.


Walk

This is easy for me to say because Auckland is currently experiencing one of those summers that's nothing but blue skies, warm beaches, cool breezes and outdoor music. But despite commuting by foot this year I've still taken my petrol-powered car across town more times than necessary. In 2008 I plan not only to walk nearly everywhere, but also clean up my old bicycle and pick up where I left off with that. My friends that cycle tell me they arrive places feeling pumped-up and ready to rock, and I want some of that.

It almost doesn't need to be said that reducing your car-based transport is massively beneficial for the environment, and that, you know, exercise is really good for you.


Free stuff

"Free" here is in the sense of the verb, to free stuff. This is a direct outcome of my 2007 resolution to "free my self" - by which I meant in a very literal sense to volunteer. But I didn't call it "volunteer", because I'd done that before. I wanted to become free by giving myself away for free.

It worked a treat and I found myself able to choose amazing people and organisations to spend time with. Once I was free, what really matters to me became very clear. If you haven't spent a good deal of time volunteering, I suggest 2008 is the time to start.

This year I want to set stuff free, which is easier than it sounds. I'm contributing to Wikipedia, publishing more helpful personal web pages and licensing my Flickr photos with the most generous Creative Commons license available.

This is the kind of group activity that causes massive change. Information can be an unlimited resource when we free it - a move that costs little and benefits many. What's exciting about freeing stuff is that you don't know how your stuff could be used. Flickr user _Pixelmaniac_ had no idea that I'd use the above picture of fireworks this way, but freed it anyway. Thanks, _Pixelmaniac_!

Got a resolution that others can pick up? If you set it free in the comments below and leave your email address, I'll email you about it in December 2008.

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Comments

Your resolution to "free" stuff is ingenious. I love it. I decided to make a somewhat similar resolution this year: Comment on articles that I really enjoyed (or didn't enjoy at all). The internet allows for a wonderful new form of community and information sharing. The interactivity of it all is amazing and really a wonderful opportunity to connect with others across the world (I'm in the U.S., the author is from New Zealand) and share ideas. To date I've been simply lurking on many blogs; enjoying (most of) them immensely, yet never indicating my presence or interacting with the author & other readers in any way. I feel like I've been treating a 21st Century technology like a 20th Century technology. I've been neglecting the wonderful difference allowed through newer technology.

P.S. I also enjoy making positive edits to Wikipedia, share my photos under a liberal CC license, and also make any presentations I create for the high school classes I teach available via CC licenses.


Posted by: B.Wildeboer on 5 Jan 08

Great suggestions! - Now all we need to is get some of that 49% in the USA to translate their "green resolutions" into resolutions to *vote* Green as well!


Posted by: Skip Mendler on 5 Jan 08

wow, that's the second time this week i've heard of pixelmaniac, and i'm not that big a fan of photography.

i like freeing myself and stuff too, didn't know i could make a handle famous that way

I'm member of the US Green Party, wish 49% would pledge to vote Green (we have member parties everywhere btw)

nice article, very interesting, thanks Craig


Posted by: monte letourneau on 6 Jan 08

Free things...
Yes, let's free things from the 'economy' so that they are available to people (us) from outside the economy. Let's maintain some tools and resources in the public realm. I think this is an important part of bringing prosperity and demand reduction onto the same page. This was an obstacle for me last year, thinking how to allay fears that "buy less" strategies and energy conservation would conflict with the holy grail of economic development.
Thanks for this little nugget. Throw in some good-humored human capital and a little renewable energy, and we might be doing just fine!


Posted by: Roy on 6 Jan 08

Great, easy to do suggestions, Craig! I especially like "Free Stuff" and would like to add to that one free yourself of stuff. Also, here's another great, easy to do list of going green resolutions created by Environmental Defense: http://www.environmentaldefense.org/article.cfm?contentID=7483

Good luck to everybody!


Posted by: Lauren on 7 Jan 08

Kudos on your resolutions, particular the vegetarian part. Keep up the good work.


Posted by: Eric Prescott on 7 Jan 08

Shameless Commerce: If you want to be a happy vegetarian take a look at "American Wholefoods Cuisine" considered the "Vegetarian Joy of Cooking."For more than 35 years hundreds of a thousands of people have relied on it for a healthy and interesting veg diet. Coauthored by a Cornell trained nutritionist it includes nutrition, food preparation and 200 "fast food recipes" among its 1300.More at www.HealthyHighways.com Note remarkable user comments.


Posted by: David Goldbeck on 7 Jan 08

Yup, I second that. Thank you for putting it that concise. Went a bit vegetarian since more than 10 years, mostly out of curiosity what the veg meal on an intercontinental flight would be like. Hint: as a special meal it is served early. Made veg a principle after realizing what industrial animal farming means to the creatures. Eat meat very rarely these days and bicycle to work since 2003. Only in late 2007, did I start in earnest to free (up) stuff. Learned a lot from Commoncraft instructional videos, made my own and uploaded to YouTube and TeacherTube. Donated a few free translations on dotsub.com to Commoncraft (e.g. Google Docs to German) just to return the favor. The link on my handle goes to free green lectures on TED (Technology, Environment, Design). No, sorry, make that Technology, Entertainment, Design.

Today is 2008-01-08 (international date format per ISO 8601). Enjoy a co-creative 2008.


Posted by: CoCreatr on 8 Jan 08

I would love to see more acknowledgement of the value (on many levels) of eating LESS meat, instead of NONE. While the numbers of fregans, opportunivores, and "mostly vegetarians" increases (yea!), there is still too much emphasis placed on absolute vegetarianism. There is much to be said for a diet that includes infrequent, small portions of meat.


Posted by: greg on 9 Jan 08

And we all know what people do with New Year's Resolutions . . .

It would be interesting to do a follow up study of actual behaviors.

http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com


Posted by: marguerite manteau-rao on 9 Jan 08

I wish you continued success and great joy, love, laughter and fulfillment for 2008. You deserve it!


Posted by: coach ronny on 10 Jan 08



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