Along with that diet and the vow to make exercise your new best friend in 2014, why not "green" your resolutions and take a few small steps to improve the environment around you? The Deseret News has compiled a list of 10 Earth-friendly resolutions for Utah residents to consider, especially given the state's struggle with air quality problems, its two-year drought cycle and issues stemming from polluted waterways.
Park your car. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that if you can avoid driving just two days a week, you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,590 pounds a year.
Utah air quality regulators say 57 percent of the Wasatch Front's pollution comes from the tailpipe, so taking mass transit, telecommuting or bicycling to work will help clean up the air — and our lungs.
Conserve water. Utah is the second-most arid state in the nation and has suffered back to back drought years. Statewide, reservoir storage is at just half of what it normally is, and this past fall saw water restrictions implemented so farmers could limp through the rest of the growing season.
The EPA estimates each household could reduce its water consumption by 30 percent with the installation of water-efficient fixtures and appliances. Turn off the hot water as much as possible when washing clothes, and fill water bottles with tap water. Landscape with "water-wise" vegetation suitable for Utah's harsh climate, and water only at the coolest times of the day.
Make your home as energy-efficient as possible. Utah Clean Energy said if every home in Utah shaved its energy usage by just 10 percent, the state could save nearly 900 million kilowatts of electricity and more than 7 billion cubic feet of natural gas each year.
The advocacy organization stressed that the associated emission reduction is equivalent to not driving more than 124,000 miles or saving 66 million-plus gallons of gasoline each year.
Studies suggest that the most energy-intensive consumer product in a household is the lightbulb. Choose compact flourescent light bulbs, and turn off the lights when you leave the room. Utah Clean Energy has a dozen ideas on its website to make homes more energy-efficient.
Recycle. Brad Mertz, executive director of the Recycling Coalition of Utah, said residents statewide throw out enough trash every year to fill EnergySolutions Arena 22 times over. Of that, he said, about four arenas of the garbage are recycled.
"We are doing fairly good in the state of Utah," he said.
Lara Rezzarday, a communications specialist with Waste Management, agrees.
“While the EPA estimates that we each create, on average, about 4.5 pounds of trash a day, recycling rates have also gone up around the country,” she said. "In 1980, the rate was less than 10 percent, and in Utah it is currently almost 40 percent."
Even so, Mertz recalls that an American Beverage Association official stunned him a few years back when he remarked that Utahns toss out $14 million worth of aluminum cans each year, with just 30 percent of that recycled.
"It's amazing," he said.
Plant a garden, participate in a community garden, or at the very least support local gardeners by attending farmers markets. This simple action reduces the emissions necessary from the transport of produce and other goods, and you'll get a fresher product. The Utah's Own program estimates that for every dollar spent on a local product, as much as $6 is returned to the local economy.
Nick Como, spokesman for the Downtown Alliance, said consumer interest in locally generated produce and other products has taken off.
"It has grown exponentially in the last 10 years," he said, leading the organization to extend the hours during the summer's Downtown Farmers Market, add an extra day during the week and extend the event via a "winter's market" offered every other Saturday. He said about 100 producers turn out for the spring market.
Keep Utah's water clean. Refrain from using gutters as a liquid disposal service, and be mindful of what else you put down the drain or in the toilet. Contamination of waterways from pesticides, litter and illegal dumping is a pressing problem in the state that will cost millions of dollars to correct.
Water officials are also grappling with impaired water stemming from drugs that contain endocrine-disrupting compounds. Those chemicals washed into the waterways are interfering with the development of reproductive systems in aquatic wildlife. The state, multiple police departments and county and state health agencies team up for "Prescription Drop-Off" events in which people can safely dispose of their unwanted medications. The campaigns keep the drugs off the street and out of the waterways.
Plant a tree. Large, deciduous trees planted on the east, west and northwest sides of your home create shade from the hot summer sun and can reduce summer air conditioning costs by up to 35 percent, according to the Arbor Foundation. Trees fight global warming, the foundation said, by absorbing carbon dioxide and other pollutant particulates, and emitting pure oxygen.
Create compost at home. Composting is the process of mixing yard and organic kitchen waste to produce a soil additive to nourish plants and replace fertilizer. To create a compost bin, find a large plastic container. Combine grass clippings, wood chips, bark, leaves and twigs with food scraps. The practice not only reduces waste destined for treatment plants or landfills but is friendly to the soil. Tips on what and how to compost are available at www.howtocompost.org.
Maintain your car. Change out fuel filter and oil to minimize particulate pollution. Underinflated tires decrease fuel economy by up to 3 percent.
Donate your unwanted clothes to local thrift stores and buy "used" on eBay and Amazon to decrease the carbon footprint of consumer goods. Use the library as a resource for new reading material.