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Going Green

Eco resolutions for 2019

Tracy L. Barnett
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Joanna Smith, Aurelia Cowan

IN THE BAG Joanna Smith uses shopping to teach daughter Aurelia Cowan about sustainability, buying organic when possible and using reusable mesh bags for produce, as well as reusable shopping bags in general. (Photo: Adam Cowan)

When Joanna Smith was expecting her first child three years ago, she wanted everything to be perfect. “I wanted to have a pristine, lovely nursery; everything had to be just so. I bought all these things for my daughter; I had a baby shower with a registry, the whole hoopla,” she said. “Suddenly I looked at it all and felt sick.”

Joanna grew up in California, where she internalized an environmental ethic, and spent years in London, where she saw those ethics reinforced. She understood the impacts of Americans’ high consumerism patterns. Still, there are times she forgets – and going green is a process. So she’s decided to dial back the consumption in 2019, teaching her children to be mindful in the process.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have 12 years to turn things around so our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy a planet with a relatively stable climate. So it’s not too much to assume that 2019 will be a definitive year for the environment.

That’s why Going Green created the Eco Resolution Challenge. We reached out to Buzz readers to share their environmentally sustainable resolutions for 2019. Joanna and many others responded, and we share their commitments below. 

Shop at thrift stores. Especially for kids, who grow so fast they barely have time to use their new garments before it’s time to put them in the Goodwill bin. Joanna is pledging to do this for her new baby. She hopes it will send her kids an important message. “I don’t want them to have this expectation of new, new, new, every time they need something.” 

Begin to compost. Now that Joanna’s family is moving into a place with a garden, she is planning to renew a composting practice she began when she lived in London. (See this story at for a composting primer.)

Planting with a purpose. Elizabeth Cosgrove is going to upgrade her yard with an ecological mindset. She learned from a Houston Audubon presentation about what types of plants attract native Texas species, from bees to butterflies to birds. “I realized that we need the right trees/shrubs etc. in order to attract and feed a variety of bird species,” she said. “I don't think most people know how vital our area of the country is to the North American bird population, given our migratory location.”

Keep it simple. Tamara Sell just went through a significant downsizing (from more than 3,000 square feet to 1,200), and her family’s goal for 2019 is to keep it simple, save more and spend on experiences rather than things. In renovating their new place they invested in new windows, additional insulation, LED lighting and energy-efficient appliances, so their energy usage has already dropped substantially. 

Share what you’ve learned. Sandy Spears is going to keep updating her eco-friendly blog, Houston 350, which includes a column she wrote to highlight things we can all do to reduce climate change. "You can impact climate change through individual actions, engagement with environmental non-profits, purchasing choices and through policy,” she said. Her resolution is to call Texas legislators and discuss the importance of voting for clean air, plastic-bag bans and direct sales of electric cars to consumers.

Go plogging (picking up litter while jogging). Kirby Chenkin plans to continue doing so on his own in parks and neighborhoods, and he will organize events through his KirBeBetter movement.

Adopt a Drain. Sara Speer Selber has made the connection between trash-clogged drains and increased flooding. She’s already adopted three drains in in her neighborhood under the city’s Adopt-A-Drain program, and she monitors them as she practices plalking (picking up litter while walking). This year she plants to adopt a fourth drain and inspire others to join her.

Take the Game-Changer Intensive. This online course by the Pachamama Alliance inspires and equips you to become a game-changing leader. Steve Stelzer of the Houston Green Building Resource Center will be re-taking this course. “I have found that re-inspiration is a good thing,” To re-inspire yourself, you might want to do what I’m doing and read some selections from Steve’s reading list (see this story online).

Compensate for the carbon you’re burning with your air travel. My personal challenge is to find the best ways to do this. Offsets are a complicated issue, and sometimes can do more harm than good. I’ll let you know what I find out – and welcome your suggestions.

Now, it’s your turn. 

Add your own resolutions in the comments below or email them to [email protected]. Individually we can do a lot – but together, we can do so much more. 

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