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How to make 2012 the greenest year ever

Make a resolution to spend more time outdoors - and remind yourself why it's so important to protect our environment. Photo by Linda Solomon.

As 2011 draws to a close, many people are busy thinking of New Year’s resolutions. Some want to lose weight, some are thinking of career moves, some hope to find love.

But with increasing awareness around environmental issues, why not use this opportunity to make more sustainable lifestyle choices? To get you started, here are the Vancouver Observer’s top ten resolutions for living greener in 2012.

1)   Eat local and organic

Vancouverites have it pretty good when it comes to accessing local, organic produce year-round. During the summer months, a number of farmer’s markets open up across the city. But even during the off-season, the Winter Farmer’s Market provides some great, local alternatives to packaged or imported foods. The Public Market at Granville Island also has an array of local goodies to offer.

If you can’t make it to the market on a Saturday, you can also shop smart by looking for local brands and BC-grown fruits and veggies at different grocery stores. Places like Greens Market, Choices and other independent organic stores have a wide selection of lower-impact food products. You can even get fresh, local groceries delivered straight to your doorstep, by signing up for services like Spud.ca.

There are several Vancouver blogs and websites, such as Edible Vancouver and Get Local BC that help promote local food and drink. These sites offer tips on where to shop, what to look for, and even have delicious recipes for preparing seasonal cuisine at home. Cooking from scratch also saves wasteful packaging, cuts out processed ingredients and preservatives and encourages healthier lifestyles.

2)   Plant a garden

Buying local is great, but you can go one step further by growing your own fruits and vegetables. Backyard gardening (or one of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s controversial front yard wheat fields) can be a fun family hobby that pays off in produce – particularly in the summer and during harvest times. Though the major growing season is still months away, you can start early by planting seeds indoors before moving them outside after the winter frost.

If you’re in an apartment building and don’t have access to land for gardening, try setting up planters on your balcony, or claiming a spot at one of the many community gardens around the city.

3)   Donate to environmental nonprofits

One good way of supporting sustainability is through donations to environmental organizations. If you can’t do the work yourself, why not help those who are in a better place to do so? In addition to more well known environmental advocacy groups like Greenpeace and the David Suzuki Foundation, there are a number of other local charities dedicated to making Vancouver and British Columbia a cleaner, more sustainable place.

Some of these include BC’s Wilderness Committee, the Sierra Club BC, the Environmental Youth Alliance, the Pacific Parklands Foundation, and the Footprints Conservation Society. You can also support environmental organizations through international programs like 1% for the Planet – a movement encouraging businesses and retailers from around the world to give one per cent of their annual profits to groups working on sustainability. Local Vancouver member companies include Mountain Equipment Co-op, Crown Skis, and Saul Good Gift Co.

4)   Ride the bus – or your bike

Instead of relying on your car to get around, make an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions by finding transportation alternatives this year. With an extensive bus system, SkyTrain routes and the SeaBus, you can get almost anywhere in Vancouver using public transit. And if you buy monthly transit passes, you can get up to 15 per cent back on your federal tax return through Canada’s public transit tax credit.

Apart from the bus and SkyTrain, Vancouver is also a great place for cycling. The City has developed a safe and convenient infrastructure of bike lanes to get you from point A to point B, and you can get some decent exercise while you’re at it.

5)   Green your home

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