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New Year’s resolutions that can benefit the planet

New Year's resolutions are typically made by individuals looking to improve their lives. Some people may resolve to read more, while others may be determined to start living healthier lifestyles. Men and women who want to improve their lives while also contributing to the greater good may want to tailor their resolutions around protecting the planet.

Eco-friendly New Year's resolutions may benefit individuals in some surprising ways. While men and women no doubt recognize the long-term benefits of protecting the planet they call home, the following resolutions also provide some more immediate benefits.

• Unplug set-top cable boxes. It's not an especially time-consuming commitment, but unplugging set-top cable boxes and DVRs when they're not being used can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and save substantial amounts of energy. A 2011 study from the National Resources Defense Council found that the electricity required to operate set-top cable boxes resulted in 16 million tons of CO2 emissions in the United States alone. The electricity needed to operate such boxes also costs American households more than $3 billion per year. The same study found that two-thirds of that energy consumption occurs when viewers are not watching or recording content. By unplugging these devices when they are not in use, people can save money and greatly reduce CO2 emissions.

• Support sustainable agriculture. According to the Grace Communications Foundation, an organization devoted to increasing public awareness of the critical environmental and public health issues created by the industrial food system, sustainable agriculture is the production of food, fiber, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment. Sustainable agriculture also employs farming techniques that protect public health and ensure the welfare of animals. Sustainable farms do not use chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or genetically modified seeds, and such farms take steps to prevent the degradation of soil, water and other natural resources.

• Cut back on driving. Men and women who can find ways to reduce the amount of time they spend behind the wheel can reduce vehicle emissions that harm the planet and cut back on fuel consumption. Reducing fuel consumption also reduces the fuel consumed and emissions produced by the trucks that transport that fuel from the refinery to the gas station. If possible, bike to work or take public transportation. People who live in more remote areas where biking or public transportation is not feasible can organize office car pools.

• Spread the word. Another easy way that eco-friendly men and women can resolve to benefit the planet is to spread the word about issues facing the climate and what everyday citizens can do. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore's Climate Reality Project aims to unite people from all walks of life in an effort to encourage their leaders to focus on the climate. The project's Climate Reality Leadership Corps is a global network of activists working to spread awareness about the climate and how to address the issues facing it.

Eco-friendly New Year's resolutions, even those that require little effort, can have a profound impact on the planet.

Osceola News-Gazette