New Year's resolutions: How Hoosiers hope to live a more sustainable lifestyle this year

It’s the new year. And that means it’s a time for people to set resolutions. Many focus on better health habits, some on picking up a new hobby or perhaps finally getting around to those projects around the home.

Another category worth considering: changes to make your life a little bit greener. We asked and you responded. Here's how many Hoosiers have made changes to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Just last year, a panel with the United Nations released a landmark report issuing a code red for humanity. It was a year marked by wildfires in the West, flooding in the East, hurricanes in the South and a record-shattering heat wave in the Pacific Northwest.

The report also warned that the world is approaching irreversible tipping points if governments, companies and individuals don’t take steps to address the climate crisis.

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So we asked you last week, what was one sustainably-minded change that you made in the last year. And you answered. In fact, we received nearly two dozen comments from our readers letting us know how they set out to protect the environment and climate.

IndyStar also heard from some readers casting doubt on the power that one individual or one family has to actually help clean up the earth. Jessica Davis, the director of IUPUI Sustainability, said people often question what, if any, impact personal decisions can have.

Items move on a variety of conveyor belts during the recycling process, at the Ray's Indianapolis Recycling Facility, part of Ray's Trash Service, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.
Items move on a variety of conveyor belts during the recycling process, at the Ray's Indianapolis Recycling Facility, part of Ray's Trash Service, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.

“The problems seem too big, too complex to be solved through individual action,” she said. While the scale of solutions do need to be far greater than the individual alone, Davis added, “the impact of individuals should not be underestimated.”

When people see others engaging in sustainable behaviors, Davis said, they are more likely to engage in that behavior themselves. Studies have also shown that once 15% of people adopt a sustainable behavior, it spreads through the population at an accelerated pace.

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Davis acknowledges that large organizations such as governments and businesses need to buy in, but individuals are key to moving the needle, too. And they should just stop with their own actions, she added, but talk about it with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and more.

With that in mind, we’ve gathered here 10 of the comments from your fellow readers on our previous story — perhaps in a way to inspire new sustainable resolutions for other Hoosiers looking to make a change.

Cutting out plastic

Heather S. said: "Reducing plastics in my home. I started in the bathroom. Replaced Shampoo, conditioner and body wash with bar soaps and conditioners. Replaced plastic razor with reusable safety razor and all blades are recycled. Will work on the kitchen in 2022."

Jon Bullock is shown tossing cardboard into a bin while dropping off recycling on Dec. 29, 2013, at Broad Ripple Park in Indianapolis.
Jon Bullock is shown tossing cardboard into a bin while dropping off recycling on Dec. 29, 2013, at Broad Ripple Park in Indianapolis.

Feeding the garden

Dee F. said: "We bought a compost bin at Menards that I got my first load of compost for garden this fall. We also started sorting recyclables and reduced our Friday trash pick up from up to 4 containers some weeks to only one."

Cutting back on food waste

Hugh J. said. "I fast 3 times a week, a lot less food waste and I feel much better!"

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How to get to net zero

Ron W. said: "Our aim was to get to net zero without breaking the bank: 1) We started using the AES Indiana Green Power option - AES now buys sustainable power from other utilities to cover our electricity usage. (Increased cost only 3%.) 2) We now purchase carbon offsets from Terrepass for our natural gas heating, our gasoline-powered cars, and everything else. ($14 a month) 3) We stopped eating beef since cattle produce around 15 times as much methane as chicken or hogs. Since chicken and pork are cheaper than beef, we save enough on meat to cover the costs of AES Green Power and Terrepass carbon offsets. So we got to net zero for net zero cost!"

Electrifying your lifestyle

Terry L. said: "Our household has two Teslas and installed 56 solar panels."

Nick Cooper-Garcia makes rounds collecting discarded food for Earth Mama Compost on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 in Indianapolis. The food, which will be used to make compost, is collected from homes and businesses in compostable bags. The loose food comes from a school recycling program.
Nick Cooper-Garcia makes rounds collecting discarded food for Earth Mama Compost on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 in Indianapolis. The food, which will be used to make compost, is collected from homes and businesses in compostable bags. The loose food comes from a school recycling program.

Sign up for composting service

Debbie D. said: "I've been a recycle/reuse fiend for years. This year I began using a curbside composting service (https://www.audsolutions.net/indy-go-green). It is amazing how quickly I fill up my bi-weekly bucket. In fact, I had to use an additional bucket due to Christmas cooking and the brown paper we received in mail order shipments. The best part is I will receive some of the compost this Spring for use in my garden and flower beds."

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Reduce and reuse

Mark D said: "When I get a refill at McDonald's, I reuse the same cup."

Planting native species

Elizabeth M. said: "Continuing to be a vegetarian, although there were several "sketchy veggie" episodes ... chicken wings can be hard to resist! Raked leaves into our woods, instead of bagging them. Planted more natives, like milkweed, beebalm, and coneflowers. Have stopped putting any fertilizer on the grass, and working on reducing the lawn."

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New way to heat the home

A map shows the proposed locations for DC fast chargers that a group of eight utilities plan to install around Indiana. The utility group received $5.5 million from the VW settlement to go toward these efforts and expand the charging station network for electric vehicles across the state.
A map shows the proposed locations for DC fast chargers that a group of eight utilities plan to install around Indiana. The utility group received $5.5 million from the VW settlement to go toward these efforts and expand the charging station network for electric vehicles across the state.

Barbara H. said: " A 26% federal tax credit for residential ground source heat pump installations has been extended through Dec. 31, 2022, and we took full advantage of this incentive. We installed two WaterFurnace (brand name) open-loop geothermal heating/cooling systems that tap into the free energy existing in the year-round constant 55 degree water temperature from our deep well. There are no noisy outside units and our Duke Energy bills have been cut almost in half. Throughout the year, I've slowly replaced all interior and exterior light bulbs with energy saving long-lasting LED bulbs."

Minimizing emissions on the road

Jerry M. said: "I don’t drive over 80 anymore around 465 in my SUV."

Some of these changes won't work for everyone. There also are many other ways to be more sustainable that aren't listed here, such as installing a rain barrel, volunteering for a neighbor cleanup or using natural cleaning products. If you have any questions about how you can incorporate these or other green practices in your life, don't hesitate to reach out to the IUPUI Sustainability department at sustindy@iupui.edu.

Call IndyStar reporter Sarah Bowman at 317-444-6129 or email at sarah.bowman@indystar.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @IndyStarSarah. Connect with IndyStar’s environmental reporters: Join The Scrub on Facebook.

IndyStar's environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: New Year's resolutions: Tips for a more sustainable life