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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Green Resolutions for 2022

Happy New Year to our readers! May you resolve to make greener resolutions in 2022. (AdobeStock_466514440/ flyalone)

Janis Petzel, M.D.

As we turn the corner to a new year, we will probably make some resolutions to do things that will improve our lives. Sustainable resolutions may be on your list. How can you incorporate them into your life? Here are some thoughts to get you on the road to a sustainable 2022.

Sustainability requires balancing the needs of living organisms over generations within the limits of physics, biology, and human psychology (which is the real impediment to achieving it). The extraction and burning of fossil fuels is not sustainable by any definition.

Your personal actions make a difference. In the Northeast, household energy use has gone down from 138 million BTUs to 93 million BTUs since 1980. That insulation you installed? And the energy efficient appliances? They had a positive impact.

Pew Research indicates 74% of us are willing to make changes to reduce climate risk. But what specifically can you do?

1. Develop a Loving Relationship with Nature: Appreciate nature for itself, but also understand what we are at risk of losing.

  • Get yourself and your children off screens and into the outdoors as often as possible.

  • Protect places and living things you love. It’s a sort of zone defense for Mother Nature. Pay attention. Raise your voice if this living space is threatened.

  • Grow some of your own food. It’s satisfying in a way that store-bought food is not, even if it’s just a pot of parsley on your windowsill.

2. Power in Numbers: Staying informed and making your voice heard makes a difference.

  • Vote.

  • Support and volunteer for environmental and social justice advocacy groups. It’s almost impossible to keep up with events and legislation without a broad network of watchful eyes.

  • Social justice matters, support it. Sustainability requires healthy communities with a fair and equitable distribution of resources and opportunities.

  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Let your elected officials at the local, state and federal levels know what you think, and the bills you support.

3. Consumer Mindfulness: When asked the question, “How much money is enough?” oil titan John D. Rockefeller is infamous for answering, “Just a little bit more.” But the more you have, the higher your personal contribution to global carbon pollution. Time to think, “Maybe a little less.”

  • Money can’t buy you love, part 1: What are you buying when you buy stuff? A cheap thrill? Or something that will add real value to your life? The easiest way to tell is to wait a day or two. If the purchase still seems like a good idea, maybe it is.
  • Conservation of energy: Make a game of it. Every Sunday this winter, turn down your thermostat by 1 degree (and more at night). You’ll be surprised what you can comfortably adapt to if you go slow. Next, see how low you can get your kilowatt hour (kWh) usage on your power bill. Can you beat 30 kWh per day, the national average? Can you get to 10? To 5? Turn off lights, use a drying rack rather than the clothes dryer, wear a sweater, close your shades on cold nights, get LED lightbulbs, and invest in insulation.
  • Waste not, want not. It’s fun and gratifying to swap, reuse, upcycle, and extend the lives of stuff, and to reduce the amount of trash your household creates.
  • Avoid food waste. American consumers waste 30% of the food grown in this country, which means we waste the water and fossil fuels used to grow and transport them. Big fridges are where leftovers disappear to decompose unless you pay attention.
  • Stop eating oil. Shifting away from an industrial agriculture, meat-heavy diet to a plant-focused diet is healthful for you and for the planet. Eat food grown as close to home as you can, in the least processed form. If you’re able, support local farmers who use regenerative agriculture methods.

4. Your Personal Infrastructure: Fossil fuels are used directly when we build our homes, heat and cool them, and for transportation.

  • Money can’t buy love, part 2 (but it can buy solar panels). Get yourself some solar panels! Or buy into a solar farm. Or subscribe to electricity from a solar garden. Then, over time, replace your gas- or oil-burning appliances with efficient electric models. Solar is a solid investment especially as electric rates go up. (In Maine rates may increase 60-80% in 2022 for Versant and CMP customers.)
  • For new construction, take the time to make fossil fuel-free choices.
  • Can you cut back on how much you drive your car for some of the year? Walk, ride a bike or an e-bike, carpool, or use public transportation.
  • Electric vehicles: Test drive an all-electric battery vehicle (BEV). Car dealerships need to see that customers are interested. When your current vehicle dies, plan to replace it with a BEV.

5. A Healthy, Sustainable Human Ecosystem Requires Community. You have it in your hands to make a difference for yourself, your family and for others, and for the world. Pick a place to start. There is no time like the present.

Janis Petzel, MD is a physician, grandmother and climate activist whose writing focusses on resilience, climate, and health. She lives in Islesboro, Maine where she strives to help achieve a fossil-fuel free future. She serves on the Islesboro Energy Committee and is a Climate Ambassador for Physicians for Social Responsibility.


This article is my attempt to collate data-based assessments of what is likely to work (e.g., from Drawdown edited by Paul Hawken, from the ENROADS computer program from MIT, Electrify Everything by Saul Griffeth, and from present day examples around the world) and translating this information into actions that the average person can do. of respondents in the U.S. said they would be willing to make some changes (44%) or a lot of changes (30%). Over half of us (54%) are not confident that the international community can reduce effects of climate change. – U.S. residential energy use: 51% for heat and air conditioning; 27% hot water, lights, refrigeration; 21% TVs, internet, video and computer streaming, and other appliances (2015 data. Accessed 11/22/21). In the northeastern U.S., we use 93 million BTUs per household average, a decline of 45 million BTUs per household since 1980. (Accessed 11/22/21). South Australia consistently produces greater than 60% of its electricity thanks to residential rooftop solar, and increasingly often, produces more electricity than it makes, which is forcing the larger grid to adjust and adapt (Accessed 11/23/21).

John D. Rockefeller quote: (Accessed 11/20/21).

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