How to Go Green: New Year's
Photo credit: Getty Images/Domino
We generally run into two schools of thought on New Year's Eve: it's either an excuse for a raucous night at the bar and massive quantities of bubbly, or it's a night for amateurs that's better spent watching the ball drop with a few close friends. No matter which category you fall into, it's easy to make your Eve a little greener with organic champagne, recycled glassware, DIY noisemakers, and non-disposable decorations. And if, regardless of whether you went out or stayed in, you had a little more to drink than you meant to-well, we can help with that, too.
Of course, once you've gotten rid of the hangover, it's time to look at the year ahead and think about the the resolutions you're ready to make. Is it finally time to stop smoking, trim your spending, clean out your closets, or lose ten pounds? You can do all of those things while making positive environmental changes. Or if your resolution is as simple as living a greener lifestyle, we've included our favorite five-minute fixes that will have you on a brand new path to eco-friendliness in 2009. Happy New Year!
|Top Green New Year's Eve Party Tips||Further Reading on a Green New Year's|
|Green New Year's: By the Numbers||Top Green New Year Resolutions|
|Where to Get Green New Year's Party Supplies||Green New Year's: Getting Techie|
|Green New Year's: From the Archives|
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Top Green New Year's Eve Party Tips
- Beat the crowds
There's a certain excitement to being out in a group on New Year's Eve, but if you stay home and host your own ring-in-the-new shindig, you'll save transportation emissions--and, of course, money. You'll also be able to better control the environmental impact of your night, from sending out email invitations to preventing the food and paper waste that comes from bars and restaurants. (Oh, and you can let your friends crash so no one has to drive.) Even the Times Square ball is a little greener since switching to LED bulbs in 2006--isn't it time you were, too?
- Choose glass over paper
Once you've decided to have everyone over for the big event, you'll have to find a way keep them all fed and hydrated--without ending up with a pile of wasted plastic cups. Look for brands made from recycled paper--like those from Treecycle who makes biodegradable dishes and cups from sugarcane fiber--and make sure you compost those after the party. Even better, if you don't own enough china and glassware for all your friends, rent some: they look nicer, they're reusable, and you still won't wake up to a sink full of dishes. Check Rental HG to find a rental location in your area.
- Satisfy the appetites
Your guests will need some food to counteract the effects of all those drinks. Keep it simple with a spread of easy appetizers, homemade salsa or hummus, and fresh fruit and vegetable trays-with organic ingredients grown as close to you as possible (preferably from within 100 miles can help you track down a farmers market or community supported agriculture program in your hometown or, if you live in parts of the world where markets close for the winter, you can order online from Local Harvest's vendors--you can buy some carbon offsets to balance out the shipping expenditure. And you don't have to spend your entire year-end bonus, either--your party can be festive and fun without breaking the bank.
- Pour some green drinks
Get your guests in the party spirit with a bar well-stocked with eco-friendly cocktails--whether it's organic vodka mixed with juice from your local orchard; beer from the brewery one town over; or biodynamic wine. Or make your own: Our How to Go Green: Cocktails guide offers recipes for easy DIY gin and ginger ale, plus specialty drinks like a Lemon Drop or a Rusty Nail, which tastes way better than it sounds, we promise.
- Decorate responsibly
This is the year you can finally forego those plastic 2009 glasses, the cheesy top hats, the disposable noisemakers, the paper streamers. Try making your own decorations out of recyclable materials, from soda can lanterns to plastic bottle snowflakes; for a more elegant look, put together centerpieces and place settings that are stylish and eco-friendly. Skip the throw-away noisemakers and replace them with nutshells in a can or cardboard tube, or with dried beans rattling around inside two stapled-together paper plates.
- Toast with organic bubbly
Champagne has long been the drink of special occasions, whether anniversaries, wedding receptions, or job promotions. Raise your glass to '08 with champagne and sparkling wine made from organic grapes and without synthetic additions-then make sure to recycle (or reuse!) your bottles and send your corks off for reuse in Design Within Reach's chair design contest or for recycling through Korks 4 Kids.
- Pucker up
What's New Year's Eve without someone to kiss at midnight? Keep your lips soft with all-natural lip balm, like those from Revolution Organics or J.R. Watkins, and banish bad breath with organic breath mints from St. Claire's. Still single? No problem. Dating sites like Green Passions, Green Romance, and Planet Earth Singles will have you watching the ball drop with a fellow treehugger in no time.
- Cure the hangover
No matter how much fun you had the night before, spending all of January 1 feeling like death on toast is no way to start the new year. Start the detox with a blend of organic herbs and seasonings, like those in Lotus Root Cooler or Ginseng Licorice Tea. Drink plenty of water--but not from disposable bottles--and fight headaches with thyme or peppermint tea. Tea alone won't help your body recover from last night; fill up on organic, free-range eggs, too, since they contain plenty of cysteine, which breaks down toxins in the liver. Other hangover helpers include bananas (for their potassium) and fruit juices (for their energy-boosting natural sugars and vitamins). Don't depend on coffee, burnt toast, or more alcohol--none of these will help your body replenish its stores. Fried food, while delicious, is better as a hangover preventative--it slows down the rate of alcohol absorption.
- Help keep food tradition alive (with a green twist)
Different cultures and regions each have their own version of a lucky New Year's Day meal--black-eyed peas in the South, pork and sauerkraut for the Pennsylvania Dutch, 12 grapes eaten at the stroke of midnight in Spain. Other favorable foods include cooked greens, legumes, fish, and pastries or cakes. No matter which meal you choose, support local farmers and markets when you shop for ingredients, and choose free-range meat, organic fruit, and other natural supplies whenever you can.
- Make some resolutions
Many of the same resolutions we make year after year--lose weight, eat healthy, stop smoking, get organized--aren't just good for you: they're also good for the environment. Read on for foolproof ways to do the Earth some good while (finally) sticking to your new plans.
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Green New Year's: By the Numbers
- 1907: Year the first Times Square ball was dropped in New York City.
- 1 million: Number of people who fill the square on New Year's Eve; an additional 1 billion-plus watch from home.
- 2,668: Waterford Crystals that comprise the ball.
- 32,256: LED lights inside the ball that can produce more than 16 million colors and patterns.
- 100 million: Number of people who make New Year's resolutions.
- 80 million: Number of people who don't stick with their resolutions.
- 900 million: Approximate number of glasses of champagne and sparkling wine purchased in 2007.
- 22 percent: Drop in exports of French Champagne to the U.S. in the first half of 2008.
Where to Get Green New Year's Party Supplies
St. Claire's Organic Mints
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Green New Year's: From the Archives
Dig deeper into a green New Year with these articles from the TreeHugger and Planet Green archives.
Get tips for greening your New Year's dinner party, wine choices, beer selections, and pink champagne options with our other guides for How to Go Green. Then let Emeril show you how to put together delicious appetizers with these easy recipes.
Find advice for throwing an eco-friendly bash or just celebrating quietly while watching the ball drop at home. Get the lowdown on lead crystal (you'll be so ready to switch to glass) and follow these dos for a perfect night. Plus find out what's to green about the Times Square ball.
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Further Reading on a Green New Year's
Check out these other worthwhile sources for further reading on greening your New Year.
Looking for more background on New Year's Eve? Read about its history and worldwide celebrations. Or for more details on the New York City festivities, try the Times Square Alliance for a rundown of the past and future of the ball.
If you're tired of making (and failing) the same resolutions each year, get inspired by the government's list of the most popular goals. If you have plenty in mind, and just need a little help staying focused, get tips on defining your resolutions and keeping them.
Top Green New Year Resolutions
- Save money without spending a dime
It's easier than it sounds to save money while being green: unplug electronic equipment you aren't using; turn off the lights; lower your heat and wear an extra sweater. Switching from chemical cleaners to homemade baking soda/vinegar combos can save you $600 a year, and taking public transportation saves countless money on gas. Ready for more? Try these six green tips and save $1,000.
- Save money by investing in efficiency
Sometimes you have to spend to save-but you still don't have to spend much. Energy monitors--like Black & Decker's version for less than $100-show you where your home is wasting energy, while a programmable thermostat could have you saving as much as 15% on your energy bill. In other cases, you might have to invest just a bit more time-making your lunch ahead of time instead of ordering take-out, baking your own bread, or learn some simple home repair and skip that next call to the Maytag man.
- Cut clutter
We all have too much stuff--especially if your home just received an influx of gifts over the holidays. Unclutter and update your closet by hosting a clothing swap, and keep your foyer table clear by cutting junk mail. Getting rid of excess in your home by reusing it means less waste, fewer landfills, and--eventually--less energy spent on the production of a whole lot of unnecessary junk.
- Lose weight
Many classic weight loss tips--eat fresh vegetables, skip the processed food aisle, cut out red meat--line up perfectly with a green lifestyle. The bad-for-you foods that are so high in calories also pack a production wallop that uses lots of energy; the packaging just creates more waste. And trading even one meat-based meal each week for a vegetarian option can help curb the effects of global warming. If you're going less than one mile, trade driving for walking; for longer distances, brush off your old 10-speed and hit the bike lane-then watch the pounds fall off.
- Quit smoking
Cigarettes are a huge source of litter--plus there's nothing eco-friendly about the pesticides, deforestation, paper use, and waste output of cigarette production. If you're ready to quit, replace the habit with exercise, or snacks of fresh organic veggies.
- Get involved
There's a lot to be said for getting out of your house and focusing your energy on others-or on the environment. Join a community supported agriculture program and, in exchange for a few hours work, or a few bucks per week, you'll have fresh vegetables all summer; volunteer at an animal shelter or for an environmental charity and you can feel good about making a difference. The key is matching your interests and talents with the right organization, and sometimes that could be as simple as starting at home and greening your community.
- Organize your office
Whether in your work or home office, this is the perfect chance to go paperless. Filing documents electronically and using a scanner and paper shredder in tandem means a huge drop in wasted paper--plus it's easier to store and review important bills when you need them. Even better, convince your boss to let you work from home and save money, time, and carbon emissions by not having to commute, buy lunch, wrestle with your company's recycling policies, etc.
- Learn to recycle something new
Sure, you're a pro at putting glass, paper, and aluminum in the proper containers, and you never leave your newspaper on the subway--but what about all the other stuff you can recycle? Computers, DVD players, televisions, compact fluorescent light bulbs and cell phones all can and should be recycled, so the metals can be disposed of correctly or, even better, reused. If you're already doing this, consider starting a compost bin for your organic food scraps, capturing rainwater for watering plants and flushing the toilet, or buying clothes made from recyclable fibers.
- Join a TreeHugger
Last year, an informal poll of a few TreeHugger writers resulted in green resolutions that ranged from the easy, like remembering to take a reusable bag to the grocery store, to the difficult, like not buying anything new for all of 2008. Other suggestions: using the car one less day each week; spreading the environmental gospel by going up against climate change critics, or giving out copies of An Inconvenient Truth; swearing off factory-farmed meat and eating local, organic meat; and eating one fully locally-sourced meal each week. The point is, no matter what your lifestyle is like, there are enough green resolutions out there for you to choose the one that works for you.
- Stick to it
The most popular advice for keeping resolutions is to keep them simple: look at small changes you can make to reach your long term goals, like adding 30 minutes of bike riding to your daily routine or going to the famer's market twice a month. And don't make too many--choose one, maybe two, goals and focus on those.
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Green New Year's: Getting Techie
What's the difference between champagne and sparkling wine?
It sounds like they'd be interchangeable, but sparkling wine and champagne aren't always the same thing. Champagne is a very specific kind of sparkling wine, made only in France's Champagne region. In many countries--but not all--use of the name Champagne is controlled; in Europe, for example, it's limited to wines from Champagne, but in the U.S., it's also permitted on some domestic bottles. Remember, depending on where you live, wines imported from Europe actually have a smaller carbon footprint than some produced here in the States.
Why do we get hangovers?
Ringing in the new year with a glass (or six) of wine is fun--but the hangover the next morning definitely isn't. You may find yourself with headaches, nausea, trembling, dehydration, and a bunch of other after-affects that we won't even get into. Here's why: drinking stops your brain from producing vasopressin, the hormone that tells your kidneys to reabsorb water, so your kidneys expel it instead; this dehydration lowers your levels of salt and potassium (hello, headaches, fatigue, and nausea). Light or clear liquors (like rum and gin) have fewer fermentation byproducts than dark liquor or red wine, so those hangovers are often not as severe--and since organic wines and champagnes don't have the same chemical impurities as conventionally-produced brands, some greenies swear the hangovers are not as bad (or even non-existent).
Where do New Year's resolutions come from?
Making resolutions to behave better in the new year is a tradition that goes as far back as the Babylonians, who celebrated their new year on the first day of spring-though even before that, ancient Romans got their fresh start by asking peers for forgiveness for the sins of the past year. These days, promising yourself that you'll give up junk food, get back to the gym, or find a new job is easy after the month-long indulgence that comes between Thanksgiving and Christmas--but keeping them is much more difficult (which has turned the breaking of resolutions into a tradition of its own).