Set your sites on these environmental goals

Like some people, I consider the beginning of a year as an opportunity for new possibilities and chances to start things off on the right foot.

This year, my list of resolutions will carry me not just through 2013 but beyond. They reflect my passion for healthy living and the environment and are not one-time goals but practices I can implement one step at a time.

  • Healthy eating -- incorporate more produce and greens like spinach and kale in our diet.
  • Studies have indicated the magnesium in green vegetables improves blood circulation and provides beneficial vitamins. We are continuing with our Eat Less Meat campaign, which means at least one meatless meal a week. Going gluten-free in the house also means no bread, pasta, pizza, cookies, cakes or pies.

    It sounds difficult and it was in the beginning, so when the going gets tough, there are gluten-free alternatives. The plus is that my husband's arthritis hardly bothers him and if you don't cheat, it can help drop the pounds.

  • Conserve water.
  • Our faulty 10-year-old toilet -- 1.6 gallons per flush -- is being replaced with a new lower-flush toilet shortly and I hope to see a reduction in our monthly 2,400-gallon water usage.

    My yard consists of 98 percent native plants; the 2 percent nonnative get watered with my rain-barrel water. I have decided that whatever doesn't survive wasn't meant to be. My vegetable garden, 7 feet by 4 feet, gets watered every other day but will provide homegrown mustard greens, Swiss chard and tomatoes.

  • Conserve energy.
  • We fight a daily battle with the afternoon sun coming into the west-facing front of our house using a system of outside blinds and indoor drapes. We have tinting on our 10-year-old porch windows but are looking at more energy-efficient windows as a long-term investment.

    More than 40 percent of a home's annual energy is consumed by windows. Newer windows are twice as efficient as those from 10 years ago. In the meantime, we are still using our 10-year-old appliances (some Energy Star-compliant, some not) and CFL bulbs, and turn down the AC when we're out. When our appliances break down, we'll replace them with energy-efficient versions.

  • Recycle.
  • Last year my husband made me a second composter from an old trash bin. My neighbor and I throw our kitchen scraps into the composters and the cycle from scraps to black gold is very satisfying.Also, Monroe County Recycling announced we can recycle plastics coded 1-7 and request no plastic bags in our recycling receptacles -- bags get caught in the recycling machinery and cause costly shutdowns.

  • Reduce plastic disposables and waste.
  • At home, we use reusable water bottles for trips, glass containers for leftovers, and washable glassware and silverware for parties and get-togethers.

    Last June, I joined the Got Your Bags? Florida Keys group to help reduce plastic bags and encourage more reusable bag use. We live in a beautiful place and it pains me to see plastic bags in the waters, caught up in the mangroves or lying along the road with other plastic trash.

    The group's campaign is focused on Big Pine Key and continues at various outdoor events through April. Volunteers at the National Key Deer Refuge supported our efforts recently with a sign at the old Coconut Farm location at mile marker 30.5. See more on Facebook at

    As I make this list, I know it be easy to keep -- it will improve our health, benefit my surroundings and in the long run, save us money. I look forward to making this happen.

    Shirley Gun is a member of the Keyswide nonprofit Green Living & Energy Education. She writes about green living and the four Rs -- reducing, reusing, recycling and rot (composting). She can be reached at