Planning your New Year’s resolutions? Why not think about how you can lighten your impact on the planet? We are all familiar with the three Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – and we all know how important it is to cut down on unnecessary waste. But are there ways of turning green that you may not have considered up until now? Let’s take a closer look.

Be Careful When Choosing Your Clothes

The production of conventional textiles and yarns frequently involves large amounts of chemicals such as lead, arylamines, phthalates, nickel, chromium IV, and formaldehyde – all of which have been known to pollute the environment and cause multiple allergic reactions within humans.

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Buying second-hand clothes is a great way to reduce the staggering amount of new garments that are produced every year – which often end up in landfill sites – but when you do buy new clothing, it’s worthwhile looking out for eco-friendly materials such as hemp, linen, recycled denim, and organic cotton.

Another great way to cut down on clothing waste is to pick up a pair of knitting needles and start making your own! For all you crafty types out there who like this idea, but don’t want to use any yarn or materials associated with cruelty, why not consider using rayon, organic cotton, bamboo, or GMO-free soy silk instead of wool?

And if you’re looking for support and guidance on your knitting journey, there are some fantastic websites and blogs dedicated to supporting vegan knitters. Check out Vegan Knitter, Fake Sheep, and Vegan Yarn, for starters.

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Rethink What You Know About “Green” Hybrid Vehicles

Here’s a surprising fact for those of you who might think that hybrid cars are the way to go when it comes to reducing your energy usage: These cars are not always the best option for an eco-conscious traveler!

The energy cost of creating a hybrid car far outweighs the cost of producing a conventional vehicle. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, higher levels of fossil fuels are required during the production process of hybrid vehicle. While this environmental impact is usually offset by the hybrid’s lower long-term greenhouse gas emissions rate, the materials used in the production of these vehicles also give us reason to be concerned.

The manufacture of hybrid (and conventional) car batteries require large amounts of nickel, copper, and other rare earth metals.  In recent years, China has monopolized the global market for these metals by selling them very cheaply – and one of the reasons it is able to do so is because it frequently violates basic environmental safeguards. In 2009, for example, rare earth miners decimated the entire topsoil supply of Guyun Village in the Bayan Obo region.

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There are, of course, certain occasions when driving is unavoidable, but if you want to travel green in your day-to-day life, walk, cycle, or use public transport rather than getting into a private vehicle. And think twice before purchasing that shiny new hybrid that has been hailed as the “green” savior of the planet.

Be Aware of the Hidden Chemicals in Your Cosmetics

While consumer awareness of animal testing in the cosmetics industry has increased in recent years, you may not be aware that the majority of cosmetics out there contain some seriously nasty – and polluting – chemicals such as methylisothiazolinone (try saying that ten times backwards after you’ve had a few glasses of wine).

Annie Leonard, founder of the “Story of Stuff” project, says in her video about chemicals in personal care products, that one of the key features behind the cosmetics industry is “Toxics In, Toxics Out.”

Chillingly, she adds that, “less than twenty percent of all chemicals in cosmetics have been assessed for safety by the industry’s safety panel so we just don’t know what they do to us when we use them … On cosmetics labels, words like ‘herbal,’ ‘natural,’ and ‘organic’ have no legal definition.”

A new smartphone app called “Think Dirty” can help you avoid being fooled by misleading industry claims by scanning your personal care products for potential toxins. And if you want to be sure that your cosmetics are chemical-free AND not tested on animals, always buy from dedicated organic or cruelty-free companies such as LUSH or The Body Shop.

Looking for More Eco-Friendly Info?

If you’re eager for more tips on how to “greenify” your life, why not take a look at our living with less infographic? Also be sure to check out these fantastic websites:

Let’s help make 2014 a more eco-conscious year, Green Monsters!

Image Source: D. Sharon Pruitt/Flickr