As a year-end tradition, many of us will take time this week to grab a pen or a keyboard and write down resolutions for the New Year. While it’s a good time to reflect on the gifts that our Great Lakes give us every day—clean water, fresh air, good food—it’s also a good time to resolve to give back together. There are many resolutions that we can make to help keep the lakes great, but which ones can make a big impact? How can we inspire each other to have a sustainable 2012? A few small changes in our actions can mean big changes for the environment. Here are some green ideas to get you started:

Try meatless Mondays. This worldwide movement encourages us to get creative in the kitchen while we help the planet, because meat takes a lot of energy and water to reach our tables. We can take a big bite out of our food’s environmental impacts by choosing to replace meat once a week with seasonal, local produce or Right Bite-approved fish. Feel a little daunted by cooking without meat? Have meatless Monday potlucks!

Take a hike. Or a bike. Besides being good for the planet, walking and biking are great for our health and our budgets. Try leaving the car at home one day each week. If being carless for a full day isn’t possible, look for opportunities to walk, bike, or take a bus for errands and weekend outings.

Wait six months. The demand for the newest version of electronics keeps growing, but many phones and e-readers wind up in landfills or recycling centers around the world. By holding onto our electronics for a little bit longer, we’re reducing the waste stream and conserving natural resources. When it is time to replace a computer, phone, or other electronic device, look for e-waste recyclers that meet internationally-recognized standards, such as R2/RIOS (Responsible Recycling/Recycling Industry Operating Standard).

Ask big questions. Maybe you’ve always wanted to know if it’s possible to find more environmentally friendly electronics. Or you’d like to know why there’s so much debate about how to meet our world’s energy needs. Make this the year that you become a sustainability detective. With a little digging at the library, in school or online, you can find answers to the sustainability questions that you have and share what you learn with family and friends.

Together, we all can do a lot to make 2012 a great year for the Great Lakes. What green resolutions will you make?

—Posted by Meg Matthews, sustainability coordinator