Good New Year’s resolutions as the first step to improving our quality of life

Yet another year has ended with many promises still unfulfilled regarding the environment we live in but with the city still bearing signs of its Olympic facelift, although some of the new trees and shrubs are thirsty for winter rains. A somewhat improved transport and road system is making it easier for people to leave their cars at home – at least some people, some of the time. Most of us – even those in power – are not always in a position to do as much as we would like to better the world around us, but with the dawn of the new year, we all like to feel we can make a fresh start in some small way. Kathimerini English Edition asked a number of people working in the environment sector for their New Year’s resolutions regarding what they themselves would like to do to make a difference in their own corner of the world, in their own lives. Some, like Deputy Environment Minister Stavros Kaloyiannis, have a head start – not only does he eat organically produced food but he makes it himself: «I plan to offer my friends some of my own production of organic goat’s cheese, to encourage them to look for more quality in the food they eat.» Apart from trying to make Athens greener and cleaner as part of her job, and in her own office by recycling paper and avoiding waste, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis also realizes the importance of focusing on more environmentally friendly means of transport. «One of my numerous New Year’s resolutions is to convince Athenians – and that includes my family and my staff – that they should leave their cars at home and take the bus, train, tram or trolley-bus. I am extremely happy to see that hundreds of thousands of Athenians are making good use of our newly upgraded public transport network. However, I still believe it has a long way to go before it reaches its full potential.» Demetres Karavellas, director of WWF Greece, will be focusing on saving energy in his home. «I already make an effort to ‘practice what I preach’ in my personal life. We recycle at home, we eat organic food, we have our own little compost heap, and we use non-toxic cleaning products and travel by metro wherever possible. There is still more I could do. My resolution for 2005 is this – I will try and become a ‘climate saver’ through reducing energy consumption at home. We all have a responsibility in reducing our ecological footprint on this planet – let’s do it.» Angelos Moschonas, Athens deputy mayor, responsible for the city’s greenery, wants to encourage householders to do their bit. «What we can do for ourselves and for the city is fill our balconies with plants. It is a real contribution to the city – both aesthetically and environmentally, as plants help clean the atmosphere. As for the choice, the ‘best’ plants are those each person likes best. It’s a matter of taste.» Anna Katsarou-Kakoulaki, the agronomist responsible for the transformation of green spaces in Rendi Municipality using organic principles, also visits local schools to get children involved in greening their districts: «I would like to make more time to try and reach more people, not just schoolchildren but older people, about the importance of realizing that we humans do not rule the planet but are part of it, and whatever we do to harm it, also harms ourselves. If everyone realized that, the planet would have a better future.» Jennifer Gay, landscape architect, gardener and author of «Greece: Garden of the Gods,» is concerned about water shortages. «I would love to buy a ‘gray water’ recycling unit for garden use. Basically, it is a tank fitted into the plumbing that can take all gray water (that is, water from the shower, bathroom and kitchen sinks, the washing machine – everything except the toilet basically) and clean it to provide water suitable for using in the garden. They are available in Greece – I found some ( in a brochure at a horticultural show in Athens recently.» Makis Aperghis, general secretary of the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, wants to get more engaged in environmental activism: «I will try to persuade the Greek government to wake up from its overextended hibernation and do something about protecting the natural environment of our country before there is nothing left to protect.» The staff of ECO, Kathimerini’s monthly environmental magazine, are used to reporting on other people’s efforts but also practice some of what they preach. «I would like to try and use public transport more often. At the moment, I drive to and from work because it only takes 35 minutes compared to 55 minutes on the train, but still I think I can restrict the less necessary trips by car and also use public transport to go to places where it is more convenient, for example, where it is difficult to park,» said Manina Danou. «I recycle at home but I would like to find a practical way to encourage my friends to do it too,» is Georgia Zavitsanou’s resolution. Alexandra Mandrakou wants to try and include more organic food in her diet. «It’s a question of organization really, because I usually shop on Saturday morning for specific things and it’s easier to go to the nearest supermarket. At the moment, I only go out to find organic products when I have more free time.» «I already eat only organic food,» says Iphigenia Virvidaki, «and I don’t have a car – I have a motorcycle and am thinking of getting rid of it and getting a bicycle, as the motorbike is very old and belches out black smoke. Although the thought of riding a bicycle home at night from work is a bit of a problem, I think it is matter of habit.» As for the rest of us – a small start after the holidays would be to NOT toss out used Christmas trees onto the sidewalks – get out the secateurs and cut them up into little pieces to use as mulch for gardenias – you will see more flowers next summer.