Photo of Senator Cohen.

State Senator

Christine Cohen

Representing Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison & North Branford

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New Year's Energy Challenge

As I take time to reflect upon the past year, I realize how much I have learned. I have enthusiastically jumped in (admittedly, sometimes my eagerness was disguise for anxiety of the unknown) to all things new, and looked upon each learning as a gift. To that end, I could not have asked for a better role than to chair the Environment Committee. There is no doubt, we are in the midst of a climate crisis, but the more I delved in and studied, the more I recognized our ability to make meaningful change. There are so many things, big and small, that can make a difference as we think about climate action, but I am so far from doing all of the right things. So, as we enter a new decade, I want to challenge myself to live a better life. Rather than promising myself that I’ll workout more or eat healthier (which I also intend to do and hope it lasts more than a few days), I am going to make a commitment to the Earth, to our country and to this beautiful state. I am going to make a commitment for our children and our children’s children. I am going to make some changes to move towards a more sustainable, climate-conscious lifestyle. Will you take the challenge with me? 

There are so many important steps that we can take to reduce our carbon footprint, ranging from major investments in new technology, to small changes in our everyday behavior.

Purchasing an electric car is one way to significantly lessen your impact on the natural world. Transportation makes up nearly one third of the United States' carbon emissions each year, and the vast majority of those emissions come from private automobiles. While I’m not financially ready to make this leap, I will be working towards it in 2020.

Our homes take up an immense amount of energy as well, between heating, lighting, and powering our appliances. Installing solar panels or geothermal heating/cooling technology can significantly reduce both carbon emissions and electricity bills for a household. 

Still, buying an electric car or installing new technology in your home is an expensive investment. If you are building a new home, undergoing renovations or in the market for a new vehicle, consider these options. However, if you are not there yet, below you will find some things that can be done everyday in 2020 to reduce carbon footprints and live a more sustainable life. 


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Reduce

The first way to lessen environmental impact is to reduce the amount of energy and materials that we use to begin with. The small habits below allow us to consume less electricity and create less waste without significantly altering how we live our lives. 

  • Hang clothes to dry after washing
  • Use wool dryer balls to dry clothes on a shorter cycle
  • Go paperless by using your phone or computer rather than printing out materials or request bank and credit card statements via email
  • Compost your food waste (and look here for information on what to compost and how)
  • Buy materials in bulk, including food, household cleaning items (see below on making your own environmentally friendly cleansers), and toiletries
  • Bring your own water bottle to work, in the car, or anywhere else you go, rather than purchasing single-use plastic bottles
  • Skip balloons on birthdays and other events 
  • Use natural cleaners on your kitchen and bathroom surfaces
  • Try beeswax wrap instead of tin foil or plastic wrap
  • Collect rainwater to water houseplants or the garden
  • Take fewer and shorter showers
  • Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth
  • Say “no, thank you” to the straw when dining out
  • Conserve electricity and use LED bulbs where possible

Carbon Reduction

There are some specific habits that we can develop to make getting places more carbon efficient. These include:

  • Ride-sharing, either with friends and colleagues or with an app with carpool features
  • Use public transportation
  • Ride your bicycle or walk whenever possible
  • Do not let your car idle when stopped (a max of 3 minutes is the law)

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Reuse/Recycle

While reducing our consumption is a great place to start, there are some household items that we simply can't live without. Still, being smart about how we use, reuse, and recycle our everyday products can make a big difference. 

  • Bring reusable bags to the grocery store (thanks to our plastic bag ban, we are getting really good at this!)
  • Redeem deposited containers like soda and beer cans at the grocery store or a redemption center rather than placing them in the blue bin
  • “Upcycle" used materials into new crafts to make furniture, toys, decor and more
  • Buy clothes from consignment shops whenever possible and donate old, used clothing rather than throwing it away
  • Use cloth napkins and towels instead of paper - even bits of old t-shirts or towels can be turned into rags and washed
  • Use silverware instead of plastic utensils

Proper Disposal

Most people know how to recycle plastic bottles, newspapers, and other everyday items. Some items are a bit more complicated to recycle, but doing so can make a huge difference. There is special information available to help us properly dispose of these items:

  • Smoke detectors
  • Paint
  • Batteries
  • Ink cartridges

One important item that is not on this extensive list, but is a priority of mine for 2020, is buying local. Making sure we are sourcing our fruits, vegetables and meats from Connecticut farms significantly reduces carbon emissions, helps our agricultural community and promotes a green economy. 

While no one is perfect, and as I mull over this list realize how very far from a good environmentalist I really am, I do know that every little bit helps. So, while a healthier you is an important resolution for the new year, consider joining me to create a healthier Connecticut and a better environment for future generations to come. Let me know, by commenting on my social media post, what changes you intend to make in the coming year. I hope you’ll see this challenge as fun, and as filled with potential, as I do!  Happy New Year!

For more information on how to lessen your environmental impact in your everyday life, visit:
the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection website.

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