A couple of days ago I was speaking with a friend and asked if she had picked a new year’s resolution.
She explained that she had stopped committing to one and explained that for her, it was a sure-fire way to failure and feelings of guilt.
I hadn’t actually considered this perspective… but I understand it. For gung-ho action-oriented people like me, new year’s resolutions represent goals that can be accomplished.
But for some people, like my friend, new year’s resolutions can cause negative feelings like anxiety. They don’t want to set definitive guidelines for the year ahead as the feelings of stress, pressure and expectation to achieve can weigh on them heavily.
Howard Zinn once stated: “We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
So if you don’t do new year’s resolutions, it’s perfectly okay. Each day provides new opportunities to make small changes and better choices.
Here are 30 easy ways to incorporate sustainability into your lifestyle without the restriction of new year’s resolutions:
Use (and raise) your voice
1. Encourage the green movement by talking to your friends and family about sustainability issues. Even if you only influence just one other person to reduce their environmental footprint, it will have been worth it.
2. Participate in sustainability discussions online, whether on social media, in a discussion forum or commenting on blogs and websites.
3. Promote sustainable causes by sharing articles and campaign links on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Sharing is caring.
4. Start your own blog to get your own personal views and environmental message “out there”.
5. Write letters to the editors of local and major newspapers and publications to share your green message. Hopefully they pick it up, publish it or even report on the issues you’ve raised.
Get the “fast” out of fashion
6. Get real about your feelings about shopping and “retail therapy”. Why exactly are you shopping? Do you shop when you’re feeling down; or feeling unloved? By getting to the bottom of these questions, you may get some insight to your behaviour and perhaps seek help in managing your emotions, if need be.
7. Reduce the number of shopping trips you take. Women take an average of 301 shopping trips per year and will spend eight years going shopping, as reported by the Daily Mail. Imagine how much waste and money you save if you do this.
8. Focus on buying less but buying better, more ethical, more sustainable. We own way too many clothing items and many just sit in our wardrobes and drawers gathering dust. Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—in other words, items they don’t need. Then the average American throws out 65 pounds (approx. 30 kilograms) of clothing each year.
9. Instead of buying new, why not shop used fashion from charity shops, thrift shops and eBay? You can even browse second-hand fashion through apps such as Carousell.
10. Consider how often you wash your clothes and try to reduce the frequency. While your intimates will need to be washed regularly, some clothing items such as jeans can be worn up to 10 times without needing to be washed. If there are stains on jeans, you can just go over with a damp cloth.
11. Before buying a fashion item, ask yourself – do you really need it? (Seriously, do you?)
Get your green thumb on
12. Instead of buying herbs, why not grow some? They don’t require much space to grow and you will always have fresh herbs when you need them. Grow a herb garden indoors using old bowls, vases or even tinned cans or you can do what I do and have a kitchen garden devoted to herbs such as oregano, thyme, chives, rosemary, parsley and basil and other edible plants such as spring onion.
13. Compost your food scraps instead of throwing them out in the rubbish as it will end up in landfill and believe it or not, turns into methane a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide due to its power to increase climate change.
14. If you live in an apartment building, get together with some of your neighbours and agree on recycling food scraps and turning it into compost. It turns into organic matter that you can all use for your indoor herb gardens or apartment community garden.
15. For meat eaters: Try to reduce the amount of meat you eat, each day, week, month. You can start with Meat-Free Mondays (a global campaign to encourage people to reduce meat consumption) you will also find lots of inspiration and recipe ideas too.
16. Say no to caged-eggs and factory-farmed chicken, pork (bacon) and other questionably farmed food options. Choose ethical and greener food options.
17. Increase your trips to the farmer’s markets. By building your relationship with local food suppliers and producers, you will get to learn more about how your produce is grown and how your meat is raised.
18. Purchase organic food where you can. Food that is grown with no synthetic pesticides and fertilisers is better for you and better for the environment.
19. Avoid processed foods and increase your intake of whole foods. Eating a predominantly plant-based diet is much healthier for you. The sugars – particularly fructose – found in processed foods is increasingly being blamed for much of the health issues in the developed nations. Also the packaging that comes with processed foods means more waste. Even if packaging is recyclable, the process is still non-renewable energy dependant so reducing packaging is key.
20. Carpool, cycle, walk or use public transport to get to work. There are too many lone drivers on the road contributing to greenhouse gases and climate change. If you don’t have any other alternatives and must drive to work on your own, why not counteract this with planting for every solo trip you take?
21. Avoid printing emails and other documents if you don’t need to. Bring your laptop or tablets to reduce paper waste. Encourage a paperless environment.
22. Purchase recycled materials and supplies such as recycled printer paper and business cards.
23. Avoid single-use plastic whenever you can – straws, disposable cutlery, shrink-wrapped vegetables and shopping bags.
24. Bring your re-usable bags with you wherever you go – in case you make a last minute decision to stop at the grocery store or shops.
25. Take food containers with you to the deli, butcher or takeaway restaurant.
26. If you enjoy a coffee, reject disposable coffee cups and invest in a reusable one such as KeepCup. Make sure to take this with you each day (it’s easy to forget – I still do sometimes!)
27. Be careful when purchasing online as packages are often heavily wrapped with bubble wrap and other plastic packaging. Make sure to ask how items are wrapped and delivered before making an online purchase.
28. Seek out restaurants that have an ethical menu and/or greatly cater to vegetarians and vegans.
29. When ordering, make sure to ask where the produce and meat is from to help you choose the most sustainable options on the menu.
30. Choose beverages that are freshly made, organic and locally produced. Increasing numbers of restaurants are now stocking organic beer, wine and sparkling wine.
If you don’t want to commit to new year’s resolutions but want to still reduce environmental impact, which three items on this list will you implement?
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