A lot was done this year to create awareness about the climate emergency we all face. Better policies were formulated in various corners of the business and government sectors, crowds participated in climate protests and more consumers began to pay attention to what they buy.
More than all these though, a lot more people have begun to inquire about what little ways they can help to reduce their impact on our planet; how they can lead more sustainable lifestyles to help save our environment. Well, truth be told there is really no hard and fast rules because there are lots of approaches to adopt, and each person has a unique set of requirements, goals, desires and barriers.
However we’ve curated this sustainable list of month-long lifestyle actions, 12 in total, that you can implement to help you minimise your environmental impact in 2020:
January: Create a capsule wardrobe and stick to it for as long as you can.
The concept of a capsule wardrobe is more than just for minimalist lifestyle practitioners. It is firmly entrenched in the practice of sustainable living because, it represents a shift in thinking about how we wear clothes; about how we create new outfits with fewer, much loved items, and this shift in turn inspires positive change in our consumption habits.
So pick out a day this January to sort through your wardrobe. Select your basic pieces, work out various styling techniques for them and stick to your arrangement for at least the first quarter of the year.
February: Go grocery shopping with your own storage jars and bags.
By devoting an entire month to bringing your own storage jars and produce bags, you can easily reduce your chances of accepting single-use plastic bags and thus tackle your plastic footprint. Food packaging makes up a large portion of weekly waste, so this month, bring your own storage jars and bags and say no to disposable plastic.
March: Take steps to curb your carbon footprint.
The surge in greenhouse gas levels due to human activity is having negative serious environmental and human health impacts around the globe. So for March, make a concerted effort to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by doing one or more of the following:
- refuse to drive your car (if you have one) and choosing instead to walk, bike, take the bus or carpool;
- embrace the no-fly movement for the month and forgoing any air travel or choosing lower impact modes of transport such as trains and buses;
- switch to green electricity or invest in solar panels;
- plant some greens in and around your home as plants absorb carbon dioxide;
- eat a plant-based diet;
- ensure your money is clean and not funding fossil fuels by switching over to a responsible bank, ethical superannuation fund (retirement fund) and divesting from coal, oil and gas companies and investing in clean energy; and
- when shopping online, choose to shop from an online store that uses carbon-neutral shipping methods.
April: Celebrate Earth Day every day.
People are generally inclined to protect the environment when they’ve formed a connection with it, so start by going outdoors and appreciating nature on your own and with your loved ones. Here are a few ways you can connect with Mother Nature on a daily basis:
- Go for a leisurely morning walk alone or with friends around your local park or beach (and pick up some litter along the way while you’re at it)
- Earth out by taking your shoes off and walking barefoot in your backyard or local park or beach
- Plant a herb garden or veggie patch and make time each day to tend to it
- Go hiking at a national park
- Enjoy a camping trip over a weekend with your significant other, family or friends
- Go surfing at the local beach
- Enjoy dinner outside and watch the stars twinkle
- Have a picnic or barbecue at the park after work or on the weekend (remember your reusables and no disposables!)
Sometimes, the best thing we can do for Mother Earth is to be grateful for the gift of fresh air, water and wildlife, and be open to the natural beauty the she alone can give.
May: Say no to meat.
Meat consumption ranks high among the most popular eco-unfriendly habits across the globe. Red meat is especially worrisome here, consuming a lot more water and producing four to five times more emissions than its poultry counterparts.
So this May, why not take things to a new level by cutting rid of meat from your diet for the month, or at the very least, by cutting down on your intake of meat. Consider signing up to the No Meat May Challenge and receive tips and tricks to help you with your month off meat. You don’t have to become a vegetarian, what’s important is that you take a step here no matter how little.
Need some helpful plant-based cookbooks? Check out nutritionist and plant-based influencer Ellie Bullen’s cookbooks Elsa’s Wholesome Life and the The Global Vegan. We also recommend cookbooks written by Ella Mills Woodward aka Deliciously Ella and particularly The Plant-Based Cookbook: 100 Simple Vegan Recipes to Make Every Day Delicious.
June: Pick up trash and participate in a beach cleanup.
When trash gets into the oceans, it becomes problematic for marine life and aquatic animals, and damages habitat. Microplastic can easily be mistaken for food and improperly disposed plastic bags when consumed by fish and sea creatures can lead to starvation and death.
In June, make it a point each day to pick up trash you see on your walks, at work, on nature strips. Commit to protecting our oceans by participating in a beach cleanup as many times as you can this month. It is one simple way you can help make our waters cleaner and safer.
July: Sign up to a Plastic-Free July.
This month is all about the Plastic-Free July campaign. Commit to minimising your single-use plastic footprint by saying no to disposable straws, coffee cups, plastic bags, and bring your reusables. Check out our post ‘20 Items That Should Be On Your Zero Waste List‘ if you want help in your mission to save the planet from drowning in plastic!
August: Commit to no food waste.
About one-third of all food produced globally – 1.3 billion tonnes of food worth $1 trillion – is wasted every year (along with the non-renewable resources such as oil and gas used in production) and when food rots in landfill it generates a potent greenhouse gas called methane, so curbing food waste is essential to living more sustainably.
To reduce food waste and avoid sending to landfill, plan meals in advance and buy only what you need, take leftovers to work, and compost scraps. You could also give away excess meals to friends and people in your neighborhood. Choose what works for you and stick to it.
For comprehensive tips to assist you in curbing food waste, read this post.
September: Buy second-hand.
Oxfam’s campaign ‘Second Hand September’ was launched this year to highlight the negative impact of fast fashion and encourage people to refrain from shopping new. The campaign was a hit, with the hashtag used 49,000 times on Instagram alone.
So for the month of September, instead of buying new, buy second-hand and shop at thrift stores, op-shops, garage sales and online stores such as eBay and sites such as ThredUp, Depop, Vinted, The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective for preloved fashion. By shopping second-hand, you’ll help to reduce demand for virgin resources, make use of items that would otherwise be wasted and you’ll save money too.
October: Buy nothing new.
If you’ve completed September’s challenge, lucky you gets to graduate to a greater eco challenge– October’s Buy Nothing New Challenge. For this month, avoid buying things you don’t need, and if you must, by second hand, rent clothing, swap or borrow. We’ve covered the Buy Nothing New monthly challenge in great detail many times over the years, so check out this post if you need help to keep those consumer cravings and shopaholic tendencies in check.
November: Daily acts of kindness.
Brace yourself for a burgeoning inbox of useless junk e-mail courtesy of brands flogging their Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Green Weekend, Fair Friday blah-blah sales emails; this month should really be called Consumerism Month, 30-days of non-stop retail pressure to get consumers to buy things they don’t really need. In this consumer society, we think of fashion and consumer products as disposable, which explains why heaps of clothing and cheap consumables still end up in landfill; a result of our insatiable appetite for novelty shaped by advertising, media and neoliberalism. This rampant materialist attitude is unsustainable.
So here’s where to focus your attention instead: Boycott Black Friday (and all other sales) and use what limited time, energy and money you have on practicing random acts of kindness each and every day. Whether that’s using a toll and paying for the vehicle after you; donating to a charity; buying food for a homeless person; volunteering your time for a good cause; shooting a thank you email to an acquaintance or friend; or checking in on someone you haven’t spoken to or seen in a while; sending those positive vibes out there can help to rebuild a society that has lost itself in mindless consumerism.
(Note: if you absolutely have to take advantage of the sales because you are preparing for Christmas and partake in gift-giving, make sure to get only the products you really, really need and love.)
December: Go zero waste, including your Christmas celebration.
If you’ve been ticking off each monthly challenge, you should now have the skills and abilities to undertake a 31-Day Zero Waste Challenge, where you draw on the knowledge and experiences you’ve gained over the year and say no to plastic, bring your reusables, compost instead of sending food scraps and waste to landfill.
If you feel like you need more tools in your zero waste toolkit, check out the following zero waste books:
- Zero Waste: Simple Life Hacks to Drastically Reduce Your Trash by Shia Su
- Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson
- 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg
- Waste Not Everyday: Simple Zero-Waste Inspiration 365 Days a Year by Erin Rhoads
- A Zero Waste Life in Thirty Days by Anita Vandyke
Now what makes this month’s eco challenge more challenging is that you also have to contend with Christmas; a season of joy and merriment but which also accounts for a large degree of waste across the globe. So this year, prepare to host a zero waste Christmas celebration. You can do this by reusing decorations, buying a second-hand tree, cooking vegan, gifting experiences or adopting any one of the skills you’ve learned throughout the year such as choosing plastic-free and composting scraps.
Now this is not an exhaustive list of how you can lead a more sustainable lifestyle come 2020. There are many other simple ways you can be sustainable in the upcoming year but the vital thing is that you plan your year ahead. Set sustainable goals for yourself and when you achieve them, we hope you share your successes here with us and tag us in on social media when celebrating your progress!
- 30 Things You Can Do If You’re Feeling Helpless About Climate Change
- 10 Money-Saving Zero Waste Swaps for the Budget-Conscious this Earth Day
- 20 Steps to Plastic-Free Living
- Daily Sustainable Habits: 7 Ways You Can Reduce Your Waste
- Bringing Frugality Back: Why Living Frugally is More Sustainable
- Concerned About The UN Climate Report? Take These Sustainable Actions Today…
- Individuals in the Developed World Consume More of the Earth’s Resources. Here’s How to Consume Less…
Title image via Anita Austvikia via Unsplash.