4 New Year’s resolutions for a more sustainable lifestyle

15 January 2020

Perhaps more than any other time, New Year pushes us to think about our impact on the world around us. Gathered together with friends and loved ones, we look back on the year we’ve led, take stock of what we did and didn’t do, and resolve together to make the next year count.

Whether you’re still working on last year’s resolutions or starting fresh, set yourself up for success. Pick what you can do and see it through before putting more on your plate. Don’t try to do everything at once. You could overwhelm yourself, and you might wind up not making any changes.

If you want to do your part for the planet in 2020 and beyond, here are several sustainable lifestyle resolutions for the days that lie ahead.

1) Waste less

If you want to make sustainable lifestyle choices for the coming year, a great way to start formulating your resolutions is to focus on wasting less. Too much waste leads to an excess of resource extraction, pollution due to processing and refining materials like plastic, and the environmental issues of waste disposal, including greenhouse gas emissions.

Opt for reusable products
Make this one a sustainable daily habit. One simple way to reduce the amount of waste you generate is to purchase, and regularly use, reusable products. If you have a daily coffee or tea habit, invest in a reusable cup and fill it up each day instead of acquiring, and disposing of, a waxed paper cup each day.

Compost what you can
Food waste is a huge problem, and it’s often not necessary. Sure, you might not be able to get through all of your produce before it spoils, and even if you did, there’s not always a culinary use for certain fruit and vegetable remains. Don’t put them in a landfill. Start a home composting project to naturally recycle food scraps in your own yard.

2) Eat more

OK, OK. Before you get too excited, this New Year’s resolution for sustainable living is not meant to undo any other health-related goals you might have. You shouldn’t eat more of just anything. You should eat more of the good, environmentally friendly stuff, and, in fact, there are some foods you should probably eat less often.

Eat more of your own food
That home compost bin is a handy way to get started replacing any green space around your home with edible plants and gardens. Eat as much of your own fresh food as you can. Not only is it healthy, but it brings your food miles down to zero and requires fewer resources than industrial farming, processing and packaging operations.

Buy more local, organic, and sustainable whole foods
It’s not realistic to imagine you’ll go from zero to self-reliant overnight for your grocery needs, even if you’re an expert farmer who’s completely dedicated to it around the clock. The good news is, you can still make sustainable shopping choices. Look for local, organic, sustainably grown and harvested foods at your farmer’s market or grocery store. Try to buy less processed and packaged foods, too.

Eat less meat and fewer animal products
Meat can have a hefty environmental impact, and the industry contributes to climate change more than other types of agriculture. If you want to make sustainable lifestyle choices for your diet, one strong resolution is to cut back on the meat. When you do buy meat and animal products, look for grass-fed, local, humanely raised goods.

3) Travel wisely

A popular New Year’s resolution is to travel more. People want to enrich their lives by setting out to see more of this big, beautiful planet we all share. That’s a great goal, and sustainable lifestyle resolutions can focus on travelling plans that preserve the world’s beauty, too.

Think about when, and how, you fly
The global airline industry contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. If you’re travelling domestically, it’s worth considering whether you have to fly or if other transportation options are available. If you do have to fly, say if you’re journeying abroad, carefully consider the environmental policies of your chosen airline. They’re not all the same. Consider purchasing carbon offset credits for your flight, too. That’s one of many ways to invest in the planet.

Mix up your commute
Of course, most people rack up the majority of their miles going to and from work every day. A lot of us drive alone in private cars both ways for our daily commute. If public transit is available in your area, consider working that into your routine as well. If the weather permits it, you could try getting to work on your bicycle for a zero-emission ride. Even without taking any of these other steps, occasionally carpooling with co-workers can reduce your overall emissions.

4) Form a squad

New Year’s resolutions are typically about personal growth and self-improvement, but the best way to magnify the impact of your sustainable lifestyle is to bring others into the fold. You have influence over your environment, and you can get involved to bring about greater change than you could accomplish alone.

Form, or join, a sustainability committee at your job
Change can come from the actions of everyday people. Starting, or signing up for, a sustainability committee at your office or work site could be a great, low-stakes way to start thinking through ways to make a difference at a larger scale. You’ll impact your office and gain organising skills.

Volunteer for an environmental organisation
There are sustainability organisations operating at local, federal and global levels that could use your support. You don’t have to wait until retirement to become a climate activist. Start today. This can be a good New Year’s resolution that’s easy to maintain. The outside structure will push you to remain engaged, and discussing environmental issues with like-minded peers will inspire you to take on other sustainability efforts in your personal life, too.

New Year’s resolutions are about being responsible for the choices you make all year. Make sure you invest responsibly throughout the year, too.

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