New year = new you! Although it can sound a bit cliche, the new year is a really wonderful time to set your intentions and take on new challenges: especially when it comes to sustainable living! No matter where you are on your eco journey, there are always ways to grow and develop your habits and routine. Below, we’ll share some of our favorite sustainability resolutions for the year, starting with some simpler ones – and moving on to more challenging ones!
Say “No” To Single Use
When it comes to sustainable living, one of the most important (and easiest!) things you can do is reduce the amount of single-use items in your life – especially plastic! To start, we suggest you do an audit of what single use items you and your family use the most, both in the home and on-the-go. To make it simple, write out what these items are – and begin to research reusable, eco-friendly alternatives. If you often find yourself using plastic straws, invest in glass or metal straws that can be washed and used again and again! If you buy plastic water bottles, swap to a reusable water bottle (and maybe a water filter, if needed!) Q-tips, produce bags, saran wrap, Ziploc bags, grocery bags…. Whatever it is that creates waste in your life, swap it out for something reusable!
Ditch Fast Fashion
Fact: clothing production is the 3rd biggest manufacturing industry after the automatic and tech industries. Textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined! Plus, the “fast fashion” industry results in thousands of tons of textiles entering our landfills each year, and oftentimes relies on garment workers being paid well below a living wage. This year, make a resolution to not purchase any fast fashion clothing – and if you do need clothing, shop secondhand or with ethical companies. If something you already own has a hole, or doesn’t fit anymore, try to mend it yourself or go to a seamstress to modify the piece so it works for you again.
Every year, countless books, documentaries, research articles, movies, and TV shows come out around past and current environmental issues and topics. This year, make a commitment to yourself to check out 1 new piece of content a month (The EarthHero Library is a great place to start!). This will help you continue to learn and grow through your eco journey and stay on top of current environmental issues. Plus, it will give you new topics and conversation starters with your friends, family, and community members!
Your laundry routine may feel somewhat mundane – but there’s a lot you can do to make it more eco-friendly, while saving energy and money! Let’s start with the washing. Switch from plastic packaged laundry deodorant to non-toxic laundry powder, soap nuts, or another zero waste alternative. To combat microfiber pollution from synthetic textiles, opt for a microplastic catching ball like the Cora Ball, or the Guppyfriend bag. Plus, use cold water in the wash to save energy! When it’s time to try, we suggest to hang dry – it preserves the life of your clothing, and reduces shrinking. If hang drying isn’t in the cards for you or doesn’t work for a specific clothing item, tumble dry with reusable wool dryer balls instead of single-use laundry sheets. For spots, use a zero waste spot stick instead of a plastic packaged stain stick.
Try to DIY
An amazing way to save money AND reduce waste is to DIY! You can DIY cleaning solutions, nut milk, decor and home essentials, and soooo much more. The possibilities are endless! We suggest taking a look at things you often use and pay for, and seeing if it’s possible to make it yourself. If you drink nut milk, try to make your own using a nut milk bag! It will save money, and you won’t have to worry about disposing the milk container. For cleaning solutions, you can use simple ingredients like essential oils, vinegar, isopropyl alcohol, baking soda, and more to create effective and non-toxic cleaning products in reusable containers. We suggest hopping on Pinterest or doing a quick Google search for recipes that work for you!
Use 100% “Clean” Cleaning Products
If DIY cleaning isn’t your jam, there are still ways to reinvent your cleaning routine for the new year. Replace plastic-packaged cleaning products that often contain toxic chemicals with green cleaning products that are packaged in recyclable cardboard, glass, or other eco-packaging. Looking for products that are paraben, phthalate, sulfate, and SLS free is a great way to start!
Reuse + Upcycle
Reduce, reuse, recycle – they’re the core pillars of sustainability for a reason! This year, make your sustainability resolution to reuse and upcycle more. Reusing is all about extending the lifespan of the things you use, using them again and again until they’re no longer functional. When something’s no longer able to be reused, try to upcycle it! Upcycling means transforming an object into something new to further extend its life. For example, if you use a glass jar of pasta sauce, upcycle the container into a drinking glass afterwards! There are so many ways to reuse and upcycle things you already have in your life – get creative and have fun with it!
Change your Grocery Routine
What does your grocery routine look like? Make a sustainability resolution to transform it to be as zero waste, sustainable, and mindful as possible! This includes the bags you use, the products you buy, and where you buy those products. Swap the single-use plastic shopping bags at the store for reusable bags you bring in yourself. Replace single-use plastic produce bags for reusable produce bags made from cotton or rPET. When at the store, look for products that come with minimal plastic packaging, instead opting for cardboard, paper, or glass. For meat and cheese, go straight to the butcher – and bring your own containers for them to package it in. If available to you, shop for produce at your local farmer’s market, and get grains and other bulk products at a bulk store (and bring your own bags!)
This one is pretty simple: cook more! By cooking more meals in your own kitchen, you can save money and reduce the amount of plastic that comes with getting food delivered or picking up takeout. Plus, it’s usually healthier! We suggest starting this habit by making a list of meals that you and your family like to eat, and creating a “master grocery list” of the ingredients you’ll need to make those meals every month. When it’s time to cook, prepare to cook a few extra portions (just the right amount to salvage some extra meals without creating unnecessary food waste!), and save those portions for later in reusable containers. Then you can take these with you for on-the-go meals, reducing the amount of food you’ll have to purchase while out!
Plant a Pollinator Garden
If you have the space and ability, make 2021 all about planting a pollinator garden! This means a garden that has plants that provide pollen and nectar to pollinators like bees and butterflies, which are crucial for biodiversity and the continuation of a variety of plants we need. Start by choosing plants that are native to your region – and flowers that are nectar-rich and pollen-rich. Diversity is the most important thing in a pollinator garden! And don’t forget to get some larval host plants like milkweed to attract caterpillars. Your new garden will benefit pollinators, look beautiful, and be a fun project for you and your family!
This year, commit to volunteering more! Not only is volunteering meaningful for your community, but it will connect you with other like-minded people who care about the planet. There are a ton of amazing places to volunteer – look for ones that stand out to you! Park or beach cleanups are wonderful, as are opportunities to share education, like volunteering with a school! Get your friends and family involved – the more the merrier. This sustainability resolution is all about connecting with others, and doing good. Make a commitment to do something once a month!
Be an Activist
If you want to take your community involvement to the next level, try activism! Get involved with your local government and advocate for improvements in your community. Attend rallies, hang posters, and campaign for change. Find activist organizations near you, and reach out to them. Call your local representatives, or start a petition! Start by thinking about what initiatives matter to you, and then dive into ways you can make meaningful change.
Get into Composting
There are two ways to compost: with your own home compost, or with help from your city’s industrial compost. If you have space in your backyard for a home compost pile or compost turner, this is an awesome option – but is slightly more time consuming. If you have access to compost pickup that goes to an industrial composting facility, or the ability to drop off compost at a nearby industrial facility, this is also great! Find which way you want to go, and get started. No matter which one you choose, start by getting a countertop compost bin to collect scraps while you cook. Fill it with veggie scraps, paper towels and paper scraps, and other compostable materials. If living with family or roommates, print out a helpful compost guide! Composting is an amazing way to reduce your food waste, and keep compostable materials out of our landfills.
Reduce your Carbon Footprint
Our final sustainability resolution: reduce your carbon footprint! There are a million ways to reduce your carbon footprint, so you can customize this as you choose. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that absorbs and radiates heat, and is linked to global warming and climate change. By reducing human made carbon emissions, we can play a meaningful role in climate change. Some ways to reduce your carbon footprint include: drive your car less (or take public transportation, or bike!), use cruise control on long car drives, reduce your home air conditioning usage, pay to offset your carbon emissions with something like Terrapass, or even get renewable energy for your home! Research things that you can do with your lifestyle, and implement them.
We’re so excited for 2021, and we hope you are too! To ensure your sustainability resolutions hold strong in the new year, set yourself up for success. Only pick a few that you are passionate about, and can successfully implement, and dedicate yourself to those. Get your friends, family, and community involved to make it easier and more fun. And good luck! What are your sustainability resolutions for 2021? Let us know in the comments!