Looking for ways to minimize your environmental impact and aren’t sure where to start? Here are some ideas for sustainable New Year’s Resolutions to get you going!
- Minimize waste in your kitchen OR bathroom. Focusing on one area of your home is a great place to start. Work on minimizing plastic, DIYing some things, and reducing your use of unnecessary items.
- Start carrying reusable utensils and/or straws, and refuse disposables.
- Focus on the perimeter of the store first when you go grocery shopping. The bulk and produce sections are usually on the outer edges of grocery stores and are a great place to start to avoid all the packaging of the middle aisles.
Swap one disposable for a reusable alternative. Some great options include:
- Utensils and straws -- Grab a set of reusable utensils and straws for on-the-go so you can refuse single-use plastics when you're out and about. There's no reason why you can't just bring a couple of utensils from home if you don't want to buy any!
- Paper towels -- Avoid these in both public restrooms and at home. Air dry your hands when you’re out and swap for cloth napkins and rags at home.
- Facial rounds -- You can get really cute and washable facial rounds so you don't have to keep hitting up Target for gigantic bags of the disposable stuff.
- Razors -- Get yourself a good ol’ fashioned safety razor or straight razor.
- Plastic bags -- Keep a tote or grocery bag handy everywhere you go for impromptu shopping and start using reusable bags for bulk items, produce, and other groceries.
- Eat less meat. Eating less meat and dairy is the number one way to reduce your carbon footprint, according to the most comprehensive analysis of the damage of the agricultural industry. Depending on how much meat and dairy you already eat, you could try doing a Meatless Monday, being Vegan Before 6 like author Mark Bittman, only eating meat on the weekends, only purchasing meat and dairy that’s ethically and sustainably produced, or just straight up going vegetarian or vegan, or participating in Veganuary! Check out our post on "A Case for Eating Less Meat" for a deeper dive into the topic!
- Switch up your commute. Instead of driving to work or school every day, try taking public transportation, carpooling, biking, e-scootering, or walking at least once a week! Or you can avoid a commute altogether by trying to work from home at least one extra day per week if your work allows.
- Start DIYing your own personal care, cleaning products, or food, like granola or pickled vegetables. Sign up for our newsletter to find out ways you can start making your own stuff that actually works and avoiding all that plastic waste! (Check out our shop for DIY containers and supplies for personal care products.)
- Look for bamboo, glass, and stainless steel alternatives to plastic packaging.
- Check secondhand first before buying new items. Or maybe limit yourself to buying one new thing for yourself every month and get anything else secondhand or DIY it yourself! This works well for clothing, personal care, home decor, etc. (In San Diego or Portland, check out our local vintage and secondhand clothing guides!)
- Curate a capsule wardrobe that will allow you to reduce the number of clothes in your closet, minimize your need to buy unnecessary new clothes, and simplify your life.
- Every time you visit a restaurant or store with excessive plastic packaging, write them an email or review asking for sustainable alternatives.
- Start composting! This can be done in a variety of settings, including apartments.
- Donate to organizations that are doing work to advocate for or conserve the environment. Some great options include the National Resources Defense Council, Ocean Conservancy, Ecotrust, or Union of Concerned Scientists. It’s also a great idea to look for local organizations working in your community like Environment Oregon or Environment California.
- Avoid food, cosmetics, cleaning products, and fuel with palm oil in the ingredient list. Palm oil is in A LOT of stuff, and it contributes to deforestation, climate change, human rights violations, and it's also not so great for our health. Or you may choose to buy items that use sustainably sourced palm oil, like these body soaps. (Check out our blog post on What to Do About Palm Oil for more info.)
- Prioritize shopping locally. Shopping local is a great way to reduce carbon emissions and grow your local economy.
- Avoid plastic to-go containers. Try cooking at home more often, and when you do get takeout, order "for here" and bring your own glass or stainless steel containers to take food home.
- Start carbon offsetting your travel. About 5% of global carbon emissions result from travel and tourism. By 2021, international airlines will have to do their own carbon offsetting, but until then neutralize the damage of your travel by supporting carbon offset projects.
- Choose organic whenever possible. Organic farming uses fewer resources, protects bees, prevents air and groundwater pollution, and increases biodiversity, which are all critical to sustainability in the truest sense of the word.
- Say no to fast fashion. We know what we all think of when we see someone touting "sustainable fashion," but gone are the days of crunchy hemp dresses and tie-dye. There are beautiful brands for every style, sensibility, and budget that minimize waste and carbon emissions, responsibly dispose of used resources, and go above and beyond to manufacture clothing to the highest ethical and environmental standards. Check out The Good Trade for lists of where to buy everything from shoes to underwear to jeans to wedding dresses. While you're at it, prioritize high quality, durable, timeless garments that will stand the test of time.
- Buy less food. How often do you order food at a restaurant to find that it's a bigger portion than you need? Or get a little too optimistic at the beginning of the week about how many times you'll be cooking at home? It's easy to end up with more food than you can eat and end up letting some go to waste. Make an effort to order smaller portions or split with a friend when you go out to eat. And if you have a habit of getting groceries that end up going bad, buy a little less than what you think you might need and stock up on pantry essentials with a longer shelf life like grains and pasta sauce to make a meal in a pinch.
- Use your power as a citizen and constituent to influence policies with environmental impacts. This year we were reminded of how important it is to vote, but between elections, you can wield your power as a member of your community to influence what's on your ballot. Sign up for Issue Voter to get alerted when Congress is going to vote on an issue you care about. Get involved with organizations that influence policy. Write letters or set up a meeting with your local, state, or federal elected officials (yes, they will meet with you because their job is technically serving you!) and let them know the issues that matter to you and why so they can better represent you! Learn how to get a measure on the ballot in your state and be an active part of the change! Follow along on Instagram for ideas on how to be a more active citizen this year!
- Conserve water. So much of the country has experienced drought in the last couple years that it makes it all the more urgent to be cognizant of our water usage. Minimize water consumption by finding ways to shorten your showers, install faucets and appliances that utilize less water, and adopt other habits for gardening and around the house that reduce water waste. Check out our blog post on 50 Ways to Waste Less Water for more tips!
- Focus on minimizing your digital carbon footprint by striving for inbox zero and regularly deleting unused photos and other files. Read 12 Easy Ways to Minimize Your Digital Carbon Footprint to learn more!
I know. So many cool challenges kind of makes you want to try them all, right? Our advice: try one at a time. It's totally ok to build better habits incrementally to help make them stick. But if you're pumped and ready for a New Year's overhaul, then all the power to ya! Either way, thank you for all your efforts to help our planet.
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-Alex Gamboa Grand