Sustainable Resolutions for the New Year

When entering a new year, there is a general association that resolutions should be created to ‘start the new year off on the right foot’ (so to speak). Although this sometimes does come off a bit cheesy, I do think we could all use some positive change after the fiasco 2020 has brought us. Some resolutions are difficult to fulfill right now due to COVID-19, as gyms, health clubs, sports clubs and other activity/experience spots are closed. However, there are lots of other resolutions you can make right from the comfort of your own home or office. Specifically, I want to focus on environmental resolutions! This type of resolution is often overlooked because it does not seem like it would be a ‘resolution,’ but we can all do more in our everyday lives to reduce our environmental impact.

Depending on your current level of environmental commitment, some items may seem small while others may seem extreme. Any commitment is better then no commitment at all, so there are no small resolutions.

New to the environmental scene:

If you are new to the environmental movement and want to start doing your part, there are lots of ‘low hanging fruit’ resolutions that you can take upon yourself to do. Here are just a few ideas of some changes you can make in 2021:

  1. Start Recycling (Properly)!

Maybe you are already doing this, or maybe you are not. Either way, it is time to start doing it – properly. Check with your local guidelines of how to properly recycle in your area, including plastics, cardboard and of course, food waste. The key to recycling is to ensure you are doing it correctly. Trying to recyclable unrecyclable items (often referred to as “wishcycling”) in any waste stream is counter productive. Read your local recycling guidelines and follow it. It may be tedious at first, but it will become second nature in no time.

  1. Swap One Disposal Item for a Reusable Alternative

For example, this item could be a straw, utensils, papertowel, plastic bags, water bottle – the options are endless. If you are ambitious, try swapping a few items this year.

  1. Try Incorporating “Meatless Monday” or Reducing Meat/Dairy Consumption

Any reduction in your consumption of meat and dairy can help to reduce your carbon footprint. There are lots of options that you can undertake to accomplish this. Maybe you only eat meat on weekends, incorporate “Meatless Mondays” (where you just choose not to eat meat on Mondays) or even try going vegan for 30 days – whatever works best for you and your lifestyle. When you do buy and consume meat and dairy, try to purchase from sustainable sources, when possible.

Moderate/Medium commitment to the environment already:

If you have made some adjustments in your life already but are looking to make some larger commitments this year – here are a few options for you:

  1. Say No to Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is every where and it is hard to escape or say no to low priced, trendy clothes – I get it! But if you create/build a time capsule closet (basically items that have ‘stood the test of time’ – think jeans for example), you will not have to buy as many clothes, but they will all be high quality, sustainable fashion. All it takes a quick “Sustainable Clothing Brands’ google to find a wide variety of clothes that fit every style.

  1. Prioritize Shopping Locally/Organic

Prioritize this but there is no need to make yourself crazy and exclusively shop in this manner. If you can every time, perfect! But buying locally sourced fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy can be hard sometimes depending on the season and where you live! If it is an option for you, try to buy organic when possible.

  1. Look for Second Hand Before Buying New

With new web applications popping up all the time, there is no reason to exhaust the ‘gently used’ market before pulling the trigger on a new purchase. There are all kinds of things on those apps and you can set alerts for items you are looking for. Not to mention good old thrift store hopping. It is a great way to reuse items people no longer want/need and save a few bucks in the process. Win-win!  

For the avid, experienced, environmentalist:

If you have already incorporated some of the above initiatives into your life and are looking to make a life altering resolution this year, these are a few that could make a big impact:

  1. Become Zero Waste

This is a tough one and it requires you to rethink a lot of things in your everyday life. Regular tasks need to be altered to accommodate this, such as, buying foods in bulk, making homemade items, and carrying around everyday items (straw, utensil, water bottle, etc). Any reduction of waste is beneficial, so do not feel pressured to go fully zero waste overnight. Might be easier (and it might actually stick) if you work your way up to the full commitment. An option would also be to measure how much waste you generate, and try decreasing it each week/month. There are lots of different guides and tricks to get started.

  1. Start Your Own Garden

Although we are a bit constrained by seasonality here in Niagara, home gardens are a great way to consume local, fresh produce 6 months of the year. This takes some time and planning is required, but it is rewarding. If you are ambitious, you can take up canning/jarring as well to consume your local produce all year round.

  1. Change Up Your Commute

Instead of driving to work/school everyday, there are lots of alternative methods of transportation that could be taken. For those closer to work, try walking, or biking. For those of you who live a little bit too far to accomplish that, try carpooling or taking public transit. Or, you could try to avoid the commute all together, and try to work from home a few times a week.

As detailed in this blog post, there are both small and large resolutions you can make this year that help the environment (and you!). Remembering that you can not change your entire life overnight, and small steps will ensure long term success! Are there any resolutions on this list that you are thinking of committing to this year?