As the new year approaches, we begin to reflect on the lifestyle we lead and how we want to grow in the new year. With reports of several studies concluding that the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened many people’s interest in creating a better, healthier world, many are transitioning to a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. These incremental changes are important developments in helping all of us to take better care of our planet. However, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by all the possible changes one can make from fashion choices to fruit storage. Thus, we’ve put together a list of easy eco-friendly resolutions you, your family, and your community can adopt. We suggest starting with 2-3 resolutions at a time to integrate into your daily life, or perhaps even one is enough for now. However many you choose, remember that each new habit is significant in the collective effort all of us can make to help save our planet from global warming and pollution.
- Carry A Spare Reusable Bag For Shopping:
As cities increasingly phase out the use of plastic bags or at least impose fees for their use, you may already have a reusable bag for on-the-go store runs. Even if plastic bags have not been banned yet in your locale, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t transition to reusable bags on your own. Avoid having to use or pay for plastic bags whenever you do some shopping on the way home from work or school. Making the effort to always carry a spare tote bag around will ensure that you won’t have to use plastic bags or buy another reusable bag ever again.
- Invest In A Reusable Water Bottle:
Plastic bottles and bottle caps rank as the second and fifth most collected plastic trash items respectively in the Ocean Conservancy’s annual September beach cleanups in more than 100 countries. Environmental efforts are focusing on plastic bottles as next in line after banning plastic shopping bags, with several locales around the world already banning them. Plus, you’ll be more hydrated once you start carrying a reusable water bottle with you.
- Reduce And Reuse Creatively:
As two of the three Rs we were taught from an early age, they’ve been the less popular companion to “Recycle”. However, before you get to that one, it’s better to reduce and reuse given the amount of energy recycling takes. From saving glass bottles for storage purposes to repurposing cloth, this encourages long-term use of your possessions in contrast with the extreme waste and resource extraction that comes with contemporary fast fashion culture.
- Compost, If You Can:
Composting is the natural process of recycling organic matter, such as leaves and food scraps, into a valuable fertilizer that can enrich soil and plants. Not only does it decrease the amount of waste being transferred to landfills, an energy-intensive process, but it repurposes food waste towards healthier soil and plants, critical for a greener future. There are several options for composting at home depending on the climate you live in and the space you have available, and there are valuable resources that can help guide you as you begin your composting journey.
- Shop From Eco-Friendly Businesses.
Supporting eco-friendly businesses is a significant adjustment that will reap great environmental benefits; not only does it ensure a more sustainable lifestyle, but it also supports the larger sustainability movement with your wallet. Other benefits include healthier and safe products for you, your home, and your community. Investing in eco-friendly businesses rewards their environmental efforts and lets big corporations know where you stand. They’ve been historically responsible for dumping and pumping toxic chemicals into our air and water supply, with no concern for the detriment of their actions and the increase in global warming; it’s time to show them what your values are as a consumer by saying no to their product offerings.
- Unplug Appliances When Not In Use:
Turning off the lights and devices that aren’t in use have made its way to mainstream consciousness, however, we may need to take it a step further. Surprisingly, “vampire appliances” still consume energy while plugged in, even if turned off or on standby mode. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 75% of the electricity used by home appliances is consumed while they’re turned off. In the U.S. alone, vampire appliances amount to around $3 billion in energy costs per year. As unplugging appliances when not in use would prevent this, it might be easier to use a power strip that you can easily turn on and off with a switch.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the world produced more than 17 million tons of textiles in 2018, compared to only around 2 million tons 50 years. That same year, around 13 million tons of discarded clothing and shoes came under the EPA’s management; while 1.6 million tons were able to be recycled, over 9 million tons ended up in the landfill. Furthermore, slipping out of the shop-and-discard cycle of fast fashion is crucial as the water footprint of a cotton t-shirt is 659 gallons and that of a pair of jeans a shocking 2,108 gallons. Once you’ve outworn your clothes and footwear, thrifting is a suitable and fashionable alternative to buying new clothes.
- Make Your Social Media More Eco-Friendly:
Educating yourself is crucial to further action. The simple act of populating your social media feeds with eco-friendly content indicates a willingness to learn and change, while ensuring organic and constant reminders of the significance of building a more sustainable lifestyle.
- Spread Awareness:
Once you have educated yourself, you can help save the planet by educating others. From simple oversight, stemming from a lack of environmental education to confusion due to misinformation, many people inadvertently contribute to environmental harm without meaning to. Each share to your Instagram story or to your family’s group chat represents dozens of learning opportunities at a time.
- Donate To Environmentalist Efforts:
If you are able to, financially supporting environmentalist initiatives is an impactful way to contribute to the sustainability movement. As land and water defenders around the world face political prosecution, violence, and sometimes even death, such support makes a difference. Efforts such as Stop Line 3 or coalitions such as Indigenous Environmental Network are worthy initiatives to invest in to help ensure a more sustainable future for generations to come
Alice Carroll, “Why Reuse is NOT Recycling”, Scrap Exchange, February 3, 2020.
Ashley Sims, “Climate for Action: Turn It Off”, The EPA Blog, November 25, 2008.
“Composting At Home”, Environmental Protection Agency.
Jonathon Engels, “7 Reasons Why Reusing and Repurposing is Better than Recycling”, One Green Planet, 2018.
Laura Parker, “The Story of Plastic: How the Plastic Bottle went from Miracle Container to Hated Garbage”, National Geographic, August 23, 2019.
Ngan Le, “The Impact of Fast Fashion on the Environment”, Princeton Student Climate Initiative, July 20, 2020.
“Nondurable Goods: Product-Specific Data”, Environmental Protection Agency.
“Reducing and Reusing Basics”, Environmental Protection Agency.
Shelia Hu, “Composting 101”, Natural Resources Defense Council, July 20, 2020.
Susan S. Lang, “‘Vampire’ appliances – they suck electricity even when switched off – cost consumers $3 billion a year, says Cornell energy expert”, Cornell Chronicle, September 17, 2002.
“The Hidden Water in Everyday Products” Water Calculator by GRACE Communications Foundation, 2017.