The new year is here! Hello 2019. Have you decided on your new year’s resolutions yet? We often take too much on without putting an action plan into place. With goals of weight loss, exercise, and more sustainable living, we often overload ourselves with resolutions.
Have you thought about going easy on yourself? Trading lofty goals that may never materialize for more realistic expectations? This approach is not meant to water down lofty goals, as they definitely deserve a place in our lives. However, if you have too many lofty goals, something has to give. Here are some easy green resolutions you can stick to this year!
1. Give up the Cup (for good)
Are you drinking a coffee or more per day in a takeout cup? If you’re grabbing coffee or tea in a takeout cup every day for a whole year, that’s 365 disposable coffee cups! Not to mention all the other times you probably grab a coffee or tea on the go. Giving up the disposable coffee cup for good will significantly reduce your trash. Just this one action! Think of that multiplied by an entire city's population! If everyone made this choice, we would avoid millions of coffee cups headed to the landfill.
Grab your reusable coffee cup as you head out the door in the morning. Throw it in your backpack, tote bag, brief case, or whatever you’re using, and go. Not sure you can make it a whole year without using a disposable coffee cup? Challenge yourself to do it for at least 30 days. After that, your chances are higher that the habit will stick! If you’re really up for the challenge, skip the plastic straws, bags and water bottles while you’re at it.
Resolution? Only buy coffee/tea to-go in your own resuable cup.
2. Skip the Plastic-Wrapped Produce
We don’t notice it until we notice it. When we notice it, we can’t ever unsee it. What is it? All the plastic-wrapped produce at the grocery store! Once you start to think about it, you’ll probably notice that the produce section is overwrapped with plastic. Then all you’ll see is the plastic. ALL THE PLASTIC.
Much of it is related to convenience, like pre-chopped veggies, pre-made salads, grouped veggies in a bag, etc. Then, even when fruit and vegetables aren’t wrapped in plastic, we grab a plastic bag to corral the loose and naked produce. By the time we head to the cash register, everything is in plastic.
Easy swap? Use reusable bags or skip the bags altogether. Take a hard pass on the pre-packaged produce too. Grossed out that there may be germs if you don’t use bags? Consider the entire journey the produce had before it got into your hands, you’ll probably want to wash it thoroughly regardless! Grab a spray bottle filled with equal parts water and vinegar to wash your produce.
Resolution? Skip the pre-packaged produce and bring your own reusable produce bags to avoid plastic-wrapped fruit and veggies.
3. Buy Local Food
Our world has become so global, and our food systems have too. Many of the groceries we buy have travelled a great distance to end up in our shopping cart. Planes, trains and automobiles! The environmental impact of food can be challenging for shoppers to calculate because there’s so much to take into consideration.
For example, a local tomato might seem like a great idea, but what if that locally-grown tomato was grown in a greenhouse? The energy required to grow a tomato in a greenhouse might actually have a higher impact then a non-locally grown tomato that was grown outside, then travelled to your grocery store primarily by train.
It’ll take some extra research to understand the total environmental impact of the food we buy, but overall, buying local supports the local economy and reduces the travel distance to your door. Better yet? Take transit, ride your bike or walk to your grocery store or farmer’s market.
Also, what does local even mean? That’ll depend where you live. Local could be within a 100-mile radius (see the book 100-Mile Diet), or in your state/province, or in your country. It’ll totally depend on what’s available to you and what’s realistic.
Resolution? Define what local means to you and reduce your impact by buying local groceries when possible.
4. Shop Secondhand
Want to reduce the environmental impact of the new things you add to your life? Just because something is new to you doesn’t mean it has to be newly made. Brand new items require new resources and energy to produce, plus transportation and packaging. Secondhand things do not require new resources and energy, as they are already made. Transportation is not likely a huge concern if you’re buying secondhand things locally. And as for packaging, there won’t be any! Chances are, you’ll save lots of money buying secondhand too. Good for the planet, and ideal for your wallet. You can buy just about everything you can think of secondhand, from furniture to clothing and electronics. Need a new laptop? Consider a refurbished one.
Resolution? See if what you want to buy is available secondhand first.
5. Choose Experiences over Things
Buyer’s remorse and credit card debt are only a couple of the burdens that come with our shopaholic culture. There’s also the clutter of too much stuff in our homes, too much time devoted to cleaning, maintaining and organizing our things. Plus there’s the guilt associated with overspending. Hiding a few recent purchases from your loved ones? Maybe it’s time to stop filling the void with stuff and choose experiences over things. Hello minimalism!
By choosing experiences instead of things, we reduce the impact associated with the stuff we buy (as noted above). Experiences are great because they can be local and low impact. Have friends over for a game night, go for a hike, visit a loved one or catch up with an old friend, the options are endless. Experiences can be free, or low-cost. You can definitely get fancy and spend a lot of money on experiences if you want to. But if you’re looking to save some cash and reduce your impact, check out all your local activities and engage in your favourite hobbies. Maybe it's as simple as reading a book from the library with a cup of tea.
Resolution? Stop mindlessly shopping and engage in activities that fuel your heart.