The New Year is approaching and you might be thinking of ways you can live more sustainably in 2022. New year’s resolutions can be a great way to motivate yourself to change things, on a personal or collective level, yet after the initial excitement we often forget the goals we set.
It was estimated that 64% of Brits abandon their new year’s resolutions within a month. The reason is that they’re often too vague or unrealistic so we can’t easily integrate them into our existing routines.
Here are 22 sustainable New Year’s resolutions that can have a big impact with minimal effort! You can think of them as small swaps you’ll make every day for a more sustainable lifestyle and the planet.
1. Reducing meat consumption
Alongside the health benefits of a plant-based diet, the environmental benefits are huge too! Meat requires huge amounts of water (¼ of global freshwater use), takes up land space (by largely driving deforestation), emits greenhouse gases (animal agriculture generates over 14% of global GHG emissions) and depletes the soil.
If these are not enough reasons, going plant-based can alleviate world hunger as almost two-thirds of all soybeans, maize, barley, and about a third of all grains are used as feed for animals and finally, it would reduce many premature deaths. Vegetarian and vegan food options are now endless and a pleasure to your taste buds as well as the planet!
2. Learn to DIY products
Whether that’s personal care products like body scrubs, lip balms, or deodorant there are simple tutorials for natural alternatives that you can easily make at home. This goes for clothes as well, learning a new skill like knitting or sewing can be really useful when it comes to repairing your clothes or making them from scratch.
3. Donate to environmental organisations
It wouldn’t be Christmas without food, we can all picture the Christmas table filled with seasonal dIf you’re able to you could set aside some money at the end of each month to donate to causes close to your heart. It could be animal welfare organisations, social justice groups or you could finance environmental projects. A little help can go a long way! Here is a comprehensive list.
4. Offset your travel
It might be for work or to visit relatives overseas, whatever the reason is, sometimes avoiding flights is difficult, yet they’re very impactful in terms of CO2 emissions.
Apps like AERIAL help you keep track of your emissions and offer the option to support certified reforestation projects to reduce your impact on the environment.
5. Be more vocal about causes close to your heart
If donating isn’t an option you can still make a change by signing petitions or by contacting companies to make your voice heard. It’s a good idea to set aside some time each week to reach out to businesses for complaints or suggestions so they can be more sustainable or to add your signature to important campaigns!
6. Shop more locally
Close to where you live there are probably farmers markets and even though it might be easier to buy everything from the supermarket, dedicating some time to browse local producers to purchase fruit and veggies from is a really good idea!
They’re higher quality, healthier products and better for the environment as they’re more likely to be harvested with natural, sustainable methods instead of intensive agriculture that degrades the soil. You’re also supporting local farmers which struggle to compete against supermarket prices. You’ll taste the difference!
7. Switch bank
This is probably one of the most powerful individual swaps we can make, even though it’s not talked about much.
How? Banks use the money you’ve deposited with them to build revenue. Banks lend your money to profitable businesses and investments that give them great returns on interest rates.
Globally banks have financed fossil fuel industries with $3.8 trillion since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2016. As fossil fuels constitute the most destructive and polluting industries in the world, you don’t want to support banks that finance them. Find out how your bank scores and which banks are the most ethical.
8. Reduce single use plastics
Single use plastic is everywhere, plastic bottles, takeaway containers, wrappers, straws, cutlery… you name it! Planning ahead is key to reducing your reliance on single-use plastic, meal prepping so you can take your lunch to work in reusable containers, carrying a reusable coffee cup and a water bottle.
It saves you money in the long run and once you start to use these items regularly you’ll be less likely to forget them! Place them next to your key to remind you to take them with you!
9. Switch to more sustainable transport
Many of us rely on cars to commute for work, buy groceries or meet our friends. Often it seems more comfortable and convenient, or just out of habit, driving seems the only option. In the New Year, you could commit to using a bike or taking public transport at least once or twice a week.
You could also hitch rides with your work colleagues or your friends to save on petrol and be more sustainable! Sharing more means we emit less.
10. Start composting
Compost is bliss for the soil. It reduces landfill waste, replaces chemical fertilizers and helps aerate the soil, retaining moisture and providing nutrients. You can build it up over time using a mix of carbon-rich matter (like branches, stems, dried leaves, bits of wood) and protein-rich matter (manure, food scraps, green leaves). It’s doable in a flat as well, you don’t need a big house with a garden!
Here’s a guide for beginners.
11. Learn to recycle properly
Recycling is very important yet many of us are “wish cyclers” instead of recyclers. We often throw things in the recycling bin that aren’t recyclable, just hoping they are, learning to do so properly can go a long way. There isn’t a complete guide as it depends on the rules of your local council, but you can start from these tips. Understanding the different recycling symbols is also useful to avoid making mistakes. Being a little more careful in how you divide waste can go a long way.
12. Join a local activist group
A quick google (or better Ecosia) search can show you volunteer opportunities near you or groups fighting for causes you care about.
Whether that’s donating, getting involved, signposting, the options are endless, supporting in any way you can is impactful and a great chance to meet like-minded and new people.
13. Ditch fast-fashion
It’s difficult to avoid it completely depending on where you live and what options you have, but you can still try your best.
Use up what’s in your wardrobe (and why not in the ones of your relatives), get creative with new outfits out of old items and if need be ready to repair or upcycle garments into something new. It all goes back to reducing waste, so buying second-hand is also a great option! In Europe, Vinted or Sellpy is full of treasures – at very low prices and you can sell clothes you for sure never wear again there too!
14. Minimise food waste
Food waste is something we can all reduce. In the western world most food waste happens at home (and not as often believed in supermarkets and restaurants) so we really need to be conscious of what we buy and how we store our food. When we have things leftover or close to the expiry date it’s good to get creative with new recipes. You can also give products close to their expiry date a second chance and save money via togoodtogo. Reducing packaging waste is also a great resolution.
Going to farmers markets with loose produce is an effective way to do so, bring your tote bag and you’re good to go! With everything, you buy if you can, opt for the zero-waste option and refuse any extra packaging.
15. Learn to use up what you already have
Using up household items before replacing them with something trendier or newer. It’s easy to be attracted to newer, trendier products even though we don’t need them. It’s easy to throw away old items, especially when you can’t be bothered with getting everything out of your shampoo bottle.
But doing so just adds more waste to your rubbish bin and leads to wasteful spending on new things. This goes for any toiletries, detergents, beauty products, makeup, any leftovers you’re tempted to get rid of when there’s only a little bit left. Try to use up every last drop—your bank account and the planet will thank you.
16. Encourage people to join you in fighting for a better planet
Having those uncomfortable conversations, as tiring as it might be, involving more people to support you with causes you care about is so important. We all have an influence on someone and while preaching and shaming people will not help, leading by example does.
Guide people in the right direction encouraging them to follow your sustainable habits, they will surely thank you! While it takes some patience and practice, it is definitely worth it.
17. Reduce your pet’s footprint
This might be the first time you hear this but our pets can largely impact our carbon footprint. The average dog is responsible for approximately 770kg of carbon emissions each year. A lot of this comes from the production and shipping of dog food, as well as unsustainable pet toys and other products.
18. Reduce water and energy consumption
You can start with the basics of unplugging electronic devices when you don’t use them.
Other things include keeping the refrigerator full, air-drying your hair and clothes, turning off lights, using LED instead of incandescent bulbs, turning off the heat or air conditioner when you’re not home, putting lids on pans when cooking to retain heat, having shorter showers, wash clothes in colder water (reduces fading and shrinkage too), don’t run water constantly when brushing teeth or washing the dishes.
These are just a few simple tips you can make a list of and keep handy to remind yourself! Or print this handy guide.
19. Learn to care for your clothes properly
Learn to read clothing labels! Before buying something make sure you can care for it, if it needs to be dry cleaned, for example, is that realistic for you?
Caring for clothes properly can save you money by making them last longer. Use a guppy bag for synthetic items, prioritise hand washing instead of machine washing and don’t overwash items. It saves energy and water and reduces wear and tear.
20. Detox your home, personal care products and wardrobe
Following up on the previous tip, ECoEgg is the perfect example of a toxic-free ‘detergent’. The kit is really cost-effective as well with refillable pellets instead of liquid detergents that can last up to 70 washes. Makeup and other cosmetics are also at risk with a number of commonly used ingredients that are harmful to our bodies and the planet. For clothes certifications like OEKO-TEX 100 can help identify toxic-free garments.
Avoiding plastic is also important as it can easily hide in these products, through synthetic clothes and microbeads in cosmetics.
21. Start a garden
Might be an obvious one but with climate change becoming a more and more serious threat it’s increasingly more important to learn basic skills like growing fruit and vegetables to reduce our reliance on external food sources and obtain fresher, healthier produce.
Learning to harvest produce also helps us understand which foods are in season and it’s cheaper than buying them! It can be fun as well, here’s how to start even if you just have the tiniest space!
22. Make your bathroom waste-free
Last but not least, give shampoo bars, toothpaste tabs or metal razors ago! You can make many changes in the bathroom to be more sustainable. If you have periods try menstrual cups, period-proof underwear or plastic-free tampons. Put a scent stick or candle next to your bathtub or sink and enjoy your plastic-free detox bathroom!