As you're setting your goals and intentions for the year ahead, be sure to keep our planet in mind. There are many easy resolutions you can set and achieve that will have a positive impact on the environment.
#1: Use a reusable water bottle
The US sends 20 billion water bottles to the landfill each year. On average, people only recycle about 25% of the water bottles they purchase. The cost of bottled water is much more expensive than drinking tap water, even though tap water is generally safe and convenient. Consumer Reports found that the cost to drink bottled water over the course of a year equates to about $346, while drinking the same amount of water from the tap would only cost you about $0.48. (source) Keep a reusable water bottle in your bag, car, and at work so you always have one handy.
#2: Eat less meat
If you skip one serving of beef each Monday in 2022, you can save carbon emissions equivalent to driving 348 miles. If the entire U.S. did not eat meat or cheese for just one day a week, it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road. Plus, on average vegetarians generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less, and have a lower risk of heart disease than non-vegetarians do.
#3: Shop organic, local, and seasonal produce
Organic farming helps prevent pollution of soil, water, and air. The Organic Trade Association notes that if every farmer in the U.S. converted to organic production, we could eliminate 500 millionpounds of persistent and harmful pesticides from entering the environment annually. By shopping locally, you can reduce the environmental impact of your food further. The less distance your food has to travel to reach your plate, the better. Seasonal, local, and organic produce can be found at your local Farmer’s Market or CSA (buy directly from a local farmer).
#4: Donate your time and money
Giving back, whether it’s through volunteering your time or making a monetary donation (such as 3-10% of your monthly earnings), is one of the easiest ways you can help support causes you believe in. Find your local Volunteer Center or Peace and Justice center to affect social and environmental change at the grassroots level. To find great non-profits doing both social and environmental work, take a look at our list of impact partners.
#5: Make your own compost
By composting food waste and other organic material at home, you can help keep waste out of landfills and reduce methane emissions. As an end product, good compost can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers in your yard, give you a higher yield of fruit and vegetable crops, save you water by enhancing the soil’s water retention, and more. For tips on how to start composting at home, watch our Composting 101 video. Can't compost at home? Learn about composting in your community and find out if there's compost pickup nearby.
#6: Steer clear of palm oil
Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. It can be found in almost 50% of packaged products, from food like chocolate to deodorant and shampoo. The palm oil industry is a major driver of deforestation - causing forest loss, destruction of habitats, and creating millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions. To put it into perspective, up to 300 football fields of forest are cleared every hour to make room for palm plantations. To avoid purchasing products that contain palm oil and contribute to this issue, carefully read the labels in the store and choose products with clearly labeled oils.
#7: Cut water and energy use
There are simple things you can do to cut your water or home energy usage by 10% each day:
Unplug electronics: About 75% of the electricity used to power your home devices is consumed while the products are turned off. The easiest thing you can do to conserve energy is to unplug devices around your home while they’re not in use.
Thermostat setting: You can save energy by keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees F in the winter and 78 degrees F in the summer while you’re awake. You should turn your thermostat off while you’re away and asleep to conserve more energy.
Turn off the tap: You can save 8 gallons of water each day by turning off the tap while brushing your teeth. While washing dishes, you can also save 10 gallons of water in just 5 minutes by turning off the tap.
Rethink your landscaping: Lawns require over an inch of water each week. This can add up to hundreds of gallons of water depending on the size of your yard. You can make your yard more environmentally friendly by removing your lawn and replacing it with drought-tolerant plants.
#8: Slow fast fashion
The average person buys 60% more items of clothing and keeps them for about half as long as 15 years ago. One garbage truck of clothes is burned or landfilled every second. That’s enough to fill 1.5 Empire State Buildings every day. It takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt. That’s enough water to hydrate one person for 2.5 years. If you need a piece of clothing in 2022, find sustainably made clothes that will last or buy it second hand at a thrift store rather than buying it new. Or, take it a step further and challenge yourself to not add anything to your wardrobe in 2022.
#9: Be mindful of packaging
Containers and packaging make up a major portion of municipal solid waste (MSW), amounting to 80.1 million tonsin 2017 (29.9 percent of total generation). By reducing the amount of items you consume in packaging, you can create less waste, pollution, and carbon emissions. Less packaging can also mean less money - prices for heavily-packaged items can sometimes run 50% higher.
#10: Fly less and offset trips
Flights were responsible for 2.4% of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2018. That percentage is expected to triple by 2050. The best thing you can do is fly less. If you have to travel by plane, be sure to offset your flight. Carbon offsets give you the opportunity to invest in projects, like planting trees, that reduce carbon emissions and can offset the emissions from your flight. To estimate your carbon footprint, use an online calculator, and offset your carbon by donating to a non-profit like Trees Water People, DESPRI, or Aid Africa. Trees Water People helps offset carbon by replacing open fires with clean cookstoves. Just one clean cook stove can offset up to 2.2 tons of C02e per year.
#11: Walk, bike or use public transport
Biking and walking are not only good for the environment, they are also incredibly beneficial for the body and mind, as well. Studies show that people who choose to bike or walk tend to suffer less from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Getting exercise or running errands by biking or walking can help to increase blood flow, release endorphins, and reduce overall stress and lower your carbon emissions.
#12: Learn and advocate
Learning more about climate change and the state of our environment is one of the best ways you can stay informed and be able to advocate for the issues. Check out Project Drawdown, Patagonia Action Works and NRDC to get informed and get involved.