The new year is a time for celebration and hope – from resolutions for personal improvement to the valued time we spend with our friends and family, everyone should look forward to the ball dropping in Times Square. However, the transition from December 31st to January 1st is a time for reflection as well. A year has passed, and what do we have to show for it? Have we met our goals from the last year? Have we begun to learn from our past mistakes and miscalculations? How can we, as a whole, live a wiser and more fulfilling life?
The environment is one thing that has not improved over the changing of many calendars. Even as we strive for personal growth, our own world struggles beneath us. This is something we should all think about during the eve of the new year – how can we change to help out those around us, and the world itself.
Here are three environmentally-minded suggestions to think about when making your resolutions.
Most of us throw a ton of stuff away. In 2013, the average American generated 4.40 lbs of waste per day, which comes out at over 1000 lbs per year. That is literally tons of waste being generated in the average household by the time the fireworks light up Times Square. Being cognizant of these numbers and how we are contributing to them is an important step for anyone hoping to live more sustainably in the new year.
More specifically, it helps to focus on the aspects of garbage you can reduce. Plastic bags, for instance, tend to come in near the top of this list. Shopping can be as easy as bringing a couple of cloth tote bags along with you. Taking that one step further, doing some home research lets you find companies that use more sustainable practices themselves, especially when it comes to using bulk reusable bags. Already roughly 70 percent of young shoppers aged 15-20 years old prefer companies that use sustainable and environmental practices. The next step is supporting those companies yourself.
Work Those Legs
If you already walk, run or bike for exercise there’s no reason you can’t shift to these activities over your daily drives. If you’re heading to the store. why not walk or bike instead of burning fuel? Regular exercise keeps you healthy as well as the planet. If you have an appointment somewhere in town, free up some extra time and walk or bike over instead of driving. There are benefits across the board for this: you save money on gas, improve the environment – both locally and globally – and you get yourself back in shape to meet those other New Year resolutions!
Power is produced through the burning of fossil fuels, damming rivers, and other widely unsustainable means. The more power you are using, the more coal that is mined and burned and the more rivers that need to be dammed. While the impact is separated by degrees, using less power will thereby lessen the impact of these harmful methods in the future.
With this in mind, wasting electricity when you’re asleep or out of the house is incredibly harmful for the environment. Taking the time to unplug your TV, phone charger and toaster before you go to bed is one easy way to improve your energy efficiency and overall sustainability. An even easier way? Permanently unplug and donate any appliances you never use. Donating unused goods helps build up your local thrift store inventory, making it more appealing for other shoppers and generally shoring up the sustainable community in your area.
A New Year, A New You
Keeping these three suggestions in mind can get you started on your sustainable resolutions. Keep the resolutions specific to you for the best results: with careful examination and reflection on your own habits, you can help cut down on your personal environmental impact.
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work and you can read her previous post on The Art of Healthy Living.