At least one in three of us will decide to better ourselves over the coming twelve months. Most people will choose to lose weight, get healthier, save money or get organized.
But what if we could achieve some, or all, of these things while taking into the account the bigger picture – the state of our environment?
The truth is that, by choosing to be eco-conscious in 2016, we can make a difference to our health, waistline and bank balance while still effecting great change all around us.
It’s important to mention that, while 33% of Americans make resolutions, research says that less than half stick with them for six months, and only one in ten will see it through to the year end. Those who achieve their targets do so as they start small.
With that in mind, here are 33 easily achievable New Year’s Resolutions to help you go green in 2016 – why not choose one or two that appeal to you?
Ditch the Bottled Water
Splash out on a stainless steel reusable water bottle this year in a bid to avoid buying plastic.
Making bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually – enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for the year.
Brew Coffee at Home
Swap your takeout coffee for a more relaxed at-home version – or make it ‘to go’ in a reusable travel mug.
It’s estimated that Americans drink more than 100 billion cups of coffee every year – 14.4 billion of which are bought in disposable paper cups. If placed end-to-end, these cups would wrap around the planet 55 times.
Opt for a French press over a single cup coffee maker though – enough K-Cups coffee pods are sold per annum that, if placed end-to-end, they would circle the Earth 10.5 times! Learn more about single cup coffee makers, and better alternatives to them, here.
Invest in Reusable Bags
A plastic shopping bag can take anywhere from 20 to 1,000 years to decompose. In a compressed landfill, without exposure to air to help them break down, paper bags aren’t much better.
Given that the United States alone uses approximately 100 billion new plastic bags per year – and the average person goes through between 350 and 500 – it’s easy to see how a simple change like using canvas shopping bags can make a positive environmental impact.
No More Disposable Tableware
Make meal times more special by using nice China plates and cloth napkins in place of their disposable counterparts.
The average American uses 2,200 two-ply paper napkins per year causing around 662 billion napkins to end up in the trash every twelve months.
And, 64 billion paper and 73 billion Styrofoam and plastic cups and plates are thrown away in a 12 month period in the US.
Stop Using Plastic Wrap
As convenient as it may be, plastic wrap is terrible for the environment. Every year, Americans make enough to shrink-wrap the state of Texas!
Keep your food in empty glass jars or reusable containers instead.
Try Organic Foods
Gradually try and move to organic food where possible. Organic farming works with nature and supports biodiversity to preserve soil quality and the delicate balance of our ecosystem. Conventional farming, on the other hand, poisons water, destroys land and kills off many plant and animal species.
Shopping local is one of the best ways to lower your food miles (the distance over which a food item is transported from its producer to you).
Try to take at least one monthly trip to a farmers’ market for in-season and organic produce. You could also sign up to a local CSA delivery service.
Plus, by buying fresh, you’ll be cutting down on the canned produce you purchase. Given that commercial canning of vegetables uses 3 billion kWh of energy per annum – enough to run more than 8.5 million refrigerators for an entire year – that’s a pretty important ‘green’ resolution right there!
Grow Your Own
Keeping an organic fruit and vegetable garden is an excellent way to reduce environmental impact. Not only will you cut down on water and air pollution through use of natural pesticides and herbicides, but it’s the only way to whittle your food miles down to zero!
Even if you don’t have a garden, potted herbs on your kitchen window and a couple of containers on the balcony are great alternatives.
Make Mondays Meatless
The United Nations believes that a global shift towards a vegan diet is one of the best things we can do to save the world from hunger, poverty and the worst impacts of climate change.
By vowing to go meat-free even one day a week, you’ll be doing a lot of good. Find out more about the Meatless Monday movement here.
‘Ditch Dairy’ Days
The dairy industry uses an incredible amount of water while contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions in a huge way – not to mention the animal cruelty aspect of it.
By skipping just one gallon of milk, you can save the same amount of water needed for 27 showers, according to one San Francisco based ad campaign which aims to curb the Californian drought problem.
Pledge to have one dairy free day a week in 2016 by switching to some tasty plant-based milks instead.
Skip the Seafood
The way our oceans are being fished right now, we’re looking a complete collapse of the world’s fisheries by 2048.
Unless major changes are made to restore the delicate balance of this ecosystem, the consequences could be devastating. Swearing off seafood in 2016 means you could save over 225 fish and 151 shellfish.
Cut Food Waste
The USDA estimates that over 30% percent of groceries in the US get thrown away every year – that’s a depressing $162 billion worth of food!
By creating and sticking to a weekly meal plan (here are some handy templates), freezing or reusing leftovers and composting skins and other food waste, you can make a big impact in terms of the water, energy and food miles use to produce food that is just dumped.
Borrow or Buy Second-hand
Second hand doesn’t mean second best! You can get some amazing finds in thrift stores, libraries, used book stores and used car lots.
Producing new items leads to a lot of pollution and wastage!
It takes an incredible 5,000 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce one shirt; and manufacturing a new mid-sized car emits 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Since 95% of all new books are made from virgin paper, joining a library saves your money and our planet!
Get Spring Cleaning
With those statistics in mind, when you clean out your closets make sure to donate your unwanted items to a local charity store where someone else can make use of them…again leading to less waste and energy spent, fewer landfills and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Green your Cleaning
While you’re clearing out your junk, consider the products you are using to dust, polish, mop and freshen.
Conventional cleaners are loaded with chemicals which are harmful to both the environment and our health. Swap your cleaning products for homemade versions usually fairly innocuous ingredients like baking soda, coconut oil and castile soap.
In fact, here are 40 green cleaning tips for every room in your house!
Start a Compost Bin
By composting all your food waste, you can save the atmosphere from 440 pounds of damaging carbon dioxide – per year! Compost is also ‘garden gold’ for feeding your home-grown produce.
Discover the ins and outs of composting here.
Plant a Tree
Recycle Even More
Recycling for the environment is a no-brainer! But you’re probably already recycling the usual glass, paper and plastic items.
Conserve Energy in Your Home
Get into the habit of turning off lights when you leave a room, and unplug electric devices when not in use, or at least at night.
By simply replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures with bulbs that have earned the ENERGY STAR, you can save $75 each year!
Organize your Office
If you work from home, make an effort to go paperless where possible – use scanners to electronically file receipts and other documents, file share using one of the many online systems available and review and mark up documents online instead of printing out.
And if you don’t work from home, convince your office manager to implement some of these changes. Better yet, ask to telecommute – American workers spend an average of 47 hours per year commuting adding up to 23 billion gallons of gas wasted in traffic each year!
Sort Out Your Kitchen and Pantry
Eliminate toxins from your pantry – which wreak havoc on both your body and the environment. From aluminum foil to non-stick pans, try to phase out these 10 hidden sources of chemicals from your home.
Consider Solar Energy
Although it’s quite an investment up front, solar energy will pay off in years to come.
By harnessing the power of the sun to heat your house, you’ll be taking the first step on the road to a self-sustaining home. It doesn’t get much greener than that!
Cut Down on Paper Mail
Junk mail isn’t good for anyone – and is especially bad for the environment. Its carbon footprint is equivalent to the emissions generated by heating nearly 13 million homes for the winter.
Check out these ways to ‘opt out’ of receiving junk mail. While you’re at it, change your bank statements to electronic versions.
Create Your Own Decor
Spruce up your home with natural decor, handmade decorations and natural scents by creating or upcycling wherever possible.
You’ll cut down on plastics, toxic chemicals and the countless amounts of water and energy used in creating store-bought items.
Give Green Gifts
For the same reasons, why not vow to make unique and personalized gifts in 2016 – like one of these 112 homemade gift ideas? Don’t forget to wrap them in an eco-friendly way – here are six great ideas to do just that!
Stretch Those Legs
For short journeys, leave the car in the drive. Stretch your legs instead, take in some fresh air and help the environment, your wallet and your waistline.
For longer journeys, try public transport like a bus or consider taking the train – the greenest mode of travel.
For most people, there will be times when using the car is unavoidable. If that’s the case, then at least make sure your car is running efficiently and won’t waste fossil fuels.
Pump the tires, replace dirty filters, stick to the speed limit, use cruise control and don’t carry extra weight where possible.
If carpooling is an option, go for it! In 2009, car-sharing was thought to reduce US carbon emissions by more than 482,000 tons.
Clean Up Your Cosmetics
Our personal care products and cosmetics are loaded with toxic ingredients which damage the planet and our health.
Replacing these worrying items is simple – just make your own! Many of the ingredients even come from your kitchen cupboards. For everything from whitening your teeth to treating your hair, here are some great all-natural beauty ideas.
Save the Bees
Over the last two decades, frightening research has shown that the hardworking bees – once described by Earthwatch as the ‘most invaluable on the planet’ – is in serious danger.
If the bees die out, it will have irreversible consequences for our food supply, wildflowers and animal life. Discover how you can play a part in saving the bees!
Get out and about in the local community – whether it’s lobbying for better environmental policies or helping out at a community garden, it all makes a difference and helps you expand your horizons!
Raise Eco-Conscious Kids
Get your children involved in your activities too! Encourage them to donate forgotten toys and outgrown clothing, show them how to dig around in the vegetable garden and find some kiddie’s crafts so they can upcycle and create their own fun.
Spread the Word
Share this article and let others know that little changes make a big difference and that they too can play a part in helping the environment in 2016!