As 2017 stretches before us, we urge you to consider your commitment to the environmental new years resolutions – to protecting ecosystems from human waste, to sharing resources with your neighbors, to living a more mindful lifestyle. Our planet has been consumed past the point of sustainability; environmental stewardship has fallen to the wayside. Even with the recent political protests and temporary social win for the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline movement, environmental rape is on the political agenda as our climate-change-denying PEOTUS gets ready to take the stand and oil and gas prices are promised to fall.
We all make specific resolutions for the new year, like losing weight or taking a new class, to enrich our lives and to improve on last year’s choices; this year, we encourage you to consider your connection to those around you and to the earth. Our individual choices, for the new year and every day, affect those around us. It is with our choices that we influence others and change begins at home, with those closest to us.
New Years resolutions often fail because it’s hard to break a goal down into specific actionable, repetitive activities that contribute to overall change. To help you be more conscious of your carbon footprint and to reduce it, we’ve made a list of 10 mini-resolutions you can make every day, every week, to craft new habits and preserve your conservationist mindset.
1. Recycle PROPERLY
“How quickly ecological entitlement becomes environmental rape!,” exclaims Frankie on the Netflix hit show, Grace & Frankie, while frantically tearing out water bottles from the recycling bin. It seems a bit hysterical, particularly since they are recycling the bottles in the first place, which many American families don’t do, but when you consider the amount of wasted money, time, and animal life due to improperly recycled items, the humor dies.
When recycling be sure to take off water bottle caps, empty plastic containers of their contents before tossing them into their respective bin, rinse out jars of sauce residue, cut up soda/beer can plastic rings, and be sure to double check online before trying to recycle electronics like computers or cellphones as many can be sold or re-used for old parts!
2. Don’t Flush It
People throw everything from Q-tips to hairballs down their toilets, but flushing items other than toilet paper and waste can cause major damage to plumbing and infrastructure systems, to the local environment and marine life, and your neighbors. Flushing tampons is harmful, especially if they are made with plastic applicators because the time it takes to biodegrade is centuries longer than the lifespan of the woman who used it! Wet wipes are another environmental peril; they combine with sewage to create multi-pound blockages called ‘fatbergs’ that block pipes and cause health hazards as well as pollution. New York City has reportedly spent over $18 million of taxpayer money over the past 5 years cleaning up damages related to wet-wipes being flushed down toilets.
3. Eat Less Meat
Put down the steak and opt for the portobello mushroom. Eating more vegetables and locally grown foods supports environmental sustainability and local businesses. About 80% of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed to raise cattle for meat and 70% of grain production in the U.S. is used to feed livestock instead of people. Did you know switching to a diet free of meat, dairy, and eggs saves more carbon emissions than driving a Prius?
4. Conserve Water
Whether it’s by taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth, or washing your veggies in a bowl of water instead of under a running tap, there are several small ways to reduce fresh water waste. Approximately 783 million people, almost 1 in 10 globally, do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. Use the water we do have preciously, so that others may have access.
5. Go Paperless
From banking to bills, if every US household received electronic statements, then we could save 18.5 million trees, 2.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, and 1.7 billion pounds of solid waste per year.” It would save enough money to send 17,000 college graduates to university each year. Switch to paperless at your bank, unsubscribe from postal mailing lists, and then add a trip to the Brazilian rainforest to your bucket list so you can go experience the beauty and wonder held in the ecosystems you’re saving!
6. Use Less Energy; Expend More
There are several ways to waste less energy! Switch to energy efficient light bulbs; unplug any electronic devices when not in use like laptop chargers, toasters and microwaves. Instead of drying your laundry, hang your delicates, sweaters and towels to dry in the open air on a clothesline, door frames, or even your radiator! Also try to walk more! Take public transportation or ride a bicycle to work to your reduce fossil fuel emissions. Paris just made all city public transport free in order to battle smog; if we can create a cultural, grassroots change within cities to a more pedestrian or cyclist culture, perhaps the United States can begin to reduce emissions on a national level.
7. Think Before You Toss
The American culture of consumerism is parallel to its production of waste; our reflex is to buy something new rather than to fix it or resign to borrowing it. This has led our country to produce the most waste per capita and use the most resources per person of any other country in the world; compare this to Sweden, a country that has slashed taxes on repairs and labor to encourage a culture of less waste production. Should you not need something anymore, try donating it or getting it fixed instead of upgrading! If you do recycle, be sure to double check beforehand how to safely dispose of items like batteries and old phones.
8. Pick Up Trash
Go a step beyond committing to never litter. Pick up the trash you see around you and throw it away. The harm our waste inflicts on animal species and ecosystems, not to mention the hazards and costs for industrial infrastructure, like subway fires, is not worth the moment it takes to save trash for a garbage can. The most important element of this is to be vocal – tell your friends and point out the harms of littering when someone does it. Invisibility and the low likelihood of getting caught or reprimanded makes people more likely to throw their garbage away when convenient instead of right; be a superhero for the environment and right wrongs when you see them!
9. Take Bags to the Store
It’s actually shameful how so many stores in the U.S. still use and offer customers free, plastic, unrecyclable bags. Plastic bags do not ever degrade and often end up lying in landfills for decades if not choking various animal species. Next time you go to the store, take a durable, reusable bags with you. If you can’t take a backpack or even rolling suitcase, ask the cashier for paper bag alternatives.
10. Be Constantly Mindful
The biggest change you can make and the most important one, will be to live a conscious lifestyle. Being more label conscious, considerate of those around you and those communities or generations you may not meet, but whom your actions will affect; these are the commitments you cane make every day that make a difference in the world. Vote with your wallet and with your voice this year.