With New Year’s Eve around the corner, it’s finally time to think of some good resolutions for 2024. And while you’re at it, you might as well make sure that those resolutions are seriously sustainable.
Can’t think of any? We’ll soon get to our best picks for New Year’s sustainable resolutions. Before that, we thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at some of the most common New Year’s resolutions.
What are the 3 most common New Year’s resolutions?
According to a survey from Forbes Health, almost half of their US interviewees said they wanted to improve fitness during the next year. Similar is the third most common resolution on Forbes’ list: improving mental health, chosen by 36% of the people interviewed.
The second most common New Year’s resolution, perhaps unsurprisingly, is to improve finances, with 38% of responses.
While all those objectives are reasonable, even good, none are featured in our list. That’s not to say they’re unsustainable, but they aren’t particularly environment-focused. A great sustainable resolution we can find in this list is the fifth most common one: to improve diet. That’s assuming we’re switching to a vegetable-based diet, or at least a diet with less meat.
How we can be more eco-friendly in the New Year?
This isn’t a real resolution; it’s true. But before we move on to our resolutions for a sustainable 2023, let’s look at potential sustainable goals for the next year.
The difference between sustainable resolutions and goals is that goals aren’t for individuals. We’re not just talking about our carbon footprint, then. Some things we can’t do alone, as they require a global action plan. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t include them in our resolutions.
Our goals should include waste reduction: saving material from production to consumption and favoring recycling. Another sustainability goal is to lower greenhouse gas emissions, which requires global action outside the reach of individuals.
Sustainable New Year’s resolutions
Switch to reusable products
No more throwaway dishes and cups. No more wasting paper towels when you could use a regular handkerchief. With a few exceptions – plastic sponges and the like – reusable materials are usually much better for the planet than their single-use alternatives.
Switching to reusables is key to reducing household waste. Some of the easiest green items include reusable makeup pads, water bottles, and plastic bags. Not only will this reduce waste, but it will help fight plastic pollution in particular.
Start making compost for your garden
For a unique New Year resolution, save your food waste from the trash and turn it into compost. Making compost is easy, or at least it’s a simpler project than tending to a garden. You don’t even need one of those expensive compost machines, though they make the work of composting a large amount of waste easier.
You can still compost if you don’t have a garden, recycling food into nutrients for your in-home plants instead. You’ll still be helping the planet by keeping food waste away from landfills.
Ditch single-use plastic (whenever you can)
While surely connected to switching to reusables, opting out of single-use plastic deserves an entry of its own. This is for two reasons: the inevitability of plastic wrappings, boxes, bottles, and other containers and their massive environmental impact.
Half of the plastic produced each year is for single-use items. Plastic is hard to recycle as it is, but the staggering amount produced each year makes it so that over 90% isn’t recycled. Plastic doesn’t break down without proper care but remains a polluting force indefinitely.
We must phase out single-use plastic as fast as we can. But doing so purely on the consumer level is difficult, if not impossible. Those of us who can switch to sustainable alternatives can start our plastic-free journey by avoiding plastic wrappings and shopping bags whenever possible.
Buy second-hand clothes
Another great, simple and sustainable New Year’s resolution could be to buy more used clothes and fewer new garments. Used clothes are among the most sustainable options in fashion, especially when the (cheaper) alternative is fast fashion.
The best part about buying used clothes is that you can start immediately and get your first item before the month’s end. With the amount of waste the fashion industry produces, buying used should be a given, especially when it’s so easy. So get some ideas about what you’ll wear next year, have a look around, and add used shopping to your habits.
The second-hand market does not end with clothes. You can easily find home decor and other house products on the used market. If you have a garden, you might want to know that plenty of people sell or gift flowers, plants, and bulbs. Facebook’s Marketplace even has a category just for that!
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Donate your old clothes and electronics to charity
Donating your old stuff isn’t the easiest of our New Year resolutions to fight climate change. Donating clothes means keeping your old clothes around for longer than intended. Fabric can wait in the wardrobe while you look for someone who would have it, but electronics take up a lot more space.
Donating electronics can be made much easier, depending on where you live. There is a great disparity between cities and rural areas in donation drop-off points in the US alone. So, plan in advance. Maybe that can be your New Year’s resolution. Decide now, before switching out your old TV, what you will do with it.
Eat less meat
While vegan and vegetarian diets are more sustainable than meat-based diets, they aren’t available to everyone. Still, the environment and our health would both benefit from reducing our meat intake.
Less meat means less food wasted on raising animals, and more space available to farm food for humans. It also means less pollution from the food industry, which is responsible for over 25% of greenhouse gas emissions.
By reducing livestock, we can also cut on the constant expansion of agriculture, which is responsible for ever-stronger deforestation. For example, cattle ranching is responsible for a great part of the deforestation of the Amazons. In general, raising animals requires lots of farmland, which incentivizes deforestation.
More whole foods, fewer precooked meals
Just like vegan diets, whole foods aren’t just good for the environment. They’re good for you. Not to be confused with the not-quite-sustainable company of the same name, whole foods are all kinds of groceries that aren’t heavily processed.
Processed, in this context, refers to pretty much anything you can do to food. Wrappings, canning, mixing ingredients, and precooking all contribute to preparing food for consumption. Ideally, you should do all those things yourself, but even just avoiding microwaveable dinners makes a great difference, too.
Save energy by switching to sustainable appliances
Compared to other items on this list, changing appliances is a big change in your daily life and can cost a lot of money. It’s also a big step towards building a sustainable lifestyle and one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon emissions.
Modern appliances can help save money in the long run by lowering the weight of your energy bills. Better washing machines use less energy and water, but an induction cooker is the best way to save energy.
Even if you don’t notice a difference in savings immediately, those home improvements will eventually pay for themselves.
Meanwhile, you’ll lower your carbon footprint and help fight climate change with this sustainable New Year’s resolution.
Drive less, use public transportation
Public transport is another uneasy topic. For one, it isn’t a realistic choice for so many people. And, as anyone who takes the bus daily knows, public transport is hardly everyone’s favorite choice. While there are some cities where public transportation works exceptionally well, that is sadly not the norm.
With all that in mind, driving less is the last of our 2024 New Year’s sustainable resolutions. Driving less doesn’t just mean using public transport daily (though that’s likely how you can have the highest impact). It also means not taking the car when going on vacation or using a bicycle now and then.
Start by taking the bus or the train more this January. Assuming public transportation is available, you shouldn’t have a problem only doing so once or twice. Soon, you’ll find some upsides to not driving, besides helping to fight the climate crisis. With no need to pay attention to the road, you’ll find more time to read, listen to music, or just think before work.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: The phrase Happy New Year written across a wall with festive decour. Featured Photo Credit: Kelly Sikkema.