10 New Year's Resolutions For The Eco-Minded

10 New Year's Resolutions For The Eco-Minded with green background, party hat, and confetti

Small and Sustainable Practices that Lead to Big Impacts in the New Year

As we navigate the seemingly never-ending holiday season, make sure to take some time and decide what you want to improve in your sustainability journey in 2023.

With climate change on so many minds, make this the year that you prioritize eco-friendly resolutions! As a bonus, your health and your wallet may benefit too.

Remember, sustainability is a marathon, not a race. All New Year's resolutions are good ones if you can realistically complete them and not be burdened by them. Sourgum Waste is here to help with ten small changes you can make in your life for a BIG ecological impact.

1. Bring Your Own Bags to the Store

This is probably the most common and most doable resolution on this list. Most stores in the United States are now BYOB (bring your own bag). Save yourself the aggravation and the juggling of your products to the car and invest in a few cloth bags.

Plastic bags can take up to 1000 years to photo-degrade, or become microplastics that continue to pollute the environment.

There are many types of reusable bags out there to help you carry your shopping from the store to your home. You probably have many lying around already such as totes, beach bags or backpacks. (If you think about it, a purse is a reusable bag. So, if you use a purse you already practice BYOB. Great job!)

Don't know where to start looking for reusable bags? Check out this reusable bag kit from ECOBAGS.

2. Refill Your (Reusable) Bottle or Cup

Another way to reduce your plastic consumption is to use (and reuse) refillable bottles. There are several reasons to have your water or iced coffee in a refillable bottle.

Firstly, as you probably guessed, it reduces plastic usage, which in turn reduces microplastics. These microplastics never completely degrade, so once a water source is exposed to them, they could be in that water for centuries. Interested in learning more about water pollution? Visit our Trash Talks Blog Post Water Pollution Statistics for more detailed information about water pollution.

But did you know that using a refillable bottle also decreases oil usage and energy consumption? According to a 2006 study by the Pacific Institute, it takes about 17 million barrels of oil to match the demand of plastic bottles for the United States. That's not counting the energy and gas needed to ship these bottles to grocery stores. That's a lot of oil and energy to waste on a bottle that's just going to be used once.

Overall, having a reusable bottle makes for less wasteful drink consumption, and is more convenient for you. Have one bottle at home, another at your place of work, one in the car and one in your backpack to never find yourself empty handed when thirst hits.

3. Make Mondays Meatless

Going meatless on Monday is a great way to start the week right for both your health and the environment.

According to the Monday Campaigns, eating less red meat can improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The Mayo Clinic takes this a step further in advising "what you don't eat can also harm your health". Diets that are low in nuts, seeds, seafood, fruits and vegetables also increase the risk of death (from heart related issues).

For each Monday you go meatless, you reduce your carbon footprint by 8 pounds! Even better, cutting out beef in general would be a great way to reduce your impact on the environment as it has the largest water footprint out of all types of meat, needing about 1,800 gallons of water per pound of beef produced.

Need some Meatless Monday recipes to start your New Year out right? Check out this list of delicious and easy vegan and vegetarian recipes from A Couple Cooks.

Already meatless on Mondays? Excellent! How about you take it one step further and pick a second say of the week to go meatless this year?

4. Take Public or Alternative Transportation

While public transportation might not be an option for everyone, if it is available, use it!

Car transportation alone accounts for 47% of the carbon footprint of a typical American family with two cars. If just one driver per household switched to taking public transportation for a daily commute of 10 miles each way, this would save 4,627 pounds of carbon dioxide per household per year—equivalent to an 8.1% reduction in the annual carbon footprint of a typical American household.

If public transit is not an option for you, there are other things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint from transportation:

  • start a carpool for school, sports teams, and work trips
  • ride your bike for the smaller distances
  • trade your car in a for an electric or hybrid model

5. Think About Your (Paper) Towels

We bet you don't often think about your towel type and consumption, but certain kinds of towels are better than others if you are looking to reduce your environmental impact.

The paper and pulp industry is the fourth largest contributor to the emission of greenhouse gases and consumes a whopping 4% of the world's energy! Producing one ton of paper towels uses and pollutes 20,000 gallons of fresh water. Imagine how much water we could save by choosing not to use paper towels? And unfortunately, according to The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recycled paper towels are not any better or sustainable for the environment.

It's clear that cloth towels are superior. However, not every cloth towel is created equal. Many fabrics contain harmful microfibers, so when replacing your paper towels with a sustainable alternative, avoid those with fabrics including polyester, polypropylene, and polyamide. Polyamide includes nylon, Nomex, Kevlar, and trogamide.

Now that you have an idea of what to avoid, check out this list of 8 Paper Towel Alternatives from The Eco Hub, that also gives you some tips about how to break the paper towel habit.

6. Change up your Cleaning Products

Want to make your home a healthier, cleaner place for the New Year? Then it might be time to make the switch to natural cleaning products. There are many benefits to using natural cleaning products, both for your home and the environment.

Regular cleaning products often irritate the eyes or throat, or cause headaches and other health problems (especially if you have allergies or lung conditions). Some products also release dangerous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They usually come in unsustainable plastic or aerosol packaging too.

Natural or “green” cleaning products are safer for everyday use, being gentle but effective cleaners that are less likely to cause long-term damage to your health. They are also better for the environment, releasing less harmful gases, toxic chemicals and microplastics into the air, water and soil. Look for those that come in eco-friendly packaging (most of them do!) so they are less wasteful all around.

Want to learn more about making your home a safer and healthier place by changing up your cleaning products? Check out this Guide to Natural Cleaning Products from Grove Collaborative that goes over some great tips for beginning eco-cleaners.

7. Buy in Bulk

Another, common and easy way to be more sustainable in 2023 is to buy in bulk. Buying in bulk can get rid of more of that pesky plastic packaging on a number of types of items.

You can buy from specialty bulk stores or in the bulk section of your regular grocery store using any kind of container you can think of, from glass jars to coffee mugs to tin cans.

The best part about buying in bulk is how many products are available to buy! From pantry staples to cleaning products to beauty supplies, most dry goods stores have everything you need to make your home a bulk-buy bungalow.

Don't know where to get the bulk buy bargains in your state? Check out Litterless' Zero Waste Grocery Guide for a state-by-state breakdown of where to go to buy in bulk.

8. Shop Second Hand

One of our favorite sustainable practices at Sourgum Waste is to shop second hand. Because who wants to give up the joy of a fresh outfit, a brand new toy, the latest gadget, or a new piece of accent furniture - just to name a few? What is old and outdated to one can be new and exciting to another. This is especially true when it comes to clothes, books, toys, houseware, furniture... the list goes on!

You can find almost anything you're looking to buy in like-new or good condition in physical second-hand stores (just google "thrift shop" in your area), online thrift stores that specialize in clothing or toys or refurbished tech, and online market places that allow you to purchase from peers. Some of our favorite online marketplaces include Facebook Marketplace, Mercari, Poshmark and OfferUp.

So if you're a bit of a shopaholic with a sustainable conscience, the world is your oyster! There are hundreds of ways to find that hidden gem you're looking for, that flavor of the week you want to try, that wardrobe staple you just MUST have, without hurting the planet or breaking the bank. Remember to check where the item is coming from and prioritize local transactions to save emissions on the product's shipping.

9. Spruce up your Sewing Skills

That's right! Sewing is actually a way that you can help the environment, not to mention a satisfying hobby.

The fast fashion trend - a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing, produces a lot of chemical laden textile waste: 82 pounds per person per year in America.

By learning to sew, you can extend the shelf life of your clothes, meaning less waste is produced to replace them. Small things like repairing buttons, adding patches and simple stitches not only help you keep the clothes you love around longer, they allow you to add elements of a fresh style to your old clothes.

Don't know how to thread the needle? Read 5 Easy Stitch Fixes for step-by-step instructions on how to make simple fixes to your well loved wears.

10. Combat Food Waste with Composting

Composting is a larger commitment that really helps the environment. It helps you use your food waste and not, well, waste it, while reducing carbon emissions from your trash.

For more information about what food waste is, check out our Trash Talks Blog on "How to Avoid Food Waste and Save Money". This article also has some beginner level information on how to compost, so check that out too.

Since composting is such an involved process, we are going to leave explaining it to the experts. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has a Composting 101 article that has everything someone who's interested in composting needs to know to be successful.

If you're finding the process daunting, and you can afford to invest in this resolution, some items have recently entered the market that help anyone with easy, stink-free home composting, whether or not you have the outside space.

Educate Yourself and Others

If you truly want to be more sustainable and eco-friendly in 2023, you need to devote some time doing research on creating sustainable habits and maintaining an eco-friendly lifestyle. Jumping into sustainability without researching ahead of time is just not sustainable. Literally, it will be like that hobby you picked up and did for two weeks never to do it again.

Start by signing up to sustainability newsletters such as the Sourgum Waste emails and follow sustainability advocates on your favorite social media platforms. You don't need to adopt every single piece of advice you read, but instead take slow and easy steps that make sense for your lifestyle.

Don't forget that the reason you are being eco-friendly is to help the earth. Educating yourself on how to be a friend to the earth is a long and evolving process, but it will make your sustainability journey all the better at the end of the old year and into the New Year!

Every. Little. Helps.

The above may seem like small changes to some, or a little more daunting to others. Either way, they are all achievable and, with time and consistency, make a huge impact on your ecological footprint.

You do not need to take them up all at once! Tackle each of the ten changes one after the other until they becomes second nature, to seamlessly integrate these eco-friendly gestures into your every day.

If you're a sustainability pro and the ten habits listed in this article are already integrated into your routine, write your own list of eco-friendly resolutions. Some of the things members of the Sourgum Waste team are committing to this year include:

  • buying gifts from sustainable brands only
  • picking the meatless burger option whenever available on the menu
  • always looking for second hand toys before buying new
  • purchasing day clothes and school uniforms second hand
  • picking a metal can over a plastic bottle when buying cold drinks on the go
  • choosing the bike over the car for small distances
  • making a visit to the farmer's market a part of the weekly routine
  • signing up for a recycling program with Terracycle
  • and more!
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