It's time to be honest about our personal habits and reflect on what we can improve for the sake of our health and our planet. Here are 5 easy New Year’s resolutions for 2018 that serve a bigger purpose.
Before looking to global actions and legislation to save the environment, we should first take a hard look at ourselves and think about how we can all individually stand up for Mother Earth. Here are 5 simple steps you can take in 2018 to improve your impact on this planet and simultaneously benefit our own health.
Bring Your Own Shopping Bags
In 2016, California placed a state-wide ban on plastic bags. Although it seemed like a minor inconvenience for disgruntled shoppers at first, the ban has already reduced plastic bag litter by 72%, which now only accounts for 1.5% of the state’s pollution as opposed to 14% before the ban was passed. Not only is plastic litter displeasing to the eye, it’s non-biodegradable composition makes it a major threat to the world’s lakes, oceans, and fish. Additionally, because fish are consuming plastic, scientists are finding that remnants of our plastic waste are also making their way into seafood and our digestive systems.
For small purchases, you can do your best to carry what you bought and decline the teller's offer of a bag. When grocery shopping consider using reusable shopping bags; they come in a variety of materials and styles.
Eat Less Meat
While not everyone is thrilled to go vegan or vegetarian, reducing our meat consumption by just a little bit can have a huge impact on the environment. Below is a breakdown of various dietary styles and their environmental impact, as measured by carbon emissions (CO2).
If you’re not ready to reduce or stop eating meat, you can start by switching to more sustainable meat choices. Below is a chart that shows what it takes to produce 1 pound of four staple meats.
Keep in mind that food production is responsible for 70% of global water use and is the leading cause of deforestation. From this, rearing livestock accounts for 30% of the planet’s land surface. Additionally, the global livestock industry individually contributes 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (UN Food & Agriculture Organization).
For more information on how your food choices impact your carbon footprint you can read our previous post How You Vote With Your Food.
Walk Outside More
Walking rather than using other forms of transport has huge mental and physical benefits beyond the obvious environmental benefits of reducing energy consumption and fossil fuel emissions. It’s been scientifically proven that walking outside lowers heart rate and blood pressure, reduces stress, boosts the immune system, and provides an overall mood boost. We often think of nature as wild, faraway landscapes. However, daily contact with any sort of nature can bring significant spiritual benefits. For city dwellers, a brief visit to a park on a daily basis can provide the right dose of nature to relieve stress and feel happier. For those who aren’t big fans of the gym, consider researching green spaces wherever you live (you might not even know about them) and go explore on a run.
Donate Items You Don’t Need
There’s great value in going through your things and reflecting on what you really need and what you could do without. We live in a society that thrives on the production and consumption of things to the point that we lose track of the essentials. Getting rid of material items we no longer use through donations is not only liberating because it allows us to declutter and organize our lives, it is also a great way to help those in need while reducing waste. This New Years, perhaps go through your kitchen supplies, your clothes, your furniture, etc. and question whether you still need all of it. Chances are you’ll find there’s lots you can get rid of that other people could put to good use.
Here is a website that makes it incredibly easy to donate things nationwide by picking up your items right at your door front.
In simple terms, composting turns all organic materials (your leftover vegetables, stale cereal, old herbs, even paper products) into rich, fertile soil full of vitamins and nutrients without the need for chemicals or pesticides. By composting, you are diverting waste from landfills and bringing the nutrient cycle back to Earth in a natural and sustainable way. When organic matter goes to landfills, it produces methane, which is a GHG twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide. According to the EPA, landfills account for the United States’ third largest source of methane emissions. If we all composted our organic leftovers, not only would we doing the atmosphere a huge favor, we would all probably be more mindful of the food we waste.
For a concise list of what you can and cannot compost and several simple methods of composting follow this guide here.
Alternatively, if composting is not an option for you, you can find your local food bank here and help fight hunger while being environmentally responsible.
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GC Content Writer: Sofia Regalado