It’s not too late to make your New Year’s resolutions — and why not help protect our future by focusing on sustainability? How can you reduce waste, pollute less, and preserve the environment?
With the Biden administration projected to increase regulations and bolster the Environmental Protection Agency, 2021 will bring a renewed focus on climate change, clean energy, and net-zero emissions. Although many of these new policies and protections will relate to states, counties, and corporations, there are still many actions that individuals can take.
As you consider the year ahead, you might think about activities that lead to more trash being dumped in the ocean, or more CO2 being released into the atmosphere, and try to eliminate them. But don’t worry, you don’t have to come up with your sustainability resolutions on your own. Here are 10 ways you can join in the effort and make a positive impact on the environment in 2021.
1. Go Easy on Clean Water Use
The clean water crisis is well known, with data showing that only 0.007% of the world’s water is currently available for immediate use by the entire global population. A lot of it is getting wasted and running off into the oceans or becoming polluted and unusable.
You can start by making more efficient use of water in your home. Installing efficient plumbing fixtures, such as low-flow aerator showerheads and faucets, can cut clean water usage by 50%. You could also install greywater reuse systems to use water from your dishwasher, showers, and baths in a more economical way.
While you’re at it, take a step further and increase the number of native plants in your garden to save irrigation water.
2. Choose Green and Sustainable Energy
Energy remains one of the biggest contributors to global warming. The use of green energy solutions such as solar panels has been trending for some time now, but expensive initial costs have been a major barrier.
However, you can start slowly and use efficient electronics in your home. Smart thermostats, for example, turn off automatically when nobody is at home, while tankless water heaters remove the need for continuous heating.
Commercial facilities such as office buildings and hotels can also install energy management systems, powered by IoT devices, to manage their energy usage.
Even simple measures such as only using your washing machine, or charging your electric vehicle, during off-peak hours, can do a great deal to keep coal-burning plants (used to stabilize demand/supply) from being used.
3. Make a Decision To Use Sustainable Materials
The plastic-free trend has been exciting and inspiring. Research already shows that 74% of consumers are willing to pay extra to have green packaging instead of cheap plastics when shopping or ordering products online.
Join the movement and opt for bamboo, recycled paper, glass, or even metal packaging whenever you can, because these materials are either recyclable or biodegradable.
Also, avoid plastic bags, utensils, and water bottles by making the switch to reusable bags and carrying your own reusable bottle and cutlery.
4. Switch to Efficient and Green Transportation
Transportation is responsible for more than one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. You can reduce your contribution to this by choosing cleaner modes of transportation when possible.
If you’re in the market for a car, switching to an electric or hybrid vehicle can help to cut down on gas emissions. However, if you can, why not just walk, jog, or cycle to work if you live in the city? It will do you good to exercise and revel in nature.
We already have evidence that less traffic — or clean transit — can make at least a temporary difference, as witnessed in cities reporting improved air quality during the stay-at-home period.
5. Recycle Electronics, Don’t Throw Them Out
Electronic waste, driven by cheap new devices, has been wrecking the environment by filling landfills, leaching toxic chemicals into the soil and water, and driving the increased mining of minerals such as lithium, gold, silver, and rare earth elements.
Today, a lot of organizations and commercial companies have perfected recycling and reuse processes. You can easily donate your old cell phones or recycle your old computers and home electronics to contribute towards saving the environment.
6. Become a Minimalist: Overcome the Compulsions of Capitalism
Are you tired of the rat race, or the desire to possess the latest fashion or newest gadget? Become a minimalist. No, you don’t have to sell everything and go out into the wild. Instead, adopt a modern minimalist lifestyle based on utility and value.
What that means is that you get rid of anything that isn’t absolutely essential for life. Stop chasing vanity fashion and opt for functional or sustainable clothing. Stick with the old electronics until they are past their service life. Pursue experiences instead of material possessions.
There are many other principles to minimalism, but their immense value goes beyond unburdening the environment of human-made trash. You will get to enjoy life more, find freedom and joy, and break free of consumerism mania. Minimalism is not hippie, it’s practical.
7. Learn Useful DIY Skills
Knitting, gardening, building, and repairing — these are amazing skills that you can pick up on a dime and make your life so much better. For example, you can start growing your own fresh fruit, herbs, and vegetables in the garden or in pots.
You can grow your food, make (or mend) your clothes, cut your hair, repair your plumbing, maintain machines, and so much more right there at home.
8. Eat Sustainably: Grow, Cook, and Buy From Responsible Brands
It has been interesting to see a lot of people rediscover a love for home-cooked meals in 2020. The ultra-processed foods we were used to eating were not doing us or the environment any favors.
Instead, you can buy fresh foods like vegetables, cereals, fruits, milk, and meats fresh from local markets. This cuts out the processing stage and enables you to eat healthy at home. However, be sure to buy only the perishables you need, to reduce food waste. Even now, the world still wastes 1.3 billion tonnes of food, the equivalent of 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 in the air.
9. Buy Second Hand Whenever Possible
Thrifting is good for the environment and for your wallet as well. Today’s products such as electronics are barely serving us for more than three years, but their quick life cycles only lead to a lot more pollution. Sure, it’s often intentional (planned obsolescence, anyone?), but high-quality goods can always be bought second hand at great prices.
There are a lot of things you can buy pre-owned and still get good value for your money. Second-hand home electronics, cars, bicycles, furniture, and even clothing can all help to keep landfills less busy.
10. Shop Locally
Many kind souls have been buying from local “mom and pop” stores during the pandemic to try and help out local businesses, but this trend has also done the environment a big favor. Without the need to transport goods thousands of miles to the market, emissions from cargo transport can be reduced.
Not to mention that food that travels a shorter distance requires less processing, which is also great. You can join in the trend and start buying local produce and products, especially handmade ones, wherever you shop.
Helping Ensure a Livable Earth for the Future
It’s amazing how many people have decided to take responsibility for the kind of earth we want to leave behind, the earth we want our children to have. By embracing these sustainability resolutions and others, we can help ensure a livable earth in the future. Remember to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
About the Author
Wesley Poritz, founder and owner of Big Sky Recycling. By harnessing the power of cell phones and electronics, Big Sky Recycling is dedicated to reducing e-waste and using profits as a means to a greater end: positive impact for our employees, communities, and the environment. Big Sky Recycling’s cell phone recycling program is a simple, secure, and free way to donate cell phones for charity.