As we enter 2020, discussions about resolutions and plans for the coming months are always present on social media and in conversations with friends and family. As we think about and plan for the future, it’s always important to take a moment to set priorities for issues we want to tackle going forward. This year, we’re centering our New Year’s resolutions around the environment, and the steps we’re committing to to tackle the climate crisis.
At the recent UN Climate Change Summit (COP25) in Spain, world leaders and innovators reaffirmed the dire need for immediate action in response to the global climate emergency. This conference set goals and guidelines for implementing the Paris Agreement, which will begin to take effect in 2020 (you can read more about the achievements here). In and out of the summit, scientists internationally are urging action by government, industry, and individuals in order to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of global climate change and environmental degradation.
As you’re planning your New Year’s Resolutions and setting intentions for the New Year, we urge you to put the Earth and its wellbeing as a top priority.
Every choice that you make can be an opportunity to benefit the planet and sustain its health for generations to come.
One of the best ways to get started is to educate yourself about environmental issues that spark your interest and implement the solutions you learn about. There are thousands of resources out there to learn about environmental issues and actions, but some of our favorites are My Plastic Free Life, Zero Waste Chef, Trash is for Tossers, and Bea Johnson at Zero Waste Home.
As with any resolution, it can be tough to stay motivated or keep up a commitment, especially in the fact of constant devastating news.
Climate activism burnout is real, and it can be tough to overcome the systemic ways that environmental action is discouraged.
One of the ways that we stay positive in the face of so much destruction and pessimism is by joining forces and creating communities. This allows us to share ideas, get inspired, learn and share knowledge, and most of all, support each other.
Facebook groups are a great way to get involved, and there are tons dedicated to environmental activism and sustainable living. Locally, some of our favorites are Zero Waste San Francisco, Plastic Reduction Working Group, and The Climate Reality Project (search up your local chapter group!), but there are lots of options that can support you in whatever part of your sustainable journey you’re working on. If you have kids, they can even join their local Heirs to our Oceans group!
Becoming part of communities specifically focused on sustainability can support you and build institutional knowledge, which will make the movement more sustainable in the long term.
Another great way to maintain your passion and avoid burnout is by prioritizing action.
As many of you have heard, there are climate strikes happening constantly all over the world. These strikes are a great way to talk about frustrations, form community with other activists, and put pressure on government and industry to start making changes now. Here and here are websites with more information so you can get involved!
A final important part of staying motivated and inspired is to include a celebration of the successes and positive changes that are being made.
It’s essential that we don’t become complacent in the face of these successes because there is always work to be done, but it can really help to recognize and learn from the victories. Here are some websites that share environmental successes and victories as inspiration and a reminder of why we do the work that we do: here, here, here, and here. And, in our own little corner of the world, here at Fillgood you all have helped us reduce over 5000 pounds of plastic!
You can start to learn more about the topics that spark your interest or curiosity, which you can do by reading our blog posts, some of the amazing sources listed above, or talking to friends, family, and neighbors who are already involved. In the meantime, here are five key issues you can commit to today to shrink your carbon footprint:
1. Use fewer disposable items
This is a great place to start on your sustainable journey. Creating new items uses a tremendous amount of resources (raw materials, water, land, energy, etc.), and when we use single-use items we use all those resources just to be disposed of. However, the worst part comes at the end of disposables’ life cycle: recycling is flawed and energy-consuming, landfills are toxic and polluting, and many single use compostable plastic and paper products never actually break down. Instead, replace disposable, single-use items with all these reusable options!
2. Shop more consciously
On the topic of consumption, the places and people we choose to give our money to have a huge impact on the world. The first step is to simply buy less, instead opting to repair or reuse existing items, borrow and rent items from others, or take advantage of your local Buy Nothing group to receive used items. If you do need to buy something, try to buy local and support businesses that are more sustainable, or choose to buy second hand to reduce demand for new items being produced. Here’s a registry of businesses that are Green Business certified, which will also help you find local companies to support (and here’s why local is a good idea!).
3. Consume fewer animal products
Veganism and vegetarianism have gotten a lot of buzz and a lot of criticism in this last decade, but reducing consumption of animal products has remained one of the most significant ways to reduce your carbon footprint. This blog post goes more in depth about the benefits of Meatless Mondays (or everyday), but one stat that blew my mind is that beef requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions per gram of edible protein compared with plant proteins.
4. Travel more sustainably
Flying in airplanes is one of the most polluting actions an individual is responsible for. For context, one round-trip flight from New York to London is .67 tons of CO2, which some studies estimate is the total carbon an individual should emit in a year in order to halt climate change. You can learn more about the issue in this blog post. This year, commit to limiting air travel and instead see how far you can go traveling by public transport, biking, or walking whenever you can!
At the end of the day, individuals have a huge role to play in mitigating the climate crisis, but we can’t do it alone. We need the support and commitment of government and industry alongside us to truly make effective change. If you have the privilege of being able to vote, one of the most important things you can do is choose the elected officials who will be setting environmental rules and regulations for individuals, businesses, and entire industries during these crucial years. Analyze each candidate’s stance and history on environmental issues and use this information to make your voice heard this November.
What are your sustainable New Year's Resolutions?