Easy Sustainable Resolutions for 2021
2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year in which we’ve all been forced to face various challenges. From environmental issues related to climate change, to rising racial tensions and a pandemic that is still affecting our lives, it’s fair to say we’ve had our fair share of trials and tribulations. In spite of this, there’s definitely some good we can take from last year; perhaps we can learn from these upsetting times and bring positive, uplifting changes to our day-to-day lives.
Instead of considering 2020 as a year of missed opportunities, we could see it as a year of deep change. Real changes. Changes that we don’t necessarily have to consider as just fleeting resolutions made during our lockdown days—when we felt vulnerable and needed the comforting idea of having something to look forward to. I mean durable, long term changes.
When a pandemic takes over, the safety, health and well-being of the human population is at stake (with many marginalized groups being even more exposed to the threat). Our society evidently shows the pre-pandemic problems it had before: overconsumption, climate change, pollution, social injustice, unethical working conditions in underdeveloped and poor countries, wasteful production chains, unbalanced distribution of health, privilege, corruption and so much more.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could turn 2021 into a clean slate, a new fresh perspective on life and a brand new beginning? Yes, it would. But how? By setting simple intentions that don’t need to turn into large, heroic gestures, but can easily start from small, everyday decisions.
Before we get into it, I’d like to point out that I’m referring to the following as “resolutions”, for lack of a more specific word. If you don’t really believe in resolutions, consider these intentions, goals or simple lifehacks which you can use to build strong action systems from. Resolutions can oftentimes be too generic or—on the contrary—too strict. The last thing I want to do with this article is to intimidate you, discourage you or demotivate you. Consider the following as guidelines that will help you and hopefully create action systems to build more sustainable routines and ways of thinking and acting.
1. Less meat, more plants.
One of the easiest ways to begin making some positive, eco-conscious changes starts from our tables and our eating choices. Opting for local products while following the seasonal calendar is a great place to get started. Additionally, choosing to reduce our meat consumption is a simple decision with a huge practical impact—it’s cost effective, healthy and environmentally conscious. Why? Because animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, global water shortages, greenhouse gases and species extinction, just to name a few. The simple yet effective choice of eating more plant based foods can be beneficial for the planet without having to compromise on flavor or feel like you’re missing out on something. You can try incorporating one or more plant based days a week or even dedicate an entire month (like Veganuary, the worldwide movement to promote the vegan diet during the month of January) to a diet with no animal products.
2. Think, act and buy local.
2020 has definitely helped us realize the importance of supporting our local community. Why? Because we can’t sustainably live in a world where big online retailers or big chain stores are the only option for the consumers. Buying local means investing in and supporting our own local community while massively lowering our carbon footprint. It means investing our time, money and energy locally so that everyone can benefit. Shopping locally allows us to create a virtuous cycle where local businesses, the local economy and local products receive the credit they deserve. It’s even more important for local businesses nowadays to thrive and survive in a world where big online retailers only seem to keep growing. Even small things like an online review, sharing a post, putting a like on social media can help local businesses immensely.
3. Less is more.
While during 2020 we’ve seen the exponential growth of large online retailers with consequential overconsumption levels we’ve probably never seen before, many of us had the chance to spend a lot of time at home and reflect on a lot of things. How much do you own already and is everything you have really adding any value to your life? I mean necessary, essential. For real. What could you do without? Do you really need to purchase more clothes, constantly update your electronics, surround yourself with various knick knacks? Oftentimes compulsive shopping reveals unprocessed feelings underneath. A new sweater, purse, pair of shoes, electronic gadget, home decor piece won’t make your life better. Because once the initial excitement for the new purchase fades out, you’ll soon realize that shopping and overconsumption won’t make you any happier. Constantly chasing the next trend while continuously falling into a “single-use” mindset is not going to bring you any substantial joy. If anything, it is just going to make you waste tons of money and add more things to your already stuffed home. What are your favorite things, for real? Those that you keep reaching for over and over again no matter where you are or how you feel. Those are the things you want to surround yourself with—what you use, that has purpose, that adds value and won’t be forgotten within a week in the corner of your closet. Think simple and act simple. Because when you do, slowly but surely you’ll be able to feel more contentment and appreciation for what you own and what adds meaning to your life.
4. Use what you have.
When it comes to making a positive step towards a more sustainable and conscious way of life, there is nothing better than starting with the things you already have on hand. As mentioned above, the less you buy and the less you own, the more you’re able to be appreciative of your life. From clothes to kitchen utensils, accessories, various body care products etc. Start with the things you already own. You want to build a more sustainable wardrobe? Great! Start with the clothes you already own and get the most out of them. You want to start reducing your waste? Great! Why don’t you give those plastic bags a further use when grocery shopping? Do you want to streamline your beauty routine? Nice! Use up the products you have before purchasing anything new and discover exactly which are the ones you really need and want to use. You want to reduce food waste? Great! Take a look at your pantry and fridge first and use as many ingredients up as you can before buying groceries again. It is as simple as that.
5. Choose your priorities and values and keep an open mind.
As we get older and grow as people, so do our values. As much as we try our best, it is absolutely impossible to live an entirely sustainable, conscious lifestyle. What do YOU care about? Which are the things YOU wish to prioritize in your day-to-day? Write everything down and keep the list handy where you can see it every day. This will help you put your money where your mouth is. Also, it’ll keep you motivated while gently reminding you that there’s no such thing as a perfectly sustainable life. It doesn’t have to be a definitive list because your priorities and values can shift as your life changes. You’ll make mistakes or learn things the hard way sometimes, but as long as you keep focus on the things that matter to you the most, you’re going to be fine and be an awesome human being too! Think about what you choose to prioritize: is it eating locally and seasonally? Buying cruelty-free products? Reducing your plastic waste? Donating to local organizations engaged in helping the marginalized members of your community/city or the environment? Find your what and your why and act accordingly.
6. “Sharing is caring”: normalize second hand.
It’s probably no secret by now that our planet has too much fabrics and waste. Every year we keep hitting the Earth Overshoot Day earlier and earlier. We consume more than what the planet can provide us. Wouldn’t it be great to give more value to what is already existing? And you can easily do so. Donate, share, swap, borrow, buy preowned, rent, upcycle, reuse. By making second-hand the norm and not the exception, or by simply incorporating it into your daily choices, you can make a huge difference. Your wallet, but more importantly the planet, will thank you.
7. Think before you act.
From the way you consume, to the books you read, the products you use and recommend, every action—even the most apparently insignificant—has an impact. Being fully conscious of the way you act can be a great intention to start in the new year. What are the reasons behind your actions? Can you change some of the things you do, say and think? If yes, how? Is everything you do, believe and share purposeful? Trust me, it doesn’t have to be complicated, but it can be as simple as taking a deep breath, counting to three and thinking before you do anything. If we all were a little more aware of our actions, imagine what a wonderful world this would be.
Remember that big changes do not happen overnight. But starting from small, simple intentions can be an awesome way to turn our 2021 into a more significant, conscious year.