Each year brings with it the promise of fresh opportunities and resolutions for a happier, healthier you. Just a week and a half into 2017, you may have already abandoned your resolutions to hit the gym, read more, or eat better. So why not replace them with a resolution (or five) for a happier, healthier planet?
Let’s take five of the top New Year’s resolutions and give them a climate spin to show you how actions in your own life can make a real difference for the planet we all call home:
Resolution 1: Eat better Don’t waste food
Want to eat better for the planet? Here’s a simple way – don’t waste food! The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has found that more than one-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted – that’s equivalent to 1.3 billion tons of edible food. The carbon footprint of this wasted food is huge: It’s equivalent to about 3.3 gigatons of CO2. In other words, if food waste were a country, it would the third largest global emitter, after the U.S. and China.
So what can you do? Shop smart: Head to the store armed with a list of the ingredients you’ll need for your week’s meals. When you get home, store those ingredients properly, and rotate them, bringing the oldest items to the front of your fridge. Freeze items that are getting close to their expiration dates, and get creative to work your leftovers into soups, salads, and more. Websites like Foodwise.com can help you create meals from the foods you have right now in your fridge, so get inspired, and get cooking!
Resolution 2: Work out more Move your body, not your car
In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the transportation sector accounts for 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with 95% of the world’s transportation energy coming from petroleum-based fuels like gasoline and diesel.
But you’ve got places to go, so what can you do? See if it’s possible to bike, walk, or take public transportation to burn calories, not gasoline, and cut your carbon footprint. If those aren’t an option, consider carpooling with a colleague or friend to save emissions (and gas money, which leads us to our next point).
Resolution 3: Save money Spend thoughtfully
When it comes to climate change, you can make a statement with your wallet. Shop smarter and more sustainably. According to Zady’s The New Standard report, as many as 150 billion pieces of clothing are produced each year, many in the pursuit of “fast fashion.” As companies pump out pieces, many are worn and discarded quickly – to the tune of 2.5 billion pounds of used clothing ending up in landfills each year.
The apparel industry produces millions of tons of carbon dioxide and uses immense amounts of water in our increasingly water-scarce world.
So what’s the answer? Learn about the labor and environment standards of the brands in your closet. Discover companies with sustainable business practices and transparent production, and support them with your business.
Resolution 4:Learn a new skill Get handy around the house
Ready for spring cleaning? Start with an update to your house’s appliances. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shares 10 simple steps to reduce your household gas emissions, including switching your lightbulbs to energy-efficient alternatives, composting food and yard waste, and saving water.
Start with the EPA’s Carbon Footprint Calculator to see just how much of an impact your home is having and where you can start making smarter choices. Running your dishwasher only when you have a full load can save 100 pounds of carbon dioxide and $40 a year, for example. Small changes to your home can add up to a big difference.
Ready for even more? Plug your address into Google’s Project Sunroof to calculate the estimated monthly savings on your electricity bill with solar power.
Resolution 5: Spend more time with family and friends Help family and friends get climate-smart
As you spend more time with friends and family, help them get smart on climate as well. Take a moment to share a few of the most startling statistics you’ve read here, pass along the most helpful tips to them, and watch the climate action spread. Invite them to join you in adopting resolutions for 2017 to take climate action into their own hands.
While world leaders, policymakers, and businesses will play a key role in solving the global challenge of climate change, climate action is up to all of us. I’m reminded of a quote from the American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Change starts with us. Let’s make these five resolutions we intend to keep in 2017!
[Photo: UN Environment Programme]