We all know the echo of the new year; “This year, I will spend more time with friends and family, I will Improve my health, help out more in my community and learn something new.“ Come February; those thoughts are often over already. But did it ever occur to you that most of our new year’s resolutions have an impact on our surroundings? Not only on our families, friends, and communities we live in but, perhaps most importantly, on our planet, and that’s why you should keep those promises going for yourself and for the environment.
The courage to change
Statistically, by now, most people have already quit their resolutions. So why not start from scratch? But this time, I would like you to focus on what your new year’s resolutions would look like if, first of all, you ask yourself a new question: “What kind of planet would I like to live on?”
Take a few minutes and let all of those feelings and images come to you. Where are you? How do you see yourself and your direct environment? Do you see yourself in a city full of concrete buildings with big windows, people in meeting rooms, and streets full of cars, or are you in the countryside, hearing birds and seeing a mountain with snow on the top in the background? What do you like and not like about these images? And what are you willing to do to change them?
Facing the facts
Now, I am pretty sure that at least one of the first three images in your mind was nature related. This once-in-life feeling to walk on the warm sand and listen to ocean waves, to hike a mountain and be exposed to marvelous landscapes, to ride a bike along turquoise waters and hear a waterfall in the distance. Are these places part of a planet you would like to live on?
Well, then, I have some good and some bad news for you! The good news is all of these places already exist on our planet, and you can just go out of your door and have it all. The bad news, if we continue to live the same way as we have been living until now, we will not be able to just go out and have it all because, as simple as it is, a lot of it will not exist anymore.
So, if all of these amazing, breathtaking, terrific places are coming automatically to our minds, why not make “keeping these places thriving and alive” the center of our lives? New year or not!
Actions big and small
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry; I’ve got you. Here goes a list of small and not-so-small things that you can change in your daily routine that will make you a more conscious, healthy, and happy person and, simultaneously, will immensely benefit your environment and our beautiful planet.
Try to eat regionally and seasonally. For example, where I live, raspberries are a summer fruit, so I enjoy them through the summer months and buy them from local farmers, and try to keep my fingers away from them during winter months, cause in most cases, those are imported from far away countries and carry a huge carbon footprint. If you can’t do without them, you can always freeze the ones you bought in summer and enjoy them until the next season.
Our daily habits
Another way to live with the environment in mind is by trying to reduce your meat consumption. Not everyone is happy being vegetarian or vegan, but it’s not a secret anymore that livestock farming contributes in several different ways to immense amounts of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. If it is super hard for you to go without meat, there are still ways to mitigate your contribution; try to source your meat from local suppliers with ethical and ecological practices and maybe eat meat only 1-2 times a week. Beef has the biggest footprint by far, and from your coffee topping options, dairy milk also has the biggest imprint.
Think of how you are commuting in your city. It would benefit your body and our environment if you cycled to the places you need to go. Using public transport is not a bad idea either; you might even have more time to pick your own favorite true-crime podcast or even a new favorite book. Just try to avoid driving a car on a daily basis, and if there is no way around it, find people in your area who are going in the same direction and just do car-pooling or use car-sharing providers in your area.
Pack new friends
Consider single-use plastic as your new enemy. Bring your own coffee mug, your own lunch box, and your own tote bag. Now you are afraid that your bag will look like a door to Narnia? Believe it or not, the perks of living in the 21st century, there are plenty of foldable coffee mugs or lunch boxes, so you can always carry them with you, and they won’t take up much space. If it is possible, in the area you live in and when you travel, try to drink more tap water instead of PET bottled water, and it is a good habit to carry your own reusable bottle with you.
Invest in your future
When it comes to our living, there are a few things that you can change, which would involve a little bit of bureaucracy, and does not require daily attention from your side, but would leave you with a high “feeling good factor” and benefit our planet.
How much do you know about your bank? Yes, you heard me right, the bank where you get your salary and keep your savings. It is worth it to take your bank under a loupe and see if they invest in green projects or work with companies that pursue a path to sustainable development. Your financial choice can create a positive impact, not just for your personal financial well-being, but for the world around you too.
Where does your electricity at home come from? I am pretty sure that statements like “we need to get rid of fossil fuels” are familiar to you, but I know that not a lot of people are aware of how much fossil fuels actually influence our daily lives and how they can support the switch to renewable energy. The simple step from your side is to change your electricity provider to a greener one. That’s it; sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Okay, now comes my favorite part: If you have mastered all of the things above, let’s just not stop here and go the extra mile! Of course, you can think – “I am already feeling like a green hero, and I think this is all that I can do,” – and believe me, I would agree with you cause this would already be way more than the average human does. But what I have always thought is that we, humans, have this remarkable power to evolve, to change, to be contagious, and to spread the energy and the knowledge we are carrying, so why stop?
Here are a few things that I have been focusing on lately, and maybe something that would awaken your interest and you would like to give more thought to it too:
Next time when you see your favorite blogger advertising the next pair of jeans, and you feel that urge in you, “oh holy molly, I love it, and I want it too,” ask yourself: “Do I need it?” Of course, it might be the case that you actually have only two pairs of jeans, and one of them already has holes in it. In that case, just make a conscious choice of what you are buying and ask yourself: how sustainable was the production of those jeans? Once again, the perk of living in our century is that we have plenty of sustainable alternatives; you just need to make the right choice about what kind of things you want to support and spend your money on. And, of course, you can always just repair your favorite things!
The extra mile
Are you familiar with the term “flight shaming”? That is the one that’s giving me the most headache at the moment. Flying is deemed the worst transportation mode for our environment (and rightfully so), and if you fly a lot, you contribute to a high amount of carbon emissions in our atmosphere, harming our planet. If we loop back to the images that came to your mind before, some of these places are reachable only by plane, and some of these places are dependent on tourism. In our globalized world, many of us have family on another continent, or we have jobs that require frequent flying.
So, what to do then? Quit our jobs and forget about seeing our families until we figure out all of that “sustainable aviation fuel” stuff? Of course not! But you can be conscious about how often you fly and what kind of transportation mode you use. Try to minimize flying, consider other transportation modes (especially within Europe), and try not to take domestic flights. If flying is unavoidable for you, look for direct flights, try to fly with airlines that use renewable biofuels, fly economy class, and pack light, and most importantly, if you take long-haul flights, stay longer in these destinations.
And last but not least, STAND UP for your rights; stand up for our planet and for every living creature who calls planet earth HOME. If it sounds too much for you, then maybe, find some projects that are very close to your heart and your own values and support these projects personally or with donations. Mine are animal welfare and animal rescue projects in Europe; what would be yours?
It’s never too late!
Don’t wait for the New Year to become a better person. You can start all over again every month, every week, or even every day. Yet, it is never too late! I know this all sounds overwhelming, but believe me, you are not alone! So many people are trying their best step by step every single day. Just think of what kind of planet you would like to live on, your dear friends and maybe your kids and grandkids, and be that change today for a better future tomorrow!