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  • Emma Andrews

8 Eco-Friendly New Year's Resolutions

A photo of two hands holding sparklers in an evening

The start of a new year is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings – and setting yourself a resolution can provide a sense of purpose and direction.

Many people find that having a sense of community and shared purpose can help them stay committed to their goals, and telling others about your resolution is a proven way to increase how successful you are in keeping it.

Making a resolution can also be a way to reflect on the past year and identify areas to make improvements. It can be a way to motivate yourself to make positive changes in your life, whether they're related to your health, career, relationships, or personal growth.

Why make a sustainable or eco-friendly resolution?

Every year the effects of climate change are becoming more and more apparent, and urgent action is needed now. It's expected 2022 was the UK's warmest year since records began in 1884.

But it can often feel out of our control to do something about it. Enter: the New Year's resolution! A great way to make more sustainable habits and see a positive change in a tangible way. And you can get started today.

But did you know there are more benefits to sustainable resolutions than just reducing your impact? Here are just a few:

  • Many sustainable practices, such as reducing your meat consumption and growing your own food, can also have health benefits.

  • Living more sustainably can also help you save money in the long run, for instance by reducing your energy consumption or using reusable products instead of disposable ones. And yes: it is cheaper to and lower impact to wash something to use again, rather than buying something cheap new!

  • As we've mentioned, a sustainable New Year's resolution can have a positive impact on your mental health. When faced with the scale of climate change, making sustainable choices can give you a sense of accomplishment and pride in the impact you are making, and the standard you set to others, which has a knock-on effect itself.

Without further ado, let's get started with our list of sustainable New Year's resolutions.

A photo of plant-based burger, red onions and a cheese slice in a pan

1. Reduce meat and dairy

It's officially Veganuary! so what better time to cut down on the meat you buy and consume?

One of the biggest changes you can make for a more sustainable diet is cutting out meat. Studies comparing different lifestyles show that opting for a vegan diet could reduce the carbon emissions of what you eat by up to 73 per cent.

Looking at dairy is a good idea too, and milk is an easy swap that almost a third of UK adults are already making! On average, cow milk produces three times the CO2 of plant-based milk, and cows themselves produce methane, another greenhouse gas.

Thankfully, there are plenty of options, from oat, to soya, and even potato milk! Try Califia Farms’ and Minor Figures’ oat milks, or Dug potato milk.

Remember that you don't have to go Cold (plant-based) Turkey. Start by cutting down meat and dairy in one out of five meals and go from there.

2. Shop secondhand

A photo of a bookshop with a table outside with crates of books and prints in them

Did you know that on average, each person in the UK has 57 items of clothing in their wardrobe that don’t get worn?

Buying secondhand, especially clothing, is a brilliant way to drastically reduce your impact. The fashion industry is a BIG polluter, not just of carbon emissions, but water and plastic waste, too. Thankfully, buying secondhand is easier than it's ever been!

For clothing, take your pick – from charity shops and boot fairs, to apps like Depop and Vinted. It's not just the stuff nobody wants – you can find loads of great brands, luxury pieces and unique fits to suit your needs. What's more, you're more likely to find one-of-a-kind styles that nobody else has.

For used tech there are some great marketplaces like mpb (for camera gear) and Backmarket for a wide range of items.

It goes both ways: you can sell your stuff, making money from unwanted devices, clothing and decorations while decluttering the house.

3. Cut down on the car

Someone on a bike, silhouetted against a blue background

Switching some of your journeys to other types of transport like the bus or train are great ways of cutting your carbon footprint, and with the current price of fuel you might save money, too!

Carpooling with colleagues is a great way to save on the work commute. Better yet, if it's a walkable or cyclable distance, they are the easiest way to go emission-less!

If you're walking, you can pop on a podcast or music. It's a great way to clear your mind, get away from computer screens, and get fit while you're at it.

4. Get gardening

A photo of a window box with yellow and orange nasturtiums growing out of it

An active, flourishing garden doesn't just look nice: it's a great way to reduce your impact and even mitigate emissions in your area.

Plants and trees absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, improve soil health and provide a safe haven for whole ecosystems of insects, animals and fungi. They're a great way of using up compost from food waste, which in turn reduces the emissions created by food breaking down improperly in landfill, where there often isn't enough oxygen or bacteria to break it down.

What's more, you can easily grow your own veg, including tomatoes and lettuce, saving money on the food shop. RHS has great beginners guides as well as a specific tips on gardening for the environment.

If you don't have a garden, there are plenty of ways you can plant in window boxes or on a balcony. And of course, house plants can be placed anywhere indoors.

5. School yourself

A photo of a hand reaching for a book from a row of books

Learning is always a good goal, and there's so much to delve into when it comes to sustainability.

Learn more about the issues and what you can do to lead a more sustainable life with books like Greta Thunberg's newly-released The Climate Book or Fashionopolis, an in depth guide to sustainability in fashion by Dana Thomas.

Some great podcast picks include How To Save A Planet and Sustainababble. And there are some great blogs and news sites online including Low Tech Magazine, Positive News, and Good On You.

For more books and magazines about sustainability check out our recent Christmas gift guide.

6. Upcycle and regift

A photo of a four painted Jarritos cans with cactuses growing in them

Many of the things we need are already in a cupboard or drawer in our houses – and after Christmas, that's especially going to be the case. Repurposing presents and upcycling what we own are therefore great ways of reducing waste, unnecessary emissions and saving space.

It's an excuse to get crafty or practice a bit of DIY, and a unique handmade gift also shows you care. Things like birthday cards can easily be made by hand, and if you're not planning on using that gifted soap bar, why not wrap it up in tissue paper and string and gift it on to someone who will?

Pinterest is a great place for ideas and ways you can upcycle and make something new from existing objects, and even look for inspiration for handmade birthday cards.

7. Support local

A photo of a vegetables at a grocers

Big established chains and supermarkets can be some of the biggest culprits for carbon emissions and waste.

Shopping a bit more thoughtfully, by doing at least some of your shop at your local grocer or butcher, can help cut down on both. By moving away from supermarkets you generally support smaller supply chains, less waste and more local suppliers which tend to be more ethical and responsible.

Many grocers and butchers allow you to buy just what you need and packaged in paper bags, saving money and food waste, and plastic packaging.

8. Buy better

A photo of several eco-friendly products including a loofah, sponge and tea towel

Finally, we couldn't not include this one. Making a New Year's resolution to support better brands that care about the environment is a fantastic way of voting with your wallet. You could also boycott Amazon, while you're at it!

Whether you want to go all-out vegan, order organic, phase out plastic or find Fair Trade accredited brands, – launching early 2023 – is the place to go!

With products spanning skincare, clothing and footwear, technology, homeware, food & drink and more, we feel like we know a thing or two about reducing the impact of your shopping basket. And our impact calculator makes it easy to see the carbon emissions, water waste and plastic waste you could be saving by choosing better alternatives.

Good luck!

Making and sticking to a New Year resolution can be hard, so make sure yours is realistic and don't lose faith if you don't quite meet it.

The key thing is to keep going and try your best. Remember that perfect is the enemy of good.

Happy 2023!

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