HOW TO HAVE AN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY NEW YEAR
Meaghan Weeden | December 28, 2020 | 5 min read
2021 is Here! Are You Ready for a Sustainable New Year?
We can all agree that 2020 has been a year for the record books. From shutdowns to travel bans, mandatory masks, social distancing, and more, so many aspects of our lives have changed. As a result, we’ve learned a lot about who we are + what lengths we'll go to keep each other safe. We’ve realized just how precious our health is, and that we have just one health + and one planet, inextricably tied.
And so we emerge from 2020 changed, looking at the world with fresh eyes + and recognizing things that were harder to notice before. The word essential has taken on a whole new meaning, healthcare workers are recognized as the heroes they've always been, and the many thankless jobs that keep our lives moving have taken on new significance.
A New World Built Upon Compassion, Hope, and Action
When the clock strikes 12:01 on New Years, things won’t magically go back to the way they were — in fact, they’ll never be quite the same. But that’s not entirely a bad thing. Over here, we’re strong believers in the new year’s resolution to set the tone for the next 12 months. And in 2021, which kicks off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, we’re looking forward with hope to a sustainable new year. Won’t you join us?
Here’s 9 Tips to Have a Happy, Sustainable New Year
1. Use Less Plastic
From gloves to masks + hand sanitizer, we’ve all had to use more plastic this year to keep us safe during the global pandemic. But as restrictions begin to ease in the new year, we should also ease up on our plastic use, narrowing it down to what’s necessary to stay safe. So bring a reusable bag when shopping, carry a refillable water bottle, and consider bringing a sustainable straw + your own to-go containers when you go out to eat.
2. Eat Less Meat
After living through a year dominated by a zoonotic disease, it’s impossible to ignore the connection between our health and the health of the planet. Besides its hefty carbon footprint, agricultural deforestation brings us deep into wild places that were previously inaccessible. This dramatically increases the risk of coming into contact with new diseases. So give veggies a chance + get your animal products from a local farmer if you can.
3. Walk More
Most of us have been traveling a lot less this year out of respect for COVID-19 safety guidelines + restrictions. But as the world begins to safely open back up, we know it will be very tempting to hop into the car and drive off into the sunset. Consider walking, biking, or (when it’s safe to do so) taking public transit instead. Every mile you don’t drive reduces your carbon footprint by about 1 lb. Think of it as a chance to save $ on going to the gym!
4. Support Local Businesses
Small businesses have taken a huge hit this year, with many struggling to keep the lights on or closing their doors for good. This is a big loss for local economies and, by extension, the local governments that depend on the tax dollars they generate. So the next time you have a purchase to make, shop around locally first. You’ll be putting food on a local table + reducing your own carbon footprint by not shipping something from thousands of miles away.
5. Reduce Your Electricity Usage
Phantom energy can tack on up to 10% of your monthly electric bill + dramatically increase your carbon footprint over time. So invest in some smart strips or unplug your electronics when they’re not in use, turn off the lights when you leave a room, and keep your thermostat below 68°F when you’re awake and lower when you’re asleep or away from home. These simple changes will add up for the planet + keep more money in your wallet!
6. Shop Organic Whenever Possible
Organic farmers must adhere to strict standards for pest control, but they also generally use fewer resources, have less resource-intensive farming practices, protect bees, don’t pollute the air + groundwater, and promote local biodiversity. And with tens of thousands of unregulated chemicals produced and used in the US, we all carry a toxic chemical body burden. Choosing chemical-free, unprocessed food is just one way we can take control of our health.
7. Minimize Waste in One Area of Your Home
Going completely zero-waste can feel like a lot of work, but try focusing on one part of your home, like the kitchen or bathroom. Minimize plastic, make DIY cleaning and body care products, and swap out the unnecessary items like paper towels — according to the EPA, paper is the #1 item going into the landfill, so try out some absorbent, reusable towels that can be thrown in the laundry + reused again and again.
8. Read Green
If reading more books is one of your resolutions, add some awesome climate and environment books to the list. A few of our favorites include The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, and The Overstory by Richard Powers. Looking for more options? Check out our list of 24 Best Books About Nature and Trees for a comprehensive guide to what we feel are some of the best nature books out there!
9. Plant Lots of Trees
OK, so you probably knew this one was coming. But seriously, trees help clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, provide habitat to over 80% of the world's terrestrial biodiversity, and so much more. So consider planting trees with us to reduce your footprint + create a positive impact that will last for generations to come. This can mean donating (you can do this for as little as $1), getting to a planting event, or even becoming a tree ambassador to spread the word throughout your community.
We hope this list gave you some inspiration as you step off of the 2020 rollercoaster and into the new year. All of us at One Tree Planted wish you and your family a happy sustainable new year filled with good health and limitless possibilities. See you next year!