When the new year rolls around and you start planning your resolutions, don’t settle for half-baked fitness goals and unrealistic work targets. By committing to just a few small life changes, you could make a real difference to the future of our planet. Have a green 2017 by taking on these simple but environmentally-friendly New Year’s resolutions.
Change how you boil the kettle
We’re not suggesting for one minute that you give up drinking tea or coffee. But by guessing how much water you need in the kettle rather than measuring it, you’re wasting a lot of energy. In fact, boiling a kettle can use up the same amount of electricity as lighting an entire house. Be smarter and more energy efficient by measuring the right amount of water. This is as easy as filling up the cup you intend to drink from with water and pouring that into the kettle.
Check your coffee filters
Certain kinds of coffee filters are bleached with chlorine and known to contain toxins. These are harmful to the environment if you chuck them in the recycling bin with your granules. Avoid hurting the planet by using ones made from recycled fibres instead. Or choose a reusable filter, which will also save you cash in the long run.
Switch canned food for frozen
Long-lasting canned food is an easy and relatively cheap way to get your five-a-day, but did you know that the cans being used for them are often lined with a potentially damaging substance called Bisphenol A (also known as BPA)? This industrial chemical is thought to be bad for both our bodies and the environment. Buying frozen means you’ll still gain the benefits of long-lasting food without adding chemicals to your dinner.
Eat less meat
Not everyone’s ready for a vegetarian or vegan diet, but everyone can make a difference to the environment by cutting down the amount of meat they consume. Livestock production could be responsible for as much as 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By opting to eat less meat, you’re helping to slow climate change and prevent unnecessary animal deaths. It’s also good for your health: eating less red and processed meats reduces chances of early death from diseases like cancer and heart disease. Meat Free Monday is a great place to start on your meat minimising quest.
Give up plastic bags
Plastic is incredibly harmful to the environment. 10% of all the plastic we use ends up in the ocean—the North Pacific Ocean contains six times more plastic than it does plankton, killing thousands of marine animals who mistake it for food. Five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, and many of the ones you pick up from the supermarket will also end up in the ocean. Reduce this number by using reusable bags instead.
Buy some reusable chopsticks
If you love Chinese food, ask your local restaurant to hold the chopsticks next time you order takeaway. The demand for wooden chopsticks means that China’s forests are diminishing at an alarming rate, and the plastic ones are generally non-recyclable. Buy some nice reusable chopsticks instead, and eat your noodles happy in the knowledge that the planet’s better off because of you.
Create beautiful upcycled furniture
Buying furniture is damaging to both our bank accounts and the planet’s supply of wood. Learning a few nifty upcycling skills will mean that you can fill your home with beautiful items without it (literally) costing the earth. From wall hooks to sofas, this growing trend in home furnishing can be both elegant and ethical.
Choose your toiletries carefully
Many skin exfoliants and toothpastes contain microbeads. These harmful little polyethylene particles end up in our waterways and get eaten by fish and other animals. The beads aren’t biodegradable and are poisonous to the animals that consume them.
Even humans end up ingesting these dangerous microplastics: if we eat fish that have eaten microbeads, then we also end up consuming the toxins associated with them. Choose exfoliating products containing natural ingredients like sand and sea salt, and avoid microbead toothpastes altogether (who wants plastic lodged in their gums anyway?).
Turn off your computer screen
Not while you’re using it, obviously. When you step away from the screen at work or home for more than 20 minutes, make sure you switch off the monitor—this will ultimately save more energy than letting the computer go into standby mode.
Refill your printer cartridges
Another one that saves money as well as the planet: refill your ink cartridges instead of throwing them away. Non-renewable oil is used to make new ink cartridges, and refilling them prevents the already-made cartridges from going to waste. Many places that refill cartridges also recycle old ones, so it’s a win-win.