We all know the drill – new year, new you, right? The thing is, the current you is already pretty great. So instead of promising to get fit or pick up a new skill, why not make a New Year’s resolution for the planet?
We’ve already spoken about adopting a low-carbon diet when making a climate-friendly pledge, but there are many other habits and projects you can foster for the sake of cleaner, healthier and fairer years to come. Here are just a few to think about as we prepare to bid adieu to the old, and welcome in the new.
Saying no to fast fashion
In this age of Instagram ads and online sales, it’s hard to resist the pull of the newer, brighter and shinier. This is especially true when it comes to the fast fashion industry, which encourages people to buy cheap, mass produced clothing, and then discard them when trends change. Aside from its staggering environmental impact, fast fashion giants also depend on low paid, often exploitative labour from people in the Global East and South – just so we can buy a cute top to wear once or twice.
By refraining from buying fast fashion – whether that’s for a month, a season, or a whole year – we can start to rethink our relationship with our wardrobe. Are we buying new items of clothing because we actually need them, or because we’re trying to keep up with the Kardashians? What does the instant gratification of fast fashion actually bring to our lives in the long-term? And is it worth the cost it’s bearing on our environment and other people?
‘The most environmentally sustainable jacket is the one that’s already in your closet.’ – Lisa Williams, Head of Innovation, Design and Merchandising at Patagonia
But pumping the brakes on your fast fashion intake doesn’t mean you can’t buy clothes at all! If you really need something, consider spending a little bit more for a high-quality garment that you know you’re going to love and wear for years to come. Shopping secondhand is also easier than ever with sites like Depop, where you can nab something new-to-you and split the embodied carbon of the item with its previous owner.
Get involved in a project that promotes biodiversity
Helping biodiversity thrive can take on many different forms, so you can make this resolution work with whatever sparks your interest. If you’ve got a garden, the Royal Horticultural Society has several great suggestions on how to make your patch more friendly to wildlife and native species, from digging ponds to making your own compost. For those living in flats or tenements, even a bit of real estate on your windowsill and front entrance can make for a buzzing home to pollinator-friendly plants.
If you’re looking for something a bit further afield, the Wildlife Trust's network has a database of volunteering opportunities up and down the UK. This allows you to learn new skills and meet new people while doing your bit for the environment! Whether you’re keen to do some light gardening, or crack out the binoculars to help collect data for a wildlife survey, there are plenty of ways we can make the new year better for all life on Earth.
Try out a low-carbon commute
For those of us doing the ol’ commute via car, exploring lower-carbon travel options can be one to tackle in the new year. Even if it’s just a few days a week, try bussing or taking the train for those longer journeys, and see how that extra downtime impacts your commuting experience. Maybe you’re able to get a jump-start on some work while on the train, or read a bit more of your book… or just stare mindlessly out the window for a few uninterrupted minutes. Bliss.
If driving is a must, why not ask around and see if any colleagues living nearby would be interested in a bit of carpool karaoke? According to Mike Berners-Lee’s numbers-crunching in How Bad Are Bananas?, putting more people in your car can reduce carbon emissions by 50-80%, and can compete with train travel if your shared journey is taking three other cars off the road. You may feel possessive over your morning playlist, but the companionship and the carbon savings will be worth it, I promise.
For those with shorter journeys, instead of splashing out on a fancy gym membership – that old New Year’s cliche – consider a different method of exercise that’s good for both you and the planet. Walking and cycling will not only get you to where you need to go, but they also help to reduce air and noise pollution, which is good for us and for biodiversity. If you’re keen to get on a bike but think your skills need a boost, Sustrans can connect you to cycling courses across the UK that’ll have you pedalling away with confidence in no time.
Green your home
With a few more dark and blustery winter months ahead, making our homes as hygge as possible is also a great opportunity to make them more eco-friendly as well. In How Bad Are Bananas?, Berners-Lee suggests that emissions from UK homes make up a quarter of the average carbon footprint, mostly due to the amount of energy we consume and the poor energy performance of older housing and appliances. Making our homes low- or zero-carbon will be vital to the UK achieving its net-zero targets, so the sooner we roll up our sleeves and get to work, the better.
There are a few quick, simple wins you can implement immediately, like getting draught excluders to keep the outside chill at the threshold; swapping out old bulbs for LEDs; getting a smart meter; and switching to a green energy provider.
If you have a bit of cash on hand and are keen to kick this resolution up a notch, bigger projects can lead to big carbon and monetary savings down the line. Swapping out an inefficient boiler, installing double-glazed windows, fitting in solar panels and heat pumps will reduce the amount of energy we use, as well as our reliance on fossil fuels to warm and power our homes. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?
Educate yourself on climate change and share what you’ve learned
Sometimes a resolution doesn’t have to be about ‘doing’ – taking the time to listen and learn is also important, especially when it comes to a topic as complex and multifaceted as climate change. If you’re looking for some tip-top page-turners, our CEO Christian Arno has written a blog about some of his favourite sustainability reads. We’ve also rounded up a few of our favourite climate podcasts and documentaries, which cover everything from beekeeping and tree sentience to justice. There’s even an avant-garde mockumentary in there!
Another simple, but vital resolution you could take on in the new year is committing to talking about climate change more. Whether that’s talking about something new you’ve learned with a friend, or writing to your MP, or even pushing for greater climate action at your workplace, keeping the climate emergency at the forefront of public consciousness is one of the most important things we can do. Bring on the new year, I say.
You know what’s another big change you can take this new year? Accelerating climate action in your workplace. Pawprint is an eco-companion that encourages employees to tackle climate change, and companies to turbocharge their sustainability efforts. Get your whole company in on the fight by pitching Pawprint to decision-makers today.