Another year has come and gone, and with it come resolutions for self-improvement and personal change. Following recent reports on the importance of bold and immediate climate action, I am going to describe how to make the typical New Year’s resolutions fit within our sustainability goals. I know change can seem overwhelming, especially with the degree of change we need, but if you break it down into manageable chunks, it becomes much easier.
With the health implications associated with eating meat, particularly lunch meat, changing to a plant-based diet is not only healthier, but is also more sustainable. There are different estimates of the total impact, but when you factor in the deforestation, fertilizers, water and methane emissions associated with growing cattle and its feed, not to mention transport, plant-based diets are more substantial.
We all know we should get more exercise, but how can exercise contribute to being sustainable? More active forms of transportation can replace driving. By walking, biking or even public transit it may take a bit more time, but saves you from having to fit exercise into your life otherwise. My husband began walking instead of driving to work a couple of years ago and in addition to being fitter, he also saves $40 on monthly parking fees.Try starting with short distances and expanding from there.
Getting outside and being active can also help support good mental health. Even in winter, cross-country skiing, tobogganing and snowshoeing are all great ways to warm up and enjoy the outdoors.
Unfortunately, consumerism has become the status-quo, particularly in the west, an obsession that is impossible for our earth to sustain. If you choose to buy only the things that will really make a difference to your life, you can either save money on the things you don’t buy, or spend extra to get sustainably made products. Cutting down on what we buy also cuts waste, especially plastic packaging that often ends up in the ocean and disrupts natural ecosystems.
Incidentally, consumerism also feeds issues of social inequity as it pushes demand for lower prices and leads to under-valued workers throughout the entire product chain, which only works to widen the gap between rich and poor.
Learn a New Skill
Perhaps making origami compost or garbage bags isn’t your idea of fun, but joining the maker community, learning how to repair items, or how to cook plant-based meals are just a few possibilities as you embark on the adventure of living more sustainably.
You could also have fun with it. In our family, we are challenging one another to learn “post-apocalyptic” skills such as canning, gardening, and collecting water, so that we can all get a better appreciation for our resources and how to use them efficiently.
Meet New People
Some of my favourite people are those that I’ve met through environmental advocacy and action. It has been by far the easiest way to meet passionate, community-minded and welcoming individuals. They give a tremendous amount of their time and energy towards making positive change and are so welcoming to new people. The door is always open!
Everybody needs to take their own path towards sustainability. So do what you can, when you can. Maybe 2019 is a great time to start.
Stacey Danckert is the co-director of WREN.