A lot of us make promises to ourselves in the New Year. We promise that we'll put that gym membership to better use and carve out the time to meditate. We promise to put more effort into our personal relationships. We promise to get that promotion at work. And while it's important to look within to pinpoint which promises suit our particular needs, it's also crucial to take a look outside every so often.
The world reached some pretty bleak climate milestones in 2016: The Arctic was hotter than ever, atmospheric CO2 levels soared, and coral bleaching bombarded some of our most iconic reefs. Needless to say, the earth is calling out for our attention, so let's carve some room on our annual to-do lists to make way for sustainable resolutions.
Here are a few planetary promises from people who dedicate their lives to environmental protection. Give one or two a try this year, and relish in the knowledge that you're being a little kinder to yourself and the world around you.
Don't be trashy.
In 2017, let's all make a promise to not trash the world. The average American creates a whopping 4.5 pounds of trash per day. That's about half of a compact car each year! The good news is that it's pretty simple to drastically cut back on our trash. Compost all of your food scraps and yard waste, say no to any single-use items, buy unpackaged food, and ditch the bottled water and soda!
—Rob Greenfield, environmental activist
Take a trip in nature.
In 2017, resolve to visit a National Park and do it often. Federal park lands are under threat from Trump's promises to "unleash" coal, oil, and gas production, so it's important to demonstrate how much you treasure and benefit from wild lands. And benefit you do—walking in nature has been shown to lower stress and improve your mood. Take a weekend walk through your local park, reserve some of your vacation days for a visit to a National Park in another state, and even sign up to volunteer at a park for a day of working up a sweat in service of nature and your fellow nature lovers. It's one resolution that is easy to enjoy!
—Alden Wicker, eco-conscious blogger behind EcoCult
Cut out fast fashion.
In 2017, consider cutting out fast fashion—a highly unethical business. It's the second most polluting industry in the world and a perpetual violator of the health and safety of its workers. Shop local, look for eco-friendly fabrics, thrift, or find a go-to second-hand clothing site.
—Chandra Fox, eco-conscious blogger behind These Native Goods
Swap meat out with plant-based alternatives.
This new year, consider becoming a "reducetarian," i.e., a person who eats less meat. No matter your motivation or the degree to which you cut back on meat, the planet, your body, and farm animals will thank you. I like to keep my plant-based meals simple with easy swaps (think a veggie burrito instead of a pork burrito or pad thai tofu instead of pad thai chicken). And remember to be kind to yourself along the way—strive for progress, not perfection, because when it comes to meat consumption, it's not all-or-nothing. Small steps really do add up to big effects.
—Brian Kateman, Editor of The Reducetarian Solution
The year 2017 is going to be one of conscious consumerism, I can feel it! There are so many amazing ethical brands out there that are producing thoughtful goods, we really no longer need to settle for anything less. Make it a point to only make a purchase if it fits at least one of the following categories:
- Organic/sustainable materials
- Fair trade/ethical production
- Recycled or repurposed
- Gives back to a beneficial charity
- Biodegradable or easily recyclable
This goes for all items: fashion, beauty, home, you name it! Where to start? Clean up your email box and Instagram feeds—they have such an immense influence on our buying habits. Unsubscribe from any companies that don't meet your new buying standards, and take a surf through hashtags like #ethicalfashion, #slowfashion, #greenbeauty, or #ecoliving to discover some new favorites!
—Ashley Morgan, eco-conscious blogger behind Ashley Morganic
As if the American supermarket wasn't hard enough to navigate, the advent of genetically modified foods has made choosing what to eat that much stranger and more ominous. For 2017, do yourself (and the planet) a favor by buying—whenever possible—food that is grown locally and organically. GMOs are found almost exclusively in processed fast food and junk food, so choosing to avoid these things will pay dividends for your health and for the environment as well. Buying food from local farmers virtually guarantees the food will be fresher and more nutritious than buying processed meals.
—McKay Jenkins, environmental writer and author of Food Fight
Work toward a zero-waste home.
In 2017, don't be afraid to aim for a zero-waste home—one that doesn't produce any trash. Instead of turning to recycling as a way to reduce your garbage (my TEDx talk tells you why recycling is not the answer to our society's waste problem), prevent it from coming into your home in the first place. Simply learn to say no! Think before accepting something that is handed out to you. Turn down flyers, freebies, party favors, business cards, single-use plastics (such as plastic bags), and junk mail. Accepting these things creates a demand to make more and is a waste of resources. Plus, once they are brought into our homes, they just add clutter.
—Bea Johnson, eco-conscious blogger behind Zero-Waste Home
Reducing your consumption of animal products is among the single largest ways that an individual can reduce your environmental footprint. I am proud to eat a delicious, nutritious vegan diet—and sacrifice nothing in flavor, variety, health or gourmet dishes. Don’t believe me? Just check my Instagram for the best in plant-based living!
—Erin Schrode, green activist
Revamp your closet.
A lot changed last year, and things may feel out of your control, so commit to one small daily change in 2017—the clothes you wear. Here's your how-to: For one month, don't buy any new clothes. See how it feels, experiment with new looks, and notice what is really missing. Then consciously add to your wardrobe step-by-step by shopping from a secondhand or vintage shop. If you can't find anything there, research sustainable brands that share your eco-values. If buying something new, buy quality. That initial sticker shock goes down every time you rewear a quality item!
—Natalie Grillon, co-founder of Project JUST
For 2017, what I hope for us is that we wake up to what is important and what truly brings us joy and that we cut through our distractions and work to bring safety and happiness to all. The vast majority of us want what is best for one another—we just have to cut off the distractions, break out of the Matrix, and be true to ourselves. We have so much wisdom and love within us. All we have to do is tolerate the uncertainty of aligning ourselves with our true selves. What an amazing opportunity and exciting aspiration!
—Colin Beavan, environmental activist and "No Impact Man"