My Januarys are filled with the best of intentions, but I’ve found that the surest way to not give up on my New Year’s Resolutions is to start small. Those tiny steps add up over the year, and by February or March, when my more ambitious friends have given up on their weight-loss goals and their plans to get organized, my own resolutions are still manageable.
We’re a few days into the new year, but it’s not too late to set some intentions for a more sustainable year. If you’re looking for some easy things you can do this year to treat the environment better, here are some ideas for you.
1. Shave a minute off your shower. The average shower uses about 2.1 gallons of water per minute, so by speeding up your shower routine you can save thousands of gallons over the course of the year, especially if the whole family commits.
2. Pack your school/work lunch once a week. Bringing lunch from home — in reusable containers, of course — will not only save you money and likely be more nutritious, but you’ll also cut down on all that packaging that take-out lunches create. What’s more, you’ll be more likely to use up leftovers in your fridge before they go bad. On the days that you do indulge in your favorite fast food, make sure to opt out of those disposables.
3. Bring a bag on your walks. Keeping a plastic bag tucked into the pocket of the jacket you wear when you walk or hike means you’ll have a way to gather stray litter as you walk. You’ll help clean up your community, and all that bending over to pick up trash will boost your workout!
4. Install smart lighting. A system like Philips Hue lighting can save significantly in energy (a calculator can estimate just how much energy different types of bulbs consume, so you can compare for yourself). Not only are these bulbs themselves more energy efficient (they recently got the coveted ENERGY STAR certification), but being able to turn them on and off from an app, even when you’re not at home, means you have more control over their use. The initial system is pricey, but even installing a few bulbs in your most-used light fixtures can help conserve energy immediately with little effort on your part.
5. Dispose of disposables. Give away your rolls of plastic wrap and aluminum foil, boxes of plastic baggies, paper forks and plastic utensils, or at least stash them out of reach in a high cupboard. Instead, focus on using only reusable food containers and dinnerware. You’ll be surprised how quickly you learn to live without these conveniences — and that’s a good thing, since plastic wrap is not recyclable, and recycling aluminum foil is difficult.
6. Switch to cans. With many municipalities no longer accepting glass, and plastic having a limited recycling life, choosing aluminum cans for your beer, soda, and even wine, is a smart option. Aluminum is easier to recycle than these other materials and can be done so endlessly.
7. Keep reusable bags in your purse or car. You’re probably already using reusable bags at the supermarket whenever you can, but if you’re like me, there are plenty of times that you’ve forgotten them and have to use the dreaded plastic or paper bags the store provides. Resolve to make the habit to always have one or two reusable bags in your purse, and to keep the rest of them in your car, and you’ll never be without one again. Luckily, there are plenty of bags that roll up so tiny they won’t take up much space — some even come on a keychain if you don’t carry a purse or bag everywhere.
Committing to any one of these small moves this year will add up by saving energy and reducing waste — here’s to a more sustainable 2018!