4 COMMON NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS MADE GREEN!
It’s about that time of year!! The time we all count down to a new year, a fresh beginning, and then share with the world what our new year’s resolution will be! New Years Resolutions are extremely admirable because it means that most people have reflected on their life and behaviors for the past year and decided how they want to grow, or what habits they want to leave behind. Doesn’t it feel good when you set a goal for yourself and reach it? Um, HECK YES it does – so let’s get to it! In this episode, we are going to talk about the four most common new Year’s resolutions and how you can adapt yours to serve yourself and the planet in the process – let’s call them New Year’s Revolutions! And if you’re listening to this past the new year, don’t worry! It is human nature to set goals, and you can do it during any time of the year if you’re wanting to grow and cultivate better habits for yourself.
Let’s think about what your past new year’s resolutions have been. Have you reached them? Did you keep them going all year, or was it something that only lasted for a few weeks before you gave it up? No shame here, but we need to get real if we want real change! The top reason that people don’t keep their new year’s resolutions is because they are too vague. Choosing a SMART goal, or resolution is the best way to make sure that it is something you achieve. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. When you’re setting a goal for yourself you want to make sure you are choosing something that is realistic and attainable for your life, meaning that it is challenging but possible – think about it like leveling up, not trying to ace expert level on guitar hero on your first or second or third try – anything is a process. You also want to make sure you have enough specificity so that you know how to get the goal accomplished, and that you give yourself a timeframe or deadline. For example, you might say “I plan to eat a plant-based diet four days of the week for the next 6 months.” It’s specific, measurable, absolutely attainable, realistic, and gives a time frame for accomplishing it, and let’s tack on sustainable – because that’s what this episode is about! As I mentioned, we are going to talk about the four most common new years resolutions, and how to make them green. You could probably guess the top ones – they’re eating healthier, exercising more, saving more money (or spending less), and learning something new. We’ll dig into each of these categories and break down how you could tailor them to fit your personal wants and needs, but also keep in mind Hometown: Earth.
One of the most common new years resolutions is to eat healthier, which I know was one of my top resolutions every year for a long time. I’ve always eaten relatively healthy but never had a good relationship with food until I became a vegan – now that’s just a personal thing not saying it would work for everybody, but I will always be an advocate for plant-based eating as it is one of the biggest ways you can make an impact on the planet and your own body, and why it’s first on the list of resolutions. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says that “Eating more plants and fewer animal products could prevent 10.9 to 11.6 million premature deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions every year” It would also drastically reduce greenhouse emissions, save water, land, chemical use, and help to alleviate hunger across the world. My example resolution earlier about eating plant-based 4 days a week is a perfect one to try if you’re wanting to become healthier. Maybe you don’t want to do 4 days a week, but just one meal a day or something similar, that is awesome too and can help you reap some of the benefits. Calling my boyfriend out here – he eats mostly plant-based because we eat together, but usually, on the weekends or occasionally through the week he eats non-plant-based and he can absolutely tell a difference in his body when he does eat more meat and dairy. Eating plant-based can help not only your future self but your current self as it helps you to feel fuller longer, and really just lightens the workload for your entire system which helps you to have more energy for the things in life you love.
Now that goes kind of hand in hand with the second sub-goal of eating more organic foods. Maybe you don’t want to go completely plant-based during the week, but you just want to make sure you’re eating whole foods that are organic and good for you. Eating organic means you’re not eating pesticides that are toxic to your overall health and cause contamination to our waterways. Some of these pesticides can be linked to cancer, reproductive disorders, and respiratory issues – yikes. Organic foods are shown to have higher levels of nutrients, such as antioxidants, and can even taste better than their pesticide counterparts! This goal may look something like “I want to eat one organic food item in each meal I make for the next month.” You can get organic at a majority of the grocery stores now, or you can choose to buy it at a local farmer’s market – which could be another goal – like buying all of your fruits and veggies locally and seasonally for the next year! Farmer’s market items tend to use fewer chemicals because they are smaller farms, but just ask the seller if the product they have is organic.
The second popular new year’s resolutions that people have is to exercise more, which is a commendable goal because exercising can help you feel more energized and focused, increases your ability to handle stress and anxiety, and increases your self-esteem as well as improving your overall physical health. If you’re wanting to exercise more and be GREEN in the process – take your workouts outside! Exercising outside helps you to connect with nature and increases your connection to yourself and the planet (as we talked about in episode 5 with Lauren Wimmer – so I definitely recommend checking that out if you haven’t yet to make sure you reap all the benefits). And, it doesn’t take any additional resources to take your workouts outside, but if you’re like me and live in a state that hits freezing temperatures I totally get not wanting to exercise outside until it gets warmer – this is where working out at home comes in.
Choosing to workout at home ensures that you’re not using your car more than necessary, and it will save you money on a gym membership! There are billions of dollars spent yearly on gym memberships that are never used. Go ahead and set yourself up for success by finding a plan that works for you at home. I know I usually have a yoga mat, a few dumbbells, and my phone to do my workouts and that’s it! But you don’t even have to have that much, and you can do it on your own schedule. Working out at home also uses less electricity – Slate.com says, “On average, a treadmill uses between 600 and 700 watts of energy. That’s the equivalent of watching three or four 46-inch LCD televisions or leaving 50 compact fluorescent light bulbs burning, for the duration of your workout.” Which contributes to carbon dioxide emissions in a big way. If you are committed to going to the gym, try to use machines that don’t use electricity like jogging on a track or using self-propelled machines.
When it comes to choosing equipment for your exercise, make sure you’re choosing eco-Friendly equipment, meaning quality recyclable or recycled products, or products that are secondhand. I have my mom’s old dumbbells y’all, meaning they’re hitting the 20-year mark at least, so if you keep up your products you make them last a long time! Another common item people have are yoga mats. You can extend the life of yours by spraying it with a little soap and water after use and wiping it off with a microfiber towel. When it comes to getting a new one, make sure you recycle the old one or repurpose it for knee pads, shelf liners, camping, or one of my favorites donating to an animal shelter. When you want to buy a new one, try to find one that is made from recycled materials.
Another way you could hit your resolution to exercise more is to change your commute! Try walking or biking to work if it is feasible. You may not realize it, but driving can be bad for our cholesterol, blood pressure, and general well-being. Transport is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases, and as you can see from your daily commute A LOT of us are doing it. There’s actually a really cool website – Terrapass.com that calculates your carbon footprint based on the type of car you drive, how much public transportation you take, your flights, and your home usage – it’s really eye-opening to see where your biggest footprint is coming from and how it compares to the average. When you are walking or biking, not only for your commute, you’re reaching your exercise goals. If there is somewhere within your range of ability that you could walk or bike to – try it out and see how your overall health improves, as well as saving some bucks on gas money!
Some examples of what exercising resolutions could look like include: “I am going to work out outside, even if it’s just a walk, every day the weather is above 60 degrees.” Or “ I am going to work out at home with eco-friendly equipment 3 days a week for at least 15 minutes each” or even “I am going to walk to my end destination if it would take me less than 30 minutes from my home.”
Save money or spend less
The third category is saving money, or spending less – pretty close to the same thing, right? I have a few different goals that could fall under this category because there are so many different things you could do to be more sustainable and save money. The first one is reducing your food waste! The USDA estimates that Americans waste about 80 billion pounds of food per year, which adds up to more than $161 billion dollars per year – A lot of that is due to people thinking that their food has gone bad, or actually letting it go bad because they have too much, and it ends up being thrown in the trash. Making sure your food doesn’t go to waste can help stretch your grocery bill every month and keep food away from landfills, if you didn’t know food waste is the most common material found in landfills, which means it releases mass amounts of methane gas, becoming one of the largest contributors to climate change.
You can reduce food waste by learning how to read your labels – yep the “best buy” date means something different than the “use by” date, you could learn how to properly freeze or reuse your food, or start meal planning to you don’t overbuy.
Another good option is composting – which will keep your scraps out of landfills, and you can reuse them in your backyard or sell the compost and make some money!
Reducing food waste and saving money could also look like choosing to eat out less since most people typically leave food on their plates that get discarded, but if you’re eating out or ordering take-out, you could make sure you only order what you need, and taking your food home to use as a meal the next day – pro tip if you’re ordering take out you can usually request no plastic silverware or plastic bags to help reduce your plastic waste.
So some examples for this would be that you’re going to reduce your food waste by meal planning every week and composting any scraps that you have, or only eating out only once a week and making sure that meal lasts at least one more day, or learning how to freeze or re-use one item of your fridge each month for the next year.
The second way to save money and the planet is giving up bottled water – Bottled water, and soda for that matter, is expensive, and contributes to climate change and pollution. Oceancrusaders.org says that “If you take into account the production, transport, refrigeration, and recycling, the world’s annual use of bottled water generates more than 20.5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. This is the same amount that 4.5 million cars generate over the course of a year.” We know that almost all plastic bottles end up in landfills or oceans and take many lifetimes to fully break down, but the rates of single-use bottles continue to rise, but the concern doesn’t always equate to changed behavior. Linking the personal benefits of kicking the bottle, such as saving money and not exposing yourself to the common plastic toxins that come from the bottle and cause endocrine problems and even cancer, can really help you to stick to your goal and contribute to a healthier planet.
The third way is to try the “No new clothes” challenge. We’ve talked about before how the fast fashion industry contributes to the plastic pollution problem, chemical pollution problem, and the unethical treatment of workers – so you would be honoring the environment and humanity, but it’s a no brainer that not spending money on new clothes can help you save A TON of money as well. It also frees up your time and energy as you’re not pouring over the pages of products and using up your decision making resources on what white t-shirt is the best. This goal would be pretty specific to what works for you – Start out for a month and see if you even notice the difference, then maybe you re-evaluate and see how long you want to hold out for. I know some people go an entire year without buying new clothes, which for me would even be hard, but goals aren’t supposed to always come easily. It’s about challenging yourself to grow.
Learn something new
Another one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to learn something new, which is a wonderful goal to have (and guess what by listening to this podcast you’re probably learning something new every week!) Learning new things helps you to feel more confident and makes you more adaptable to change, and it just keeps life interesting!
Here you could learn to make something you would normally buy! Just pick something that fits the amount of time you’ll have to commit to it so you know you’ll keep the habit going – some ideas could include bath bombs, cleaning products, lip balm, dog treats, your own clothes!! Literally, anything you use often you can usually find how to make it easily online. Personally, I am going to figure out how to make my own natural face masks because I love incorporating them into my self-care routine, but I don’t like the throwaway single-use nature of face masks. Whatever you choose it will make you really proud to use it, it will most likely save you money, and it reduces the packages and single-use products that our society has been accustomed to – that’s a win! I think here your goal would look something like, “I am going to be making all of my own effective cleaning products by the end of the year.”
Okay now one of my favorite goals, because I love food, is learning how to start your own herb garden, how to grow a garden, or how to grow food from your old scraps. Learning any of these things can help you reduce your waste from food packaging, which typically comes in plastic, uses mass amounts of water, and builds up tons of mileage for one single product. But studies have also shown that gardening and nurturing plants can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve attention. I started growing hydroponically in my backyard and it has been amazing! I seriously love just to see how I can create something so tasty and bountiful from a small plant. I never was a lettuce or salad person, and after growing it naturally myself I can TASTE the night and day difference and don’t plan on going back. Besides the benefit of better taste, it can encourage you to eat more plant-based foods that have fewer pesticides as we talked about earlier.
And finally, your goal could be learning to be more sustainable in general. I bet you saw that one coming! Learning is freaking power, and learning how to change the planet and your life is even more powerful and filled with so much purpose. Example goals for this could be reading a book on sustainability every month, listening to a sustainability podcast every week, or switching your home to be more eco-friendly one room and one month at a time – we talked about 5 switches you could make in your bathroom to be more eco-friendly in Episode 7 if you want to get a game plan together!
SOMETHING TO GROW ON
Now is the time to decide what you want your goals to be and write them down – like on an actual physical piece of paper and put them somewhere you check often. I put them in my calendar so that I would see them every day. Another tip that helps me is to put my goals under categories (clearly like I did above), because I usually have a handful, and that way I can easily check-in and see how I am doing in each area of my life. And speaking of check in’s I would say look at your goals often, but really sit down and reevaluate how well you’re achieving them at least once a month.
I mentioned how goals aren’t something easy, they don’t just fall on your lap so you can check them off a list and move on. You may slip up, or stray from your original goal a bit and that’s ok! You hold yourself accountable so you can reevaluate and readjust as needed. As long as you keep in mind that your goal is something that makes you grow and develop as a person – which brings me to something to grow on this week, which is my personal goal with this podcast. My goal for Hometown: Earth is to create a space for you to come every week to feel inspired and prepared to walk away with one step, big or small, on how to take action towards a more sustainable life. I am so excited for what the future brings for us neighbors, until next time, thanks for joining me!
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I’ve made a digital worksheet that you can use to help outline your goals, your priorities, and your actions for the week and month that you can download for free! Subscribe below to get the worksheet emailed directly to you. You can check out Hometown: Earth on Instagram @hometownearth for statistics on the top household offenders for harmful products and waste that may help you to decide what you want to try to change first!