If you're reading this, you probably have a hankering to live a little more sustainably this year. But you can't go all No Impact Man at once.
I tried that last year. It was an interesting thought experiment, but I wouldn't recommend it. And ... I'm not doing it again. I thought about it, but trying to turn your whole life completely sustainable all at once turns you into a bit of a cranky, holier-than-thou asshole. And it's just too big! Sustainability touches us in every area of life – our health, relationships, money, and home.
Going sustainable is like any resolution, really. Instead of saying, "Lose weight," or "be better with money," experts (like Gretchen Ruben, author of The Happiness Project) recommend that you make concrete, small resolutions that are achievable.
With that in mind, I wanted to share some resolution ideas so that you can make your life a little more eco-friendly in 2016, and perhaps set off a domino effect of good habits in your life. Choose just a few to get you started. (I'll reveal mine on Wednesday.)
- I will go on a shopping fast for one, three, six, or 12 months.
- I will buy only from vintage or resale stores for one, three, six, or 12 months.
- I will choose quality over quantity. Save up so you can buy high-quality, long lasting fashion items, instead of a bunch of cheap things. (Try my Shopping Guide for help here.)
- I will pinpoint my personal style. So you can streamline your wardrobe. (And stop wasting money and resources of stuff you end up not liking!)
- I will refuse to buy anything from a fast fashion retailer, especially Forever 21.
- I will buy only items made in America, or only items made by artisan groups.
- I will influence the influencers. Whenever a beauty blog, website, or online magazine fawns over unethical and unsustainable fashion, leave a kind comment asking them to showcase more ethical fashion. The readers demand it!
- I will go cruelty free or vegan. Cruelty-free: No animal products unless obtained in a cruelty-free way, such as alpaca that has been sheared. Vegan: No animal products at all.
- I will not put any clothing in the garbage bin. Donate or recycle it.
- I will only buy natural fibers, such as cotton, silk, linen, hemp, wool, alpaca, cashmere, modal, and Tencel/lyocell. Avoid synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester. (Or only buy polyester if it is made from recycled bottles.)
- I will only buy jewelry made from recycled metals and ethically sourced stones.
- I will look up all my beauty products in the EWG's Skin Deep database, Good Guide, or the Think Dirty app.
- When I run out of each beauty or personal care product, I will buy a replacement in the non-toxic version. (Try my Shopping Guide for help here.)
- I will contact my favorite conventional beauty and personal care companies and ask them why they are using the toxic ingredients and when they will phase them out. Or start a petition asking the same thing!
- I will avoid any nail salons that charge less than $15 for a manicure, or in which the technicians aren't wearing face masks. Visit a non-toxic nail salon instead.
- I will find a "clean air" hair salon in my area. Or encourage my salon to consider non-toxic products.
- I will test out natural remedies for common ailments.
- I will keep my cooch non-toxic. During your period, and during the fun times, too.
- I will avoid palm oil in my beauty products.
- I will visit the farmer's market at least once a month.
- I will decrease my meat consumption to once a day or once a week.
- I will try out being vegetarian or vegan.
- I will move away from packaged foods to fresh ingredients that come unwrapped, in bulk, or from the produce aisle.
- I will read the ingredient list of any packaged foods you do buy.
- I will try buying only organic groceries.
- I will sign up for a CSA.
- When planning dinners out, I will make them at farm-to-table restaurants.
- I will reduce my landfill-bound waste. Put together a waste-free shopping kit of three reusable grocery bags, 10 reusable produce bags, and five mason jars. Keep by the door for easy shopping!
- I will plan ahead for at least one meal a week that I cook at home.
- I will take a healthy cooking class.
- I will pack a snack each day in a reusable bag. So you don't buy packaged snacks on the fly.
- I will download and use the Clean Plates app. Find healthy food options near you.
- I will always ask restaurants where they get their meat from. Don't order meat unless their answer is a nerdy, detailed treatise on their meat's pedigree.
- I will invest in a reusable water bottle, reusable travel coffee mug, and a foldable reusable bag. Always check to see that you have them before you leave.
- I will start a food garden, whether it's a rooftop one, windowsill herbs, or a big plot in your backyard.
- I will replace my cleaning products with non-toxic and reusable ones. Or try DIYing your cleaning products. Or these cleaning tools that don't require chemicals to work.
- I will buy the The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (used, of course). Read it, follow it, let it revolutionize the way you think about objects.
- I will switch to clean electricity.
- I will start composting.
- I will buy only local and seasonal flowers.
- I will refuse to buy anything new from Ikea.
- I will try the 100-thing challenge.
Advocacy and Education
- I will watch one documentary a month on a sustainable topic.
- I will read one non-fiction book a month on a sustainable topic.
- I will volunteer.
- I will sign up for a subscription or get on the newsletter for The New York Times, The Guardian, and Quartz so I learn about current sustainability issues and support important journalism.
- I will share important articles on Facebook to educate my friends!
- I will write my representative about something important to me.
- I will join a local march or protest.
- I will set up a recurring donation to an environmental non-profit.