It’s officially 2019. Time to reflect on the past year and make some commitments for the next 12 months (which may or may not be fulfilled). While I generally feel like we should be able to make resolutions at any time of year, there is something appealing about wiping the slate clean and setting ambitious goals at the beginning of a new year.
2018 was a big year in terms of environmentalism. We saw a mass increase in public awareness around ocean plastic, as well as the issues surrounding palm oil, and had a very long and unusually hot summer in Europe. We also saw the release of the IPCC report stating we are at a pivotal point in terms of tackling climate change, and that individual action will play a vital to reducing global warming.
Each and every one of us can be part of the solution to climate change through small changes. So when you think about the coming year and what you want to achieve personally, why not incorporate a goal which is also beneficial to our planet? I’ve put together some suggestions of challenges you can set yourself in 2019.
Take part in Veganuary (or just generally eat more consciously)
Eating less meat and dairy is the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and help the planet. The rise of veganism all over the world is making it easier than ever to eat less meat, and the evidence is piling up that it is not only better for the planet and animals, it’s also better for human health. If you are intrigued by a plant based diet, check our my beginners guide here or learn more about animal agriculture.
Do you impulse buy things that end up not being worn? Are you tempted by the lure of new year sales because “it’s just such a great deal!”? It might be time to examine these habits. Why not challenge yourself to buy nothing new in 2019? Consuming less ‘stuff’ in general is another great way to reduce your carbon footprint and save yourself some money in the process. Delete any credit card details you have saved on amazon, asos or other online retailers you use regularly. Oh, and unsubscribe from their newsletters while you're at it. Start looking into second hand and vintage shopping or see if you can borrow from a friend instead of buying new. This change tackles so many issues at once: reducing waste, redirecting items from landfill and reducing strain on the earth's precious resources.
Reduce your plastic consumption
This year we saw a huge increase in public awareness around plastic pollution and Collins dictionary declared ‘single-use’ the word of the year in 2018. I’m sure we are all now well aware of how detrimental plastic is to the health of our planet, not only in terms of ocean pollution but also in terms of the resources needed to produce new plastic and recycle old plastic. Start with some simple swaps like buying loose produce (you’ll find this is much easier at small grocers, local markets and organic wholefoods stores) or giving up bottled water.
Increase your time in green space
Spending time outside in nature is proven to be beneficial for our mental and physical health - so much so that it has started being prescribed by doctors in Scotland! I find spending time outside helps me relax, reduces anxiety and helps me connect with the earth (strengthening my desire to protect it). Why not try to spend at least 5 minutes per day outside, preferably in a green space, and see what benefits you experience? This could take the form of a quick stroll during your lunch break or ditching the car in favour of walking to work or the shops to pick up groceries.
Give up fast fashion
Do your fashion purchases align with your values? Do you want to support a small, local business or a corporate retail chain that exploits people in the developing world? Maybe it’s time to question what sort of world you want to support. The detrimental effects of the fast fashion industry are well documented and we all know deep down that someone, somewhere is paying the true cost for that cheap $5 t-shirt. Nowadays there are so many amazing ethical fashion brands to choose from and they are making a huge effort to play a positive role in the industry - why not support these brands instead?
Take one less flight
Disclaimer: I will be taking a long haul flight to the other side of the world early in 2019. However, in 2018 my partner and I deliberately chose to spend our summer vacation in countries neighbouring Germany, which could be reached by train and car. Not only was this one of the best trips I’ve ever taken - I didn’t have to fly to get there! Is there a way for you to reduce the number of flights you take this year? I’m a huge fan of staycations - exploring a new area of the country you reside in by renting an airbnb for the weekend, going camping or doing a longer road trip.