By taking action on one or more of the points outlined below, you can make an impact that benefits the planet and helps in the battle against climate change.
1. Reduce your use of single-use plastic
Even though single-use plastics can be convenient at times, they are a big contributor to global plastic pollution. Items like plastic straws, cups, cutlery and bags (many of which have now been banned in the European Union) typically top the lists of plastic trash found in nature. By choosing not to use items made from single-use plastic, you can cut down on this kind of pollution. Start by taking a reusable coffee cup or bag with you when you’re out and about, and saying "no, thanks" when offered a straw.
2. Change your eating habits
Pollution caused by the production of certain food products – such as meat and dairy – can have a substantial impact on the environment. In fact, the UN found that livestock is responsible for nearly 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Meat Free Monday has been hugely successful in bringing people together to avoid this kind of pollution. At the same time, eating locally-grown, short-traveled food helps reduce emissions produced in transportation.
3. Bring your drink containers for recycling
Remember to bring your bottles and cans to a store or deposit return point with a reverse vending machine. This way, you can be sure that they have the best starting point for being recycled into new drink containers, again and again. Because recycling typically uses less energy than the production of new materials, every bottle or can that’s kept in the loop means less emissions in the atmosphere. If you live in a country that doesn’t have a deposit return system in place, skip to the next point.
4. Get your recycling right
A common challenge with recycling is that people don’t always know which materials to put in which recycling or waste bins. Getting it wrong can create extra work for the recycling facilities that receive and process the materials, which can lead to unnecessary energy use or even contamination that stops materials from being used in the most efficient ways. To prevent this, always check the guidelines for recycling in your local municipality to make sure you’re putting your recyclables or waste in the right place.
5. Use less water
People are often surprised to discover that using water actually means using energy, and that using energy also means using water! The processing, distribution, and heating of water all contribute to the energy footprint of your morning shower, the washing up, and so much more. Cutting down the time spent running water can have a great impact on your personal energy use. At the same time, simple acts like turning off the lights when you don’t need them cuts down the amount of water needed for power generation.
6. Leave the car
Using public transportation, carpooling with a friend, or working from home a few times a week can all contribute to reducing pollution caused by road traffic. Although the availability of electric cars is increasing, the vast majority of vehicles are still powered by fossil fuels, and fossil fuels mean carbon emissions. In 2017, for example, road transport made up 21% of the EU’s carbon footprint. By cutting down on unnecessary trips, or sharing them with others, you can make a difference.
7. Travel smart
Ready for your next vacation? Travelling by plane can be a huge source of pollution, and alternative options are gaining popularity. Switching out flights with train rides where possible, or going on more local trips instead of far-flung ones, is a great way to minimize the carbon footprint of your travels.
8. Reuse, repair, repurpose
An effective way to reduce waste and keep your consumption to a minimum is to reuse, repair and repurpose what you already own before purchasing new items. This is also a great way to save money on your purchases. If you’re getting rid of some of your old items, you can always sell it second hand or donate it before throwing it away. There are plenty of apps and marketplaces emerging to cater to this trend; what’s your local platform or service?
A bonus tip is to share the changes you implement into your lifestyle with friends and family to inspire them to make a difference as well. Change is made one small step at a time.
Though it might seem unlikely that each of us can make a real difference in the bigger scheme of things, everyone has an important role to play. For example, most people typically bring just a few bottles and cans each time they visit a reverse vending machine, but globally TOMRA Collection captures more than 45 billion drinks containers each year, keeping them out of our oceans and forests in an efficient material loop of recycling. The collective action of many people is what makes this possible.
If you have any more tips on how to make more green and sustainable choices in the new year, please share your thoughts with us!