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  • Writer's pictureMeredith Holland

15 Sustainable Living Tips to Start the Year Off Right

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

No matter where you are on your sustainability journey, it’s not too late to start. I wanted to provide some easy ways to start living a more sustainable life this new year. My biggest advice: Start simple and small. Big changes start from small, simple ones and some progress is better than none. Here are some ideas on how to ring in the new year by living a more sustainable life.

1. Change your mindset.

Incorporating any type of new change or habit is all about mindset. Recognize that change doesn’t happen overnight, but stay open to it and hold yourself accountable. Say no to things in excessive packaging. Walk to your neighborhood coffee shop instead of driving. Say no to straws. Bring your reusable water bottle with you everywhere you go. Bring your reusable grocery bags every time you go to the grocery store. It may not seem convenient at first, but it will become a habit soon enough.

2. Shift the way you think about shopping and consuming.

When you shop, try to do it with intention instead of impulse. Consume products you truly love and need rather than buying things out of impulse that never get used. When in doubt, less is more.

3. Invest in a reusable water bottle.

Replace the habit of using single-use plastic bottled water with your own reusable water bottle. This will help you reduce plastic waste and save money.

4. Turn the lights off when leaving the room.

This habit will help you not only save energy, but also money when ensuring that the lights are off in unoccupied rooms.

5. Only wash dishes and do laundry with full loads.

This will help you run fewer loads, thereby saving more water and energy.

6. Wash your clothes in cold water.

Hot water heating accounts for about 90% of the energy your washing machine uses to wash clothes — only 10% goes to electricity used by the washer motor itself. Washing your clothes in cold water will help you save energy and is better for your clothing anyway.

7. Walk or bike instead of driving whenever possible.

This isn’t always an option depending on where you live, but if you can do it, do it!

8. Shop secondhand.

This tip follows tip #2 in becoming a more conscious consumer. Opt to look on secondhand apps like Depop, Poshmark, Mercari, Curtsy, or Facebook Marketplace and shop around first before buying new. You can still stay on-trend and often find clothing items at half the cost as new items, while doing your part in keeping more garments out of the landfill.

9. Support brands that are sustainable.

This tip goes along with the latter and tip #2 with shifting the way you shop and consume. The year is’s time to break up with fast fashion! If you need to become acquainted with the many reasons why fast fashion is detrimental to both the environment and human rights, check out my Confessions of an Ex-shopaholic blog series. When you have a certain clothing piece in mind that you can’t find secondhand, the next best thing is to find a sustainable brand that may have it. Check out the end of this blog post to see what to look for in a sustainable brand alternative.

10. Encourage your favorite brands to make more ethical decisions and take climate action.

If you feel your favorite brand could be doing more when it comes to sustainability, reach out to them over email or social media and let them know! Brands listen to consumer demand. Ideas to give them could include: Switching to sustainable packaging, creating more transparency across their supply chain, using their profits to support an environmental cause, etc.

11. Increase plant-based eating.

This may be a challenge for some, but try to build up by going a whole day eating plant-based or even a few days a week.

12. Consider meal planning and prepping.

By planning out your meals in advance and prepping them ahead of time, you can avoid food going to waste. You can also avoid the last minute grab of food to-go, which helps to reduce your personal packaging and plastic consumption and potentially save you money.

13. Advance your knowledge on environmental sustainability.

The more knowledge you have, the more conscious you can be of your personal impact. Start with watching the Netflix documentaries David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, Kiss The Ground, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, A Plastic Ocean, or Chasing Coral. Other documentaries to watch include, Before The Flood, The True Cost, and An Inconvenient Truth. FutureLearn is also a great online tool that offers a host of environmental courses, some for free.

14. Understand waste collection in your city.

It’s not the most interesting subject, but it’s super important to know how to properly dispose of your household waste. Different municipalities have different rules for what can be recycled. Check out your local city’s or county’s website and familiarize yourself with the recycling rules. For example, my local county only recycles plastic products with recycling codes 1 and 2, which makes me a lot more aware of the plastic I do consume and whether or not it can even be recycled.

15. Become an advocate for change.

While taking action on an individual level is where it all starts, collectively getting many individuals to act together is even more effective. Lead by example for those around you. Educate your family and friends. Challenge yourself and others that this year will be the year that sustainability is a priority.

Cheers to 2021 being a more sustainable, healthy, and happy year!

Xx, Mer

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