The New Year is a great time to start fresh. What better thing to do this coming year than to help the planet! If you're just starting out on your zero waste journey or only recently started thinking about how sustainable your lifestyle is, then these ideas are for you. Resolutions are extremely personal and need to be something your are motivated and dedicated to actually see through. Don't feel pressured to choose one on this list if you're not inspired, maybe you even need something more challenging! And like every goal, modify it to fit your own timeline and lifestyle. But don't be afraid to jump in and start changing your habits! We all need to start somewhere, big or small!
1. Commit to bringing a reusable bag to the grocery store – every time.
This may seem like an easy task, but if you’re just jumping into the world of zero waste and reusables, remembering your own grocery bag can be quite the task. I highly recommend you keep a stash in the trunk of your car as well as a couple near your door. Just as any new habit you are trying to establish, it might not come easy at first! But if you commit to not using any paper or plastic grocery bags, it will only take once of hauling the groceries in your arms to the car before you remember those reusables every time.
2. Only buy coffee when you’ve remembered your thermos.
Most local small town coffee shops will fill you cup up with hot coffee, often with a discount! In Oregon, as long as your thermos is clean, there is no health code forbidding it. And with Portland alone throwing out 5 million coffee cups each year, we should all be a little more conscious about whether we really need that disposable cup or could just carry a reusable one instead.
3. Give up packaged candy. Make baked goods or buy it in bulk instead!
You may not be ready to give up plastic packaging in every area of you life, but starting with something like candy is a good idea! It’s not something you eat every day but it’s enough to get you thinking about packaging. Will you grab that mint on the way out of the restaurant? Take a candy bar at a party? If you’re a snacky person, make sure to stock up on some bulk candies which you can by in your own reusable produce bag. You can also simply make some cookies or treats at home too! As this gets easier, you can consider tackling other areas like fruits and veggies, bulk dry goods, and eating out
4. Introduce Meatless Mondays into your home.
Looking to change your diet in the new year? Try cutting back on meat and dairy products. I’m not saying you have to go vegan or vegetarian, but we would all be a little healthier if we cut back our consumption of animal products even a little. Our planet will also be healthier as meat is more carbon intensive to produce than plants, creating a larger carbon footprint. Introducing Meatless Mondays is a great way to start exploring some vegetarian recipes and to ease into a new diet.
5. Clean your house of microbeads for good.
If you haven’t already taken a minute to look in your bathroom cabinets, now is as good as time as any! I recommend you download the Skin Deep app and scan all your products. Each one should have a ranking when it comes to the safety of the ingredients for your health. Anything that’s in the red zone? Stop using it. You’ll also want to make sure you don’t have any facial scrubs, body wash, or moisturizers that contain microbeads. These end up in the ocean as tiny plastic particles and are almost impossible to collect.
6. Schedule a litter cleanup every month.
Not only do we need to reduce the trash we make, but we also need to clean up what we’ve dumped on the ground in the first place. Doing a litter cleanup is super easy and can be a great community building activity! If you want to keep it simple, just grab a pair of gloves and a couple trash bags and start combing your streets. If you want some help, consider posting about it on your local NextDoor or community page ahead of time! By the end of the year you will have a cleaner neighborhood and have made some new friends!
7. Take your weekly workout outside!
Getting healthy is important for your body, but also impacts the planet! The healthier you are, the less you need to eat (and the less junk food in plastic packaging you'll crave). You'll also reduce your likelihood of falling ill, where hospitals are notorious for waste! When you start exercising though, remember to take advantage of the natural gym around you! Go on local hikes! Walk to the grocery store! Garden! Gyms use lots of electricity to keep running so instead, consider just running outside!
8. Support your local farmer’s market.
Whenever you buy something locally, you are reducing the transportation footprint of that product, and therefore its carbon footprint. Supporting local farmers is a great way to buy fresh produce and not ship it from half way across the world! Local farmer's are more likely to also keep their produce plastic free, allow you to take it home in your own bag, or provide reusable contains for customers. I visit my local farmer's market every chance I get!
9. Buy your clothing second hand.
If you're not ready to jump on the buy nothing new train like me this year, maybe just start out by buying your clothing second hand! Every time you buy something used, you reduce your reliance on virgin oil and support your local economy. You will also begin to save money since secondhand items have a lower price sticker!
10. Do a trash audit once a month!
My zero waste journey started in 2015 when I simply committed to doing a trash audit once a month. Once you actually start looking at your trash, you'll realize the areas you need to work on, and maybe some things that surprise you! Doing a trash audit can be a simple as just looking in your bin, or you can also weigh and itemize it each time. If you keep track of the weight, you can see whether you are making progress as the year goes on!
11. Make your own skin care products.
Our skin care routines are often filled with nasty chemicals and produce a lot of waste. All our products are wrapped in plastic and most end up in the landfill! And since our skin is the largest organ in our body, we really should be paying closer attention to what we put on it. Making things at home is a great way to monitor what goes into your products and reduce waste at the same time! Things like lip balm, lotion, facial toner, and finishing powder can all be made at home with just a few ingredients!
12. Bring your own produce bags for fruit and veggies.
Even if you're not ready to buy pantry items in bulk (or you may not have access to them), fruit and veggies can easily be bought in your own bag! To get started, invest in a few reusable cotton produce bags. All you have to do is skip the plastic bag and pop your potatoes in the one you brought! You don't have to worry about weighing anything or tagging anything, just fill them up like you would the store offered ones!
13. Say no to a disposable straw!
This last one may seem small - just a straw? But sometimes we need to start small in order to stick with a resolution. If you're feeling intimidated by all the plastic in this world and don't know where to begin, just say no to straws. When you go out to eat, ask for "no straw please!". You can also bring your own glass, metal, or bamboo ones. I've got a set of reusable straws for the smoothies I make at home too!
Are you ready to take on eco-friendly practices for the New Year? You can always kick it up a gear and try out some even more challenging resolutions for the die hard zero waster!