New Year’s Resolution – A more sustainable life
As we lay in the sun recovering from the bubbles and celebrations of the holiday season, most of us like to reflect on the year we’ve had. A New Year feels like a fresh start and a chance to make some new resolutions to improve and better ourselves.
This year, how about making a resolution to live a more sustainable life? When you reflect on the current health of our environment, you quickly realise the need for improvement. An unacceptable number of New Zealand’s waterways are polluted. Our native Maui’s Dolphin is endangered. We continue to see recorded increases in above average temperatures and abnormal weather patterns. Deforestation in New Zealand is happening quicker than reforestation, and to this day the topic of global warming has had the largest ever consensus among climate scientists than any other.
The majority of people have decided that the health of the planet is out of their hands, and choose to leave it to the people at the top to sort things out. Frankly, we can see why. Climate change and environmental sustainability are vast and complex topics that can be difficult to understand and appreciate, and these scenarios seem very distant and unrelated to an individual person.
The truth is, everyone does have an impact, and the people at the top are not acting quick enough. But thankfully, everyone can make a difference. There are small things that people can do every day that collectively makes a greater impact. It’s not too late to start making the effort, but we need start now.
So this year, make it your intention to try to live a more sustainable life, and everyday decisions will be influenced. To get you started, here are our picks of easy things you can do that will make a big difference.
REFUSE plastic wherever possible.
Take a stand against unnecessary plastic. Once you start consciously thinking about what you buy, you will notice the pervasiveness of plastic. Veggies in that polystyrene tray wrapped in plastic film at the supermarket are unnecessary. Instead, choose the same veggies in the basket without packaging. If packaged fruit and veggies are the only options, tell the produce department that you are not happy. They will respect your feedback.
Keep a reusable shopping bag in the front passenger seat of your car so you can remember to take it to the supermarket. We know, we sometimes forget our reusable bag too, and often realise once we get to the checkout! There is a saying that doing something for 30 days forms a habit. Keep it in your front seat and commit to using it for a whole month, and a habit may form, allowing you to significantly reduce the number of plastic bags you take home.
Refuse plastic straws at restaurants, bars and cafes. Tell the bartender you do not need that black straw in your drink and tell the waitress/waiter that your juice can be served without a straw. Maybe if you’re lucky, the cafe might use Ecoware straws made from bioplastic, which are designed to be commercially composted after use.
REDUCE the amount of waste you create, your consumption and your carbon footprint.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your impact on the environment is in your supermarket shop. There is a growing range of products in the environmentally friendly arena, for example, Ceres Organics Quinoa in compostable packaging and Aunt Jean’s Dairy offering milk in glass bottles. You can even buy carbon-neutral products. Yealands wine and Antipodes water are carboNZero certified, like Ecoware. These companies offset their carbon footprint by investing in forest restoration projects and have made their products carbon neutral for you. Being mindful of your purchasing may even lead you to find alternatives or reduce consumption in areas you may not have previously considered, like the cosmetics and kitchen items you buy.
Try “Meat-free Monday” for a month. One of the leading causes of global warming is animal agriculture. As the world’s population continues to grow, so does the amount of animals farmed to feed us. This requires deforestation of land to make room for the livestock, but also to grow maize and other feed for these animals. Beef is particularly good to try to avoid once a week. Cows pass methane, a potent greenhouse gas much more harmful than CO2. “Meat-free Mondays” will reduce your individual carbon footprint as well as the associated waste.
Ask your local cafe if they use Ecoware compostable packaging and support those who do. These are businesses committed to making a change by choosing to use packaging made from plants, not oil, and designed to be commercially composted after use. These businesses are trying to reduce the amount of waste to landfill.
REUSE and repurpose as much as possible.
Before you throw something away, you might think of a way to reuse it. A jar could be used as a small vase or used to store food in the pantry. An old item of clothing could be given to a charity shop. Why not try washing your dishcloths in the washing machine? That way you will get a few more uses out of it before throwing it in the bin. Repurposing and reusing will reduce the waste you create and send to landfill, and may add value somewhere else.
RECYCLE everything that you can if you can’t reuse.
You might be a person who is diligent with recycling, and such behaviours well ingrained into your daily life. But globally, the overwhelming majority of end of life plastic is not recycled, mostly because consumers don’t understand and/or bother to recycle properly. Recycling allows us to benefit from the value of reuse and spares waste to landfill in many cases.
We encourage you to check out your office waste systems. If you see room for improvement, speak to your facilities manager about implementing better waste systems. You could suggest Method Recycling, who offer effective bin systems ideal for office situations that are designed and made in New Zealand. Make sure you make it easy for yourself to recycle at home too.
Living a more sustainable life does not have to be challenging – these things are easy. But what is most important is your commitment to trying. It might help to tick these things off one each month and set a calendar alert on your phone to check up on your progress in a few months time.
The bottom line is everyone can make a difference. Little things add up, and collectively we make a big impact. We don’t get a fresh start with our planet, so make 2018 the year where you made a change. That is certainly something to celebrate next New Years.