Climate change is a real problem – and scientists agree that 2021 is the year to start making a difference before it’s too late. With the dumpster fire that this last year was, making some positive changes for the New Year is a great way to start the new year off on the right foot while closing the door on 2020 for good.
According to multiple environmental studies conducted by the United Nations, this decade is our last chance to reduce the damage we have done to the Earth through our global greenhouse gas emissions. Otherwise, we are going to see a drastic increase in global climate temperatures, which will cause more catastrophic weather events, including tornadoes, floods, and wildfires.
Current popular lifestyle changes can help reduce your carbon footprint, like eating well and exercising more. So why not take advantage of the New Year by making a resolution that counts? To help you get started, we’ve put together 21 ways to reduce your carbon footprint this year, and for many years to come. Taking these actions won’t just help you reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they will save you money, too!
21 Eco-Friendly New Year’s Resolutions
**Click to jump to resolution ideas below
- Start Recycling
- Plant a Garden
- Purchase a Reuseable Water Bottle
- Become a Better Driver
- Compost Lawn Trimmings & Organic Food Waste
- Use Eco-Friendly Junk Removal
- Upgrade to Energy Star Appliances
- Turn Off Lights
- Use Rechargeable Batteries
- Reduce Winter/Increase Summer Thermostat
- Shop Locally
- Eat Less Meat & Dairy
- Upcycle More, Purchase Less
- Buy a Hybrid or Electric Car
- Take Public Transportation
- Upgrade to Low-Flow Toilets
- Adjust Your Water Heater to 120°
- Replace Old HVAC System to High-Efficiency
- Eat Out at Farm-to-Table Restaurants
- Order Fewer Items Online
Climate Change: Historically vs. Today
In the last 5-10 years, you may have noticed more heatwaves, storms and other severe weather events. The increase in wildfires, droughts, tornadoes, and hurricanes is directly related to our oceans rising, which is, in turn, directly related to the increase of global temperatures. Higher temperatures result in faster evaporation of water. When there is more water vapor in the atmosphere, we experience more frequent, more torrential storms.
That’s pretty crazy. According to NASA, the global temperature increased by .8°C over 140 years but is currently projected to increase by 1.5°C in only 10 years. This dramatic increase in rising global temperatures is exactly why we need to make some serious changes now. By the year 2100, which is only 80 years away, we are on track to experience a 3.9°C increase in global temperatures, which will be catastrophic to the beautiful green planet we call home.
If you have kids, grandkids or plan to start a family, the changes that you make right now can help improve the quality of life for future generations and hopefully in saving the planet.
A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for transportation, power, and heat. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that in 2017, the U.S. emitted 5.1 billion metric tons of energy-related CO2 into the atmosphere.
When compared to the global emissions of 32.5 billion metric tons, that’s a big contribution from our country that we need to drastically reduce.
Eco-Friendly Today for a Better Tomorrow
The Paris Agreement put into effect by the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, is a global pact to cut the projected 3.9°C increase a little more than half, to an only 1.5°C increase.
But we’re currently not on track.
Although our government and other world leaders need to make these important changes, we can’t always count on that – especially in such an industrious world. We have to do our part to keep our planet safe for future generations.
The Science Behind Sustainability
There are six greenhouse gases in our atmosphere: water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and CFCs/HCFCs/HFCs. Of these six, there are three problematic gases: methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. CO2 is the worst of our emissions and the one that humans contribute to most.
Carbon dioxide is created when we burn fuels. Those fuels include coal, natural gas, and petroleum. Although we aren’t hanging out with friends in the backyard burning copious amounts of coal and petroleum, we are part of the problem.
As one of the top producers of harmful greenhouse gas emissions, our industrious country needs to take action in order to be more sustainable. If every single person in the United States adopted just one eco-friendly resolution for 2021 and followed through, it would significantly reduce our carbon footprint.
♻️ What’s My Carbon Footprint? Curious how much you’re contributing to greenhouse gas emissions? Click here to use a carbon footprint calculator from Nature.org and find out now!
21 Picks for Eco-Friendly New Year’s Resolutions
Now that you fully understand the impact your daily life has on the planet, it’s time to pick your eco-friendly New Year’s Resolution!
Tip 1: Start Recycling
Recycling is the easiest, most impactful way to quickly and easily reduce your carbon footprint. Plus, you might be able to make a little bit of cash when you recycle certain items.
Junk items that can be recycled are typically made from metal, glass or plastic. The production of each of these materials is responsible for releasing harmful emissions into our atmosphere.
There are five major steps to production: Raw material extraction & processing, raw material transport, production process, transport of finished goods and end-of-life management.
Recycling eliminates two of the worst, most detrimental steps in the production cycle – raw material extraction/processing and raw material transport.
❓Did you know…? Mining and processing raw materials contributes to half of our global emissions. Recycling everyday household items cuts that number drastically.
Recycling reduces the need for the production of new materials. This includes the work that goes into mining and processing, as well as the production of materials like plastic and glass.
Think of all the gas that’s burned by the machines digging, scooping, mining and hauling. It’s tremendous! Recycling also cuts out the need for those raw materials to be transported from the source to numerous manufacturing plants across the country, which is another gigantic source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Tip 2: Plant a Garden
Growing your own vegetables is a great way to help reduce your carbon footprint!
On average, about 8% of your personal carbon footprint comes from food. If you replaced just 20% of the vegetables you usually buy at the store, you can reduce your carbon footprint by 68 lbs. of CO2 per year by decreasing the need to transport vegetables from their source.
The benefits of growing your own garden go way beyond reducing emissions. The National Gardening Association estimates that one 600-square-foot garden could produce 300 pounds of produce, worth around $600, each year.
You also benefit by avoiding synthetic fertilizers. Home gardening means that you’ll get completely organic veggies for way less than you’d pay for them at the grocery store.
You can use recycled rainwater to water your garden, so you won’t have to pay the extra amount to keep it watered. Plus, when you combine composting lawn clippings and food waste with gardening, you don’t need to spend money on organic fertilizers.
Tip 3: Purchase a Reusable Water Bottle
Disposable water bottles (16.9oz) have a carbon footprint of 828g of carbon dioxide. Not only does the production of single-use plastic take its toll on the environment, but plastic water bottles that are thrown in landfills can have an even greater negative effect.
It can take up to 1,000 years for plastic to decompose in a landfill!
Decomposing plastic also releases toxins into the groundwater when they break down instead of being recycled. When you purchase a reusable water bottle, you aren’t just reducing your carbon footprint and helping reduce pollution, but you will also save a lot of money over time.
Tip 4: Become a Better Driver
Eco-driving is equipped in some cars, making it easier to know how to drive more efficiently. In challenging economic times, improving gas mileage saves money and decreases our collective dependence on oil.
If your car doesn’t let you know when your driving is “in the green”, a good way to be more efficient is to reduce the amount of fast accelerating and hard braking you do while driving.
Tip 5: Compost Lawn Trimmings & Organic Food Waste
When you compost, you’re putting valuable nutrients back into the soil and creating nutrient-rich mulch for use in gardening. Composting reduces greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.
Even if you don’t use compost for your own garden, reducing the amount of organic food waste in your trash will reduce the number of times you need to empty your trash can. Saving space in your trash bag will also save you money by cutting the number of bags you go through, so you don’t need to purchase them as often.
Tip 6: Use Eco-Friendly Junk Removal
We all have unwanted stuff to get rid of from time to time. Although landfill waste is truly not a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the grand scheme of things, the benefits and impact of eco-friendly junk removal go way beyond just keeping stuff out of landfills.
Using an eco-friendly junk removal company like LoadUp is a powerful way to reduce the need for mining and processing raw materials. We always try to recycle or donate your unwanted items, which decreases the need for mining raw materials. Extracting and processing raw materials like metal, glass and even some plastic are two of the most harmful steps of production, which donation and recycling help cut out.
Tip 7: Upgrade to Energy Star Appliances
Inefficient appliances aren’t just bad for the environment – they’re a huge drain on your wallet! An upgraded water heater, dishwasher or washing machine uses energy way more efficiently, significantly reducing your home’s energy consumption.
Energy Star appliances use fewer resources, which means you save money and reduce your carbon footprint. You can save an average of $575 on your energy bills, and reduce your carbon emissions by more than 5,500 pounds!
To make an even greater positive environmental impact, use an eco-friendly junk removal company like LoadUp to remove your old hot water heater, dishwasher, washing machine or dryer after you upgrade your older, less-efficient appliances.
Tip 8: Turn Off Lights
Turning off the lights when you leave a room is a really easy way to reduce the amount of energy you’re using in your home or office. It takes time to get in the habit, but just like any new habit, you have to put some effort in before it becomes second-nature. But it’s a habit worth making. When you turn off lights that aren’t being used, you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by .15 pounds per hour!
Tip 9: Use Rechargeable Batteries
Did you know that it takes about 50 times more energy to manufacture a disposable battery than that battery will provide in its lifetime? Yikes! In contrast, rechargeable batteries supply more than 50 times the energy used to make them. That’s a pretty huge difference!
Rechargeable batteries also save on cost by reducing the need to frequently purchase new.
Tip 10: Reduce Winter/Increase Summer Thermostat
When you change your thermostat by just two degrees, either way, you can decrease your carbon emissions by 2,000 pounds per year. You’ll also save an average of $98 on your power bill! Sounds like a win-win, right?
The invention of smart thermostats has made it easier than ever to monitor your energy consumption and control your thermostat from your mobile device. If you don’t have a smart thermostat, you may be able to program your existing one. Most thermostats have the option to program the optimal temperature, or raise and lower it at certain times during the day.
Tip 11: Shop Locally
The transportation of goods is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. When you reduce the distance that a product needs to travel, you reduce the amount of gasoline that is burned during transport. Less gas = fewer emissions. Shopping locally and practicing sustainable shopping also keeps more money in our economy, which is always a good thing!
🛍️Did you know…? Studies have shown that conventional disposable plastic bags have a lower environmental impact than reusable shopping bags for a single use only. If you use a reusable bag over and over, it becomes more environmentally friendly than the disposable bag.
Tip 12: Eat Less Meat & Dairy
Choosing to eat less meat and dairy isn’t just good for you, it’s also good for the environment! One-third of all food emissions in our country come from red meat and dairy products.
According to Greenpeace, raising livestock creates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all vehicle emissions combined! In contrast, vegetables and chicken have a carbon footprint that is 10 times smaller per serving than red meat and dairy. Reducing the amount of animal products you consume can make a huge difference in your personal carbon footprint.
Most resolutions aren’t kept because they require too much change or commitment, so when it comes to adjusting your diet, don’t bite off more than you can chew! Even a small change in your diet can help the climate significantly, like excluding meat from one meal a day, adding more fresh fruits or veggies to your diet or even switching to organic produce.
Tip 13: Upcycle More, Purchase Less
Upcycling is just another word for repurposing old products into new, useful things.
Old suitcases make really cool floating shelves, and add a vintage touch to your home décor.
Filing cabinets, old toilets or plastic bottles make cool planters. You can also grow veggies in the ground but if you have an apartment with a patio, you can avoid purchasing a bunch of plastic planters, which will further decrease your potential carbon footprint.
Tip 14: Buy a Hybrid or Electric Car
Ok, this is a biggie. We know. Not everyone has a bunch of cash just laying around to purchase a new car. But when it is time to replace your old gas-guzzler, opting for a hybrid is a better choice than purchasing a less-efficient gas vehicle.
Since they run on both gas and electric, hybrids don’t need nearly as much gas to travel the same distance as a gas vehicle. Hybrids have better gas mileage, too, so you’ll fill up less frequently, saving you money.
If you want to take it a step further, all-electric and plug-in hybrid cars purchased after 2010 could get you a tax credit of up to $7,500. Tax incentives vary on a state-by-state basis, so you’ll have to check with your local government for a more exact amount.
Tip 15: Carpool
Apps like Waze, Lyft and Uber have made carpooling easier than ever before. Try discussing carpooling with your coworkers – you might be able to find someone on your route who wants to participate. If not, you can sign up as a carpool driver with Waze, and they’ll connect you with other Wazers on your route.
However, please always use caution when carpooling with strangers. If you scope out your passenger and something tells you that it doesn’t feel safe, keep on driving!
Tip 16: Take Public Transportation
Taking public transportation, even not on a daily basis, is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint in a serious way. If you have the option to ride the train or a bus instead of driving, do it!
If you live in a city that doesn’t have reliable public transportation, try walking, biking or even renting an e-scooter as a way to get around. E-scooters are popping up all over metropolitan areas, and are a cheap alternative to walking or biking if the distance you have to travel is an issue for you.
When you have the option to not travel by plane, taking a train is a fun and exciting way to see parts of the country that you would have otherwise missed. Sit back, relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of the railway instead of polluting the air with jet fuel emissions.
Tip 17: Upgrade to Low-Flow Toilets
When you think about conserving energy, flushing a toilet is probably not high on your list. But low-efficiency toilets are actually a pretty significant source of carbon dioxide emissions.
How is this possible, right? Toilets use water, not power! But think about the backend of the process. When you flush, that water is taken to a plant to be treated. That process itself takes a ton of energy. Therefore, reducing the amount of water that you send out of your home to be processed will help reduce the amount of energy used to purify it.
Over their life cycle, inefficient toilets contribute over 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, so upgrading to low-flow can reduce your carbon footprint by just as much.
Tip 18: Adjust Your Water Heater to 120°
The standard temperature for a hot water heater is 140°, but most household needs can still be met by reducing the water temperature to 120° or lower.
When you make this 20° temperature reduction, you’ll reduce your carbon emissions by 500 lbs per year, and save an average of $30 on your annual gas bill.
Tip 19: Replace Old HVAC System to High-Efficiency
According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, home heating and cooling account for a whopping 48% of the energy that is used in a home or office building. Replacing your old HVAC system with a high-efficiency heating and cooling appliance will significantly reduce your carbon footprint – and your power bill.
Tip 20: Eat Out at Farm-to-Table Restaurants
The idea of “farm to table” restaurants is more than just a cute and clever marketing tactic – it actually has a purpose! With the transport of food being responsible for close to 20% of our emissions, reducing the need for long transport will cut this number drastically.
“Farm-to-table” simply means that the food comes directly from the farms, most of which practice ethically-responsible farming like free-range livestock, non-GMO crops, and organic farming. The impact of farm-to-table is even greater when the food is sourced locally. Not only will it just require one trip to transport the food from the farm, but locally grown food doesn’t travel nearly as far as non-local.
Thanks to the increased popularity of sustainability, farm-to-table restaurants are popping up all over the place.
Tip 21: Order Fewer Items Online
We know. The thought of giving up online shopping entirely is stressful, especially when you’re not able to shop in-person during the quarantine. But hear us out.
Did you know that 165 billion packages are shipped in the US each year by Amazon alone? Every single item you order requires a cardboard shipping box. The amount of trees needed to create enough cardboard to ship all those packages is more than 1 billion trees. Now think about the other online retailers you shop from. Consider just how many trees – and boxes – will be used just to ship your items.
If you simply can’t reduce your online shopping habit, at least make sure to properly recycle your cardboard shipping boxes. Recycling one ton of cardboard saves 17 trees. You might never recycle one ton yourself, but when you do your part, it absolutely adds up!
Choose Your Eco-Friendly New Year’s Resolutions!
Now that you’re equipped with some attainable – and sustainable – resolutions for 2021, pick one and start saving the world! It may not seem like much, but small commitments like not using plastic straws or buying less bottled water can have a lasting impact for years to come.
Real change begins with you!
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