With the new year always comes reflection and resolutions on ways we want to live better in the coming year. With the new year also being the start of a new decade, it’s a big year for considering our place in the world and how we live in it.
2019 was a pivotal year for many in realizing how much people are truly impacting the environment. With this comes a realization of the need for changing our habits and relationship with the Earth.
Here are a few ways we all can live in a more sustainable way in 2020 and beyond:
Commit to Traveling Differently
The way we move about our communities and the world is one of the largest contributors to increased carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Changing our travel habits and modes of travel is one of the biggest ways we can live more sustainably.
A few ways you can do this:
- Walk, bike, and bus when you can.
- Find a carpool for your daily commute.
- Plan vacations closer to home to reduce air travel.
In addition to our individual travel habits, paying attention to where our food and other products come from is an important part of sustainable living. Buy produce from local farmers and eat more seasonally (reducing the amount of food that has to be transported – and refrigerated – to reach your table). For other purchases, look at the full lifecycle of where items come from and how they arrive at your home. See more on this below.
Eat Less Meat
One of the biggest impacts on the environment in recent years has been the decrease of forest, particularly in South America, to make way for ranch lands to raise meat. Approximately one-fifth of all global carbon emissions are due to the production and distribution of meat as a food source.
Changing to a reduced meat or meat free diet is the single largest thing individuals can do to reverse negative human impact on the environment.
Here are a few ways to take steps to make this possible:
- Eliminate breakfast meat.
- Replace a daily/weekly meat dish with a bean/legume dish.
- Use meat as an “add-on” to a meal instead of the main item (like on top of a salad or pasta).
- Try going meat-free for a full week or month. (Try the Veguary challenge and raise money for nonprofits at the same time.)
This demand-side reduction could be a game-changer for the planet and has the bonus side effect of being healthier for you, as well. Two resolutions in one!
Skip Single Use Plastic
Both in the way it is produced as well as how it is disposed of (plastic never truly breaks down and only 14% is recycled), single use plastic is one of the world’s biggest culprits for harm to the environment. Many countries and the European Union have committed to going single use plastic free over the next several years, however we can choose to do this as individuals immediately.
Here are ways to skip the plastic:
- Bring reusable bags for shopping; not just groceries but everything.
- Carry a water bottle and cutlery with you. Single use water bottles are the third most common item found in ocean debris and represent 15 percent of marine waste.
- Say “no straw, please” when ordering a beverage and drink from the cup or glass instead. Unless you need one, these are an easy skip on something that is one of the top beach and marine debris items.
- Skip the produce bags at the store (or bring reusable ones) and purchase produce or other items that are not in wrapped plastic.
- Switch to reusable snack/food bags and compostable garbage bags.
Single-use plastic is everywhere, but small changes in our daily habits can mean we get it out of our personal usage. A bonus side effect is, when you do this, others around you will see how possible it is to make the change and will be encouraged to follow suit – a great ripple effect that can mean big changes for the environment.
Quit Fast Fashion
Clothing that is quickly and poorly made, intended to be worn for a short time and then replaced, is one of the biggest causes of carbon emissions and pollution globally.
According to Business Insider, “Fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams. […] What’s more, 85% of all textiles go to the dump each year.”
Here are ways to live more sustainably while sporting clothes you love:
- Buy less. Get back to basics with pieces that have design flexibility to work with multiple other pieces in your wardrobe.
- Spend a little more for better made items that will last longer. Brands like L.L. Bean and The North Face have lifetime guarantees on many of their products and ensure that their items are being sustainably sourced, as well.
- Mend and/or alter items instead of throwing them away.
- Shop at thrift and second hand stores to get more life out of items already in circulation.
Keep your clothes alive longer. You’ll save money and the planet at the same time.
Research and Plan Your Bigger Purchases
Is a big purchase in the cards for 2020? A little forethought and research can help you make a better choice that will be more sustainable in the long run.
Bigger, more complex purchases (like vehicles, appliances, and furniture) have a lot of aspects to their overall sustainability. While there is not yet one clear source of full product sustainability that you can use to know the total impact of an item you are buying, doing a bit of research into each of these aspects before making a decision can help you rest assured that you will get something you love that cares for the planet at the same time.
Here are things to consider for big purchase sustainability:
- Source of materials and their impact on the environment.
- Production methods, work practices, and adherence to environmental standards.
- Overall transportation impact, including materials to production to distribution to home.
- Longevity of the item. The longer it will last, the less it will need replacing and requiring more resources to be used for a new product.
These kinds of purchases don’t happen as often as things like food and clothing, but their overall impact really adds up. Like with clothes, paying a little bit more for a better quality and more sustainably made item often has a bigger payoff for you and the Earth at the same time.
We are proud to be one of the most sustainable furniture brands in the world and will continue to encourage our entire industry to move in this direction, as well.
Whether large or small, there are many ways we can all live more sustainably in the new year. Try one or all of the above suggestions and know you have taken another step in a sustainable life.
We hope you and yours have a very happy 2020!