21 Ways to Become Sustainable For the Upcoming New Year

Emily gives us some advice for 2021.

Emily Downie

With the increasingly pertinent issues of global warming and climate change, it is now more important than ever to act in the most sustainable and caring way that we can towards our planet. Here are 21 different ideas for the upcoming new year, for ways in which you and others around you can adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s the small steps that make the big difference.  

1 — Avoid purchasing brand new clothes — either up-cycle clothes you already own (cut pieces of clothes up, sew things together, iron on badges to turn an old item into a brand new one!), or buy second-hand clothing (take a trip to vintage markets, or scroll through Depop for some great finds).  

2 — Purchase from ethical companies — make sure the products you buy come from companies with not only ethical values that focus on treating and paying their workers fairly, but also those that use sustainable packaging that is kept to a minimum.  

3 — Add some greenery to your home — nothing screams sustainability like turning your own home into a  forest – ok, maybe don’t go so overboard that you can’t move around in your living room or end up losing a cat in the process, but buying some extra green guys to stick on a windowsill or shelf, or even embracing your green-thumb and purchasing seeds to sow in the garden, is always a good step towards helping the planet.  

4 — Store food without plastic — there are many ways you can store your food in the kitchen without  having to utilise plastic. In fact, supermarkets in Thailand have recently made a shift away from plastic packaging, choosing to wrap produce in banana leaves instead. If whole supermarkets have managed to make this move, so can you! Here are some ideas: keep jars – these are useful for storing food or any leftovers in the fridge; wrap bread in cloth or even a pillowcase, and store this in a wooden bread bin; use steel or glass containers to store leftovers; wrap food in beeswax wraps (a bonus here is you can get these wraps in many different patterns and colours!); store onions and potatoes in a basket inside a dark cupboard.  

5 — Invest in a ‘bag for life’ — a ‘bag for life’ or sustainable cloth tote bags are very useful when it comes to grocery shopping; these can be used time and time again, and when they get dirty can simply be thrown in the wash. Investing in one of these means you will no longer need to purchase plastic bags at the shops!  

6 — Try dairy alternatives — it is becoming more and more common for customers to opt for dairy alternatives when ordering hot drinks at a cafe. Why not give it a go? There are many different dairy alternatives to try, so don’t be put off if the first one you taste isn’t to your liking! Also try adding a dairy alternative to your weekly grocery shop! 

7 — Try meat alternatives — when doing your next grocery shop, why not try swapping one of the meats you normally purchase for a vegan/vegetarian alternative? Many supermarkets now offer these options, and there are plenty of brands to try out to your taste. In David Attenborough’s recent film, “A Life On Our Planet”, he says that if everyone simply reduced the amount of meat in their diet, and switched to a mostly plant-based diet, we would be able to increase the yield of the land. According to the WWF, who produced Attenborough’s recent film, “the livestock industry alone generates nearly 15% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions”.  

8 — Reduce general plastic use — invest in a reusable coffee mug – this is not only sustainable, but it also saves you being charged extra for a plastic cup, as many cafes have now introduced this charge to encourage people to use their own mugs; invest in reusable metal straws at home, and try to avoid purchasing from cafes or restaurants that only use plastic straws; use bamboo alternative toothbrushes; avoid purchasing single-use razors.  

9 — Tumble dry less — try alternatives for drying clothes, such as hanging laundry on a clothesline, or placing damp laundry on a clothes horse.  

10 — Bathroom swap — there are many ways in which you can make the products in your bathroom more sustainable! Swapping for biodegradable toothbrushes is a great way to start. Why not try package-free soaps, compostable floss, and refillable options for liquid soap? How about metal razors instead of plastic, reusable makeup pads or homemade mouthwash? The options are endless! 

11 — Correct waste for the correct bins — many people forget to recycle, or simply put waste in the incorrect bins. When throwing waste away, make sure to check if a product’s packaging can be recycled. Most companies indicate on the back of packaging whether or not a product can be recycled. If you are unsure, this can also be checked on government or local council websites.  

12 — Energy-efficient light bulbs — using energy-efficient light bulbs as an alternative can make a huge change – in fact, if every household did this, it would reduce pollution comparable to removing one million cars from the road! Surely this fact alone is convincing enough for you to make the change?  

13 — Switch off lights — it is a common and pretty easy mistake to forget to switch off lights. If you are someone who suffers with this habit, set yourself a challenge by trying to remember to do this whenever a room is not being used, as well as reminding others to do the same. If you educate them for long enough about why you shouldn’t leave the light on, most people will switch it off just to cut off your lengthy explanation. In my eyes, task = successful.  

14 — Switch off electrical devices — similar to above, it is a great idea to switch off any electrical devices, including the TV, when they are not in use. For a great nagging technique, see above.  

15 — Regulate your heating — where possible, keep your heating low or only have it on when it is absolutely necessary! Wear some warm clothes to limit the temptation of cranking the heating up to full blast. 

16 — Avoid public transport— if your work or school isn’t far, try finding an appropriate walking route instead of hopping on the bus. If you have a bike, throw on your helmet and peddle away! If your destination is too far to be reached by foot or bike alone, a great idea is to look into carpooling – by doing this, more commuters will share one mode of travel. Even if this means one or two less cars on the road, this will certainly make a dent in carbon emissions over time.  

17 — Reduce water usage — having shorter showers is a great way to reduce your energy usage in the house.  

18 — Eat local — buy food produced locally or within your home country – this is not only generally cheaper, but if enough people do this, it could also help to reduce air travel required to deliver foods from abroad.  

19 — Reusable masks — with the ongoing pandemic, this is extremely relevant! When it comes to mask-wearing, try to purchase masks that can be reused, and thrown in the wash when they get dirty! Another important note is, if using single-use masks, make sure to cut the ear loops before throwing the mask in the bin. These masks can sometimes end up in the sea, and many aquatic animals have been caught in these ear loops and been unable to breathe.  

20 — Grow your own vegetables — try out your green thumb and plant some of your own veggies in the garden! It’s relatively straightforward to do, but is also very rewarding.  

21 — Protect pollinators — you can protect pollinators, such as bees, in the garden by avoiding the use of pesticides on your plants.  

So there you have it: 21 ways to become sustainable for the upcoming new year, 2021. Some of these ideas may seem like big changes to your current lifestyle, and it might seem strange to step outside of what is considered your norm. However, I challenge you, as of now, to try at least three things from this list for the new year- anything at all. By making some of these changes above, you will be helping not only yourself, but the planet around you, that too many people take for granted. Let’s change that, and let’s change it now.