5 Resolutions for a More Sustainable New Year

Food systems,
Jan 3rd, 2023 | By Chelsea Graham

Having a regular practice for tracking and reviewing your goals helps you stick to them. Credit: Northfolk</p>

The new year is a great opportunity to think about how far we’ve come in our sustainability journeys, and set goals for what we’d like to accomplish next. Here are a few potential resolutions along with resources we’ve created, tried, and tested to help you get greener in 2023.

Smart goal-setting

Many resolutions fall flat because they are too broad and too ambitious. The SMART framework encourages making goals as specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound as possible.

So instead of saying you want to go zero waste this year (which could be ambitious to achieve if you’re a first-timer), pick a couple resolutions that help you get toward that goal, like not using plastic bags for food storage, and starting and maintaining a compost bin.

Caption: A home gardener harvests squash and tomatoes. Credit: Martha T under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Source your food from closer to home

If you’re a beginning gardener, your goal might be to start your very first garden. In your first year, don’t be too ambitious. Focusing on successfully growing a few crops you know you will eat. For example, make sure your family has fresh salad all season long by growing lettuce, radishes, and tomatoes. If you don’t have a yard, you could grow mushrooms indoors, learn to forage, or use the Shared Earth App to find land available to cultivate. If you have a balcony make due with the space you have and start a container garden.

Intermediate and advanced gardeners may want to up their game. Set a goal to preserve more food, prevent food waste, and feed your family through the winter. You can do this by canning jams and pickles or putting more food away in the freezer. If you want to grow more, think about extending your growing season with a goal to keep growing two or three weeks after your first frost.

A cyclist commuting in Virginia. Credit: Bob Mical under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Become a champion for bicycling in your community

Whether you’re already an avid bicyclist or would like to get out on two wheels more often, there are many ways you can deepen your commitment to biking in 2023. Set a goal to bike to work at least once every week.

If you’re interested in building community, join or start a cycling group. Check out your local bike shops for leads. If you want to channel your inner Leslie Knope, advocate with your town to build supportive infrastructure like protected bike lanes. A great goal would be to attend relevant meetings three or four times a year.

Cut back on your buying

If you want to save money, declutter your home, and be more sustainable, set a goal to buy less or none of a certain object this year, like clothes or shoes. For more inspiration, check out Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home movement. Johnson believes in the 5Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot - in that order.

Refuse to buy new, and learn to repair and renew objects you already have. Sonya and Nina Montenegro have great tips on sewing on Instagram and in their book Mending Life. Take good care of your shoes with proper storage and maintenance. When your favorite pair of boots wears out, take them to get repaired at a local shoe repair or a service like Cobbler Direct.

When you do need something different that isn’t in your closet already, barter, trade, and borrow from friends, or join your local buy nothing group. If this doesn’t work, buy used! Check out thrift and antique stores, as well as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

A cyclist commuting in Virginia. Credit: Wonderlane under CC By 2.0

Invest in making your home green

If you have a budget set aside for home improvements, use it to achieve sustainability goals. Take a look at this house in Wisconsin for inspiration. Investing in solar panels can save you money on your utilities bill, and there are some great incentives available.

If you have a smaller budget, think about doing one DIY project each month to green your space. Plan them out in advance to help you set aside time in your busy schedule. Some ideas include: replacing all your lightbulbs with LED lights, setting up a rain barrel, sealing and repairing windows for the winter, using power strips with on/off switches, and starting a compost bin.

Use less gasoline

Setting goals about gasoline use can be tough. There are so many small, everyday actions that contribute to our gasoline use they can be hard to track and measure. If this is an area you’d like to make a difference this year, map out every way you can do so and decide to review your successes and challenges at the end of the month.

To start, make sure your car’s start/stop option is turned on. While some drivers find this technology jarring, the benefits of using it to the environment are huge. Manually turn your car off when idling for more than 10 seconds outside traffic. This too can have a big impact - every day, idling wastes 12 million gallons of fuel just in the United States. Use eco-friendly routing on Google to use less fuel when you’re driving. If you are thinking about buying a new vehicle, take advantage of tax incentives for purchasing electric.

Tracking, following up, and adapting your goals

Once you’ve set a SMART goal, make sure you think about how you’ll measure success. For daily or weekly goals, like using less plastic bags or gasoline, a visual like this Lamare habit tracker would be a great way to go. For longer term goals, like making your home more green or planning a garden, a quarterly goal planner might be more helpful. If you are more of the project management type, you may enjoy using a spreadsheet or a productivity software.

Regardless, determine where you will track your progress and plan a time to check in on your goals regularly to hold yourself accountable. And remember, your goals can and should change over time. Maybe one DIY project a month is just too much. That’s okay! You can make it every other month instead. Or maybe you’re getting way more done than you planned. Up your goal to try and push it. Your resolutions should flex and change as needed. They’re tools to help you be successful!

What goals are you setting this year? Share your resolutions with us on social media and check back in throughout 2023!

Tagged: local food, gardening, bicycling, minimalism, home improvement

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