2021 Sustainability Goals

Happy New Year, everyone! I’m sure many (most) of you are happy that 2020 is over, and while we may not be out of the stress (read: pandemic) yet, we will get there. 

New Year goals are traditional at this time of the year, aren’t they? I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I am not a fan of “resolutions” or “goals” per se, because I personally try to make change at all times of the year and set long-term goals with short-term milestone periods. New Year goals don’t really work for me, BUT I do enjoy reflecting on my year and how I’ve grown each year (see this podcast for my 2020 reflection). 

For those of you who do enjoy setting New Years resolutions, why not consider this a starting point for your sustainability journey? The United Nations define this decade as the Decade of Action to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), so now more than ever do we need rapid, dramatic change to reach our global sustainability goals – which personal efforts can contribute to!

Keep reading for inspiration on what sustainability goals you can set. I’ll be sharing what I hope to learn in my sustainability journey this year, as well. I’ve made these ideas very basic, so if you are new to sustainability you will be comfortable getting starting. If you are a sustainability “pro” you can elevate these ideas to meet your needs, as well! 

1. swap out one wasteful item for a zero-waste option.

Do you eat a lot of packaged goods? Try making your own without packaging, or purchase one with less packaging and/or is recyclable or compostable (paper and glass over plastic).

2. Eat one plant-based meal a week.

Generally, plant-based lifestyle contributes to a smaller carbon footprint than a meat-based lifestyle (I say generally because depending on what plant-based items you eat matters a lot). Some studies find the footprint of meat eaters to be twice the size of vegans/vegetarians (1,2). The United Nations also promotes a plant-based diet for lowering personal greenhouse gas emissions. To get started, try eating one plant-based meal a week (or a day). One meal can make a difference! Try swapping out meat at lunch or dinner, because breakfast is much easier to make plant-based (toast, cereal, oatmeal…). For meal ideas, check out Pinterest, Oh She Glows, Minimalist Baker, Hummusapien, Planted Project, and other plant-based bloggers! Also check out this easy plant-based recipe blog post I created in 2018.

3. read one sustainability/environment news article a day.

This is one thing I hope to do more of this New Year. If you are looking to learn more about the environment and the sustainability initiatives/concerns in the world, there’s no better way than to stay updated in the news. Every day while you are having your morning coffee, during your lunch break, when you are getting ready for bed or any time you have just five minutes to yourself, look up an environmental story and give it a quick read. You could simply look up “environmental news” on Google and switch to the news tab, or check out a science/environmentally-focused news site like EHN or ENN. The next step would then be to share this story with your friends and family to get a conversation going!

4. follow one environmental group on social media.

Not a fan of news sites or you prefer to get information from social media? No problem. You can follow these news sources and other environmental accounts on Instagram, Twitter and even TikTok. Of course, you should be a critical consumer (i.e. question the source – what is their credibility, is there any bias in their story, etc) but social media is a quick and easy way to stay informed, AND it is much easier to share the story! I prefer using Instagram when getting news through social media. I personally follow accounts that promote diversity and intersectionality, like @envirodefence, @unep and @intersectionalenvironmentalist

5. thrift your next clothing purchase.

Save money and the planet by purchasing used products over new ones. I LOVE thrifting, and while some thrift stores may not be open because of COVID-19, there are many still open or with online stores. Every repurposed clothing item cuts down on your personal environmental impact, from energy use, water consumption, raw materials, and emissions. Especially during the pandemic, a lot of people have been creating Instagram businesses for thrifting. I find this really cool and supportive of the community. I’ve only purchased from accounts where I personally know the people selling their clothing items, so make sure the person is legit and safe before buying anything from them!

6. diy a Personal care product (moisturizer, lip balm, etC).

Another easy sustainability tip that saves you money is to DIY your personal care products. I have very sensitive skin, so I struggle to find store-bought products that are effective and don’t destroy my skin OR my wallet. I have not had trouble with the DIY products I make, and they have saved me so much money in the long run. By making your own products, you can cut down your waste from packaging, possibly find local suppliers of the ingredients (e.g. Zero Waste Bulk offers plenty of bulk, locally-made ingredients for DIY beauty products) and ensure you are using quality ingredients. Right now I am using my DIY body butter, deodorant, and lip balm. For other beauty products, I opt for simplicity: almond oil for face moisturizer, coconut oil for a hair mask – skip the crazy chemical products!

7. write an email to your MP or mpp.

This is another one I hope to do more of. Personal actions can really make a difference, especially when your actions build collectively towards positive change. Writing to a local political leader is a great way to transform your individual action into positive, collective change. Whether it is an international, national, provincial or local-scale problem you are worried about, you can write your MP or MPP to demand change. A simple one-page letter is all it takes to demonstrate to your MPP that there is a demand for change. Not sure how to write one of these letters? There are plenty of social media accounts, blogs and videos on what to write, who to address the letter to, who to send it, and more. Such a simple (free) action really can make a change.

8. educate yourself.

This point summarizes the other points. Essentially, the best thing you can do is to educate yourself about the issues going on around the world, expand your worldview, and go on to share your knowledge with the world. This year, I want to educate myself through more diverse perspectives to understand how environmental/social/economic issues impact others differently around the world, and how I can promote sustainability through a diverse, inclusive perspective.

Final thoughts

Sustainability really does not have to be this massive, life-changing effort on your part. Small, single actions can contribute to large scale change. Small changes also make sustainability appear more realistic because it transforms a global problem into a local, personal one. 

If you try out one or more of these ideas for sustainability goals this New Year, do NOT get discouraged if you don’t meet them immediately, or if you fall back to your usual ways, or progress is going slower than you expected. Change takes time, and will have setbacks. What is important is to not feel defeated and give up. Like I said, it is the Decade of Action, and so we all need to be taking action to meet our global goals. 

For more inspiration on how to get started with your sustainability journey this year, check out these posts:

What are your sustainability goals this New Year? How are you going to reach them? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time!

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