10 Resolutions to Save the World in 2020

by - Saturday, December 28, 2019

Ten Eco-Friendly Resolutions to Save the World in 2020 Walking in the Redwoods

Who is getting ready to make some New Year's resolutions? Turning the page on a fresh year gives us a brand new opportunity to be a better version of ourselves. That's pretty exciting, and it is the perfect opportunity to start making some eco-friendly changes. It's the kind of thing we all want to do, especially after we have faced truly terrifying Climate Change news and ecological disasters this year.

There is a lot of bad news that can make us feel helpless. We got the news that efforts need to be TRIPLED by 2030 to avoid catastrophic Climate Change. Plastics are choking are oceans to death and have entered our bodies through our food (and its packaging), potentially causing cancer, endocrine problems, and hormonal changes. When we need change the most, leaders are cutting help to the environment to benefit fossil fuel companies.

No one can single handedly solve our planet's problems, but we can all contribute to the shift in momentum we desperately need. Now is the perfect time, and there are so many ways we can help.

Like every post on this website, this post is absolutely overflowing with ideas and suggestions. This is not a to do list that I expect ANYONE could check every item off. It's a grab bag and a starting point. You know your life, your worries, and your priorities- make changes that fit your life. Whatever you choose will make a difference, especially if you keep going and trying to get better. We need to go bigger and push harder, because we are in big trouble, but we also need exactly what you bring to the table, so have faith your efforts matter.

Ok, this list is epic- let's get to it!

1. Get Political

If you care about the environment, you have to vote. Have to. But that is only the tip of the iceberg of what you can do to get involved in choosing environmentally-minded leaders.

How it Helps the Earth: 

Have you seen the gigantic lists of environmental rollbacks that have taken place since Trump came into office? Can any of us even keep up with the terrible news about how they are dismantling and abusing the EPA?

The information is clear- those in power are not on the side of the planet. We have to change that. The UN talks on Climate essentially failed, and not nearly enough is being done. You may think you have no power in this, but you do. The corporations have the money, but we have the people. You can help build up that voice. 

How it Helps You:

You get to be Leslie Knope, for goodness sakes! Getting involved politically has a bad reputation, but it can be an amazing way to make connections and build up community. Also, if the last three years have taught us anything, it's just how much damage bad leadership can do. If you are in the US, this is THE year to get involved. Nothing else matters more.

How to Do It:

Vote. Talk about how you are voting with others. When someone is voting the other way, ask respectfully about their views on the environment, even if it is frustrating or hard. Volunteer for a campaign. Keep an eye on all of your local elections. Write and call your officials. Participate in marches. Run for office yourself. It all matters.

2. Eat WAY Less Meat (Take a Year Off of Beef)

Environmentalists fight about personal changes and whether they have much difference, but all will universally agree that cutting meat consumption has major environmental benefits. What you eat IS that big a deal.

How it Helps the Earth: 

Cutting meat from your diet is the single fastest way to cut your CO2 emissions. Meat production also wastes a tremendous amount of water and is responsible for polluting the water as well (the dead zones you read about are mostly due to meat production). If you stop funding large-scale meat production, you help the Earth heal. This is true of fish as well: fishing nets are the #1 source of plastic pollution in our oceans, and fish populations are having major problems.

This is particularly true for beef, which has a huge methane footprint as well. If you aren't ready to say goodbye to all meat, try to introduce more meatless meals and cut beef completely until 2021. I know you like your burger, but do you like it more than a livable planet?

How it Helps You: 

Meat, it turns out, is not particularly great for you, and nutritionists point out  that we eat too much. Less meat + more veggies = happier body. It can also be a great way to save money and to learn all about foods you may have been overlooking all this time.

How to Do It: 

Check this post for tons of ideas on cutting down meat, from cutting all hamburgers out to Meatless Mondays to just cutting your portion sizes down. If you feel ready (and you can stick with it), take the leap and go vegan. Remember, we need to triple our efforts to make a real impact, so go big, and remember you can always bring things back next year.

3. Quit Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is another major culprit in pollution, climate crisis, and waste. Is it worth participating in the newest, hottest trend if your grandchildren won't even survive to laugh at you about it?

How it Helps the Earth: 

Fast fashion is a major source of pollution and greenhouse gases. It also uses tons of resources. But that is just the beginning. To try to keep up with the constant churn of the seasons, and working off the assumption that cheaper is always better, companies have resorted to a number of extremely unethical short cuts:

- First, they use synthetic fabrics, plastic fibers that are shedding off of all of our clothes, into our water, and back into our bodies.
- Second, and this is the one that keeps me up at night, cheap fashion absolutely guarantees cheap labor. That means for you to have that t-shirt from Target, at best someone was working in unsafe conditions. At worst, that person was a child, a slave, or actively abused. That person is just as much a person as I am, and no shirt is cute enough for that.

In other words, fast fashion is one of the most toxic forces in our lives and our world. It needs to stop to save resources, keep our water clean, and to stop climate crisis.

How it Helps You:

I think a lot about how many people are walking around, thinking they are doing the best they can to be ethical, moral, or good, but they are literally wearing the mistreatment of others everywhere they go. Changing our approach to fashion means letting go of certain expectations about who we should be and how we have to "keep up." In short, quitting fast fashion frees us from things that don't matter so we can focus on the things that do.

And it will save you from cropped super high cut jeans, which looks good on like 4 people.

How to Do It: 

The best thing you can do is embrace all of the clothes you already own. Learn to sew and repair things. Go to a tailor and get what you already have fitted. Resolve to buy no more than one new clothing item a month. Resolve to buy all your clothes secondhand in 2020 (SO EASY with thred up, ebay, rent the runway and more). Stop buying clothes that aren't made where you live or fair trade. Try a capsule wardrobe. Take a no shopping challenge for the year.

There are so many cool ideas for this one and so many inspirational people out there thinking through this problem. Truly, no reason to stick with fast fashion.

4. Change your Travel (And your Stuff's Travel)

How it Helps the Earth:

Travel accounts for a huge percentage of fossil fuel usage. Air travel actually makes up a shocking amount of this- it creates way less greenhouse gas to drive than to fly. For us to solve the climate crisis, we need better options for car travel, plane travel, and energy sources. There are expensive solutions out there (most of us aren't going to be buying a Tesla any time soon), but taking public transit, biking and walking, carpooling, and taking trains can all cut down on emissions.

This isn't just your personal problem, it's absolutely systemic. When we consider a third of all air travel is business travel or look at the emissions of shipping things across the planet, we can see that where we spend our money also really matters.

How it Helps You: 

Some of these options are so much healthier for our bodies, and exploring where we are can be a total unexpected treat as well. We have been flying less, and it honestly has been really fun to do more little trips around where we live.

Also, shopping local supports local businesses, which means more jobs and a healthier economy where we are. Money you spend on imported goods at Walmart is leaving your community and you are never going to see it again. Money you spend at locally-owned stores or on locally-made projects stays where you live.

How to Do It: 

Try taking the bus or public transit near you. Walk more to where you are going. Carpool. Resolve to take half the flights as you did in 2019. Plan a vacation with train travel. Put fewer things on your schedule so you simply are moving around less.

This could also mean embracing the things made locally to you. You could resolve to not buy anything new and imported for a whole year. It wouldn't be easy, but it's not impossible. Check this post for tons of ideas on doable resolutions right in your own neighborhood!

5. Hold Businesses Accountable

The businesses that make these problems can also stop them. But they won't unless someone makes them. That someone is you.

How it Helps the Earth: 

We know that so much of the power around Climate Change rests in the hands of large businesses. Their goal is to keep grabbing at every bit of money they can, no matter what happens to the Earth. They bank on us not paying attention so they can do as they please. Let this be the year you don't stand for it anymore. By speaking up to businesses (big and small), and the people you love about how important it is to take care of the environment, you shift the culture. And you let them all know that apathy and greed are no longer acceptable. So important at this moment in history.

Business changes have huge impacts, If I give up plastic bags, I will save maybe a few thousand in a lifetime. If Target does it, that number is in the billions. I can stop drinking pop and that is important, but if Coca Cola could solve its plastic problem, it would be a historic victory for the Earth.

We have seen this year that companies can change, that some are changing, and that those changes make a big difference in shifting the norm and preventing waste, This is true of local and small businesses too! My favorite small town pizzaria switched to paper straws- everyone complained at first, but it caught on and other restaurants in their town is following suit.

How it Helps You: 

In the face of the panic and depression that comes with watching Climate Change unfold, nothing feels better than the sense that you are actually doing something. You aren't powerless. Second to that, speaking out means you will find other voices, and no one should be facing this moment alone.

Also, I can say from experience that it is freaking cathartic. It doesn't take that much time, and you kind of get better and better at it as you go. It's amazing how often I hear back and see changes too, especially when I reach out to the local businesses near me.

How to Do It: 

The way to take on the biggest companies making the largest messes is to join in with large groups with TONS of people power like Greenpeace and 350. Both are excellent groups with tons of influence and laser focus on specific issues and businesses. It's another area where we can only fight tremendous wealth with people power, so your membership, involvement, and donations are desperately needed and useful.

Feel too large scale for you? You can find work groups on social media where people share letter writing campaigns and petitions to pool energy, signatures, and resources. My favorite is Stop Plastic- Take Action! I can just go through their feed once a week and help with a bunch of initiatives at once.

Write businesses that do not live up to your standards. Ask to talk to a manager when you get plastic nonsense. When you stop buying from some business, write and tell them so. When an issue is really getting you down, make a list of the businesses that could do something about it, then actually bug them about it.

6. Get Plastics Out of your Life Already

Plastic is poison, and our beautiful Earth is absolutely drowning in it.

How it Helps the Earth:

Plastics are choking our planet's biodiversity, filling our land and water with waste, and poisoning our bodies (in 2019, we learned that we ingest a CREDIT CARD's worth of plastic every week- gross!) At this point, our children's children will be cleaning up the mess we and our parents made. We can make the job easier by stopping our part in the mess! As they say, if the bathtub is overflowing, the first step is to turn off the tap.

Refusing single use plastics and products that use plastic packaging also sends companies the message that we will not tolerate the plastic ridiculousness anymore. We very seriously risk choking out our natural resources with plastic, and every piece we each buy only gets us that much closer.

I was so hopeful that 2019 would be the year that we finally break our addiction to plastics. We are getting closer, but there is still so far to go.

How it Helps You:

The chemicals in plastic, even "food safe" plastic aren't fully understood yet, but this is what we do know: plastics definitely mess with our hormones and our endocrine system. They are also linked again and again with cancer. Look at the rise in plastic packaging next to the rise in many (hormone-related) cancers. This is no a coincidence. Plastic is terrible for our bodies, we just don't even know how terrible yet.

Plastic is the asbestos of our generation- do you really want that on or in your body?

How to Do It: 

There are lots of freaking EASY ways to start cutting our plastic habits. Hundreds of easy options- check this post for 75 of my best ideas (use a menstrual cup, buy less packaged food, bring reusable bags, STOP buying synthetic clothes!).

Most of us can cut our addiction to the big 4- coffee cups, water bottles, plastic bags, and plastic straws. Just be done with them. There are simple green and reusable options for everything you already buy.

Not enough? Start writing companies to tell them to stop already. No restaurant needs to give every customer a plastic straw. Freaking amazon needs to stop with the bubble mailers. Once you start avoiding plastic, you will see the places where you seem to have no choice in the matter. That's where you voice your frustration to them.

7. Get Outside and Plant Something

How it Helps the Earth: 

We learned this year that one of our best defenses against climate crisis is simply by planting way more trees. We may not individually have the power to stop development, but we can get involved in this planting and change our approach to our own yards and spaces to make them greener (literally).

You can't fight for something you don't love. A true connection with nature can inform your environmentalism so you can fight the battles most real to you. We are alienated from nature and see it as a thing "out there." Removing that gap from our thinking (we all live IN nature and we ARE nature) makes us better advocates for the Earth. Nothing encourages this more than embracing gardening and nurturing as part of our lives.

How it Helps You: 

Spending more time outside has proven to improve our physical health, our focus and attention, and even our emotional health (some doctors are prescribing nature for depression). I can vouch for this personally; we spent the last year focusing on more outdoors time, and it made me a better, happier mom. Time outside is magic, and it heals.

Starting our garden is the best thing we ever did as parents. It gives our kids a strong appreciation of the labor and nurture behind what they eat. It also opens their mind to foods I would never have expected.

How to Do It: 

In my dream world, we would all take up big planting goals for 2020. Every household would plant 5 trees. Or every yard would give up the lame lawn and fill it up with native plants and trees. But you can set your own planting goal- how many trees can you plant in a year? Or is there a local planting group you could volunteer for?

Planting is not your thing? No problem, check out this post for ways to make being outdoors a regular part of your 2020 routine.

8. Just Buy Less (And Stop Getting Things New)

Want to make a dramatic change in 2020? Just stop shopping!

How it Helps the Earth:

Overconsumption is another big source of Climate Change. We buy a lot, and everything we buy has to travel (often very far distances), so every thing we buy uses fossil fuels. Most things bought new in stores (or on Amazon) also traveled in plastic, so if you buy 100 non-food items this year, that's 100 extra pieces of plastic trash. Also, to make their stuff cheap, many companies are using more plastics (think about fashion, which is increasingly synthetic materials and shedding millions of microplastics into our water every dang day).

In other words, the less you buy, the better for the Earth. Buying it once instead of over and over is better for the Earth. Borrowing from a neighbor is better for the Earth. Fixing what you already have is better for the Earth. Every time you don't buy something, you have done something good for the Earth! You just have to do nothing! So easy!

How it Helps You:

The average American has 300,000 objects in their home. That's a lot to keep cleaning, shopping for, and shifting. And we know that it is making us miserable. Clutter makes it harder for us to focus, and it can even cause depression.

There is also the mental toll of all that shopping. Like so many cheap and easy highs, the good feeling only lasts a minute and then you are left needing another one. Don't believe me? How much shopping have you already done since the holiday? And buying all those objects means we need things cheap, which probably means in was manufactured in poverty and mistreatment. That's a lot to weigh on our psyche with so much dusting to do.

How to Do It:

Sometimes the best start is a really good clean out with LOTS of donating and sharing (throwing away is a last resort). Join a Buy Nothing Group. Stop shopping at stores like Target that are designed to send you out with 100 dollars of stuff you don't need.

Have something you love to shop for? Set a goal number for how many you can buy for the whole year, and stick to it. If you only get one pair of shoes in 2020, you may not be as eager to take advantage of a sale. Stop treating shopping as an activity or accomplishment. Shop secondhand first. Take a picture of the thing you want and see if you think of it again before you buy it. 

9. Waste Less and Worry Less

How it Helps the Earth:

Food waste is a key problem for the planet and our humanity; this wasted food adds to greenhouse gases instead of feeding people who need it. Smarter use of our resources is essential in cutting down the amount of waste on the planet. Restaurants and grocery stores need to be held more accountable for things they waste, but we also need to question how our overconsumption of meat sends so many of our resources to farms instead of people.

But this goes way beyond food waste too- how many pieces of clothing do we throw away that could have been mended and used again? We need to shop less and use what we already have more. How many food containers did we throw away this year? How could we use them another way?

We also know that single-use items are a key source of waste in our world. If we could shift our own lives and family cultures to eliminate that, we could minimize plastics and other waste being created on massive scales every day (seriously, it's a lot).

How it Helps You:

Our culture of overspending and overeating certainly isn't doing us a lot of good. This can be a great place to identify that we just need to slow down and make a plan. When you plan what you eat and use what you have, you will feel better about your life, and your body will feel better too.

And creating less general garbage can free us from a bunch of stuff that is weighing us down that we don't even realize. When you start trying to minimize the waste you make, whether you go zero-waste or just cut a little, your life gets simpler in a very positive way too. And honestly, it just feels good to not have to take out the garbage so much!

How to Do it:

Internalize the saying "there is no away." Everything we throw away, whether it be food, plastic, or other garbage goes SOMEWHERE. Then start thinking about how you personally can cut down on the waste you create. Reuse things. Fix them. Give them away on Buy Nothing or donate them. Do everything you can to make that garbage can less full at the end of the week.

Meal plan! Eat out less.  Learn cool ways to use up your food waste. COMPOST. Seriously, how are any of us not composting? Learn to bring reusable options with you. Reuse containers and t-shirts. Fall in love with upcycling.

10. Keep Talking About It! 

How it Helps the Earth :

Just keep talking about this stuff! Bring up the news, share cool memes, be honest and explain the changes you are making.

In 2019, environmentalism went mainstream in the form of a 16 year old girl and her many youthful followers. We are already seeing major backlash against them, but not nearly enough change has happened. You can help keep this momentum going by being positive and speaking the truth! One of the most important things we can do is talk about it with our friends and family, because that is how culture shifts and minds change.

We need everyone to care. Everyone. So your caring and talking about it plants more seeds. Lots won't grow, but some will. And that caring can only be good for the Earth.

How it Helps You: 

The news about our planet and our future is consistently terrifying and depressing. The only way to stay optimistic, to feel hope, and to KEEP HELPING is to have community with other people. Don't face this stuff alone. If nothing else, if you are having a bad day (or exchange with someone) you can always DM me about it.

Don't be alone  worrying about this stuff. When you talk about it, other people will surprise you and challenge you. It makes life better to do things with others. Be a steward amongst stewards. Caring is deeply and powerfully contagious. Care loudly, and other people will care too.

How to Do It: 

Share (positive) things on facebook. Invite people to come to volunteer with you. Chat with the server after you turn down the straws. Brag about your kickass secondhand finds. Be that person, and bring up reusables at a meeting you are at. If you like concrete goals, post one thing about the environment a week or resolve to have one conversation about it a week.

Resolve to bring up your environmental choices once a week to people you meet or on social media.

Ok, what are you resolving to do in 2020? What have I missed on this list?

10 Resolutions to Save the World in 2020

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