A New Year means a new start, right? Making resolutions is big business, more often than not focused on getting fit and healthy by making a commitment to go to the gym or take up running. Many, however, fall by the wayside after a month of initial enthusiasm; they've got to be achievable and we need to feel the reward. It's the same with sustainability actions.
So, if we are to make a difference - step by step - we need some actions that both challenge and reward, and add up to something that makes a positive difference to our pockets, the people around us and the planet. Here are a few suggestions.
As I sit here, writing this, let's start by focusing on electronic devices, or rather spending some time away from them; we should all probably take a small step away from time to time! By doing so we have a positive effect on our environment. Use surge protector power strips to switch off televisions, radios, monitors, printers, etc. when you leave the house. Use sleep mode for your computer (it really does make a difference). The plus side could be a lower energy bill, so you win!
Going plastic-free around the house is a real challenge, but one we will have to face in due course. Make it easier by targeting one area - say bathroom products - and pledge to get rid of dental floss, plastic toothbrushes, cotton buds, and look to use hair and bathing products that come in recycled packaging. You won't achieve it immediately, so set a realistic timeframe.
Why not ensure that you have at least one oxygenating plant in each room of your house, and save water throughout the day to use for watering them. Lower your heating around the home by half a degree per month and put on an extra layer of clothing. While you're at it, why not do a lighting audit and see if there are any remaining bulbs that could be replaced with low-energy LEDs instead.
Outside the home, you might want to consider volunteering with a charity or community organisation. Not only will they appreciate your support, but you'll be rewarded through new friendships and experiences and, possibly, get fitter as a result. For instance, if you don't have your own greenspace, then getting involved with a local garden project can be really liberating.
Eating less meat is one of the quickest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. This does not mean you have to become a dedicated vegetarian or vegan overnight, you could pick two days a week where you only cook vegetarian/vegan meals. At the same time, follow one of the increasing number of seasonal cookbooks for ideas, and buy only seasonal produce at the right time of year.
If any of these are going to work, we all need an immediate plan that can be started straightaway, with small steps and working upwards from there. Decide when you're going to take actions and what will help you to achieve them. If you'll need more time, then plan for it. Keep track by using apps, a diary or a chart to record your progress, and don't beat yourself up for any slips along the way.
Good luck, and here's to a sustainable Happy New Year!