New Year's is a good time for reflection and evaluation on what was done in the past year, and your hopes and dreams for the new year. There is nothing wrong with having a resolution of “losing ten pounds” or “traveling more” this year, they all sound very exciting and satisfying. But, why stop there? Why not take a small step (in effort, but big in results!) and take things further, by adding resolutions that could make a difference in our world?
In the past year, the world is still facing poverty, climate change, and declining health. While it seems like a big task to change the course of the world, the future doesn’t look bleak, as long as people do not lose sight of the fact that everyone is part of the solution. There are big things you can do to change the world, but there are also an infinite number of small things that does not require much effort to do.
Here are some simple and super easy things you can do in the upcoming year with minimal effort, but really contributes to making the world better.
15 Drive less
Driving a car increases carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, and poor air quality. Although it may be difficult to completely eliminate using your vehicle day-to-day, it would definitely be worth it to really think about how to lessen your usage. There are many simple ways you can reduce your transportation footprint right now. Try using public transit, at least once a week. Not only are you reducing your carbon footprint, but the more people use public transit, the less cars are on the road and less traffic congestion, leading to a better quality of life. In the warmer season, ride your bike. This is a great way to commute, but if that’s too big of a step, start by riding your bike to run simple errands. Instead of driving to the gym or meeting friends for coffee, bike there! Pre-planning a route for your errands can also help. Instead of doing a separate grocery run, figure out if there’s a shop on the way home and do it enroute.
Volunteering is a great way to give back. You have to live in your community, so why not help make it a better place! A lot of great causes and advances in our society wouldn’t have happened without community support. Research local organization and choose a cause that is important to you. Do not get intimidated by long-term commitment and heavy workloads. Lots of organizations are just happy to have people come out and help however way they can. Many offer flexible schedules, and some may even be looking for virtual volunteers, so you can do your part from home! Volunteering is a great way to get to know your community more and feel really engaged. As an added bonus, it’s also a great way to boost your resume!
13 Bring a Water Bottle
Bottled water is very wasteful, and totally unnecessary. Not only do the plastic bottles add millions of tons of waste that end up in landfills, or worse our oceans, the process in which to bottle water wastes so much of the planet’s valuable energy. Studies have shown that bottled water is not necessarily cleaner than tap water. If you’re still concerned about that all, purchase a water bottle with a built-in filter. It will also cost you less to just bring your own bottle than to keep on paying for something your body needs. Bringing a water bottle helps save you money and the planet as well.
12 Stay Current
The world is literally at your fingertips. People are always connected these days, whether they’re on their phones, tablets, or computers. There really is no excuse to take at least 5 minutes out of your day to make sure you know what’s going on in the world around you. Instead of browsing your social media accounts while on transit, how about just visit a news site and read. Take five minutes while you’re drinking your morning coffee. Turn on the evening news while you’re cooking. The more aware you are of what’s going on around you, the more informed you will be on how you will live your life. You will also be more aware of any opportunities that may arise to contribute to society, and it will make you a more well-rounded person in all aspects of life the more you know.
11 Donate to the Food Bank
Most people reading this article would be fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads and food on their table everyday, and it may be easy to forget that there are a lot of other people who are much less fortunate. Food banks exist to ensure that families and individuals who may not have the means to provide for themselves everyday, have a place to go for basic necessities. Most groceries have boxes for food bank donations available to their shoppers. Next time you are out on a grocery run, buy something to donate to the foodbank, however small or simple. Spending five dollars on food bank donations will not hurt you, but it will go a long way for someone else. You can also reduce food waste by donating your surplus supplies to the food bank.
10 Bring Your own bag
Plastic bags are another unnecessary waste that pollute our environment, and its impact can easily be reduced if more people started bringing their own shopping bags. There are a lot of stores, even some countries, that are taking a stand against plastic bags, by not providing any to their customers, and leaving it up to them to ensure they have reusable bags for their purchases.
9 Host “Awareness” Nights
Why not try something different with your pals than the usual coffee or dinner gatherings? Host an “awareness” night once a month, where you can all get together over certified sustainable coffee, or a home-cooked meal, made with ingredients bought locally, and you can take turns discussing a topic or an issue that is important to you. Whether it’s volunteering to help out refugees or simply asking your peers to consider switching to products that are cruelty-free, these gatherings can serve as a casual venue to discuss these things and inspire your friends to make small changes in their lifestyle that will truly better the world.
8 Take a Hike
The cities and towns we live in are growing rapidly, and with the expansion of society, it’s easy to become disconnected with nature and the environment. It is even harder to keep track of what should be protected and preserved in our planet when people are out of touch with nature. This year, make the effort to go on a hike or a stroll around your parks to really connect with nature. People are more likely to show concern and make the effort to live a greener lifestyle when they are able to connect with what they are trying to protect. Connecting with nature also have added benefits of stress relief, plus it’s also a good way to stay physically active.
7 Go Meatless Once a Week
Aside from the fact that there are many health benefits to reducing your meat intake, there are a lot of costs associated to producing meat. For example, one pound of beef can require over 6,000 litres of water to produce, plus you add delivery costs and its environmental impact. Then, once it gets to your local grocery, it even uses more energy to store them properly. Meat is resource intensive, and committing one day a week to going meatless will go a long way in the long term both a health and sustainability standpoint.
6 Shop Local
Supporting local businesses ensures that your local economy, which affects you the most, is thriving. Not only are you helping your “neighbours” grow their businesses, but when those businesses grow, it comes with the potential of more jobs in your community. Furthermore, when you purchase from your local farmer, you are reducing your carbon footprint because the product does not need to be delivered hundreds of miles away. You don’t have to make the switch to local for everything you buy right away. Start one business at a time. Perhaps, there’s a weekly farmer’s market in your city and you can start by buying produce there.
5 Take Shorter Showers
Long hot baths and showers feel good after a stressful day at work, it’s easy to forget how long the water has been running when the hot water just feels so relaxing. However, long showers are habits that have a negative impact on the environment. While it’s forgivable to indulge in long showers and hot baths once in a while, try to minimize your shower time during day-to-day use. Time your showers and limit yourself to 10 minutes or so, there are even some shower heads that have built-in timers. You can also install a low-flow showerhead. They don’t cost a lot and can help you save money in the long term.
4 Shop Smart
Your purchases have an impact on the environment. How many times have you bought something you realized you really have no use for and it ended up in the trash? How many times have you purged and thrown out stuff from your closet to make room for all those clothes on sale? Whether you are impulse buying clothes, random knick-knacks, or replacing that couch you are sick of, make an effort to really evaluate whether you need this purchase or not. The more you buy, the more you will eventually have to throw out, and the more things will end up in the landfill. When you do have to toss old items out, consider finding better alternatives, like posting them on community website to see if others would have a use for them, or donating your old clothes to charity. When you purchase new things, invest in high quality and long-lasting products. You’ll be happy you paid the additional cost when it’ll take you longer to replace and you have less waste.
3 Commit to Exercise
Health is wealth. There are a lot of personal and societal benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and we do not really need to get into too much detail of how getting sick affects a person financially, as well as the costs attached to sickness in terms of public health care and sick leaves. Many diseases are preventable. The point is, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by committing to exercise. If you aren’t the type who have a regular routine or have trouble making it to the gym on a regular basis, you can start by dedicating small pockets of time at home. Wake up 15 minutes earlier and do a few sun salutations and yoga poses to start your day. Put on your favourite show and do some planks and squats while watching. Explore your neighborhood and go for a walk for at least 30 minutes every couple of days. You can grow your fitness plan from there.
2 Borrow From the Library
Instead of buying new books and movies, borrow from your local library. Most library memberships are very affordable, and sometimes even free. This will not only save you money, since you don’t need to purchase anything, it also reduces paper consumption from printing all those books, and not to mention the cost of delivery. It also reduces your personal clutter at home. Many libraries have kept up with technology and offer digital options as well. You don’t even need to leave your own home to pick up a book. Some libraries even offer free memberships to video/audio streaming sites and online courses!
1 Switch off
Dedicate an evening or two every week when you make every effort to minimize energy consumption. These days, we are so connected to technology that we don’t even think twice about turning them on. How many times have you just automatically turned the television on just for some “background noise”? Turn down the heat a degree or two and cozy up in a blanket. Turn off all those electricity-guzzling devices, like your television and computer, and pick up a good book and a nice warm cup of tea. Turn off any lights you don’t need. Even better, go outside and enjoy the great outdoors.