Now that 2016 has been properly welcomed, it’s time to get serious about the goals that you have set for the new year. While you might have already been to the gym a few times, jettisoned all of the sweets in the house, and tossed the cigarettes, there’s another important commitment you can make for 2016: Take better care of the planet, as well as yourself.
Embracing a more sustainable lifestyle doesn’t have to mean getting rid of all of the things that you love, or completely overhauling your whole existence. By making a few small, but significant changes, you can help protect the Earth, and actually be healthier — and save money — in the process.
Declutter Your Home
Almost everyone has rooms full of stuff that they no longer need or want. Whether it’s a closet full of clothing in the wrong size, the remnants of a long-abandoned hobby, or just general clutter, too much stuff is actually bad for your health — and your wallet. Studies show that living in clutter can actually exacerbate breathing issues, lead to weight gain, and contribute to chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, thanks to the stress associated with living in a mess.
Having too much stuff can also cost you more money. How many times have you had to purchase a replacement for something you already own because you lost the original? Or how much are you spending on storage or other costs for items you don’t use? Sustainability is all about maximizing resources, so if you have stuff you aren’t using, get rid of it. Donate that old boat collecting barnacles that you never use to a worthy charitable organization. Give the box of old paperbacks to the library, or have a yard sale to erase the remnants of Christmas’ past. You’ll have a cleaner, more organized home and more money in your pocket.
Buy Used, Not New
In our consumer-driven lifestyle, we are very quick to run to the store every time we need something. But have you ever stopped to consider the resources that go into making new products? By purchasing used items, or borrowing things that you only need temporarily, you not only save money, but help reduce the resources used in the manufacture and sale of those items. Tap into your local Freecycle group, check out online classifieds and yard sales, or arrange neighborhood “swaps” to get rid of the stuff you don’t need and score the things you do need for less.
Local businesses help support your community. But beyond helping your friends and neighbors support their families, buying locally produced items from small businesses and farmer’s markets actually helps to save the planet.
Most produce in your local supermarket is actually trucked in from far flung locations — according to one study, the typical carrot travels more than 1,800 miles from the farm to the table! That long trip uses a lot of fuel resources, in both transportation and packaging. Buying from a farmer down the road means fewer resources are used, and you gain fresher, more flavorful produce. Not to mention, you help a local family!
Make Your Own
We all have excuses as to why we buy certain products at the big box stores, with convenience being the biggest one. Many people assume that making items like cleaning products, snacks, and health and beauty items is cumbersome or expensive, but the truth is that in most cases, creating these items at home is actually very easy and less expensive in the long run — and most importantly, don’t generally involve using toxic or non-renewable resources. You may need to experiment with technique and ingredients to develop products that you love, but the payoff is healthier, less wasteful household products.
Americans love their cars, but making short trips every day eats up resources, and puts wear and tear on the vehicle that costs money and resources to fix. It’s not always practical, but consider whether you can walk or bike more often. What would it take to make that happen? Sometimes, it’s as simple as attaching a basket to your bike so you can ride to the market. Before you drive off, think about whether you really need to. The Earth — and your body! — will thank you.
Becoming more sustainable isn’t difficult, but it does require committing to making important changes. However, these adjustments are easy, and don’t require huge investments of time or money, but provide huge returns.