21 Ways to Be More Sustainable in 2021
Still need a New Year’s Resolution? Here are some ideas for how to live more sustainably as we enter the new year.
Heading into the year 2021, living more sustainably goes far beyond just taking shorter showers. Now, we face the reality that we are less than ten years away from an irreversible climate catastrophe. Though much of this change must come at the hands of politicians and world leaders through a reduction in global carbon emissions, there are a handful of ways we can participate from our own homes. Here is a list of 21 ways to incorporate these lifestyle changes into your 2021.
1. Go vegetarian or vegan (or just eat less meat)
Giving up meat/animal products can be a complete change in your life, especially when you’ve grown up eating them your whole life. If your financial situation and dietary/health concerns permit, even eating one plant-based meal here and there goes a long way. The best way to start is by easing in and taking it slow, cutting out the products you typically never ate and slowly reducing those that you do more often.. If you’re someone who wants to dive into it right away, you might want to start with Veganuary, where you are vegan for the whole month of January. See how it works for you and go from there! If you want to start off easy, try encouraging your family and friends to participate in Meatless Mondays each week. If any of these are unavailable to you, try your best to buy sustainably and ethically produced animal products.
2. Opt for a renewable energy plan through PG&E
Residential energy use accounts for around 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions. If you are financially able to, you can select a 100% renewable energy plan. For more information, go to https://www.pge.com/en_US/residential/solar-and-vehicles/options/solar/solar-choice/solar-choice.page
3. Get educated!
It’s hard to be an activist without proper knowledge and your facts in line, so get green educated! Watch documentaries, read books about climate change and activism, learn about climate politics, and more. We listed some suggestions below.
Read the actual Green New Deal! https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres109/BILLS-116hres109ih.pdf
Listen to the podcast How to Save a Planet! https://open.spotify.com/show/1KzrasExlM5dgMYwgFHns6?si=pZpFHUOHSBSC9T1CrMkx2A
If you’re 16, pre-register to vote OR pledge to vote in every election (even local ones). Michael Mann, a climatologist says, “We need politicians who will support climate-friendly policies. And we need to get rid of those who won’t. Voting is one critical way to do that, and if you live in the US, it’s absolutely critical that you vote on climate.” Voting is the most powerful way to exercise your voice, so never think that it doesn’t matter.
5. Phone or text bank for the Georgia election
A shift in our nation’s executive branch does not mean our fight towards political climate action is over. Now, it is extremely important to have a Senate that believes in climate change in order to be able to pass effective climate legislation over the next four years. Donate your time and
volunteer here: https://fairfight.com/join-our-fight/
6. Join an activism organization
Activism is hands down one of the best ways to help end the climate crisis. The government ultimately will decide the final fate of our planet, so it is up to us citizens to make ourselves heard for the sake of its future. Join a local activism organization, pledge to sign every petition that you see (we’re starting our own Five Minute Action Instagram story highlight with these), participate in marches and rallies (if safe), and write to your local and national leaders. Your voice matters.
Suggestions for getting involved with local Bay Area environmental organizations: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BMCCeNp58PdY0zKZ3lblxy_SgLuRmy9dBTfBwV_0pCk/edit
7. Start donating
After signing a petition, organizations will often ask for a donation. If this is available to you, make it a goal to donate as much and as often as you can to environmental NGOs and other organizations. Your money, no matter how small, makes a world of difference.
8. Volunteer more
More than ever, many environmental charities are in need of service more than ever, leaving plenty of options all around the Bay Area and country. For example, Surfrider Foundation is currently offering volunteers to participate in their own solo beach cleanups. For more information, fill out this page on their website: https://www.surfrider.org/volunteer
9. Walk or bike instead of driving
Depending on the distance and weather, reduce your carbon footprint by using your feet! Instead of driving, walk and bike! Both are a great source of exercise, making you feel great physically and mentally as you know that each step is contributing to a greener future.
10. Start a garden
If you haven’t already started during quarantine, start your very own garden! Growing your own fruits and vegetables is a great way to live a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as to buy less and save more! Not only will you feel proud of your homegrown meals and beautiful addition to your yard, but you will also save the planet in the process. Who knows, maybe you’ll develop a lifelong hobby of gardening!
11. Shop organic & shop locally
Right now, small businesses need support more than ever. Shop from your local boutique or get breakfast at the bakery next door. Do your best to limit how often you shop at big brands, many of which use immoral production methods whether with food or everyday products. When you need fresh food, go to the farmers' market and shop organic fruits, vegetables, or meat straight from the farm. Through its lack of chemical pesticides, organic farming is the more sustainable and environmentally friendly option.
12. Give up (or just buy less) fast fashion
As a teenager, this one can be hard. However, there are many ways to keep your favorite brands without contributing to unethical and unsustainable production practices. Thrifting is a great way to shop, whether at Goodwill or your local spot. Second-hand online stores have also become more popular and the safer option during COVID. ThredUP and Depop have every brand you could possibly imagine and great prices.
13. Host a monthly clothing swap
Another way to eliminate your fast fashion consumerism is through hosting a clothing swap with friends! Each month, get together with a group of friends and trade each other different outfits and clothes to wear. The next month, return the clothes and bring new ones. With this, you’ll never run out of new clothes to try, and you won’t even have to spend money in the process!
14. Stop or reduce your plastic consumption
In a world where plastic is everywhere you look, there are endless ways to cut out plastic from your life. You can carry a reusable bag with you every time you shop, invest in a reusable water bottle, and even cut your own fruit instead of buying the ones packaged in unnecessary plastic. If you see an alternative to plastic, take it!
Here are some awesome book recommendations:
F**k Plastic by Rodale Sustainability
How to Go Plastic Free by Caroline Jones
Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too by Beth Terry
15. Buy eco-friendly and reusable products
Continue your plastic-free lifestyle with the products you use at home every day. Bamboo products are a perfect way to start, whether with your toothbrush or even paper towels. Try a metal razor instead of the short-lived disposable plastic ones. If you’re heading to get coffee or picking up a grab-and-go lunch, don’t forget to bring your own utensils and straws! You’ll be taking just one more step towards the extinction of plastic. Check out EarthHero for some great options! https://earthhero.com/product-category/home/
16. Start composting
If your family does not have one already, start a compost bin! Learn about the benefits here: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home
17. Buy less
It’s as simple as that! Do your best to buy only what you need and reduce how much you get when you can.
18. Avoid food products with palm oil
Sadly, many of our favorite packaged treats contain unsustainable palm oil, also known as the leading cause of deforestation. For example, Oreos, Clif Bars, Nutella, all Post cereals, and more. Do your best to avoid these brands and shop alternatives instead. Learn more here: https://greenglobaltravel.com/how-to-avoid-products-with-palm-oil/#Products%20Made%20From%20Palm%20Oil%20Are%20Everywhere
19. Clean out your closet
When clothes don’t fit anymore, donate them! Take some time this new year to clean out your closet and donate them to a local charity or Goodwill. Soon enough, someone with the same sustainable goals as you could find a new addition to their wardrobe.
20. Buy cruelty-free beauty care products
Sadly, many popular makeup brands use animal testing and unsustainable production methods for their beauty care. When shopping for new makeup, make sure your product is cruelty-free, vegan, palm oil-free, or all of the above.
21. Offset your travel
Though most have set their travel aside amidst the pandemic, carbon emissions from airplane travel and tourism continue to increase. Swap your long plane ride to a new state or country for an exciting staycation within your own state instead! If state-to-state travel is part of your agenda, see if you can switch your plane ride to a train ride instead. You’ll make Greta Thunberg extremely proud.
We hope you keep some of these suggestions in mind as we enter 2021, here's to climate action! 🌎