We can probably all agree that 2016 was quite the 💩 year with a disturbing amount of major political #facepalm moments, which were and still are hard to shake off. I actually made the mistake of starting this article with a recap instead of just the resolutions. I basically ended up showing 2016 the finger🖕 in only 600+ lengthy words, talking about Brexit, Trump, this year’s oh-nevermind-Trump-just-got-elected-let’s-just-binge-eat-ice-cream-instead UN Climate Change Conference, terrorism, out-of-the-closet xenophobes, homophobes, and of course racists, war in Syria, Fortress Europe, and twisted American bathroom bill discussions. Aaaanyway, I decided to not bore all of you with these old news in order to end this disturbing year on a more positive note: What can we do to make 2017 a better year – for the planet, the animals, everyone around us 💚 and most importantly our own sanity, because I know I for one cannot bear another year like this one. So pour yourself some numbing substance (or a stimulant – your choice) and let’s roll up our sleeves and get this mess cleaned up 💪!
1. Be kind to one another
Ultimately, it is all about kindness in my opinion, which – I’m very certain everyone who had to work with me at one point or another will confirm – doesn’t mean I am not quite the hardline bitch at times.
With us living a zero waste lifestyle, we get told things like “like this will save the planet”, “isn’t it just a drop in the ocean?”, or “what difference can one single person make” all the time.
Frankly, I believe it is the wrong way to look at it. Of course one single person will not be able to save the planet, just like one single person will not be able to bring peace to this world. These issues are huge and complex, and they too, are not the result of the wrong-doings of just one single person – and yet they happened. We just have to reverse this dynamic one small step at a time, starting with oneself.
So many people, especially journalists, assume that Hanno and I are vegans, avoid palm oil and live a zero waste lifestyle in order to “save the planet”, you know, “for the future generations” and “the greater good”. They have called us eco-warriors and heroes, or have condemned us calling what we do self-flagellation in order to feel like we have the moral high ground.
The truth is, that our intentions behind our efforts to reduce our footprint are neither one of the above. We do not expect to save the world, nor to be able to leave a more liveable world to future generations. Quite frankly, I honestly doubt that the way things are right now, we will be able to change course fast enough to stop the climate change, which has already started. We also do not feel like our lifestyle is actually eco-“friendly”. Granted, it is less destructive than the norm in industrial countries, but of course we still cause a lot of damage in this world.
I took a “What’s your environmental footprint” quiz very recently, and it turned out that if everyone on this planet consumed the way I did, we would still need 1.7 planet earths! Yup, that’s still 0.7 more than we have. And by the way, they even had the option of “I do not create any general trash”. So again, yes, we have been well aware of the fact that we are far from “guilt-free”.
We just simply do not wish to live at the expense of other people (child labor, exploitation, unsafe and harmful work conditions), animals (factory farming, destruction of habitats), or the environment (pollution). Just because it is not us or people around us suffering the direct consequences, it does not mean there aren’t any. All we want is to try to be more considerate and kind, and to slowly work our way towards this goal.
I firmly believe that by making small and big decisions with kindness and consideration in mind everything will fall into place all by itself. Not instantly, of course. It is all a journey, and if you are anything like us, you don’t mind traveling at turtle speed – slow, but steady 🐢✨💚💪 #TurtleSpeedPower
2. Try 1 new eco-friendly thing per month and try to learn from it
Personally, I am not a big fan of these “30 days of going XXX” challenges or, yup, New Year’s resolutions where you start off the year with ambitious and completely unrealistic things. Like, “I will live plastic-free starting 1 January 2017”. Why would you do this to yourself?? This is like asking me to run a marathon tomorrow. There is just no scenario or even a parallel universe where this could possibly end with me crossing the finish line alive.
Instead, take small steps. Like trying something new and eco-friendly every month. Mark this down on your calendar and planner.
Need ideas? Here are some things you could go for:
- Ask for no straw and/or no paper napkin when you are out, be sure to tell them it is important to you or they will forget about it instantly
- Shop at the bulk bins, ask if you can bring your own containers or bags
- Go to the farmer’s market or check out your local coops or small health food stores
- Try to only buy loose produce, use a laundry mesh bag if necessary
- Download a seasonal produce guide and try to opt for local and saisonal produce as often as you can
- Get a bamboo toothbrush
- Give making your own products like laundry detergent, hairspray, or mouthwash a try
- Use vegan and palm oil free soap and shampoo bars instead of liquid soap and shampoo in plastic bottles. You can get shampoo bars at Lush, if you can hold your breath long enough to make the transition, that is.
- Ditch disposables and swap them for reusables: Go for washable cotton pads, rags, handkies, refillable water bottles, food containers
- Get take out using your own containers without dying of embarassement
- Learn to cook with less and less processed food items but real food instead
- Opt for the vegetarian or maybe even vegan option as often as you can to reduce animal cruelty and also because animal products have a terrifying carbon and water footprint. Or try a vegetarian/vegan day a week, but avoid oversharing. You don’t want to be put into the same category as that one dude who just wouldn’t shut up about his juice cleanse.
- If you happen to belong to the part of the population that sheds their uterus lining once a month – get a menstrual cup and learn how to properly insert it. I bet you can hide drugs in it as well. Just sayin’.
- Check out your local thrift stores, Craigslist and/or Facebook groups before buying new things
- Ditch tea bags for loose tea, act fancy and royal when serving it to friends and family.
- Only buy organic, Fairtrade coffee, which you can usually get package-free from the roasting house. Pretend to know what it means when they tell you the coffee you chose is bright in your mouth, or that it is an all day long coffee with a nice acidity to it.
- Ask the barista to be a sweetheart and to use the tumbler you brought for your tall double, decaf, sugar-free, foam-free, 3 pumps vanilla soy latte. Trust me, the tumbler will not be what will make them hate you.
3. Learn to consume less
I know, I know. Going rampage on a shopping spree and caring about what is the latest must-have gadget is what life is all about. Who cares about love, personal growth, creative fulfilment, or even happiness when you can buy a glow in the dark toilet seat or a hands-free wine glass holder necklace instead?
Hang on, what did you say? Shopping is a hobby that makes you happy? And buying things when you feel sad is a great coping mechanism? If so, we must be on a constant high, since most of us have a lot more than what we could ever need or even use. Not the case? Well, it is because buying things is only a short and fleeting joy.
Learn to cope with what is bugging you in the first place instead of using consumption (or food) as a coping mechanism. For me, it is stress, too little sleep and a workoholic mindset.
In fact, we could easily purge 30-80% of what we own and we would still have more than what we need. We don’t really have to buy new things every other day.
Ask yourself these questions before any purchase:
- Do I really need it? Like really (!) need it? Or is it just an impulse buy? (Reasons to not need it may include: I already have something like this/ something with the same functionality, I wouldn’t want it if I hadn’t seen it on Instagram, on TV, or on Rihanna)
- Do I buy it to replace something or to add to what I have? (Try to only buy to replace something that truly needs replacing)
- >How often will I actually use it?
- How long will it last? (Choose quality over quantity)
- Do I have to buy it new or can I get it secondhand or pre-owned?
- Are there more sustainable options? (Opt for the organic, fairly produced, vegan, local, or seasonal options depending on what it is about)
If you are uncertain as to whether or not you truly need it, put it back. If you still want it after a week, go for it. However, I’m sure that in 90% of the cases you will just forget about it and will not even be able to remember what it was that you put back.
Remember: It is all about the journey. Don’t expect to become an expert overnight, and don’t beat yourself up when things do not work out. That’s life, and it’s totally OK. Just have fun with it, enjoy life and be proud of yourself whenever you do succeed and enjoy that moment 💚.
For more resolutions, do check out 12 Practical Green New Year’s Resolutions article!