It’s that strange time in between Christmas and New Year when we’re both looking back over the past 12 months and thinking ahead. If you are goal or task-oriented, there is something quite satisfying about setting New Year’s resolutions, especially because it can feel like a fresh start, with the slate wiped clean and January offering fresh hope and new beginnings.
In the past, we’ve written about Veganuary: Simple Product Swaps and Going Vegan: The Complete Guide, so this year, we thought we’d try something different and put together a short guide to help you achieve your sustainable goals.
Choosing new goals can be exciting and invigorating, but it can also feel like a chore and ‘another thing to do’ during busy periods. We want to help you achieve your goals and keep them manageable, which is why we’re going to include 12 different ideas, as that gives you the option of trying a different one each month.
We couldn’t write a blog post about sustainable goals and not mention Veganuary. Whether you’re vegan-curious or just want to know more, here are some top tips for a successful Veganuary:
- Plan ahead – give yourself the best chance of success by planning your meals ahead of time and making sure you’ve got all the alternatives you need to maintain your health, wellbeing, and energy levels.
- Research alternative food options and try them. For instance, there are a myriad of non-dairy milk options available (soy, rice, coconut, cashew, almond, oat, rice, pea, quinoa, and more), but you might not like them all, or one might work well for hot drinks but not cereal etc. It’s worth exploring alternatives to find what you like.
- Batch cook – you’ll save time and have plenty of delicious vegan meals on hand. Need some inspiration? There are so many vegan recipes available online and in cookbooks. If you’re not sure where to begin, follow your fave vegan chefs on Instagram for some inspiration.
- You don’t have to cook literally everything from scratch, but make sure you read the labels – you’ll be surprised at what isn’t vegan.
- Of course, a big part of Veganuary is the food, but that’s not all. If you are determined to commit completely, it’s worth checking if household cleaning products and everyday items such as shampoo and conditioner are vegan-friendly. You might also want to swap your trusty leather bag for one of our gorgeous vegan leather handbags.
It’s also worth noting that these goals don’t have to be all or nothing. If you’re currently a meat eater and interested in reducing your meat consumption, why not consider meat-free Mondays during January? If you’re vegetarian thinking of becoming vegan, why not try a 5:2 approach until you’ve adjusted?
February: Reduce your energy consumption
This is timed to coincide with the energy price cap rising in the UK, again. You’ve possibly already been cutting your energy usage to battle increasingly outrageous bills, but here are some more top tips:
- First, are there any green energy grants available in your local area? It’s worth checking your local council’s website to see what offers (if any) are available. This could include grants for solar panels or energy support.
- Do you forget to switch off your appliances at the socket? Have you considered getting a plug timer, so it automatically goes off at a set time?
- If you can, time your laundry so you’re using a cheaper rate of energy (if you have day/night tariffs).
- Turn down your thermostat (if you’re unsure how, this is a helpful guide).
- Draught-proof your house, especially if you’ve got issues with your windows/doors or single glazing. You’ve got lots of options here. You can get insulating tape to stop draughts coming through doors, thermal window film to keep the heat in, or, you could put a simple draught excluder in front of your door.
March: A Spring Clean (with a twist)
Picture this: it’s the time of year when the very first flowers start peeking out of the ground in the UK and we’re filled with hope and optimism as Spring has finally sprung. We have extra energy because of the extra sunlight and we’re ready to clear away the winter cobwebs (literally and metaphorically).
Instead of throwing your unwanted things away, why not sort them into what can be sold/donated/recycled/repurposed/or swapped? ‘an economy that reuses and recycles resources to keep them in play for as long as possible’ is the literal definition of a Circular Economy, which is what you’d be embracing.
You could also try a challenge such as giving up consumerism for the month, wearing every item at least 30 times before recycling/donating/selling it, or downsizing your wardrobe by only wear 30 items of clothing within a set timeframe and packing the rest away.
April: What can you do for wildlife?
When was the last time you asked yourself this question? To fully embrace sustainability, we need to be aware of the natural world around us. By April, it’s getting to the time of year when the birds are busy building nests and insects are abundant, but what can you do to make them feel more at home?
We appreciate not everyone will have a garden, but that’s okay, if you have a balcony, you could create bug hotels or put up bird feeders. Communal areas with bird feeders are growing in popularity and can often be seen hanging in woodland near popular walking spots.
If you are fortunate enough to have a garden, The Woodland Trust has put together a guide: how to attract wildlife to your garden: 5 top tips. There are other things you can do as well though, when it gets hot, consider leaving out water for hedgehogs and other nighttime visitors.
You could also get involved with local community projects, a local allotment, or a tree planting scheme.
May: Plan a Greener Getaway – Swap the Plane for a Train…
You may have already booked a summer getaway, but if you haven’t, have you considered swapping the plane for a train? This blog post highlights the fact that flights account for around 2.5% of the CO2 emissions generated globally. Another factor that should be considered and only applies to aviation is that, as well as generating CO2 emissions, there is also a secondary effect because of the altitude.
But that’s not all! There are so many advantages to travelling by train that you may not have considered before. For a start, it costs less (especially in Europe when compared to the UK), you can break up your journey by stopping at multiple destinations, and you’ll probably arrive closer to where you actually want to be than if you flew in. Rail Europe has put together a handy guide with 15 reasons why trains are better than planes…
Are you in need of some inspiration from those who have done it? The Man in Seat Sixty-One is a comprehensive blog that covers train travel across the UK, Europe, and further afield. Alternatively, Monisha Rajesh has written an inspiring book called Around the World in 80 Trains: A 45,000-Mile Adventure.
June: Try a Walking Challenge
Usually (hopefully) by this time of the year, the weather is glorious. It’s perfect for picnics at the park, after-work drinks on the patio, or simply lounging in the sun as the weekends stretch ahead of us. It’s also a great time to embrace outdoor activities, including walking.
Now, most of us are aware of the idea that walking 10,000 steps per day is the holy grail of health, and that’s for good reason. Walking is not only great for our overall health, but it’s also great for our mental wellbeing. How many steps you want to walk a day is up to you. Perhaps 5,000 is a stretch goal, or 7,500? What’s more important to you, extra steps, or consistency? It’s worth thinking about.
June is the perfect time to start a walking challenge. Can you walk to work instead of driving or taking public transport? It’s not possible for everyone, and with so many people working from home now, a fresh challenge might be preferable. Why not walk so many km’s or miles in a month? You can track how far you’re going with various apps, or you could sign up to take part in a sponsored walk for charity and fundraise while improving your wellbeing.
July: Ditch the Plastic! (It’s Plastic-free July after all)
One of the simplest ways to increase your sustainability is to ditch the plastic. Instead of relying on the supermarket to provide carrier bags, take your own recyclable ones with you. Whether that’s a bag from the supermarket designed to last, tote bags, or a backpack.
Another quick win is ditching plastic bottles, especially if they’re single use. There are so many bottle options on the market. You can choose from a small 250mm bottle to a litre and beyond. There are bottles that keep your drinks warm, cold, and anywhere in between. Plus, there are so many materials to choose from. Do you want plastic but BPA-free? Or stainless steel? There are bottles made from bamboo and bottles made from other bottles!
Forward planning can help you avoid extra plastic while you’re food shopping. For instance, if you can get to a fresh fruit and vegetable market, you’ll be able to avoid food wrapped in packaging and, as a bonus, there should be lots of organic options. You could also choose loose fruit and veg at the supermarket to reduce your packaging.
WWF has put together a helpful guide to help you reduce your plastic waste. Read it here.
August: Shop Local
There are lots of different Shop Local campaigns that take place to support local, independent, ethical brands. The advantage of shopping locally is that you reduce your carbon footprint (bonus points if you can walk or get public transport), you’re more likely to be supporting an ethical organisation compared to large corporations that embrace greenwashing tactics, plus, you’re contributing to the local economy.
September: Start Composting
So, you might wonder, why bother composting in the first place? Compost is key because it holds water. This is important for multiple reasons (it stops erosion, encourages growth, and improves soil health).
It’s also a better way to process food waste than by dumping it in a landfill because it can be carefully managed, which means it will reduce fewer emissions. More on that here. All in all, it’s pretty good for the environment.
You might think you need a sizeable garden to compost, but that’s not true. You could have a small worktop-style box (some local councils provide these to reduce food waste) or you could put it in the garden if you have one and the space required.
The RHS has created an informative guide for school’s to compost. It’s really useful if you’re a beginner and want to know more about it.
October: Avoid Fast Fashion
For some people, this will be the easiest thing in the world, but that’s not true for everyone. If you’re stuck in a fast fashion cycle, it’s hard to break it. One of the first things to do is unsubscribe from any newsletters that tempt you with sales, offers, and deals.
Another great option is to cleanse your socials of fast fashion brands. If you can’t see it, you hopefully won’t be tempted to buy it. Aside from minimising your interactions with fast fashion brands, start researching sustainable brands that could offer alternatives to your current brands.
And think about your why. Why do you want to quit fast fashion? Could you try to give it up for a month and see how you get on? Do you want to change your relationship with fashion? Thinking about your why will help you stick to your goals.
There are various ways you can approach this goal. You could put in place a blanket ban: no fast fashion for the month of October. Or you could set something like I will only buy second-hand clothing during October (think: only online marketplaces or charity shops). Whatever you decide to do, it needs to work for you.
November: Give Back!
When was the last time you gave up your time voluntarily? Volunteering might not sound like it would fit as a sustainable goal, but think about it, you could support a cause or organisation that is trying to make the world a better place. It could be a local community group or local issue that is important to you, for instance, an allotment project. Alternatively, you could support an animal rights group, or something focused on the environment.
Alternatively, if you have specialist knowledge, you could offer your skills to an organisation that you want to support. Volunteering can mean anything. It could be a onetime project, one-off support, or a long-term commitment – whatever works best for you. And the support you give can be broad, from practical support to physical support (for example, gardening) or using your work skills in a different setting.
There are lots of options with this one, but either way, the result is giving back to the community and environment.
December: Plan for a Greener Christmas
This is another really broad goal that you can tailor to your needs/lifestyle. For instance, you could make your own Christmas cards and gifts, or, if you don’t consider yourself to be a crafty person, you could switch to using brown paper or fabric and string/ribbon instead of using wrapping paper and Sellotape. Here are some other ideas:
- Make your own Christmas decorations and wreath using items you already have in the home (cardboard, string, leaves/trimmings from the garden, etc).
- Reuse your Christmas tree, rent one, or buy from a trusted local supplier. If you go down the route of buying a real tree, make sure you recycle it in the New Year.
- Only buy what you need – it’s easy to get carried away with the excess of the season, but having conversations ahead of time and making a list can help you buy only what you need both in terms of gifts and food. Aside from reducing waste, this will also help you stick to your budget.
- Consider buying a reusable advent calendar – each year you can refill it with unique items that can be personalised depending on the recipient.
- Think about your lights – using LEDs will save money and the planet because they use less energy. Do you really need lights outside and inside? If you absolutely must have lights outside, can you use solar-powered lights? Could you put indoor/outdoor lights on a timer so they’re not on all the time?
There are many other ways that you can embrace sustainability over the festive period. This is just to give you an idea of where to begin, so it doesn’t feel daunting or overwhelming.
Have you been inspired to make any sustainable New Year’s resolutions? We’d love to hear from you on our social channels, Insta: @paguroupcycle Facebook: paguroupcycle