5 new year’s resolutions to future-proof your 2020 and ring in a green new decade

Ready to make some new year's resolutions? Making better choices and breaking bad habits is especially important for environmentalists in 2020 – the first year of the last decade for taking serious action on climate change. Here are 5 ideas to kickstart your greenest decade yet.

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With only a decade left to prevent irreversible damage and tackle the climate emergency, the pressure is on for governments and corporations to act fast and act now.

There are lots of ways we as a society can also collectively help stop the destruction of our planet. With the new year round the corner, it’s a good time to start getting more sustainable in our daily lives.

Here are 5 new year’s resolutions to kickstart a decade of positive action on climate and pollution.

1. Ditch single-use plastic 

Despite unprecedented concern over plastic usage in recent years, it remains a massive threat to our wildlife and our oceans. The top 10 supermarkets in the UK are actually putting out more plastic on their shelves than ever before. Even a potential solution has itself become a problem: 1.5 billion “bags for life” were sold over the last year in the UK – that’s 54 bags per household.

Governments and corporations have the key responsibility to take action, and everyone can be a part of keeping up the pressure on companies whose decisions make a real difference, like supermarkets.

DEMAND PLASTIC-FREE SUPERMARKETS

Small changes in everyday habits can also have a big impact, showing supermarkets that plastic is old news. Make the decision to ditch plastic bags, single-use cups and plastic bottles and use canvas bags, reusable coffee cups and water bottles. Say no to plastic straws and disposable cutlery, and avoid excessive plastic packaging as much as you can by buying loose items and using refill stations.

2. Get behind not-so-fast fashion

Did you know the global fashion industry emits almost as much carbon as the entire European continent? Or that textile production accounts for global emissions equivalent to 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 every year? That’s a bigger carbon footprint than all international flights and shipping combined. 

The fast fashion industry’s unsustainability problem is very similar to that of single-use plastics – items are bought only to be worn once or twice before being discarded. This causes a huge strain on the environment.

Make a start by resisting the temptation of the January sales, don’t buy what you don’t need, and invest in clothes that’ll last longer. Commit to buying reused, recycled or sustainably-sourced items – and maybe make a plan to learn to mend and upcycle in 2020.

3. Eat mostly plant-based

Reducing industrial farming is critical in tackling the climate emergency and protecting the world’s forests. The livestock industry emits as much carbon as the world’s entire transport sector combined. Agribusiness is responsible for fires, deforestation, invasions of protected areas, and violence against Indigenous Peoples in the Brazilian Amazon – much of this for the purpose of producing animal feed.

Governments must ensure the industry moves away from environmentally-damaging farming practices. But consumers can send them a signal that there’ll be little appetite for planet-destroying foods in 2020 and beyond.

Start small to make it easy and fun – try meat-free Mondays, or Veganuary, and slowly increase the number of plant-based items in your diet. Even being partly vegetarian or vegan is a great move for your health (and your wallet). 

Man made forest fires to clear land for cattle and farming in Brazil. © Greenpeace / Daniel Beltrá

4. Travel along the scenic route 

Considering the spread of “flight shame” this year you might be surprised to find out that airlines’ CO2 emissions are actually rising up to 70% faster than predicted. The UK’s emissions from flying are higher than anywhere in Europe. 

Not flying doesn’t mean not travelling. Travelling by train is not only more environmentally friendly, it can be a more relaxing and much more authentic experience, allowing you to take in the sights as you travel. Not only will you have more interesting tales from your holiday – you’ll also be entitled to “train brag”.

A paper model penguin with a suitcase on a train platform in Berlin.

Taking the train to Europe is easy from many parts of the UK. Book early for a good deal, then sit back and chill as countryside scenes fly past your window. And arrive in the centre of town! © Bente Stachowske / Greenpeace

5. Be less traffic

Transport is the UK’s highest-emitting sector. While it’s the government’s responsibility to lead the phase-out of diesel and petrol cars, and make public transportation cheaper – you can start now and give your neighbourhood instantly cleaner air from less traffic. 

Driving only when you really need to means fewer cars on the road, and therefore much less air pollution from cars left running while stuck in jams.

Break the driving-everywhere habit and find healthy and fun alternative ways to travel – train, bus, bike, walk. You’ll be improving your own health, and the health of everyone around you as well as the health of our planet.

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