2019 Goal: Be More Sustainable

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, instead I set goals for the year. I try to make them attainable, so I can get that sense of satisfaction checking things off as I accomplish them and not feel by any certain month like I’ve already failed. For 2019, besides my specific goals in various categories (fitness, financial, personal enrichment and project completion) I’m adding an overall goal for the year that I’m going to try to incorporate into multiple aspects of my life: Be More Sustainable. While I am focusing on this goal for the year of 2019, I do intend to maintain the new practices and habits I adopt permanently going forward.

be more sustainable graphic

There is already plenty of evidence that we need to act now to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change we are rapidly approaching as a planet if we stay on our current course. While it is true that we need large, systemic changes, bigger than one person can achieve by themselves, it is also true that individual actions and choices do have an impact. I’m blogging about this in part to keep myself accountable to follow through on this goal, (and possibly blog about my progress throughout the year), but also in the hopes that it may inspire others to consider what small actions they can change to help save the literal world.

sustainable individual choices still important

One tweet from a thread by @riotstarz on how we need both systemic and individual changes to combat climate change.

be sustainable every little bit matters

Another tweet on the necessary changes to reduce human contributions to climate change, offering the perspective that every little change or choice we make matters.

I chose the wording “be more sustainable” because there’s always something that can be done to reduce my environmental impact, and this is an aspiration that I should continually strive for. I didn’t want to set specific metrics to meet and then say, okay, I’m sustainable enough now! My goal is not to be be 100% neutral in carbon emissions, since I’m not sure that is practical at this point, and also because I think I will be more likely to maintain better habits long-term if the changes I make are incremental and balanced with acknowledging the need to sometimes choose a cheaper or more time-saving option than the greenest one.

Things I already do:

  • Take short showers. (This is really just a lifelong habit because of the conditions I grew up in, sharing a single bathroom with a large family where showers were literally scheduled and if you went over your time, all the siblings behind you in line voiced their displeasure.)
  • Opt for the Westar Wind 100% wind-sourced energy for my house.
  • Recycle
  • Use tupperware to store leftovers rather than plastic bags, and use real plates and silverware to eat rather than paper or plastic. (I do use paper or plastic when traveling or when I take my lunch to work, which I’ll try to change going forward).
  • Turn lights off when I’m not in the room.
  • Don’t wash clothes every time they are worn, if they aren’t actually dirty.
  • In general, try to use what I already have rather than buying new when possible.

Things I can change in 2019:

  • Get to work once a week without driving; I can take a bus or walk. This is something I actually started doing in November, and it is definitely a challenge to plan ahead enough to take the bus since I have to be ready 40 minutes earlier in the morning than if I drive. It also limits my options for running errands or getting places quickly after work, which is another reason I’m only making it my goal to go car-less once a week for now. It feels daunting, but do-able. Maybe when the weather is warmer, I’ll see if I can obtain a bicycle for another option that might provide a little more flexibility.
  • Take my lunch to work four days out of five so I am not driving to get lunch in the middle of the day. Again, this requires planning ahead but it also has the benefit of being a more efficient use of financial resources if I can stick to it.
  • Bring a real fork and spoon (and plate?) to work to use and wash and re-use rather than using plastic silverware that I throw away after eating my lunch. (May need to bring anti-bacterial dishsoap for this too if there is not already some stocked in the break room.)
  • Eat less meat. I don’t eat very much meat currently but I also am not very intentional about going whole days without it. Maybe I can try to implement “meatless Mondays” (or some other day of the week if it works better for me) when I purposefully only eat vegetarian. Or, if it is easier for me to implement, maybe set a goal of a certain number of meals per week that I aim to make meatless.
  • Switch from disposable to reusable makeup remover wipes (I already used some of my Christmas money to order some from Norwex).
  • In general, use things I already have rather than buying new. If I need something I don’t have, try to buy used first.
  • Try to buy things that are locally sourced when possible.

Things I’d like to research further:

  • which uses less energy overall, streaming a movie or watching on a DVD/Blu-ray? I feel like if I already own the disc it’s probably more efficient to watch it than stream something because of the energy powering the servers and transferring the data across the internet, but I’m not sure how much energy it takes to produce the discs and their packaging in the first place?
  • when I chose a less-rushed shipping date for online orders, what kind of environmental impact does that have? Does it make a difference, or not really since the item still has to travel all that way on trucks or trains or planes or some combination?
  • is fingernail polish really bad for the environment? One of my sisters said that it was when I told her about this goal but I’m hoping that’s not true because I really enjoy painting my nails on Sunday nights to get ready for the week ahead?? I guess that I could still justify using the remainder of my existing stock but what if she is right and I shouldn’t buy any more? 😦
  • …is a dishwasher less efficient than washing dishes by hand? not sure I really want to know the answer to this because I hate hand-washing dishes, it is my least favorite domestic chore and even if it’s terrible I’ll probably never give up using the automatic dishwasher on a regular basis???!!! But maybe I’ll need to do environmental penance in some other way if it’s much worse.

If you know answers or can point to research on any of the questions above, or if you have more ideas for things I can try this year as part of my goal, please leave a comment below. I’ll try to blog some updates throughout the year on how it’s going, what changes I’ve been able to adopt and which ones have been challenging, or what insights I’ve gained from the experience.

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