The global pandemic has reshaped everyday life and it Is safe to say that we are all happy about a fresh start. While our thoughts turn towards a longed-for recovery, the existential threat of climate change is growing ever more urgent. It’s time to think about how we could do things differently this year, starting with a few realistic changes we can all make in our lives to live more sustainably in 2021 and beyond.
Consume Less Meat and Dairy
A 2018 study found that switching to a diet that excludes animal products can reduce food’s land use by 76%, ocean acidification by 50% and greenhouse gas emissions by 49%. This means that adopting a plant-based diet can help mitigate climate change, save precious resources and prevent biodiversity loss, making it one of the most effective lifestyle changes to help protect our planet. But if cutting out all animal products completely seems too daunting, you can start by participating in Meatless Mondays or aiming to try at least one new plant-based recipe a week.
Buy Locally and Seasonally
Do you usually consider how far fruit and vegetables had to travel before they were stocked on the shelves at your local grocery store? Most of us are so used to buying whatever we are currently craving without giving much thought to whether our food had to be transported across the country or even imported via airplane. Long-distance travel does not only negatively affect the nutritional value of food, but also has significant environmental implications. Make 2021 the year you learn about what’s currently in season, and prioritize local produce - visiting your local farmer’s market is a simple and fun way to do so.
It is estimated that since the early 1950s, we have produced more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic, of which around 60% has ended up in landfills and the natural environment. Half of all plastic produced globally is designed to be used only once, so we produce approximately 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. But other types of waste, such as food and sanitary waste are just as problematic, as poor waste management contributes to climate change and air pollution. 2021 is the year we should all commit to decreasing our impact significantly by swapping disposable products for reusable ones, minimizing food waste and, in general, reducing our consumption.
Practice a Conscious Approach to Fashion
The fashion industry is one of the major polluting industries in the world. It is responsible for nearly 20 per cent of global wastewater and approximately 10 per cent of global carbon emissions - more than the emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. At the same time, global clothing consumption has more than doubled between 2005 and 2019, while approximately €160 million worth of clothing ends up in landfills every year. To live more sustainably in 2021, it’s a great idea to reflect on your own fashion consumption and consider ways to reduce your wardrobe’s environmental and social impact. Take care of your clothes, wear them for as long as you can and maybe even learn how to repair them. When purchasing clothes, consider buying second-hand or support transparent brands that ensure their garments are made sustainably and ethically. Most importantly, aim to slow down your consumption by finding your personal style, avoiding trends and buying only what you truly love.
Commit to Waking up Those in Power
In 2020, the news media has given centre stage to the global pandemic and its impacts on society, shifting climate change to a minor role. Many were happy to hear that the COVID-19-induced lockdowns improved environmental conditions including air and water quality, yet, the year 2020 tied with 2016 for the warmest year on record since record-keeping began in 1880. This is the time to remind those in power that climate action is more urgent than ever. Show your support for the environment and empower your government to do the same by contacting your member of parliament or mayor, signing relevant petitions and mobilizing change online.
A Few Helpful Habits
It’s no secret that many New Year’s resolutions fail within a short period of time, so how can you make this lifestyle change stick throughout 2021 and beyond? It’s important to always be kind to yourself and take it step by step in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed. You could start to live more sustainably by focusing on one area of your life first before working your way forwards. It can also help to share your journey with friends and family to hold you accountable, which might even inspire them to join you. Tell them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Utilize social media as a helpful resource. Unfollow pages that promote short-lived fashion trends and unhealthy consumerism, and instead follow hashtags and pages that will educate and inspire you to live more sustainably. And perhaps one of the most important aspects of a more sustainable lifestyle is that it goes hand in hand with a complementary mindset. In 2021, try to become more mindful of what’s really worth your time and money, for example by spending more time in nature, slowing down and cherishing moments rather than things.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead
Science Mag: Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers
Mind Body Green: 10 Reasons To Eat What's In Season
UN Environment: Beat Plastic Pollution
European Environment Agency: Waste: a problem or a resource?
UNECE: Partnership on Sustainable Fashion Programme
Why we Still Need a Fashion Revolution
NASA: Global Temperature