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How to Set Sustainable and Eco-Friendly New Year’s Resolutions

Kick off the New Year with these tips that will help you make positive, sustainable changes in your life.

Written by
Brightly Staff

Setting a sustainable New Year’s resolution can be a great way to make a positive change in your life. But setting the resolution and keeping it don’t quite go hand in hand. Nearly 75% of Americans say they’re going to make a New Year’s resolution, but less than 8% actually stick with it! 

Often, we give up on our New Year’s resolutions because we choose huge, vague goals like “be more sustainable” or “eat less meat.” Here’s how to avoid the New Year’s resolution slump and keep up with your sustainable goals the entire year. 

Small Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions Can Have a Big Impact

Instead of thinking about your sustainable New Year’s resolutions as big projects, try framing them as small swaps you’ll make each day for a better, brighter planet. Small, measurable goals go a long way to making a significant impact. 

Even though keeping a sustainable New Year’s resolution can be challenging, it can have a massive positive impact on the planet. For example, it takes 1700 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef, but just 39 gallons of water to make a pound of vegetables. Your meatless Monday resolution has a huge impact on water consumption as well as gas and land usage. 

Another way that we can make a difference is to set a sustainable resolution to learn how to recycle correctly. Many of us are “wish cyclers” instead of recyclers. We think we know what and how to recycle, but we make a lot of recycling mistakes. 

Still, recycling diverts 82 million+ tons of material away from landfills each year, which is about 30% of America’s waste. We can make that number even higher by learning to recycle properly.

Eliminating meat one day per week and learning how to recycle better are just two examples of small sustainable New Year’s resolutions that can create massive change! There are tons of other sustainable resolutions you can make for a brighter future.

Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions from Brightly’s Co-Founders, Laura and Liza

Brightly’s co-founders, Laura and Liza, both set sustainable New Year’s resolutions each year. Here’s what they worked on in 2020 and what resolutions they are setting for 2021.

Laura’s 2020 Goal: Using Up What She Already Had

Calling this her “sleeper sustainability habit,” Laura focused on using up household items before replacing them with something trendier or newer. 

It’s tempting to chuck out old items, especially when you don’t want to hassle with getting everything out of the bottle. But throwing those items away just adds more waste to your trash bin and leads to wasteful spending on new stuff, too. 

This habit applies to leftovers, beauty products, laundry detergent, and toiletries, aka anything that you might normally throw away with a little product left. Take the time to use every last drop—your wallet and the planet with thank you.

Liza’s 2020 Goal: Reducing Food Waste

With up to 40% of the United States’ food supply wasted each year (to the tune of 80 billion pounds of food!), Liza has been working hard to reduce her food waste. 

Liza started meal planning and utilizing her freezer, especially after learning tips from Sophie Egan, a conscious eating expert who Laura and Liza interviewed on the Good Together podcast right as quarantine started. Liza has also tried out some of the vegan and vegetarian recipes from our Scouts-curated community recipe database to reduce her meat consumption.

Sustainable Resolutions Laura and Liza Are Working on in 2021

Brightly’s co-founders want to learn more about recycling correctly, especially since recycling can be so complicated. “I'm proud of myself that I know to read stuff before I throw something into recycling, but there's so much room for improvement,” says Liza. 

One of Liza’s sustainable resolutions is to reduce her purchases that come in plastic packaging. Although some companies are committed to eliminating plastic, it can still be difficult to avoid it, especially at bulk stores like Costco or even at sustainable stores like Whole Foods. 

Laura is working on making fewer impulse purchases than she did last year. She bought some comfy fast fashion sweatpants in 2020 as quarantine meant spending more time at home. Laura says, “Did I feel bad when I was buying them? A little bit, because I wanted to do ethical fashion. But I also knew that what I was looking at, in particular, I couldn't find. You just have these conversations with yourself. Don't beat yourself up about it.”

How to Set & Keep Your Sustainable Resolutions in 2021

With only 8% of people sticking to their New Year’s resolutions, much of the traditional advice around resolutions is ineffective at best.

After two years of comprehensive research, ClearerThinking.org found that the best technique for creating a new habit and sticking with it is something called “Habit Reflection.”

 Instead of forcing yourself to follow someone else’s advice, take stock of what has worked for you in the past whenever you have created a new habit. Then, write down anything that could apply to the new routine you want to develop and make a plan for implementing and integrating your new habit into your life. 

Another way to stick to your sustainable New Year’s resolutions is to start small. Break down your resolution into small steps and celebrate each one as you accomplish it! We often get stuck on celebrating the big wins when the little steps along the way are even more inspiring. 

Lastly, try to find a community to hold you accountable. You can join the Brightly Scouts community to have changemakers from around the world cheer you on! 

Sustainable Resolution Ideas From Our Scouts Community

If you need some inspiration for your sustainable resolutions, be sure to join us on the Brightly App. Many of our Scouts have shared their sustainable resolutions on their profiles in the app! Here are some of our favorites: 

  • “Reducing plastic waste and food waste” -Sam Cairns
  • “Educate myself and others about ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle” -Caitlin Hall
  • “Build a capsule wardrobe with a strong focus on buying pieces from sustainable Canadian brands” -Courtney Wright
  • “Cut out all fast fashion” -Leslie Smith
  • “Shop from smaller businesses and stop relying on Amazon” -Kayla Siedlecki

Resources We Mentioned