Each one of us matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference. Each one of us must take responsibility for our own lives, and above all, show respect and love for living things around us, especially each other.Jane Goodall
In my path to sustainability, I knew I had to make it “bite-sized.” Like most people, I’m short on time and money, but I still felt like there had to be something I could do. So, for my 2020 New Year’s Resolution, I decided that every month, I would make at least one change in my life to be more sustainable.
January Goal: Go Meatless
My goal for January was to eliminate meat from my diet. The meat industry is one of the largest pollutors out there, and I knew that by not eating meat, I could not only reduce my carbon footprint, but save money, as meat was routinely the most expensive thing on my shopping list. According to a 2018 article from The Guardian (linked below), the meat and dairy industries produce 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. While it was pretty easy for me to cut out meat, dairy is a huge chunk of my protein intake (and favorite foods, for that matter), so that is a change to be made further on. For more information about my efforts to go meatless, click here.
February Goal: Take a Closer Look at My Cleaning Products
My goal for February was to find substitutions for the everyday cleaning products I use. Cleaning products are a really common change made that can reduce the amount of waste you produce. The usually are in plastic bottles and are full of harmful chemicals that pollute the water and make recycling the bottles harder. I wanted to find cleaning products on the market that weren’t going to be pollutants, but would still be effective and reasonably priced.
March Goal: Overhaul My Grocery List (Part One)
My goal for March is to overhaul my grocery list, focusing on elimating single use plastics, wasteful packaging, and non-sustainable purchases; and replacing the things I eliminate with organic, eco-friendly, and sustainable alternatives that are still easily accessible and affordable. Since I operate on a really tight budget, I’m really going to focus more on low-hanging fruit here, and try to stores that aren’t Walmart, but are still accessible to everyone. Organic grocery shopping can be really expensive, so I’m not too worried about having an entirely organic grocery list until I have more disposable income. Something that is important to realize is that our duties as activists are directly proportional to our privilege. The priviliege you have, the more you can (and should) take on as an activist.
April Goal: Overhaul My Closet (Part One)
The clothing industry is also one of the biggest pollutors out there, contributing 35% of the plastic that’s in the oceans according to Business Insider, particularly fast-fashion stores like H&M, Forever21, Zara, etc. Unfortunately, those are my favorite places to shop. Fast-fashion is an multiple offender when it comes to sustainable, contributing not only to pollution, but to continued worker exploitation throughout the world. An estimated 260 million children are employed around the world, with over half of them being engaged in child labour (as defined by the UN, “work for which the child is either too young – work done below the required minimum age – or work which, because of its detrimental nature or conditions, is altogether considered unacceptable for children and is prohibited”) according to UNICEF, and many of them are employed in the fashion supply chain. My goal for the month of April is clean out my closet, eliminating pieces I don’t need by either donating them or selling them, and replacing pieces I do need, but that aren’t sustainable with new pieces that are more sustainable. I hope to find sustainable clothing stores that are high quality, accessible, and affordable
May Goal: Good-Bye ALL Single Use Plastics
This is something I’ve been working on for over a year now, but I want to dedicate a month to truly eliminating single use plastics from my life. I already use reusable water bottles and don’t personally buy plastic straws, cups, plates, or utensils, but I want to invest in a no-plastic kit for traveling and day-to-day use. This can be one of the most expensive parts about going zero-waste, but I hope to find alternatives that are (say it with me now!) accessible, effective, and affordable.
June Goal: Zero-Waste Bathroom
I use a lot of personal care products, and my goal for June is to make sure as many of them as possible are as sustainable and green as possible. I’m going to try making as many of the day-to-day products that I use as possible, as storebought alternatives are usually not as green as they claim to be. I struggle with this aspect of being zero-waste, because I have high maintenance skin and hair, am a big fan of make-up and need high performing make-up, and am allergic to coconut and highly sensitive to essential oils. Shopping list for this month: castille soap, beeswax, and shea butter.
July Goal: Overhaul My Grocery List (Part Two)
My goal for July is to overhaul my grocery list, again. Eliminating even more waste and plastic, and finding a cheap places to buy products that I use on a daily basis (rice, pasta, beans, etc) in bulk. Hopefully between July and March, I will have found good sustainable shopping places near me that I can lean on for this. Buying in bulk not only is more environmentally friendly, but is more budget friendly, something I really rely on, as a self-proclaimed broke b*tch.
August Goal: Take a Break!
I don’t want to overextend myself or burn out, so for the month of August, my goal is no goal. I want to focus on self-care and saving during this month. Activism, particularly the kind that involves so much personal change, is exhausting, and you cannot be effective as an activist unless you take care of yourself too. I am particularly prone to burn out and putting extreme amounts of pressure on myself to overachieve, and feel guilty when I’m not performing in the way that I feel like I should be, so I find it incredibly useful for me personally to schedule in self-care and make it a goal.
September Goal: Overhaul My Closet (Part Two)
My goal for September is to closely inspect my fall and winter clothes and see where I can improve the sustainability of my closet. Sweaters and jackets are going to be my big focus, as they most often have the synthetic properties (such as polyester) which don’t break down and make it harder to recycle clothing items. I want to learn to do more with less and focus on getting a few key pieces that will last a long time and be sustainable.
October Goal: Composting
As someone who lives in an apartment, composting is a tricky task. So, my goal for October is to find ways that I can compost my food waste at home and in my city. Since my outdoor space is limited and shared and I have a very mischevious cat, I need to find ways to compost inside in a way that is at low risk of being knocked over and spilled everywhere. Good places to start for this are farmers markets and community gardens, or some Whole Foods have community composting bins!
November Goal: Sustainable Christmas Shopping
I tried to have a completely sustainable Christmas in 2019, and I would say that I had a 75% sustainable Christmas. I went out of my way to shop only at smaller companies, buy only products that were cruelty free or sustainable, and managed to completely avoid shopping on Amazon (which was a feat), but I set the goal for myself too late to be able to truly stick to it. This year, I want to try to make as many Christmas gifts as possible, shop from places like Etsy and support individuals and craftsman, and shop from local small businesses. A secondary goal of mine for the month is to find sustainable and eco-friendly ways to wrap my gifts, from recyclable wrapping paper to shopping at antique shops, flea markets, and thrift stores to find wrapping paper alternatives.
December Goal: Raise Awareness
Like most people, I see most of my family during December, so I want to really focus on finding ways to raise awareness about sustainable and zero-waste practices. I’ve found that most people are willing to make changes to be more sustainable and produce less waste once you tell them how to. However, no one wants to be the preachy cousin, so here’s hoping I can find ways to spread awareness without coming off as condescending (yikes!). This is a line I struggle to walk sometimes, as someone who spends a lot of time thinking about and researching various topics surrounding politics and activism. Its easy to forget that not everyone has unlimited free time and energy to spend researching sustainability, and just because I do, does not make me an inherently better person. Mantra for the month: “Don’t let arrogance turn your virtues into vices.” (Paraphrase of a quote attributed to Dominque Bouhours)
Obviously, all this is just a start. By the end of 2020 my goal is only to be about 50% or 60% along the way to bein zero-waste and in 2021 is when I hope to make the major cuts and changes necessary. Check back on this post to see updates and subscribe to my blog to be notified whenever I post new content!
(In the order that they appear in the post)
Carrington, Damian. “Avoiding Meat and Dairy Is ‘Single Biggest Way’ to Reduce Your Impact on Earth.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 31 May 2018, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth.
McFall-Johnsen, Morgan. “The Fashion Industry Emits More Carbon than International Flights and Maritime Shipping Combined. Here Are the Biggest Ways It Impacts the Planet.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 21 Oct. 2019, http://www.businessinsider.com/fast-fashion-environmental-impact-pollution-emissions-waste-water-2019-10#many-of-those-fibers-are-polyester-a-plastic-found-in-an-estimated-60-of-garments-producing-polyester-releases-two-to-three-times-more-carbon-emissions-than-cotton-and-polyester-does-not-break-down-in-the-ocean-8.
Moulds, Josephine. “Child Labour in the Fashion Supply Chain.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 22 May 2017, labs.theguardian.com/unicef-child-labour/.
Kellogg, Kathryn. “A Composting Guide for Apartment Living.” Going Zero Waste, Going Zero Waste, 3 Oct. 2017, http://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/composting-for-apartments.