It’s the start of a new year, and there’s no time like now to make a few changes in your life that will help animals, people and the planet.
The key to making resolutions you can keep is to pick a few and make them achievable. Small, incremental goals are more likely to stick, and will still make a big difference. You can always add more throughout the year once you’ve got the hang of a few.
So without further ado, here are some eco-friendly New Years Resolutions to get started with!
As part of Roots & Shoots, you’ re part of a global movement of young people who are dedicated to making the world a better place for the people in it, fighting inequality, reducing the impact we have on the environment, working to help conserve animals and ecosystems, and making those little changes that make big differences.
Every positive action you take, no matter how large or small, makes things better.
And your influence is also contagious – you’ll inspire your friends and family, your classmates, your workmates, and anyone else who hears about what you do. They’ll stop, think, and start to make those changes too.
So while there is often negative news, keep in mind that there are also many reasons for hope, and one of those big reasons is every single person out there in the global Roots & Shoots family.
What’s better than recycling? Not using as many resources in the first place. So this is a simple trick you can do every time you go to use something.
Just think to yourself – do I really need it, or do I really need this much?
For example, do I really need a new phone? Do I really need to get another plastic bag for my shopping? Do I really need to fill the kettle this much for a cup of tea? Even if the answer is sometimes yes, the chances are stopping and thinking about it will mean that often you use a little less more often than not, and use fewer resources in the process.
Not sure where to start? Our Reduce, Reuse and Recycle activity has some great pointers.
It takes just a fraction longer to send something to be recycled than it does to send it to landfill, yet the benefits are incredible.
Resources get re-used, which means fewer new resources are needed in the first place, it usually takes less energy to recycle than it takes to make something from new, and of course more things recycled means less waste in huge landfill sites.
Our advice is to get your kitchen at home, office or school set up with recycling bins so it’s really easy to do. Clearly labelled, you can just pop your rubbish in the right bin and hey presto! It’s already sorted and ready for the recycling collectors to get.
Another great way to both recycle and use less waste is to try using refill stations. There are more and more shops around that offer this service for everything from washing up and laundry liquid to breakfast cereal, rice and pasta. All you need to do is take in an empty container, refill it and pay for the amount you’ve refilled it by. Hey presto – less waste from packaging and empty containers!
Clothes another huge source of pollution and waste; it takes a lot of energy and produces a lot of pollution to make clothing. Try to buy as little as possible and buy clothes that will last. If you want to change up your wardrobe, how about visiting a charity shop for some bargain finds, do a clothes swap session with friends, or get crafty and rework the clothes you have by adding decorations or making alterations.
Switch the lights off
If you aren’t in the habit of turning the lights off when you leave a room, then now is the perfect time to start. It can save lots of energy that is otherwise being wasted lighting a room that no-one is in. One of the complaints in the past was that eco-friendly lightbulbs took time to warm up to full brightness, but they are far quicker now so there are no excuses!
And it’s not just lights: try and switch off at the wall anything that’s non-essential – we’re obviously not suggesting you switch off your fridge! But if there are other things that might use electricity, turn them off until you need them.
Our What Uses Energy at Home activity will give you some more ideas on where and how you can save more.
Carry a water bottle and a reusable cup
Thousands of plastic bottles and single-use coffee cups are used once and thrown away each year. They end up in landfill sites, in our rivers and waterways and can even be found floating in our oceans. What a waste!
Instead of buying bottles of water, carry a water bottle with you and fill it up at the tap – and you’ll save money by doing this too. More places than ever before are happy to let you fill up your water bottle – shops, cafes and restaurants – and there are also water refill stations being installed in train stations, parks and city-centres all over the country. Have a look at Refill for a handy map on where your nearest refill station is.
You can even get water bottles that fold down to small sizes so it’s easy to fit in a bag when you aren’t using it.
And you can do the same with a coffee cup. There are so many available now, you’re bound to find one that’s perfect for what you need, and most coffee shops will even give you a discount on your drink if you use one.
Walk and cycle more
Popping to the shops? Heading to school? Visiting friends? If the journey isn’t far, why not walk or ride a bike instead? You’ll use less polluting fossil fuel than if you drive, and there’s lots of other benefits, like getting fresh air and excercise!
If you’re lucky enough to have forest or woodland on your route, then turn your wander into an adventure, using our What Lives in Forests activity.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to get around, check out Good Journey for lots of car-free alternatives and ideas for car-free days out.
Did you know things like mobile phone chargers still use electricity even when they aren’t charging a phone? That’s a terrible
waste! So if you’ve got something plugged in at the socket, unplug it or turn it off at the socket switch. If you can get into the habit of sweeping your house in the evening before bed, you’ll help cut down on the wastage. Better yet, try and get into the habit of only plugging in your charger when you need it, and unplugging it straight afterwards.
Feeling committed? Why not make an Energy Saving Pledge?
Use reusable bags for your shopping
Tonnes and tonnes of plastic bags are thrown away each year, producing a huge amount of waste in landfill sites – but that’s still better than the alternative. Often, plastic bags wash into rivers and eventually into the sea, where they take a long time to break down. Until they do, they release toxic particles into the oceans, and can also be eaten by animals like fish, turtles and wales that mistake them for food. If this happens, they can end up blocking the animals digestive system so they can’t eat any more.
The best thing you can do is use reusable bags for your shopping. Many shops have stronger plastic ‘bag for life’ bags which they’ll replace for free once they break, but better yet use bags made from recycled fabric. These are stronger and will last far longer.
Our Breaking the Bag Habit activity has more info on the impact of plastic bags, plus a craft making activity to make your own reusable bag.
Cut down on the water
This is another simple way to save. Use less water! Switch from baths to showers as much as possible, turn the tap off while you are brushing your teeth, don’t leave the tap running while doing the washing up and make sure your toilet uses less water in each flush by using a product such as the Hippo Water Saver.
The average person in the UK uses 153 litres a day – can you cut that down with a Water Saving Pledge?
Shop local, shop seasonal, reduce waste
Changing your food and grocery shopping habits can have a bit affect not only on the carbon emissions used to get food to your plate, but can positively help small businesses who have a more environmentally-friendly approach to food and products.
One simple thing you can do is try to shop local. Firstly, this means you won’t be using as much energy to get to and from the shops; in fact, you may even be able to cycle to the shops if you don’t have lots to buy and carry! Secondly, doing smaller shops for food as you need it can help cut down on waste – you don’t end up with lots of food left over and going off if you’ve overestimated how much food you need from a big shop.
Next, try and buy food that’s got low food miles. Many products we love to eat have been grown in other parts of the world and are flown or shipped over here – which produces a lot of carbon emissions! Eating food that’s grown locally reduces that, and eating food that’s in season rather than wanting the same food year-round also helps.
Reduce waste by meal planning in advance and only buying and cooking what you need. Use up leftover to make other dishes – soups and stews are BRILLIANT ways of using up leftover vegetables. And if you find you’ve got some food left that you can’t use, why not see if your neighbours could use it instead of letting it go to waste?
Join in and spread the word about Roots & Shoots!
Roots & Shoots is part of the Jane Goodall Trust, and is a charity all about helping people, animals, plants and the environment, and encouraging others to help too. We’ve got loads of activities and events to get school and youth groups involved, with lesson plans, fundraising ideas and more.
If you aren’t part of Roots & Shoots, now’s the time to get started, and if you are – spread the word!