With Christmas over and a new year begun, many people’s attention has passed to what their New Year’s Resolution should be. Maybe it’s to save up for a holiday, wedding or new home; diet for a holiday, wedding or… just to become more healthy in general. Perhaps you’ll set your sights on learning, with an evening course or a degree, or opt for a smaller aim like not biting your nails any more, or becoming more tolerant. Whatever your choice of personal or lifestyle improvement, we thought there may be a bit of space on the list for a Green New Year’s Resolution.
No matter how big or small a step you take, making your life a little greener often has the additional benefits of being healthier, saving you money and giving you more time to spend with friends and family. Although that warm fuzzy feeling at leaving a slightly lighter footprint does help too!
Below is some inspiration for how you could make the year ahead a greener one.
1. Walk more
In a world where we’re always so busy rushing around trying to get 2001 things done at once, it may seem impossible to resolve to walk more. It doesn’t have to be though. If you run out of milk, instead of rushing round madly trying to find the car keys, then finding there’s not much petrol left in the tank and ending up grumpy and disgruntled by the time you’re back home and lifting the spoon from your bowl of cereal, how about a walk to the local shop? The exercise will make you feel good, you’ll save that fuel which would have got you to work just fine and you’re supporting a local business!
Walking to work or school may seem like a long shot, but if you live within walking distance of your children’s place of education or your workplace, why not give it a go? If the thought of walking every day leaves you feeling weak at the knees, start off with a day a week, maybe a Friday when you have the weekend to recover afterwards! You can always build up to more days or choose the days when the weather is dry, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you begin to appreciate the thinking time and calmness of the route compared to jostling in traffic and trying to find a parking space.
If you don’t have a local shop within walking distance, and walking to work or school is out of the question, why not resolve to go for a walk of an evening or at the weekend instead? Or as well if you like! Whether you’re walking with your husband or wife, girlfriend or boyfriend, and have the kids in tow or not, a walk provides the ideal opportunity to have a chat, enjoy some fresh air and for some gentle exercise.
Food forms a large part of many people’s lives, and especially as it tends to dominate at Christmas, it’s the focus of many a New Year’s Resolution. A lot of people splash out a little extra and go for the special foods they might not normally choose, and many families enjoy more home cooked food during the festive period. There’s no reason why this can’t continue into the New Year though, and if you keep going with home cooking into January, you may even change the habits of a lifetime!
Ready meals and processed foods are full of preservatives, artificial colourings and flavourings, and in many cases lack the flavour of freshly made food. The commonly used excuse that there is no time for making meals from scratch isn’t completely accurate either. There are many recipes online and in cook books such as Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals giving inspiration for 3 course meals for families, so if that seems a little hectic for you, choose a main course and feel satisfied knowing you’re eating good, quality food!
Cooking more in the home is also a good way to bring the family together, making the new year a more sociable and family friendly one. If you enjoy baking, you could even get the kids involved, and cut out pre-packaged cakes and biscuits from your supermarket shop. You could choose recipes using dried fruit, nuts and seeds and help get nutritious fibre and vitamins into your children’s break time snack rather than chocolate and sugar. Choosing Fair Trade ingredients such as sugar, chocolate and fruit will also give you items that look after the planet a bit more too.
Supporting local businesses is an ideal way to boost your local economy and it also cuts down on the mileage traveled by your goods. Whether you’re buying food or looking for a new carpet, choosing a shop close to home or shopping at a farm shop or market can make a real difference to independent retailers in your local area.
In an average weekly shop, food miles can add up considerably. Just take a look at the origins of the fruit and vegetables when you do your next food shop. By choosing more seasonal varieties, you can increase demand for UK growers and help more British farmers stay in business. Don’t forget, supermarkets also tend to ship their stock to distribution centres before it gets to your local branch. All this extra transportation adds more miles and fuel consumption to the items in your trolley.
Many UK supermarkets now proudly support British farmers, showing the red tractor mark or displaying on packaging details of the farmer who produced the food on the shelf. Although this is a good step forward, local butchers can be even better when you’re shopping for meat, and they can often tell you the animal’s history or even give you advice on cooking cheaper cuts of meat to help reduce your food bill.
Christmas often generates a whole wave of new items, and in a lot of cases, unwanted items start to pile up as a result. Whether you’ve had a new coffee maker and your old one is now redundant; you’ve read the latest book of the best selling author you love during the Christmas break, or that gift set just isn’t to your taste, your home could be overflowing with items you no longer need. But don’t panic! There are many ways of recycling your old items so they don’t have to be thrown away!
First up, you could store them in a box in the garage, attic, a wardrobe or cupboard until the car boot season starts. This will give you chance to make some money back from your old items as well as giving other stuff that’s been sitting around in said attic, garage or cupboard, a new home at the same time!
If you don’t have time for car boot sales, or just want to see the back of your old t-shirts, books and CDs, your local charity shop will gladly find new homes for your unwanted things. Always check if your local charity shop can accept items such as electrical goods, as some shops don’t. British Heart Foundation often have specialist electrical and furniture shops however, so they can carry out PAT testing and certify the appliances as electrically safe, and can even collect.
Reusing and recycling doesn’t have to stop at your leftover Christmas presents however. You could pledge to increase your overall level of recycling. Many council waste disposal sites have targets to increase the percentage of waste they recycle, so don’t be lazy this year. If you have electrical items, take them to a charity shop or recycling centre. If you find a pile of old batteries in a draw, pop them in a battery recycling bin at the supermarket. If your old paint cans are piling up and you’re never going to use that flamingo pink or bright green paint again, deposit it in the paint recycling area at the tip where community projects can make use of it.
There isn’t much in your home that can’t be recycled or reused in one way or another, so making an effort to reduce the amount going in your grey bin and sent off to landfill can considerably reduce your carbon footprint. RecycleNow can provide helpful advice and information about recycling more of your unwanted items and where you can take waste for recycling in your local area.
Whatever change you decide to make for the year ahead, whether you clear out the garage and make more space whilst helping a charity, cook more meals and enjoy time with friends and family, or reduce your reliance on your car by traveling on two feet instead of four wheels, you’ll reduce the impact your lifestyle has on the environment and be able to say you’re greener this year than last.