New Year's resolutions aren't only about shifting pounds — and goodness knows 2017 could bring unprecedented challenges for the environment (and the political legislation that protects it.) Challenge yourself to select and accomplish one out of the 101 action-oriented environmental strategies below — and then commit to adopting the solution this year. Bonus: They are dead easy. Here’s to a happy, healthy and more mindful year!
Now, we know: Plenty of these might be old habits to you. Some of them are going to seem so obvious that it's, like, why bother repeating them? But we'd bet money that there are strategies on here you haven't thought of yet — and terrible facts that might have you looking at a bad situation in a new way. For example: Did you know that bees prefer blue, purple and yellow flowers? We didn't — so you better believe it'll help us pick out what plants we grow this spring. We're sharing these actions in the spirit of a multi-faceted starting point — not a panacea.
And remember: Nothing creates change like a powered-up community — so even if you're up to date on all these actions, someone you love might not be ... and might be willing to celebrate Meat-Free Monday with you. Studies prove: 100% of our grandmothers don't believe in climate change (uh, if your grandmothers are our grandmothers, that is) — education begins with a loving heart, open mind, and plenty of facts at your disposal.
Here's to doing what we can to make this world a better place in 2017.
1. Americans discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year and enough straws to wrap around the Earth's circumference 2.5 times a day! Only 8 percent of that gets recycled. The rest ends up in landfills, is incinerated, or becomes the invasive species known as litter.
Solution: Ask for "no straw" when dining out.
2. Ocean debris worldwide kills at least 1 million seabirds and 100,00 mammals each year and plastic is the largest source of ocean litter.
Solution: Keep a reusable bag in your car at all times and use it when shopping.
3. The cutest mammals, the dugongs are vulnerable to extinction and are still legally hunted.
Solution: Contact the Australian government and reef trust directly to ban hunting here.
4. Eight trillion aluminum cans are used every year and Americans throw away anough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial fleet of airplanes every three months.
Solution: Recycle your aluminum! Aluminum can continuously be recyled — as in forever.
5. The world's bat population is rapidly declining, especially in urban areas, because they're being forced from their homes. Each night, bats eat their body weight in insects — especially mosquitos, a process that helps keep the number of insects under control in our environment.
Solution: Place a bat box (an untreated, unpainted wood box) on the outside on your house facing the sun, to give bats a safe haven.
6. One-third of the average landfill is composed of packaging materials. These materials make up about 65% of the average household trash, much of which can be composted.
Solution: Separate your discards into three categories — plastic, compost and trash.
7. Driving faster than 55 mph decreases your fuel economy by as much as 14%. Most cars get their best gas milage between 40 and 55 mph.
Solution: Slow down! It will improve your fuel economy and in turn, help the environment.
8. About 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in the past 50 years. This kind of mass deforestation threatens the lives of animals and humans who rely on these forests to absorb carbon dioxide and control climate change.
Solution: Support the Rainforest Alliance.
Solution: Stop using paper towels and bags and opt for re-useable cloth — trust, they're a pain at first, but you get used to it fast. Buy only FSC-Certified wood and paper products.
10. Only 3% of the world's water is fresh water — and 1.1 billion people don't have access to a clean and safe water supply. This doesn't just affect other countries: In 35 years, more than a third of all counties in the contiguous United States with be at a higher risk of water shortages.
Solution: Install water efficient household products and low-flow faucets.
11. Biodiversity has declined 27% in the last 35 years because of increasing human encroachment on wildlife habitats.
Solution: Purchase products that don't harm the environment. Seventh Generation — a household cleaning brand — uses plant-based ingredients.
12. While there are still white rhinos and black rhinos in the wild, their population is dwindling rapidly due to poaching. The Javan rhinoceros was declared extinct in 2011, with an estimated 40-60 of them surviving in captivity
Solution: Support the rangers protecting these rhinos.
13. Climate change is real and it's melting the polar ice-caps at the rate of 9% every decade. By the end of the century, cities like New York and London could even be underwater if preventative measures aren't taken.
Solution: Take small steps like using less electricity — turn off lights when you aren't around and switch to LED bulbs.
14. Solution: Make your own DIY household cleaner with common ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, and even vodka. Seriously — we mop our floors with essential oils. Effective and smells like a spa!
Solution: Commit to a beef-free day once a week.
Solution: Choose two-sided printing when possible to cut back on paper usage — and go paperless with bills.
Solution: Bring your own mug to work — and even take yours to Starbucks! Most coffee shops offer a discount when you bring your own drink tumbler.
Solution: Buy reusable cloth napkins and wash when needed.
19. Every year, 3 BILLION batteries are thrown away.
Solution: Use rechargeable batteries.
20. Farmers only receive 20 cents for each food dollar spent on their products sold in grocery stores.
Solution: Buy local! Buying directly from your local farmer will help them receive full retail value for their food. Google your ZIP code and CSA — for "Community-Supported Agriculture" — for the nearest summer produce boxes.
Solution: Each individual can save about 95 animals per year by having a vegan diet. If you're not interested in an animal-free diet, challenge yourself to go vegan once a week.
Solution: Read your news electronically instead of with a physical copy.
23. We could build a 12-foot-tall wall of paper from California to New York with all of the paper that we waste every year. That's 2500 miles long!
Solution: Use paper sparingly. Do you really need to print that?
24. The average person throws away 4.3 pounds of waste every single day — that's 1,569.5 pounds every year.
Solution: Challenge yourself to limit your trash outage by reusing plastic bottles and feeding your soil with composted gathers.
Solution: Consider what home appliances you are purchasing. Using Energy Star efficient products will help decrease the amount of energy consumed.
26. 50% of items littered are cigarette butts, which are made of cellulose acetate that can take more than 10 years to disintegrate.
Solution: If you smoke, find the proper place to dispose of your cigarette butts, like a designated ash tray or receptical.
Solution: Buy glass bottles and reuse time and time again.
Solution: Food waste is a huge and growing issue. Learn how to properly freeze or compost discards — and check out these food-waste-centric apps, which might offer some new ideas.
29. Americans send 5.7 million tons of carpet to landfills each year.
Solutions: Recycle your carpet. Many carpet companies will take back old carpeting for other uses. Check out Carpetrecover.org to find out where you can recycle your carpet!
Solution: Seriously: Kids can make do with less. Use hand-me-downs or buy second hand.
31. Enough styrofoam cups are produced each day to circle the eath. Styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose, and it cannot be recycled.
Solution: Say no, always, to styrofoam. Just opt for something else — and tell your friendly, neighborhood deli guy that you'll help him come up with a replacement.
Solution: Sign up for a beach cleanup.
33. Only 5% of the power used by a phone charger goes toward charging the phone. The other 95% is wasted all that time the charger is plugged in and waiting for you to use it.
Solution: Unplug what you're not using. Power strips, people!
Solution: Turn off your computer and unplug it when you go to bed. (Again: power strips! One switch and everything's really, totally off.)
Solution: Plant flowers — bees love pollen and need to eat. Bees love blue, purple and yellow flowers the best.
Solution: Adopt a furry friend.
Solution: Never flush cat litter down the toilet. Use eco-friendly cat litters to avoid contaminating the oceans.
38. American dogs and cats create 10 million tons of waste each year. Pet waste is harmful to water supplies and can be washed to rivers, beaches and bays by the rain, causing unsafe water for drinking and swimming.
Solution: Always pick up after your pet with biodegradable bags or leaves.
39. Cotton represents nearly half of the total fiber used to make clothing today. More than 90% of that cotton is now genetically modified, using vast amounts of water as well as chemicals. Cotton production is now responsible for 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of total insecticide use.
Solution: Look at the labels when shopping for clothing, just like you would at the grocery store. Shop clothing labeled organic or stay away from cotton as much as possible.
40. The leather tanning process is among the most toxic in all of the fashion supply chain. Studies have found that leather tannery workers are at a far greater risk of cancer, by between 20% – 50%.
Solution: Shop for faux-leather pieces — great quality leather alternatives are out there.
41. Two billion pairs of jeans are produced every year, and a typical pair takes 7,000 liters of water to produce. For a T-shirt, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make just one – that’s the amount of water an average person drinks over the course of 900 days.
Solution: Stay away from impulse purchases from fast-fashion retailers.
Solution: Try a veggie pattie next time you crave a burger.
Solution: Opt for wooden matches.
44. An area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. This large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes, species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years.
Solution: Take the 28-Day Palm Oil Challenge.
45. Each holiday season Americans use around 4 million tons of wrapping paper. That's enough to cover 5,787 football fields.
Solution: Recycle gift bags, reuse old newspaper/comics, or purchase recycled wrapping paper.
Solution: It's actually better for the environment to purchase a real Christmas tree. For every one cut down, 2-3 seedlings are planted in its place. Real trees are 100% biodegradable.
47. Each year, the U.S. alone uses 300,000 trees just to send out Christmas cards.
Solution: Opt for virtual e-cards or email.
48. Every year, Christmas lights in the U.S. use more energy than entire countries.
Solution: Choose LED! LED lights can reduce energy usage by 80-95%.
49. Atlantic populations of halibut and yellowtail flounder joined this list of species at all-time lows. The breeding population of Pacific bluefin tuna is now at only four percent of its original size.
Solution: Download the Seafood Watch app for up-to-date recommendations for ocean-friendly seafood.
50. Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water is being removed than replaced on this planet.
Solution: Commit to one easy water-saving challenge like taking a shower for less than 5 minutes or shutting off the faucet when brushing your teeth.
Solution: Buy in bulk.
52. The 16 major commercial cruise ships generated more than 1 billion gallons of sewage which are dumped straight into international waters — polluting the ocean.
Solution: Next time your family suggests a cruise ship vacation, suggest another type of adventure.
53. Twelve percent of the land around the world is now under some form of protection (as national parks etc.). Less than four percent of the ocean is protected in any way.
Solution: Protect our seas by nominating a Hope Spot — learn more here.
54. As climate change melts the sea ice, a survey projects that two-thirds of the polar bear population will disappear by 2050.
Solution: Make choices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, like riding your bike, sharing an Uber ride or a planting tree.
Solution: We can do all we can individually — but government inevitably leads the way. Vote for political representatives who believe in bettering the environment — especially at the local level.
Solution: Support the Plastic Oceans Foundation.
57. There are more than 500 million cars in the world, and the number is expected to rise to over a billion cars in 2030.
Solution: Challenge yourself to carpool or use public transportation.
58. In 2012 alone, the world produced almost 50 million tons of electronic waste.
Solution: Recycle your old cell phones and computers — many cities offer free recylcing programs for common electronics.
59. Disposable diapers are the third biggest contributor to items in landfills, generating over 7.6 billion pounds of garbage every year.
Solution: Cloth diapers not only save money but are low toxic and can be made with completely organic material.
Solution: You can erase 100% of dryer electricity costs by using a clothesline.
Solution: If your dishwasher is effective, cut the prewash before loading the dishes.
Solution: If everyone in the USA used one less napkin a day, it could save a billion pounds of space in landfills.
Solution: Choose e-tickets! It's estimated that if every person used e-tickets, it would save 50,000 trees per year.
Solution: Use a spoon instead and wash it ... and then reuse it.
Solution: Pick and pull up stubborn backyard weeds instead of using chemicals.
66. Whales are at the top of the food chain and have an important role in the overall health of the marine environment. Unfortunately, six out of the 13 great whale species are classified as endangered.
Solution: Adopt a blue whale.
67. Like other sea turtles, hawksbills are threatened by the loss of nesting and feeding habitats, excessive egg collection, fishery-related mortality, pollution, and coastal development. However, they are most threatened by wildlife trade.
Solution: Always say no tortoiseshell jewelry and ornaments.
68. Approximately 2/3 of the pollution that is driving climate change is from the burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil, and natural gas.
Solution: Watch Before the Flood featuring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Solution: Pay a voluntary “carbon tax".
70. Perfluorinated chemicals — used to make fabric and leather products waterproof and stainproof — affect growth and development, reproduction, and injure the liver. In countries without strict environmental laws, these toxic chemicals are often dumped into local waterways without treatment. They contaminate the water supply, leach into soil, and damage the agricultural yields of local farmers.
Solution: Stay away from waterproof or stainproof textiles.
71. Clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014, and the number of garments purchased each year by the average consumer increased by 60 percent. Making clothes typically requires using a lot of water and chemicals and emitting significant amounts of greenhouse gasses.
Solution: Do your research before shopping and choose pieces from sustainable brands like Reformation.
72. When manufacturing clothing, one kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of fabric generates an average of 23 kilograms of greenhouse gasses.
Solution: Make your voice heard and fill out this form.
Solution: Bring your own glass or cloth containers to fill up at markets where fruits, veggies and grains are not pre-packaged.
Solution: Educate your kids on the importance of minimizing food waste at school.
Solution: Anytime you see litter, just pick it up and recycle it.
76. In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments — like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles — are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.
Solution: Get crafty with your plastic recyclables — here are fun DIY projects.
Solution: Satisfy a sweet tooth with organic fruit.
78. The U.S. had the world’s highest per capita water footprint, at 2,842 cubic meters per annum.
Solution: Install a cover on your pool: 90% – 95% of pool and spa water lost to evaporation can be saved by installing a pool cover.
79. In 2030, 47% of world population will be living in areas of high water stress.
Solution: Don't ignore leaks at home — we'll need that droplet later.
80. One pound of rice requires 449 gallons of water.
Solution: Consider replacing rice with quinoa or couscous.
81. Each time you flush toothpaste, soap or detergent down a drain you may be sending loads of hormone-disrupting chemicals into the environment, potentially harming the reproductive functions of fish and frogs.
Solution: Opt for a natural, microbead-free toothpaste.
Solution: If you're traveling less than a mile, skip the car and enjoy the walk.
Solution: Install a low-flush toilet. It'll cut back on your water bill!
Solution: Avoid overnight shipping with parcel carriers.
85. Up to 35% of heat can be lost through un-insulated walls and windows in the average household.
Solution: Install energy-efficient windows and make sure your house is properly insulated.
86. The average American receives over 40 pounds of junk mail per year — that's a lot of trees!
Solution: Call companies and ask to be taken off of their mailing list.
87. Each one of us uses around 11,000 disposable sanitary products in a lifetime, which end up in the sea or landfill.
Solution: Replace tampons with a Mooncup.
Solution: Do not use microbead cleansing scrubs. Find what products still use microplastic ingredients here.
90. Half of the Earth's topsoil has been lost in the past 150 years because of soil erosion.
Solution: Support sustainable agriculture! Use non-toxic green pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers on your lawn and garden.
Solution: Opt for a French press.
Solution: Install solar panels in your home.
Solution: Try to stick to a vegetarian-based diet once a week.
94. Cornfields span over 97 million acres in the US — about twice the size of New York State. American cornfields consume over six billon gallons of freshwater each year. On average, one acre of corn uses 60 gallons of fossil fuels in production and distribution — that’s more than it takes to fill up the average American car five times.
Solution: Avoid corn-based products.
Solution: Choose natural based products like Dr.Bronner's.
96. Coffee is grown on nearly 10 million hectares in tropical regions around the world, areas that also harbor high levels of biodiversity — but sun-cultivated coffee negatively impact biodiversity and contributes to deforestation.
Solution: Buy shade-grown, organic coffee.
97. It's estimated that only five per cent of the 60 million inkjet cartridges sold in Canada every year are recycled, and it takes 2.5 ounces of non-renewable oil to make just one cartridge.
Solution: Refill your cartridges.
Solution: Opt for Cruelty-Free products that do not experiment on animals.
99. The average distance that food travels from farm to place is 1500 miles — that's as far as driving from Dallas to New York City.
Solution: Eat local produce It not only tastes better, but it has more nutritional value and lowering the amount of fuel burned into the environment.
100. Just like humans, cows only produce milk if they give birth, so many cows are impregnated, separated from their calves and used solely for their milk. The male calves and other female calves are either shot at birth or shortly raised for veal before being killed.
Solution: Opt for coconut or almond milk. Not only is it better for you, but it saves cows' lives.
Solution: Shop online — but skip overnight shipping.