Twelve monthly tips for your sustainable new year

Taking small steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle can make a difference — especially if these efforts lead you to change your everyday actions and ways of thinking. 

As you map out your year ahead, consider taking up one new sustainable habit each month. To get you started, here are some ideas for how to make 2021 a sustainable and cost-effective new year.

January: Take advantage of the nice weather by walking and cycling more

You can quite literally step into sustainability this year by getting out on your feet! If you’re heading out to a nearby destination, consider getting a bit of fresh air and walking there. Or, roll into more environmentally responsible habits by hopping on your bike to get around.

February: Get smarter about grocery shopping to reduce food waste

Last year, did you often find yourself ditching half-used loaves of bread and expired fruits? If so, rethinking your grocery shopping strategy can help you carry out a more sustainable new year. Thoughtfully plan out what meals and snacks you’ll have for the upcoming week. Then make a short and sweet grocery list to avoid overbuying. If you cook too much food, stash some leftovers in the freezer so they don’t go to waste.

March: Start composting

Setting up a composting bin is not only a great way to reduce waste, but it will also leave you with rich fertiliser for your flowerbeds and the veggie patch you’ll be planting in the spring (more on that soon!). Purchase or build a composting bin in your back garden and start filling it up with things like veggie peels and garden waste.

April: Pick up a few books on sustainability

You might feel like curling up with a good book in the crisp autumn weather. Update your reading list with a few titles that address sustainability in contexts you can relate to. For instance, if you love making art in your free time, check out some library books that cover eco-friendly art practices. Or, if you’re passionate about keeping the oceans clean, read a recent study on the topic to gain a deeper understanding of the current crisis and ongoing solutions.

May: Learn a few basic clothing repair skills

Do you have any clothes in the back of your wardrobe with a missing button here or a tiny tear there? Brushing up on some basic hand sewing skills can mean saving clothes you might otherwise throw away. Look online for tutorials on basic mending skills, pick up a needle and thread, and practice a little. Soon you’ll be breathing new life into your clothes.

June: Improve your home’s heating efficiency this winter

When the temperature drops, you don’t always need to crank up the thermostat to stay warm. Little changes like shifting furniture items away from vents can help improve airflow. Plus, upgrading your window treatments with insulating honeycomb blinds or heavy drapes can keep warm air in, even when the heat isn’t running. This will keep you warm and cosy without drawing so much energy.

Now, we’re halfway through your sustainable new year!

July: Choose ethical investments for the new financial year

The financial year ends on 30 June, making July a great time to check on your financial health as well as your investing decisions. Do you know what industries your super fund supports? Do they meet your ethical standards? If not, consider switching to a certified responsible investor like Active Super.

With Active Super, you can invest your hard-earned money in a way that supports sustainable initiatives and rest assured that we’re working hard to minimise the environmental impact of the assets within our portfolio.

August: Cut single-use plastic out of your kitchen

Rummage around your kitchen and you may come across quite a few single-use plastic items that you can swap for sustainable alternatives. For instance, rather than covering up leftovers with plastic wrap and storing snacks in plastic bags that you’ll only dispose of the next day, purchase washable, eco-friendly lids and bags. Use metal or glass straws in favour of plastic ones, and make a commitment to stop purchasing plastic cutlery for packed lunches and parties.

September: Start a veggie garden

If you’re keen on ‘farm-to-fork’ dining, why not try ‘back-garden-to-bowl’ produce, grown in your own veggie patch? As winter melts away, spend a bit of time researching the climate conditions for your area and find out which plants will thrive based on what type of soil and sun your garden gets. Wait until the last frost date before planting, then keep watering and tending to your garden.

Come harvest time, you’ll be able to enjoy the freshest produce without relying on the global food supply chain, which is responsible for producing 13.7 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) each year, according to recent research.

October: Explore carbon offsetting programs

If you thought carbon offsetting was something only large corporations could do, you’ll be happy to find that this isn’t the case! There are organisations that can help you offset the carbon footprint of your own activities, such as air travel and commuting, or small business activities. Essentially, after calculating the CO2e impact of a certain action or project, you can put money toward supporting carbon dioxide savings elsewhere.

Carbon offsetting programs may include planting trees, introducing clean drinking water and fuel-efficient stoves in underserved communities, and funding new clean energy initiatives like wind farms and hydroelectric power plants.

November: Opt for clean beauty and personal care products

When you get ready in the morning, you can take better care of the planet as well as your own personal care needs. Whether you’re choosing a new mascara or a simple hand soap, research the brands and the ingredients they use. Look for brands that use organic ingredients and are transparent about their efforts to put sustainability first.

December: Work some new sustainable holiday traditions into your celebrations

Unfortunately, celebrating major holidays can produce a lot of waste if you’re not careful. This year, aim to keep the festivities more eco-friendly. Instead of buying single-use rolls of paper, get creative and transform brown paper bags into hand-painted gift wrap. When choosing gifts for loved ones, support brands that put sustainability first.

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