Change is in the air as we start 2024 with resolutions, good intentions, and goals. For some who are concerned about the state of the environment, sustainability is playing a role in New Year resolutions.
Climate problems seem larger than us, making it hard to believe our actions can make a difference or influence positive change. This past year, an oil magnate led the organization in charge of the world’s climate solution talks at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP28. Meanwhile, large corporations spend millions on marketing messages to make us think we need their products, as convenience and low cost are deemed superior to more sustainable options. Behind the scenes, these corporations are lobbying for government policies in their favor that help them sell to us while making record profits at the cost of human and environmental health.
The overwhelming nature of these challenges has led to climate anxiety, defined by the American Psychology Association as a chronic fear of environmental doom. When faced with these monumental challenges, every small action you take toward sustainable solutions matters and can have a positive impact. This year, let’s resolve to stay positive, incorporate earth-friendly practices into our routines, and share climate-positive solutions that we can collectively adopt to help reverse climate change. Below are some of the most impactful changes you can make to your lifestyle that will reduce your contribution to climate change. We also have some great tools you can use to assess your impact and reduce it.
1. Incorporate locally grown food into your diet
As markets have increasingly become more global, we find products from all over the world on our plates. There’s an argument to be made for choosing locally-grown produce and locally-raised meat when possible. Benefits to choosing locally grown food include reduced carbon, more nutritious food, and strengthening the local economy.
- Locally grown and raised food inherently has a lower carbon footprint because these foods don’t have to travel as far to reach you.
- Purchasing locally also means you are getting fruits and vegetables that are harvested at peak maturity. This impacts nutrition in two ways: being harvested at maturity means produce is most nutritious, and because local produce doesn’t have to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to a grocery store, locally-grown produce is on shelves or at farmers’ markets closer to harvest.
- Food grown and raised by local farms supports the local economy. Giant corporations control a lot of the fresh produce supplied to grocery stores. Purchasing food from local farms supports these small farmers, keeps tax revenues local, and can contribute to job creation and support of other local businesses.
- Beef, in particular, is a very carbon-intensive food. This is due to the land required to raise cattle and grow the food they need. Changing land to accommodate beef production is also a huge problem. Last year, 9,001 square kilometers of Brazilian rainforest were destroyed, some of which were destroyed to make room for cattle that supply the U.S. market. A lot of this is again driven by large corporations seeking large profits. Choosing locally raised beef and other animal products can translate into smaller production, less impact on land, less carbon to transport, and, again, a more robust local economy.
2. Compost food waste
Food being thrown away in landfills is a missed opportunity. When food decomposes in landfills, it mixes with non-organic material and produces toxic liquids and gases. The gas escapes into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming while the liquid permeates the ground and finds its way into and pollutes waterways. Food waste is a resource. When composted properly, it produces a nutrient-rich soil that can be used in flower gardens, on vegetable beds, or anywhere in your yard.
Composting can be done with a small dedicated space in your backyard or through a paid service if you’re not lucky enough to live in a city that offers curbside composting.
3. Reduce your carbon footprint
Several excellent free tools allow you to calculate your carbon footprint. This is my go-to carbon calculator. You can see the emissions associated with your daily activities by going through the calculation process. This information offers a starting point for deciding where and how to reduce your emissions.
4. Change your expectations
My goal for 2024 is to expect more from myself and the businesses I frequent. I created Love Local to connect people with small businesses that offer sustainable products and services. This allows you to shop from businesses whose values align with preserving nature and a healthy environment while creating effective, non-toxic, low-waste products. I plan to hold myself accountable. This means bringing my mug to a coffee shop, refusing to use single-use plastic items, grocery shopping at local farmer’s markets, and looking at what I have before buying new things.
Each decision we make about what to buy, where to drive, and what to eat contributes to our carbon footprint and, thus, to climate change. Love Local makes it easy to reduce your emissions by re-orienting towards shopping from local businesses. Visit the directory to find people who are making sustainable products near you and across the U.S. By shopping from Love Local businesses, you’re supporting someone who is invested in creating and maintaining a healthy planet. Follow me on Love Local as I share some of my daily decisions as I change my expectations and act to contribute to climate-positive solutions.