It seems like 2019 was a year for nothing but negativity when it came to reporting about the environment. At the end of 2018, a United Nations panel issued a warning that we may have only 12 years to reverse our cycle of planetary destruction before the damage becomes irreversible. In the ensuing year, countless politicians and activists built careers piggybacking off this apocalyptic message.
But from where we’re standing, we see a lot to be optimistic about as we head into a new year, a new decade. Regenerative agriculture has found its way into mainstream reporting; many people are starting to realize that regeneratively raised animal products can be the solution to global climate change, instead of its cause; and a plethora of companies, nonprofits, and other organizations are committed to educating the public and working with farmers and ranchers to bring regenerative products to market and grow the supply chain. All this activity adds up to a snowball effect that can mean only more momentum for our cause in the coming years.
How You Can Help
At first glance, the progress we’re seeing in the regenerative agriculture space may look like something only someone with massive resources can affect; helping to reverse global climate change may sound like an intimidating, if not impossible, task for any one individual or household. But this is far from the case. What can a single person do to have a positive impact? A lot, it turns out, and now’s the perfect time to get started.
As we head into 2020, you’re probably in the process of setting your resolutions for the New Year. Most New Year’s resolutions tend to be self-focused, and while we certainly encourage you to have several such items on your list, why not expand your reach this year and add some resolutions that will have a direct positive impact on the environment around you? And the great news is: it’s not that hard!
Here are six resolutions you can set to help you have a positive impact on the environment in the New Year and beyond.
1.) Get Educated
This first resolution is arguably the easiest, and it’ll be the spark that lights the fire for the rest of your resolutions. This isn’t to say that educating oneself can’t be genuinely difficult when many sources peddle misinformation or have an agenda to promote, but the problem itself reveals the solution: read widely; take in information from a variety of sources; and when a particular point or subject piques your interest, dig deeper.
A few of our favorite sources for the latest information regarding the environment, ecosystems, and regenerative agriculture:
2.) Resolve To Remove Toxins from Your Home
We don’t often think about this fact, but many, if not most, of the products we bring into our homes are full of dangerous chemicals and deadly poisons. Cleaning supplies, makeup and skincare products, and even things like ice melt often contain chemicals that can harm us and our pets and seep into our water and the soil around our home or be distributed throughout the air. Even most fruits and vegetables, especially if they’re not organic, contain chemicals in the form of pesticides and herbicides.
So pay attention to the products you purchase and the ingredients they contain, and purchase organic produce whenever possible. Our favorite cleaning products brand and clean living brand Branch Basics. Not only are their cleaning products phenomenal, but their blog and instagram posts/stories have soooooo many valuable tips on how to live a toxic free life.
3.) Reduce Your Food Waste
This one is especially easy, and if one of your resolutions for the New Year is to eat more healthily, then the two go hand-in-hand, because the easiest way to reduce your food waste is to eat healthier food. Strive to eat food that comes in minimal packaging. Produce, meats, and fresh baked goods with real, whole ingredients are a great place to start. Even better, try to purchase food that takes minimal transportation to get to you, thereby reducing fuel use and further environmental impact. Instead of purchasing out-of-season fruit that was picked half-way across the world, not to mention doused with preservative chemicals or made from genetically modified seeds so that it stayed ripe as it made its way to you, visit your local farmer’s market and buy something in season where you live. It’ll taste better, too.
And don’t throw your food waste away if you can help it. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 25% of the waste in our rapidly filling landfills is food and yard trimmings. So if produce and other food you’ve purchased or grown goes bad, or you just can’t finish your plate, don’t toss it in the garbage bin—compost it instead. Kiss the Ground has great resources on how to start your own composting system.
4.) Increase the Biodiversity in Your Own Backyard
Implementing this resolution can be as simple as not spraying your grass with dangerous herbicides and pesticides, or as complex (and, in our opinion, thoroughly enjoyable) as building your own regenerative garden or chicken coop. For advice on getting started with your own carbon-positive garden, we recommend the book Growing Good Food by Acadia Tucker. And if you’d like to raise happy hens, check out Hentopia by Frank Hyman.
But to the point, build diversity in your yard! Remember - your yard does not have to be a monoculture of “improved” grasses. Add flowers year round for extra color, life, and food for insects! Throw wildflower seeds in areas that need more ground cover. Have a space that needs a little something something…. Go ahead and plant a fruit tree (or two!). The possibilities are endless!
5.) Resolve To Reduce Your Use of Single-Use Products and Other Plastics
Unfettered plastic production is one of the biggest threats to our planet. Humans produce over 300 million tons of plastic every year, and half of that is for single use products, meaning it’s used once and then thrown away. And plastic lasts way longer than you might think—hundreds of years, in fact, at best. And most plastic isn’t even recyclable. Plastic wrap damages recycling equipment, as do small plastics like contact cases, floss picks, and bag clips, so they’re treated as trash, even when you try to recycle them. Ditto flexible plastics like candy wrappers and snackfood bags (in fact, if you try to recycle these, they’re often accidentally flattened and combined with paper, rendering the paper, too, unrecyclable). Plastic water bottles are usually recyclable, but only two or three times (paper and metals are infinitely recyclable), and the caps can damage recycling equipment.
Eliminating or reducing your single use plastics is one of the biggest changes you can make to lessen your negative impact on the environment. It’s also fairly easy: start using metal water bottles instead of plastic; bring your own cup to the coffee shop (coffee cups, which are made from a combination of paper and plastic, require a special machine to recycle, so they’re usually treated as trash); bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store; and purchase foods with minimal packaging. The Package Free Shop is one of our go-tos for items to replace single use products in our household .
6.) Shop Regenerative Brands - support businesses that support your values
If you really want to put your money where your mouth is, support brands that support your values. We are making an extra effort to support B Corp certified brands this year (..... we are working on getting ourselves onto this list this year too!) and brands being certified in the Ecological Outcome Verification program.
There are several brands dipping their toes and/or diving head first into regenerative supply chains including Timberland, who recently announced a partnership that will supply them with leather sourced from regeneratively raised animals. Making this our lives work means we understand what a task that is, and it is our responsibility to support brands making big changes to their supply chains. A couple of our favorite brands right now are Patagonia, Epic Provisions, White Oak Pastures, United By Blue, Farrier Leather, Christy Dawn, (and us too, of course!).
Everything Is Connected, and Every Action Helps
If you examine the resolutions above, you’ll notice a lot of overlap in the actions you can take. Purchasing food without packaging reduces waste and plastic use, improves health, and ultimately influences the food system, driving demand for real food and lowering the demand for overproduced, wasteful items. What’s a great way to consume more food with minimal packaging and no added chemicals? Growing your own food in a regenerative garden! But of course, to learn how to build a regenerative garden, you need to educate yourself on the process, and education leads to new ideas and inspiration (this is what you’re doing right now).
We could go on, but suffice it to say, there’s so much you can do as an individual to join us in nurturing, replenishing, and caring for our planet. And we encourage you to make a special effort to do so as we move into the new year. After all, Earth is the only place we have to live, and we all live here. One individual is just one individual, but many individuals making the same commitment become a force, a movement, and we’d like you to join ours. We, and the planet, thank you.