Resolutions tend to be well-intentioned but not very practical. After the first weeks of positive change, they can start to feel a bit like clothes that don’t fit us: restrictive, uncomfortable - just not our style! Fortunately, there is an art to creating a new year’s resolution you can stick to, and we’re here to help you.
Now normally, new year’s resolutions aren’t sustainable in two different ways. 1. They don’t last, with only 9-12% of people managing to hold their resolve for the entire year. 2. They focus more on personal gains than environmental concerns. However, the conversation around sustainability is getting bigger and bigger, which means that every year more people set new sustainable goals. This makes writing a sustainable resolution feel like a way to participate in the eco paradigm shift that’s sweeping across the world. Each of us can make a difference to help prevent environmental destruction in our daily lives - and new year’s resolutions will help.
7 Tips For Writing A Sustainable Resolution
Think small and precise not big and vague
This is probably the single most important factor in setting a sustainable new year’s resolution. It’s better to sweat the small details and focus on something you can reasonably achieve, daily, weekly or monthly. These small changes accumulate overtime so that your lifestyle becomes more sustainable than you could have expected. This is best evidenced by “atomic habits”, a book that argues that the biggest breakthroughs come from the smallest tweaks that are kept up over a long time.
- Going meat-free twice a week.
- Trying Veganuary - and extending it for longer.
- Cycling to work once a week.
Instead of committing to one new year’s resolution, you could also try rotating them - so that your once-weekly bike ride becomes a once-weekly vegan dinner becomes a once-weekly day in nature. Variety keeps the dream alive!
Resolutions don’t have to be done daily
On the other hand, it can be less daunting to choose something that is important but infrequent. In this category sit sustainable new year’s resolutions like: only buying second-hand furniture. Only buying natural cosmetics. Creating a capsule wardrobe that can work for you the whole year round. And: switching planes for trains for this year’s holiday.
Define what sustainability means to you
Which aspect of sustainability are you most concerned about? Habitat preservation? Emissions? Water pollution? Waste reduction? Fair labour? Singling out what sustainability really means to you can help settle on a watertight sustainable resolution.
To us, sustainability means protecting the natural habitats of the present day for the generations to come. But it might mean something completely different to you, so this is a worthwhile thought experiment to get the wheels turning.
Write resolutions in the present tense, not future
It’s surprisingly liberating to write a sustainable new year’s resolution as if it’s already part of your lifestyle rather than a goal you’re working towards. Instead of “I will not eat any meat for a year” you could write “I am a vegetarian.” Not only is that turning a negative statement into a positive one, it’s also liberating you from any time-defined commitment to your resolution. Let’s just see how it goes!
The word resolution comes from the latin resolvere, which means “to loosen or release”. Maybe this is the mistake we’re making with resolutions: treating them as strict rules that we must abide by instead of tools to release our creativity.
Build-on a sustainable habit you’ve already mastered
Maybe you’ve stopped buying products packaged in single-use plastics, or no longer shop fast fashion. The new year is an opportunity to take your sustainable commitment one step further. Think: seeing how long you can avoid bottled water, or setting a target for the lowest number of garments you can buy in the entire year.
Researchers have discovered that the most effective tool for setting resolutions that last is something called “habit reflection”. That’s when you think about how a habit has been successfully integrated into your life, and figure out why it worked. You can then use this knowledge as a blueprint for your next sustainable new year’s resolution.
Conversely, you may want to consider why past resolutions haven’t worked out.
Be prepared for the “valley of disappointments”
Here’s Atomic Habits author, James Clear: “a “valley of disappointment” (is) where people feel discouraged after putting in weeks or months of hard work without experiencing any results. However, this work was not wasted. It was simply being stored.”
In other words: don’t give up on a resolution, because all your effort will eventually pay off. A literal example - reducing food waste every week might take extra time and planning but it adds up to savings at the end of the month. Sustainable new year’s resolutions take a while to bear fruit.
New You or New Us?
Nature tells us that nothing exists in isolation. So why shouldn’t our sustainable resolutions be linked to other people’s happiness as well as our own? Think about how to become a more active participant in your local community, from helping out at your nearest community garden to supporting young climate activists who need their voices to be heard. Even taking your old clothing to local recycling projects connects you to your community. Togetherness is inherently more sustainable than individualism.
Whatever your chosen resolution turns out to be, we wish you all the best in sticking to it and making 2023 the most sustainable year to date!