6 Pollution-Reducing Resolutions for a More Sustainable 2021

Abstract graphic of sun setting behind mountains

In a year marred by a myriad of tumultuous events, 2020 will always be remembered for the effects of the COVID-19 global outbreak and the subsequent nationwide shutdowns that occurred in an effort to limit the spread of the novel virus. With the American economy coming to a screeching halt last spring, the resulting economic recession found millions of workers across the country suddenly unemployed, or asked to work from home.

But weathering this historically stormy year has left us with a silver lining that could lead to brighter days for our planet. With a reduction in people travelling for leisure, or commuting to work, less fossil fuel is being burned each day. As a result, the country has witnessed a dramatic 9% drop in annual carbon emissions, making 2020 the “greenest” year on record in the U.S.!

COVID-19 will most likely forever change how we go about living our daily lives in many different ways. The shutdowns that triggered an economic recession in the country could just as well be a catalyst for an environmental renaissance in America, if we choose to make the right changes moving forward. Below are 6 Pollution-Reducing Resolutions for a More Sustainable 2021 we can all make to build upon the growing green momentum of the previous year.

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1. Know Your Waste

For most people, there’s a complete disconnect between their garbage can and the garbage dump. It’s easy to become detached from the contents of your trash bin, but being more mindful of your waste begins by not being mindless about it. The convenience of modern day municipal waste disposal makes it almost seem like our junk magically disappears every morning after we drop it off at the curb to be picked up. Of course, we all know this isn’t the case. Even if he were to show up in a top hat and tuxedo every week, your garbage man can’t just make your 4.5 pounds of average daily waste vanish into thin air. Out of sight may keep it out of mind, but the trash you create hardly means out of harm when it comes to the planet. The sobering reality is that a majority of what you discard ends up in landfills or littering the landscape, to the detriment of the environment.

Sustainable living requires familiarizing yourself with everything you throw away. Perform a home audit of all your plastic possessions. Pay closer attention on what you take in. Pay closer attention on what you toss out. Learn how your waste impacts the environment by poisoning our air, water, and soil. Learn how it kills marine life, depletes forests, and destroys eco-systems. There’s no shortage of alarming facts you can find online that will scare you environmentally straight, and the more educated you are about your rubbish, the likelier you are to make better decisions this year.

If you’re new to zero waste, read this blog 5 Things Every Zero Waste Newbie Should Know to start living more sustainably in 2021!

2. Consume Less

The average American produces 1,073 pounds of waste annually. That amounts to a whopping 254 million tons of garbage generated each and every single year in the U.S. alone! And when it comes to waste, what you see is not all you get. On average, behind every pound of trash you throw away is seven unaccounted pounds of “upstream” production-related waste. And the moment you toss it out, it’s destined to dish out some “downstream” damage to the planet. So, as bad as a quarter billion tons of annual trash may be, we still need to consider its upstream and downstream impacts to get a complete and accurate picture of the environmental havoc it will cause.

Cutting down on your individual waste is paramount for a more sustainable 2021.

Read our blog The 10 Green Commandments, and learn how the tried-and-true methods of Refusing, Reducing, Rehoming, Reusing & Repairing, Repurposing, Recycling, Rotting, Replanting, Rethinking, and Reinventing can help you streamline your personal consumption habits this year.

3. Say No to Plastic

If you take a quick look around your home, you might be surprised at just how much plastic you have lying around. You may not even make it past your kitchen, before realizing you just might have a plastic problem. Plastic waste makes up roughly 20% of landfill material, and America’s reliance on plastic products is a huge reason for that. Nowadays, nearly any disposable plastic item you would ever need can be easily replaced with an eco-friendly alternative at places like Zero Waste Store. Yet, single-use products still exist, and mass consumption of plastic disposables remains one of the biggest pollution problems we face because they are widely thought of as “easy and cheap.”

But is the convenience of a singly-packaged plastic item really worth the high environmental cost? Does the lower price tag for a cheaply made disposable product really save you money if you will inevitably (and indefinitely) have to replace it? The truth is convenience does not equal clever consumption. And low-cost does not equate to a quality product. Yes, sustainable swaps are designed to save the planet, but they are usually much more durably made to ultimately save you money. 

In this blog Are Zero Waste Products Really More Expensive? you will discover how replacing a disposable product with a reusable alternative is the environmentally – and economically – smart way to go.

4. Drive Less & Travel Smarter

Man-made climate change is one of the most serious issues facing humanity today, and reversing the trends that are contributing to it may be crucial to our very survival. But one thing that the Covid-19 shutdowns had shown us last year is that when our roadways and airways are emptier, our air becomes much cleaner. Transportation accounts for more than half of the air pollution in the U.S., creating negative effects for the planet, our health, and our quality of life. According to the EPA, motor vehicles cause 75% of carbon monoxide pollution. It is also estimated that one-third of the smog-producing pollutants, as well as 27% all greenhouse gas emissions come from on-road vehicles. But as a result of the shutdowns that limited the need for travel, America witnessed its greenest year on record last year!

It’s easy to mindlessly jump in your car and drive down the street to get to work, store, or park. But if your destinations are within a reasonable distance to do so, try walking, jogging, or biking instead. Try it out for a month. You may find yourself enjoying a little extra time alone with your thoughts – and inches off your waist! If you can’t make a trip on foot or by bike, hopping on a bus or another form of public transportation can reduce your individual carbon emissions.

Make a list before you go shopping, will help you cut down on unexpected trips to the store. Instead of flying home every holiday, maybe go on just the most important ones, or maybe go every other year. There are many ways to cut down on your travelling. The main objective is to reduce your carbon footprint in doing so. If travelling is unavoidable, you can still do your part by purchasing carbon offsets that support environmental clean-air projects, to neutralize the impact of your journey.

You can learn more about offsetting your individual emissions by reading this blog Conquer Your Footprint with Carbon Offsetting.

5. Support Green Businesses

One of the most effective ways to support the planet is by supporting green businesses that support your green habits, such as Zero Waste Store or even your local farmer’s market. Unlike large manufacturing operations that are driven primarily by profit, most small green businesses are made up of like-minded individuals that share the same passion for the planet as you do. They are the sustainable little Davids to the wasteful billion-dollar Goliaths that dominate the market. But by spending your money with green businesses, you help sustain their existence. And in turn, they help sustain your zero waste lifestyle.

In our consumerist society, in which supply and demand ultimately steers market trends, you can vote for the future you want to live in with the money you spend. So every effort you make to erase your waste by spending your money at a green business sends a loud and clear message that sustainable is in demand. And from the way many large companies have responded over the years, by cleaning up their act and offering greener options, you can rest easy knowing that your money is being well spent.

Read the blog An Ultimate List of Zero Waste Alternatives, and discover our most popular green products today.

6. Stay Motivated

The environmental facts and statistics you’ve read in this blog is enough to give you a general idea of some of the monumental challenges that we are up against. It took generations of collective recklessness to get us into this mess, and it will take the same collective energy to get us out of it. While it may seem overwhelming at times, what’s most important is for you to stay focused on the small changes you can make in your personal life to help heal the planet. 

The state of modern-day environmentalism is proof that a single pebble really can produce a tsunami. What were once mere ripples, made from a few pockets of groups and individuals scattered around the world not long ago, have now grown into what has become this giant green wave washing over the world today. And this is because of dedicated souls, just like you, who truly understand that every small decision can make a world of difference. So in order to stick to your green resolutions this year, continue to be inspired, stay motivated, remain educated, and educate others on the benefits of sustainable living. Refuse to be a problem, and resolve to become the solution. Don’t throw away your chance to make a change in 2021!

Learn how to keep your passion alive by reading this blog 5 Things Every Zero Waste Newbie Should Know.