How to pick a perfect sustainable resolution this year

sustainable resolution for 2021

‘Tis the New Year and that means New Year’s resolutions. It’s the perfect time to pick a sustainable resolution that will help you in all areas of life, not only environmentally but in your health, relationships and your personal bottom line. 

 

This year, it’s hard to know what to resolve, given the year we’ve all had  and the fact that we’re all just trying to make it through. Does anyone think adding meditation to their morning routine is going to make it all better? 

 

It all seems a bit futile, except that it’s not. A good, simple but effective sustainable resolution will serve lots of different aims at the same time. That’s the thing about sustainability—it’s not just about the planet and environment, it’s also about making the world better for you and for other people and building more abundance. 

A good way to start identifying a sustainable New Year resolution is to do a whole life assessment like this one from Michael Hyatt, or reflecting on the six pillars from Patrice Washington.  The six pillars include assessment of your space or environment, which I always need. Both frameworks include health and spirit, relationships, finances and other important areas of life. 

Neither framework includes environmental sustainability per se, but you can add that in as a lens. I like to recalculate our household carbon footprint as part of a year-end assessment.

If you’re like most people, you’ll have one or more areas that are a consistent stressor in your life. Those are good candidates for a big focus resolution, along with the understanding that other areas of life will also benefit from your big resolution.

Our family’s big resolution this year is to complete our sustainable home update and responsibly declutter the layers of kid/parent/grandparent/old self stuff we don’t want anymore.

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    The “One Thing” approach to picking a resolution

    What is the one thing, that if it were changed, would make a huge difference in your life?

    For years, I set New Year’s resolutions using the kitchen sink method. Get fitter, organize the house, spend more time with friends, grow all our vegetables, get a new job, all in 365 days.

    That list of resolutions was, of course, doomed. No matter how much you accomplish, it will feel like failure since it’s the rare person who can accomplish twenty life-changing resolutions in one year.

    According to “The One Thing” by Gary Keller, you can identify the one important goal by asking this focusing question:

    “What is the ONE THING I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

    This is similar to the permaculture principle of making the least change for the greatest effect.

    Let’s say your sustainable goal is to have a lower carbon lifestyle. You could add a single zero waste cooking session per week, which would also mean you feel more organized and calm in the kitchen, eat more vegetables, and waste less money. Getting that one habit in hand will energize you to make more changes. 

    It’s a habit that makes all the other good things easier.

    This is a relatively simple resolution that will positively impact your space in the kitchen, your health, your budget, your relationships and your environmental practices. It’s a win-win-win. 

    Other examples of triple win sustainable resolutions

    non toxic zero waste sustainable resolutions
    This could be part of your non-toxic sustainable resolution this year.

    There are lots of other examples of triple bottom line resolutions. 

    Buying second hand

    buying second hand sustainable resolution

    Learning to buy or borrow second hand is a triple win because you can save environmental resources, save money and build better connections in your community. 

    Biking and walking for transportation

    Biking and walking more is good for the environment, for your budget and for your health. Plus it’s fun. Human-powered transportation doubles up as exercise, transportation and relaxation. 

    Non-toxic cleaning

    Most cleaning has to do with attention and elbow grease rather than DefCon 1 level cleaners. Switching to DIY cleaners using a few basic ingredients saves exposure to harsh ingredients, saves money and prevents pollutants going down the drain.

    The list goes on

    journaling sustainable resolution
    You can brainstorm some more ideas of triple win resolutions

    These are just a few examples. There are multitudes of similar small resolutions that have an outsized effect for a small change and effort. 

    What if your family or housemates aren’t into your new resolution?

    It’s a universal truth, widely acknowledged, that if you start something new those around you will resist. It’s just human nature to resist change.

    It can be anything, as small as switching to solid dish soap instead of liquid soap that comes in plastic. It can be biking to the grocery store for a few things instead of driving. It can be eating leftovers.

    No matter what it is, someone will think you’re crazy for trying it. 

    In a year full of household negotiations, here are some tips for persisting when you encounter change-back pressure. 

    Hold the line

    It’s OK to have non-negotiables. If it’s something that only affects you, then it’s only your decision.

    It's not forever (even if it is)

    Make it an experiment. Most household members are willing to try something if it’s not a life-long decision. 

    Compromise

    Find a compromise. Maybe you use the solid dish soap when you’re washing dishes and your partner uses their favorite when they wash dishes. ​

    Patience

    Discussing. Every. Single. Detail. is tiresome but if done well leads to better solutions and better relationships. Try to recognize that these discussions are an investment.

    You do you

    Everyone gets at least one weird hobby. If yours is saving the planet, go for it. They can have their drone racing or whatever, you’re busy.

    Break it down: Turning your sustainable resolution into reality

    It’s fine to have a resolution, but it turns into reality when it turns into action. All change comes from either changing a system or changing a habit. For example, switching to a green energy provider is changing a system while adding more plant-based meals into your weekly rotation is changing a habit. 

    Either way, schedule time to make the change. You might need time to research green energy providers and make a phone call, or you might need to schedule a weekend cooking session to learn some new plant-based recipes. 

    It will get easier as time goes on. You’ll know the recipes, you won’t need to switch energy providers again, and you can move on to something else.  

    For support on building new habits, you can’t go wrong with James Clear, who wrote the book. 

    Congratulations! You’re doing well by doing good

    You’ll know you’re there when you have a resolution that feels good for yourself and for the environment. Your resolution will benefit you in multiple ways. 

     

    It doesn’t have to be a big thing; it can instead be a small but important thing with an outsized effect. 

     

    At this point, you’ll know how you can enact your resolution within your current situation with family or other influences. You’ll have a plan for making it a reality. 

     

    Imagine you’ve already succeeded. It feels great to focus on one sustainable resolution, make it a solid reality, and then move on to the next goal. 

     

    I’m cheering for you! I’d love to know what your sustainable resolution is hearing from you at [email protected]

    All the best to you and yours in 2021. 

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      2 thoughts on “How to pick a perfect sustainable resolution this year”

      1. This year I decided to start composting. Again… lol. I tried a diy worm version once, but it wasn’t user friendly and didn’t hold much. This year I’ve decided to get a little compost bucket for the kitchen counter and a big outdoor tumbler. I decided how much I was willing to spend, accepted that the tumbler is plastic, and celebrated that it will be used for years to come and that the little bucket is biodegradable at the end of its life. Now I can’t wait for them to arrive at the house so I can cut down on landfill contributions, cut down on smells in my garbage can, and make good compost for that garden I’m partway into building beds for! Triple win!

        Thanks for the article ❤️

        1. Hi Amanda, so glad that you’ve picked a good doable resolution! It feels really good to know your scraps aren’t contributing to environmental problems. It will be less work with a tumbler. Congratulations on getting into gardening too! Once you start you can’t go back to grocery store tomatoes and paying big bucks for lettuce. Let me know if you have any questions as you get into it, I’m always happy to talk. Here’s hoping all the best for you this year.

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