21 Things You Can Do for a More Sustainable 2021

För att komma till inlägget på svenska, klicka här: 21 saker du kan göra för ett klimatsmartare 2021

Sustainable for the planet and sustainable for yourself, we’re thinking, as we’re sharing these 21 tips on what you could focus on in 2021. Because it sure ain’t easy saving the world on shaky legs and with trembling hands, but totally doable if strong and healthy and together with likeminded. You guys, it’s 2021 – let’s turn this into a freaking awesome year!

Below we’ve listed 21 things you can do for a more sustainable year, where some might come across as small and insignificant – but please don’t forget what would happen if everyone actually did pull their weight. What if every single lunch served in your country would be vegetarian? I, Sophia, often think about what my middle school teacher once said, when she was trying to get all of us kids in the classroom to be quiet: “If everyone just closes their own mouth, it’ll be quiet”. No, not exactly rocket science… but it highlights the role of the individual. If everyone would just tweak their habits in a few simple ways, the world could potentially look very different. ”It’s just one straw… said 6 billion people”. How about we use that same thinking but in a positive spirit?

1. Eat green – or at least greener

The production of animal products causes a ridiculous amount of greenhouse gas emissions. If we continue to consume meat and dairy products the way we are today, we’ve practically broken our personal CO2-budget of 1 ton CO2 per person per year (to meet the Paris Agreement) before we’ve even sat down at the dinner table. New habits are in other words a given – but that’s no reason to be grumpy! If you’re a total beginner, shoot for one vegetarian day a week and work your way up from there. If you, on the contrary, feel quite vegetarian savvy but don’t want to fully commit, think the other way around – maybe allow for one meal a week or month to contain those animal products you love (and make sure they’re responsibly sourced). You could also start out with a meal – such as all breakfasts or all lunches – or listen to this idea: if you do big grocery hauls for a family, only allow for a small bag to be filled with animal products. It can actually be an exciting challenge and quite fun to bargain with yourself right there in the store, and it’s an excellent way to discover plant based “replacement” products that basically work and taste the same in cooking but differ quite considerably in CO2 footprint compared to their animal product counterparts. Soy mince instead of minced beef/meat and oat based “dairy” products are two such examples.

Spiced Lentil Salad with Carrots (left) and Creamy Lentils with Roasted Veggies (right).

2. Opt out on flying

Aviation is a big climate change villain. “Nah, flying is only responsible for about 2% of the global CO2 emissions” someone might say. That’s so little it doesn’t quite matter. See, that’s the thing. It does matter. Flying – for those who fly – is responsible for a giant chunk of their personal emissions. That can’t be argued. And because people mostly fly for pleasure and not due to a life or death situation, it’s also a behavior that can easily be changed for the common person. You can travel, go on vacation and discover new places without air planes and CO2 feasts – which means we can easily shrink our personal footprints without any reduction in life quality. As already mentioned, our target CO2 budget per person per year is about 1 ton (there are a few ways of calculating). A return trip Stockholm-Rome (3 hrs in the air) costs said 1 ton. That means we’re practically maxed out right there and need to live off of air the rest of the year. We can, in other words, basically not go pleasure flying with fossil fuels in the tank and remain within our budget at the same time. Doing anything but staying on the ground turns into a rather selfish and shortsighted decision. As long as it’s not an absolute necessity, of course.

3. Decrease your car travel

In the same way airplanes aren’t your best climate friend, the traditional gas powered car isn’t either. To not drive/go by car can for some people – especially if you live in an urban area – seem easier than opting out on flying, whereas it for some is actually difficult to do. If you’re in the latter category and lack the financial means to go electric, you can ponder the following: can you use public transportation? Join a car pool? Catch a ride with someone you know? Bike? Run? Walk? Work from home? And remember: if you normally drive every day, one day a week of alternative transportation will decrease your (car related) emissions by 20%. That’s a big difference!

4. Go no consumption for a year (and save money!)

Do you really need a lot more stuff? Committing to a year (or month) of no consumption might feel a daunting idea, but ultimately, it’ll lead to you 1. using what you already have 2. not contributing towards unnecessary consumption and 3. saving plenty of cash. There really is no downside! Sometimes you might actually need something though, so it could be smart to do a bit of an inventory beforehand or have a few categories of items that are exempt from the rule, alternatively decide on a number of pre-approved purchases over the course of the year – or a set sum. Bottom line: it’s totally doable and no one has ever regretted it. On this theme, we’d love to recommend two additional blog posts: 20 Ways to Save Money and Sustainable Consumption.

5. Discover a new part of your home country

Lots of people know the beaches of Thailand better than those in their own country. Can list more foreign countries than native provinces visited. The way in which we’ve traveled the world has caused infinite damage and it’s definitely time for us to find other ways to seek adventures and satisfy our desire to see new places. No matter where you live, we feel certain you have beautiful nature and exciting places to discover relatively close by. Make sure you seek these out (without flying) and find new favorite locations!

6. Finish your food

Our global food production is responsible for a good 25% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. A third of this food, we throw away. If we simply had the decency to take care of our food better, we could basically cut 8-10% of our emissions. Just like that. By not wasting food. Isn’t that as annoying as it is awesome? One of the reasons we habitually and without much consideration throw out food is thought to be the fact that there’s such a distance between the origin of the food and ourselves. We haven’t had to work hard for the dinner on our plates (at least not directly). Can you picture yourself wasting blueberries you picked yourself? Probably not. Remember that the next time you’re about to throw leftovers in the garbage or you can’t muster to take care of or what you have forgotten in the back of the fridge, you’re wasting someone else’s blueberries. And if that doesn’t work… feel free to remind yourself that it’s your money.

7. Switch to green power

It doesn’t take many minutes to switch to a green power provider, but it’ll both shrink your personal CO2 footprint and make use of your consumer power. If all households were to request green power and green power only, we’d be paving a sustainable future together by giving the power companies all the incentives in the world to deliver nothing but.

Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash.

8. Check in with your retirement savings

Perhaps it takes a few more minutes than switching to green power, but not many. Making sure your retirement funds aren’t financing drilling for oil, the aviation industry or deforestation (among other things) is a big deal.

9. Go with the seasons

Fresh blueberries should be consumed in summertime and preferably come from some wild bushes close by. Not be purchased from the store in February after they’ve been flown in from Peru. There’s a little too much world upside down and a little too little connection with nature when one peaks into the regular shopping cart these days. We treat ourselves all the time. Refuse to wait for anything. Expect fresh strawberries on our birthday cake even though it’s January. To eat with the seasons (where you live) can perhaps feel like quite the challenge at first, but it’s far easier than many might think. We just have to broaden our veggie horizon a bit and get rid of the habit of cooking up fresh asparagus mid winter, that’s all. And as a giant bonus, we can promise you increased life quality – because nothing can beat that strawberry, raspberry, asparagus spear or blueberry that you’ve been waiting and longing for. The appreciation for the food in front of you is guaranteed to shoot through the roof. A reading recommendation to get you going is Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

10. Drop something off for repair service – or learn how to mend your things yourself

Well, if you have something that needs mending, that is. It’s time to reprogram our brains and stop throwing things away just because they might be broken. “It’s so cheap to buy a new one” people say, and then we use that as our primary argument for not fixing what we already have. More illogical thinking is hard to find! Turn 2021 into the year where you care for your things and mend what’s broken, alternatively get to know your local cobbler, tailor or bike mechanic.

11. Support small businesses

It’s really hard to motivate purchasing something from one place if you can get the same thing cheaper somewhere else. But it’s about time we realize how much power our money has and how/where we spend it directly impacts the world around us. Before each (carefully considered) purchase, ask yourself: does this company represent the world I want to live in? In many cases, your answer will be no. And in most cases, it’ll be a little more expensive to shop from places where the answer is yes. That’s when it’s important to – if you can spend an extra dollar – resist the temptation. It’s not always easy, but as with most things, it gets better with time.

12. Phase out single use items

Take a good look at your habits and identify any single use products you’re responsible for. Do you grab a paper mug coffee on the go often? Cover your bowls with plastic wrap? Get new bags at the store every time? There are so many better alternatives out there. Get rid of one villain at a time and familiarize yourself with beeswax bowl covers, totes, produce bags, insulated and leakproof coffee mugs etc.

13. Head outside

Get out in nature! Pack a lunch or snack and spend a day outside (multiple times). More people than ever have found their way out and into the woods in the pandemic year of 2020, but there are still many who are unaware of the magic of the great outdoors. Besides massive gains in terms of improved mental and physical health, it’s practically impossible to not foresee an increase in environmental awareness and engagement. What you know and love, you want to care for, right? The fact that so many still aren’t quite taking in and understanding exactly how poorly our planet is doing could be tied to our complete lack of connection with it. We live in artificial cities and spend lots of time in virtual worlds online – no wonder we’re not feeling for trees, flowers, mountains and lakes. They’re not close to our hearts. So go make friends with nature!

14. Do it yourself

Buy raw ingredients and turn them into food at home. When we cook and bake from scratch, the ingredient list often ends up shorter, we can avoid some plastic and a penny or two might be saved. But there are even better reasons to bake your own bread, make your own muesli and granola and grow your own basil. Above all, we create a relationship with what we eat. We learn what the ingredients look like and how they function, we invest time in the process and we gain an understanding for the work behind everything sitting on the well stocked shelves of the supermarket. All of this leads to an increased respect for the food in our homes – and thereby reduced food waste. Because you must agree it’s easier to throw away food someone else baked? Cucumber someone else grew? And the berries someone else picked we’ve already visited. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get kneading, shaping, rolling, foraging, picking and growing – and let’s discover how much fun it is along the way.

15. Visit a national park

Most countries have numerous national parks, and many of us have barely scratched the surface of what’s on offer close by. And while there are thousands of “normal” beautiful places, national parks just feel a little special, don’t they? Something did indeed make up reason enough to get this the very finest of statuses – perhaps something unique only present right there, perhaps something extra precious needing protection. Perhaps something almost too beautiful to even take in. Whatever it is – select at least one and pay it a visit with all the respect and worship that it deserves.

16. Say no to palm oil

Make sure to read any and all food labels and if you find palm oil among the ingredients, put the product back on the shelf and make a statement through your consumer power. In just a few years time, we find that the alternatives have gotten so many more, and most products can be found in a palm oil free version today (at least here in Sweden). Yes, there is something called sustainably sourced palm oil, but many of us are skeptical about this labeling – because no matter what, palm oil will always be coming from palm oil plantations where there was once rainforest. Going for safe rather than sorry seems the reasonable approach, so we say steer clear of it all together.

17. Support sustainable influencers and profiles

Among the best and most powerful things we can do for the planet is talking about climate change and telling our friends and family what active choices we’re making in our everyday lives (which means choices they could perhaps make too). That, however, isn’t always the easiest task in the world, as these conversations often break current norms and can stir up all sorts of emotions. It’s a good thing, then, that there are those who are willing to speak up for all of us! If you look around, you’ll see plenty of passionate, dedicated people who are working and acting in the name of the climate fight – either during regular work hours or their free time or often both. How do you support them the best? By liking, commenting on and sharing the material they’re producing. By following them on social media. By recommending them to others. By buying their books, listening to their podcasts. Simple actions that make a huge difference.

18. Join an environmental action organization

If you’re not yet a member of WWF, Greenpeace or a similar organization, make 2021 the year you join. It won’t cost you much, but every penny will make a difference. In these organizations, we find knowledgeable people, a chance to political impact and dedication beyond words – help them help us all.

19. Read up

We tend to make wiser decisions if we’re properly informed. When it comes to climate change, many lack sufficient knowledge – both when it comes to what it means for our future as well as what we can (have to) do to solve it. There are those who don’t “believe” in it. Those who think it won’t affect their country. Those who claim environmental activists exaggerate. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, it’s always a good idea to read up on the scientific facts available, so that you’re prepared when someone around you drops a flawed fact and understand why it’s important to opt out on flying. And when you go to read up, choose your sources wisely. We recommend reputable and science-based such, where the WWF and NASA make up good examples.

20. Sign petitions for the future of our children

Individual choices do matter, but we need to get into the heart of parliaments and governments to accomplish large scale change. There are so many petitions you could sign out there, where each and every signature matters. Ultimately, politicians only dare to make the decisions they think we – the people – will tolerate. They don’t want to get voted out, so unless they feel certain the voters (us) want a forceful, green agenda, they won’t go for it. Petitions play an important role here, as these give those in power a clear signal as to what kind of political direction the people want. We need to collectively show them that we want to and will give them our support when they roll up their sleeves and get working. When they – for real – start to create the change needed to meet the Paris Agreement. Don’t dismiss petitions you come across and don’t immediately trash emails asking you to sign something. Give it a minute, and if it seems legit – sign and get five friends and family members to sign as well. Talk about paying it forward.

21. Try to find happiness in the little things

Yep, that’s right. The grand and the shiny, the expensive and the luxurious. The exotic. The new. The flashy. Why isn’t life allowed to be beautiful and wonderful and downright amazing just the way it is? In all its simplicity? Enjoy the rays of the spring and summer sun, the scent of the flowers, the sweetness of strawberries. A warm hat on your head, a cup of tea, a good book. A walk in the woods, a song, a comfortable couch. Crawling into bed and stretching your body out. Walking barefoot across warm-from-the-sun sand and smooth boulders. Life is so much more than what we think we’re supposed to fill it with. We’ve gotten lost and forgotten – along the way – what all of this, really, is about. When all we ever focus on is that expensive car, that big house, those luxurious trips, those fancy clothes, that prestigious career, we miss all of that which, at the end of day, is what warms our hearts for real. What makes us feel really alive. Finding contentment in the simple and close at hand is our rescue, if we could only locate it. Dust it off. And give it the best of spot in the finest of rooms.

We wish you all a happy new 2021, and may this be the year we turn pandemic as well as emission curves steeply downwards!

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– Sophia & Michael


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2 thoughts on “21 Things You Can Do for a More Sustainable 2021”

  1. Happy New Year and thank you, as always. What a great read with tips that are attainable and empowering 🙂 Reading this and watching David Attenborough’s “A Life On Our Planet” has me hopeful for the future!

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