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5 High Impact Resolutions for 2023

It's a new year and time for a whole of lot 'how to be more sustainable next year' blogs. New Year resolutions are hard to keep and we don't want to add more stress to your life so we've picked changes that will make the biggest positive difference to the environment.

Here's our top 5 list of super high impact resolutions - Happy New Year!

#1 Scrap Food Waste

Reducing food waste has been identified as potentially the single biggest way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Production of food uses a lot of resources including seeds, water, fertiliser, hours of labour, transport and refrigeration. Every stage from purchasing seeds to buying food at the supermarket costs money and generates greenhouse gases.

Despite this huge investment, a third of food that the world produces is never eaten, and this wasted food makes up a staggering 8% of total global emissions. Reducing waste also avoids more land being deforested to grow food, and reduces the amount of packaging required to get that food to the supermarket. 

In high income countries up to 35% of food is thrown out after it’s been purchased - in NZ the average household throws out $563 of food every year. And yet, none of us want to waste food - this isn’t a case of any of us doing anything ‘bad’, we just need to pay more attention to the problem.

How to do it:

  1. Shop with a list. Especially when buying fruit and veges. This will help you to avoid impulse purchases and over-buying.
  2. Let kids serve themselves. Research shows that when kids are allowed to serve themselves they’re less likely to overeat and are more open to trying new foods - so as well as reducing food waste you’re encouraging healthy eating habits and less fussy eaters.
  3. Learn to let your fridge be more empty. We tend to not like white space in our refrigerators. We pack them full so we feel secure with food on hand, but the reality is that we lose track of perishable food. Only buy new perishable food once you have almost finished everything in your fridge. This way you wont lose track of anything, will plan meals around what you have before you buy more and reduce your household’s food waste and expenses.
  4. Compost or use your green bin. 15% of the waste going to NZ’s landfills is food and garden waste. When organic matter ends up in landfill it releases methane - a greenhouse gas. If we compost instead the organics break down and put nutrients back into the soil. Put your food scraps in a home compost, Bokashi bin or worm farm. If you have a Council run organics collection, check what they can take – often they take all cooked and uncooked food as well as pizza boxes and paper napkins. 

#2 Switch to a Plant Based Diet

Making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change. 

Western diets are meat-centric and this comes with a high climate cost: one-fifth of global carbon emissions. If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. We could reduce carbon emissions by 70% by going vegan and 63% for a vegetarian diet. It's also estimate that we'd collectively save $1 trillion in annual health-care costs and lost productivity.

Switching to plant-based foods reduces deforestation, fertiliser use, methane from cattle, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. 

How to do it:

  1. Meatless Mondays. If you eat meat every night try cutting it out on just one day. There's heaps of recipes on the Meatless Mondays website to get you started.
  2. Cut out beef. Beef has the biggest carbon footprint so is a good place to start. If you cut out just one serving you'll save 1309 litres of water and 7.2 kg of CO2!
  3. Reduce the amount of meat in each meal. If you usually have two sausages, have one or replace 1/2 the amount of mince in a recipe with red lentils.
  4. Ask your vegetarian friends for recipes. Sometimes knowing what to cook can be the hardest thing about swapping to a plant based diet so ask those who know for two or three recipes to get you started.
New Zealand bank notes and a coin

#3 Review Your Banking and Investments

Between 2015-2017 the big four NZ banks (ANZ, ASB, BNZ, Westpac) have collectively loaned over $20b to fossil fuel projects, enabling the release of over 7000 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. Most banks now have very impressive looking sustainability policies and are certified carbon neutral, and while we applaud all improvements in sustainability, simply purchasing carbon offsets to become ‘carbon neutral’ will not solve the climate crisis and does not give licence to continually pollute.  

Since 2010 ANZ reported that it offset approximately 2 million tonnes of CO2 - sounds good right? But between 2015 and 2017 ANZ’s investments in fossil fuels financed 2,838 million tonnes of CO2. Offsetting less than 0.1 percent of the emissions enabled by the bank’s activities is not being carbon neutral.

By continuously investing billions of dollars into new and existing fossil fuel projects, banks are telling us that the extraction and burning of fossil fuels is acceptable. And where does the billions of dollars come from? It comes from us, from our money...so if you want investment in green energy and the end of fossil fuels, switch your bank!

How to do it:

    1. Learn more at 350.org
    2. Check your bank’s website for a sustainability page and then check if their values aligns with yours. Do they invest in fossil fuels?
    3. Switch banks to one that doesn't invest in fossil fuels (currently in NZ these are the Co-operative Bank, Kiwibank and TSB)
    4. Tell both banks why you are switching.
    5. As we get older we’re unlikely to change banks so set up your child with an account at a bank that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels.
    6. Check to see if your Kiwisaver or other pension funds share your values 

#4 Increase Biodiversity

High biodiversity (all the plants and animals that live in an area) is essential to the health and wellbeing of our planet, and ourselves. We need to conserve the biodiversity in our national parks and other wild places but as gardens make up between 35% and 86% of a city's greenspace we can have a positive impact just by working on where we live. Vegetation in cities lowers temperature, slows runoff helping to reduce flood risk, reduces noise and traps particulate pollution. Trees also reduce stress and living within 100 m of a tree is associated with lower use of antidepressants.  

And as most people now live in cities this is where we are most likely to encounter wildlife renewing our appreciation for the natural world. So here are some ways to bring back the birds and other wildlife.

How to do it:

  1. Reduce the size of your lawn, the more plants in your garden, the more insect life and therefore bird life.
  2. Trap for pests. In NZ rats, mice and possums are one of the biggest threats to our native wildlife. Find out more and join a local group at Predator Free NZ 
  3. Plant a wide variety of plants, especially natives which attract birds and bees and butterflies The more species and types of plants the better for biodiversity. 
  4. Leave the leaves - fallen leaves make excellent mulch which will save you work while providing a home for little critters. Mulch keeps moisture in the soil so you don’t have to water as often and stop weeds growing so you don’t have to weed as much! It also providing a home for insects which are eaten by lizards and birds.
  5. Don’t use pesticides as they will kill good and bad insects, but do put out water for bees and birds.

#5 Use the Car Less

We all know this by now - we just need to do it! Reducing car volumes relieves traffic congestion, improves air quality and reduces noise and accidents. It saves on fossil fuels and carbon emissions as well as rubber for tyres. Find ways that you can walk, bike, carpool or take public transport and put pressure on your council for walkable cities, more bike lanes and more efficient public transport. 

How to do it:

  1. There aren't any real tricks here - just start doing it!

 

References

#1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RlxySFrkIM

https://lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz/

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/01/17/263514285/why-letting-kids-serve-themselves-may-be-worth-the-mess

#2

https://www.mondaycampaigns.org/meatless-monday

https://www.omnicalculator.com/ecology/meat-footprint

#3

https://350.org/

https://mindfulmoney.nz/

#4

https://theconversation.com/how-urban-gardens-can-boost-biodiversity-and-make-cities-more-sustainable-162810

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/04/city-trees-reduce-stress-and-anxiety/

#5

 https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/public-transit

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