By Bree Walter

As January comes to a close, I’m finding myself re-evaluating my New Year resolutions. My overly ambitious self usually wants to commit to everything, but I’ve learned over the years that a giant list of giant goals more often ends up dusty, not done. So this year I’m switching it up; I’ve committed to a few small, but very achievable goals. Instead of saying I’ll go on a hike every week, I plan to simply feel grass daily. By taking my goals from these big, lofty feats to small, actionable realities, I can more easily feel accomplished. And in turn, I may build up the momentum to then level-up my goals from there. Maybe I’ll simply feel grass every day, and it will bring me great happiness. Or maybe feeling grass daily turns into going on a 15-minute walk twice a week, which could eventually turn into a hike every week. But instead of jumping into the deep end, I’m walking slowly and thoughtfully into the waves, letting my body become acclimated to the feeling that comes with each step.

Jars with labels

If you’ve found yourself wanting to be more sustainable this year but are daunted by the weight of how much needs to be done–you’re not alone. We see posts about going completely zero-waste and can feel frozen, thinking we need to do it all right now. And while going zero-waste is a wonderfully positive action that will help the planet, if you’re like me, that can feel like a mountain I’m not sure I can climb. I’d love to do really big, impactful things for the planet but I’ll only be able to do that effectively if I can get there gradually and intentionally. 

So just get started somewhere! Even if it’s something small and simple. Even if you stumble along the way before figuring out what goals resonate with you. Even if you feel you should be doing more. Anne-Marie Bonneau, the Zero-waste Chef, said, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

Below are a multitude of smaller sustainability goals you can try this year. If one seems too difficult, try a different one. If you try one and it goes well, then consider leveling up that goal or take on an additional goal. Remember–it’s not up to you to do it all and even small wins deserve celebrating.

Simple Sustainability Goals to Try this Year

  1. The next time you consider throwing something out that is still in good condition, donate it to a Re.Use.Full charity partner instead! 
  2. The next time you need to buy someone a birthday gift, look for something at the thrift store instead of buying something new.
  3. Try out composting for a week (You can do this longer if the week goes well). Compost Collective has a bin swap service that lets you buy a single compost bin for $10 that can be turned in at a variety of partner locations when ready, without having to commit to monthly costs.
  4. The next time you’re going for a walk, bring a sack with you to pick up trash.
  5. Carry a reusable water bottle with you to avoid plastic bottles. 
  6. The next time you need soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, detergent or any other household liquid, save your empty container and bring it to SOAP refill station or Hand & Land to refill and avoid waste.
  7. Unplug items around your house when they aren’t being used to save energy.
  8. Put a glass food container in your vehicle and bring it with you to restaurants to bring leftovers home, instead of using single-use to-go containers.
  9. Next time you need new clothes, go to a thrift store instead of shopping at a retail store. Re.Use.Full charity partners Goodwill of Western MO & Eastern KS and Adelante Thrift are just a few to choose from.
  10. Visit a farmer’s market or butcher for your next grocery trip.
  11. Unsubscribe from a few retail mailing lists, which often encourage overconsumption.
  12. Bring a reusable mug with you to the coffee shop to avoid single-use cups.
  13. Carry reusable shopping bags in your vehicle and the next time you go shopping, forgo the single-use plastic sacks for your reusable bags.
  14. In the winter, leave your oven door open after using it to help spread that heat throughout your home.
  15. Save your chicken bones and vegetable end cuttings in the freezer and use them to make a broth.
  16. If you drink coffee or tea at home–opt for reusable coffee filters, loose leaf tea and reusable tea steeper, or reusable Keurig pods.
  17. Save glass jars and reuse them for food storage, candles, gifts, pens and pencils, etc.
  18. The next time you need to go somewhere that is nearby, walk or ride your bike there instead of driving.
  19. Eat more plants and less meat. Consider going meat-free one day a week (then try more days if it goes well).
  20. The next time you need to buy household items like kitchen utensils, clothes hangers, furniture, etc. look for items made from bamboo, silicone, glass, or metal.
  21. Replace your next burnt-out lightbulb with LED bulbs.
  22. Replace a few paper bills with electronic bills.
  23. Replace single-use makeup remover wipes with a reusable cloth pad.
  24. Use your bath towel a few times before washing it, instead of washing it after each use.
  25. If you’re thinking about landscaping this spring, choose native pollinator plants for your yard that take less resources to grow and help your neighborhood wildlife.
  26. Turn the shower water off while you’re lathering your hair and body.
  27. If you drink beer, the next time you’re thinking about buying a 6-pack, buy a refillable growler from a local brewery instead.
  28. The next time you are looking for a new book, visit your library or a second-hand book store.
  29. Wash your clothes with cold water instead of hot.
  30. Buy a reusable straw to replace single-use plastic straws. Or drink your drinks without a straw.

Bree Walter is a minimalist, environmentalist, and activist. She is a freelance web (user experience) designer by day and a rock-climbing, dog-momming, slam poet by night.