One thing we can all agree with is that 2020 was the biggest curveball no one saw coming. What we may disagree on is whether we should forget the whole year and put it behind us, or whether there was some value in what we experienced and put those 2020 learnings into our hypothetical back pocket. Maybe you’d say we need a bit of both.
One learning I am taking away is knowing that when we need to, we can come together as a global community to solve the world’s toughest problems. And I am grateful that this is true, because we have a big climate challenge that still needs to be tackled. As I write this blog, and as you read it, our planet is on a climate change trajectory that does not meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recommended target for global temperatures which is to stay under 1.5C of warming above pre-industrial levels (1). So, how can we take matters into our own hands in 2021 to make sure we can create a sustainable future for generations to come? Here are our 21 ways to get started:
1. Start meatless mondays
Okay it doesn’t have to be Mondays, but trying picking one day of the week to eat vegetarian or vegan. Animal agriculture is a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, so even cutting out meat once a week can make a huge difference (2)!
2. Experiment with a zero waste lifestyle
Trying to commit to a one hundred percent zero waste lifestyle can feel overwhelming, so I would recommend starting with a specific room in your house. For example, consider switching out your single-use plastic shampoo, conditioner and body wash, for packaging-free alternatives in the bathroom. Or, look for products like toothpaste tablets which come in easy to recycle or reuse glass jars!
3. Start thrifting
The fashion industry, which makes up roughly 4% of worldwide exports, requires a lot of resources for production and clothing is rarely recycled at the end of its life (3). To best way to address these issues is to care for the clothing you already own and to buy second hand when you need something new.
4. Use your food scraps
Although we can all do our best to meal plan and eat all the food off our plates, we are going to inevitably have organic waste from the inedible parts of food, such as coffee grounds or orange peels. In these circumstances, look up ways that you can repurpose these scraps before composting them! Click here to see some of our recommendations.
5. Upgrade your meat, dairy, and eggs
Dare I say it: You can call yourself an environmentalist and eat animal products on occasion. If you do, try upgrading your meat or dairy to the most environmentally sustainable and ethical version of it for your health and for the environment. Look for wording like grass-fed, organic, or Ocean Wise certified if your shopping for seafood. These are values we love at SPUD!
6. Participate in sustainable transportation
Maybe you don’t like biking, or your commute is too far to even consider it, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other forms of transportation that could reduce your environmental impact. Cars consume a lot of energy and resources before they are even put to use (4). By using carshare programs and public transit, you can help reduce the demand for the production of new automobiles and you help reduce traffic on the road! This year, consider seeing what transportation options are available near you, and save your personal vehicle for bigger road trips.
7. Take every opportunity to vote
I don’t just mean in elections. Think about how you can vote every day! Look for brands that give back to the community or to the environment, like B Corp Certified companies. As a fellow B Corp company ourselves, SPUD supports many B Corp brands such as Drizzle Honey, Dr.Bronner’s, and Seventh Generation.
8. Give back monthly
We will not achieve environmental sustainability if we have inequality, nor will we achieve equality if we continue our unsustainable behaviours! Look locally to see how you can support initiatives in your community or if you’d rather donate your money than your time, look for international organizations that have a cause that you are passionate about.
9. Start carrying a reusable kit
Most often when I order takeout or order food on-the-go, I think about the food I’m about to enjoy but not the single-use packaging that will be included with it. An easy solution to avoid plastic waste is to carry a little ‘reusable kit’ in your bag with all the essentials: fork, spoon, knife, napkin. If you have the space, you could also carry a reusable container and mug with you to be prepared for any to-go occasion!
10. Learn the other perspective weekly
Am I the only one who feels the world is becoming increasingly polarized? Whether it is because of social media becoming the ultimate echo chamber, reflecting our own opinions back to us, or due to some other cause, it is about time we put down our defenses and listen to one another. This year I invite you to read, watch, or have a conversation with someone who holds a different opinion than you on a particular topic. In the end, we all want the same thing- a safe and stable environment that is full of opportunity. We just need to figure out how to get there as one team and we can only make this possible if we understand each other’s concerns!
11. Look out for recycled content
Although most of us recycle on a daily basis, rarely are we conscious of whether the products we buy are made of recycled content. By purchasing products made of recycled content, we are not introducing new materials into our environment which will likely end up in the landfill. One great company that is using recycled content is Preserve Products. In addition, Nature’s Path and Be Fresh are participants in our takeback program which recycles their packaging into new products like outdoor furniture!
12. Reduce your compost by half
Did you know that 63% of the food Canadians throw away could have been eaten (5)? Some easy ways to tackle this challenge is to meal plan so that you know exactly what to buy, how much, and how you will use it up! In addition, look into good food storage tips to keep your food fresh.
13. Expand your organic purchases
Maybe for you, buying organic produce has always been your go-to because you are worried about pesticide residue. In 2021, think about what other products you could buy organic to support sustainable agriculture practices, such as buying organic meat. You could even take this challenge a step further, and look at what health and beauty products use organic ingredients. If you care about what you eat, you should definitely care about what you are putting on your skin!
14. Give experiences, not gifts
In the spirit of buying less, think outside the box when giving gifts throughout this year. When it comes to birthdays or holidays, what experiences can you give loved ones?
15. Plant a veggie garden
Even if you live in an apartment on the 30th floor with no balcony, this challenge still applies to you! If you don’t have space to grow a garden outdoors, you can always buy planted herbs that will grow easily indoors if they have access to sunlight. Your food system can’t get any more local than this!
16. Spend more time outside
People protect what they know and what they love. That being said, the more time we spend in nature, the more we will work everyday to protect it. Lucky for us, getting into the outdoors is fairly close for most of us. So go on! Put on your snowshoes, skis, or ice skates and leave the city behind for a little while.
17. Borrow before buying
Resist two urges in 2021: One, if you want to try something new, do not be deterred from participating because you don’t have the tools to do it, and two, don’t go out and then buy said tools in order to participate. If you need something new this year, ask friends, family, or neighbours first to see if they have what you are looking for. Not only will this save you money, it will also slow down our society’s rate of consumption which is currently demanding more than our earth has the capacity to replenish (6).
18. Become a recycling pro
One of the reasons why less than 10% of recyclable material gets recycled in Canada is due to the high rates of contamination (7). Click on your location to find our custom-made recycling guides based on the packaging we found to be most commonly used: Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria, Vancouver
19. Try a 100 mile diet
This one is a BIG challenge, but it is a fun experiment. This challenge is inspired by the book titled, “The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating,” which is written by a Canadian couple who tried to eat this way for a full year. Even just by keeping this concept in mind will open your eyes to how international our diets really are and what foods you can buy locally.
20. Share your tips and tricks with friends!
We all do our own bit to live more sustainably, but a lot of the time we don’t share our best sustainability tips and tricks with others because we are too humble. In 2021, let’s be a little less humble. Share with your community about why sustainability is important to you and what you do to act on this passion. Lastly, I invite you to not be shy with us at SPUD.ca either! If you like something we are doing or you think we could be doing something better, please do not hesitate to reach out to our customer care team or our sustainability team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
21. Choose local first
In need of a new toothbrush or pair of slippers? Before you jump on Amazon, check out whether there is a store in your neighbourhood that sells what you need! Now more than ever, your local and small businesses need your support. Plus, when you buy local, these business re-circulate 4.6 times more revenue in the local economy, so you are helping yourself out too!
Happy New Year!
(1) “Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC.” IPCC. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/.
(2) O’Mara, Frank P. “The significance of livestock as a contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions today and in the near future.” Animal Feed Science and Technology 166 (2011): 7-15
(3) Caniato, Federico, et al. “Environmental sustainability in fashion supply chains: An exploratory case based research.” International journal of production economics 135.2 (2012): 659-670.
Kozlowski, Anika, Michal Bardecki, and Cory Searcy. “Environmental impacts in the fashion industry: A life-cycle and stakeholder framework.” Journal of Corporate Citizenship 45 (2012): 17-36.
(4) National Geographic Staff. “The environmental impacts of cars, explained.” National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/green-guide/buying-guides/car/environmental-impact/
(5) Love Food Hate Waste Canada. https://lovefoodhatewaste.ca/about/food-waste/
(6) World Overshoot Day. https://www.overshootday.org/about/
(7) “Canada to ban harmful single-use plastics and hold companies responsible for plastic waste”. Government of Canada. June 10th, 2019. https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2019/06/10/canada-ban-harmful-single-use-plastics-and-hold-companies-responsible