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Resolutions for a more sustainable 2018

2018 is here and with it comes boundless possibilities for a happier, healthier self – and planet too. Living by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is something we pride ourselves on here at VSO, so what better time to look at our current habits and see how we can become a little more sustainable in our everyday lives.

Instead of over-committing this January, we’ve created our very own ‘SDG Resolutions’ – manageable challenges to tackle throughout the year. We’re excited to save some money, reduce our carbon footprint and make more sensible choices when it comes to how and where we spend our time and money. You can follow our progress on our Facebook and Twitter pages – we hope you follow suit!

January – Reduce food waste

After the extravagance of Christmas, January is an ideal time to cut down on food waste. This means planning meals at the beginning of the week and making a shopping list before hitting the supermarket aisles. Stopfoodwaste.ie is a brilliant resource with lots of advice on how to be savvy with food storage and meal preparation. Being forced to use food items also helps you to discover new recipes and saves money.

February – Use your voice

It’s important to fight for the causes you believe in, whether it’s animal rights, environmental issues, international development or gender equality. This month, research organisations that advocate for your cause of choice and see how you can get involved. There will likely be marches on at various times throughout the year so make a note of those, and write to your TD about changes that could be made to improve your local community.

March – Dispose of disposable cups

We were shocked to learn that every day two million throwaway coffee cups are sent to landfills in Ireland. Lots of us are partial to a take-away coffee on the way into work, but this amount of waste is so avoidable. Eliminate your use of disposable cups by investing in a KeepCup or similar refillable travel mug. Many cafes also offer discounts for consumers who use these, which is an extra incentive.

April – Don’t buy new clothes

Hands up if you regularly buy clothes as therapy or a treat. Most of us are guilty of this from time to time, particularly over the summer months when there are lots of social events to dress up for. This month, try and go cold turkey on clothes shopping and instead wear what you already own. Check out these blog posts from Mintnotion and Becoming Minimalist for inspiration. It’s also a good time to spring clean your wardrobe and organise a clothes swap with friends.

May – Put yourself first

The Sustainable Development Goals focus on “leaving no one behind” and that includes you! This month is all about maintaining a healthy body and mind. Sign up to a new exercise class, set yourself a pedometer step challenge or simply go for a walk with a friend in your local park. With so many fun runs and active challenges coming up over the next few months, now is a good time to set yourself a challenge and fundraise for your favourite charity. It’s also important to take care of your mental health. Headspace is a fantastic meditation app that offers a free trial and can help you better deal with everyday stresses.

June – Reduce your carbon footprint

Now that the weather is getting a little finer, it’s the perfect time to ditch the car in favour of public transport or walking or cycling to work instead. This is cheaper and much more environmentally friendly, with the average cyclist saving around half a tonne of carbon dioxide each year. Most employers now operate the Bike to Work Scheme, which enables you to save up to 51% on a brand new bike and equipment.

July – Go plastic free

Plastic bottles, bags, containers and other items aren’t biodegradable and contribute to 6% of the world’s fossil fuel usage. July is Plastic Free month, which challenges you to refuse single-use plastic products. Think about alternatives you can buy to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in your recycling bin. Opt for refills or buy dry food items from a bulk store, using a refillable container. You might also want to assess the toiletries you use and choose shampoo bars, bars of soap or refillable make up products instead.

August – Sew some seeds

Whether you live in a small flat or house with a massive garden, it’s still possible to do a little planting. Herbs like basil, mint and thyme are very easy to grow indoors, while rosemary, parsley and sage do well in small outdoor containers and growing bags. If you have more space, think about planting seasonable vegetables. You can also look into supporting community gardening or an allotment in your local area.

September – Volunteer with a local organisation

Most charities rely on volunteers to deliver and extend the reach of their services. Give something back and volunteer for a charity or organisation you care about this September. Think about what skills you have and how you might be able to help. Many charities have a volunteer section on their website, but if not reach out anyway – there will likely be lots of ways you can help out. Check out Volunteer Ireland for opportunities in your local community.

October – Be energy efficient

This month, consider how you can reduce your energy consumption for the winter ahead. As the days get chillier, you may be tempted to turn the heating on full blast. Instead set a timer to ensure it’s only on when necessary. Change to LED lightbulbs and assess the energy efficiency of the appliances you use at home. A small investment now could save you a lot of money in the long run, and is much better for the environment too.

November – Eat less meat

Meat consumption is one of the greatest sources of climate changing emissions, more than all forms of transport combined. It’s also damaging for human health, increasing the risk of obesity, cancer and heart disease, and making us more immune to the effects of antibiotics. If you’re not vegetarian, try reducing the amount of meat you eat this month and buy from ethical sources when you do. Follow #MeatlessMonday on Twitter for ideas and check local vegetarian or vegan cafes and restaurants when you’re planning meals out with friends.

December – Spread the word

We already covered how you can go greener with your gift giving at Christmas. As you gather with friends and family over the festive period, it’s also a good time to spread the word about the SDGs and share the ways you’ve become more sustainable over the course of the year. Challenging inequality and injustice can seem like an insurmountable task, but by working together and making small changes we can all make the world a better place. Share these resolutions with your loved ones and they can become part of that journey too.

What New Year's resolutions have you made? Let us know by sharing with @VSOIreland on Facebook and Twitter.

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