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Dear Diary: Wild’s guide to sustainable New Year’s resolutions

Katie Jay shares some sustainable resolutions for the New Year, through a witty and personable diary entry.


Dear Diary,


It is one week into 2024, and I am still deliberating over what my New Year’s resolutions should be. I want to think more about the environment and act more sustainably, rather than just sticking with ‘write a page in this diary everyday’. Changing up some of my everyday habits, and considering how I can be more sustainable, is the best way to go this year. So, here’s what I think: 

 

SHOPPING


Shopping can be green – with a little extra time and effort. Image Credit: Guus Baggermans on Unsplash.


Buying Second-hand 

 

Instead of resolving to spend all my money at charity shops all of the time, a better resolution may be to seek out the charity shop when I need to buy an item of clothing or some specific homeware. Even though buying second-hand is a lot more sustainable than buying first-hand, there’s no point in buying an unnecessary amount of anything (it can still be wasteful). 


That being said, the charity shop also makes for unique and thoughtful presents for when birthdays (or Valentine’s, or anniversaries!) roll around again – this also applies to the bigger second-hand sites such as eBay, Depop, or Vinted. Don’t be intimidated by how much is on there, searches from vague to specific are extremely useful, even if you’re not quite sure what to get. 


World of Books is also an amazing website for unique presents, specialising in second-hand books at more affordable prices – plus, a book that’s been read has an extra story to tell. Most of the time they offer free, quick delivery too – and they probably have just the book you’re looking for. 


Here are a couple of second-hand websites that I don’t hear that much about: ASOS Marketplace and Amazon Warehouse, for when you get really stuck and need another place to search.


Although ASOS Marketplace has ASOS in its name, it has very little related to what is actually sold on the ASOS website, as it focuses on boutiques and small businesses selling clothing, quite often second-hand clothes. Most of it isn’t too expensive either. 


Amazon Warehouse is fundamentally linked with what it sells on Amazon itself – the difference is that Amazon Warehouse is the section of the bigger website that deals with reselling ‘quality used, returned, pre-owned, or open-box products’. We both know that Amazon hasn’t got the best reputation when it comes to sustainable shopping, but their Warehouse is a good option for when we might need a quickly and easily attainable item that isn’t going to break the bank.


It is important to remember, when something is finished with, it can be donated, resold, or regifted as opposed to binning it as the first option. We MUST reuse and re-gift more – choosing to buy from fast fashion companies contributes to its domination in producing greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for around 8-10% of global emissions, which is more than aviation and shipping combined. Furthermore, according to PIRG, producing one cotton t-shirt requires 700 gallons of water and produces the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as driving a car for 10 miles. 


Making Investments

 

In an attempt to behave more sustainably as a student myself, making some slightly more expensive investments may be needed to save money in the long-run. If it’s needed, buying a bicycle or investing in a public transport season pass as an alternative to driving a car or getting taxis, are effective ways of reducing your individual carbon footprint. These can sometimes be expensive, but I suppose that’s the point in investing in something (plus it’s probably much cheaper than buying and maintaining a car). 


If buying second-hand clothing isn’t always easily attainable, or the thing I need simply doesn’t exist in the second-hand world, then look at investing in a capsule wardrobe instead of immediately buying trendy things from fast fashion companies. Wikipedia defines a capsule wardrobe as a ‘minimalist collection of clothes that can be put together in different ways to cover a variety of outfits and occasions. The aim is to have an outfit suitable for any occasion without owning excessive items of clothing.’ Purchasing the better quality and more expensive option will last longer and reduce waste instead of buying cheaper items that need to be renewed within the year. 


Could this be your new capsule wardrobe? Image Credit: piotr szulawski on Unsplash.


EATING


Veganuary beyond January


As Veganuary commences, along with its eventual resignation as February begins, it makes me question how much of a New Year’s resolution Veganuary actually is? This year is the time to challenge ourselves and commit fully to veganism, vegetarianism or pescetarianism. Whatever we can commit to, doing it for a full year (maybe with separate monthly challenges to keep yourself interested) can influence us to make a lasting and impactful change, rather than just trialling it for a month.


Committing to a new diet for an entire year is intimidating, especially if it’s one that you’ve never tried before, so keeping a food or recipe diary with new ideas to keep you motivated could potentially be the answer to keep us going. Remember, variety is the spice of life! Keep making different things, and find which meals for which diet suits you the best.


Meal Prepping and Planning


Meal prepping and planning doesn’t have to be difficult. Plus, you’ll save yourself heaps of time. Image Credit: Ella Olsson on Unsplash.


Meal prepping and planning for the week ahead can really help to reduce food waste and energy usage. Cooking in bulk at the start of the week for multiple meals (in collaboration with a meal plan) would prevent us from buying too much food in a food shop, and from throwing out food that wasn’t eaten by the end of the week. Just a bit of time at the start of the week can set you up until Sunday, making mealtimes quicker and even more interesting.


If there is food waste, then you can always compost it in an at-home system. Many local councils are able to provide compost or food waste bins available so check locally to you! Alternatively, if there is left over vegetable peels or bones, then you can make a stock or broth, and freeze it to use over more extended periods of time, as and when you need it. 


Also, when doing your food shop at the start of the week, supporting local food places, such as farmer’s markets and farm shops, as well as buying organic or Fairtrade produce, are direct ways that we can shop sustainably and still have and make the food that we enjoy. It can be more expensive though, so making small changes gradually to each weekly shop instead of going all in at once would be a more manageable way to go about it.


REDUCING WASTE


Waste-less and Reusable Products


Even though it’s a part of our daily routine, and we may not think about it much, plastic and can deodorants are very wasteful and more difficult to get around when wanting to eliminate single/limited-use plastic from our lives. BUT – there is a solution. There is the Wild deodorant subscription with which you pay for the reusable deodorant case, and then pay for different deodorant refills that you can choose the scent of, and how many and how frequently you want the refills to be delivered. (Alternatively, you can buy the cases and refills independently from supermarkets and other places – depending on what you’d rather commit to.) The only plastic that is included is the reusable case itself, as the deodorants are packaged in recyclable cardboard that are harnessed in the case. Plus they smell really nice (and actually work) too. Many other companies are also beginning to come out with reusable and refillable options for a number of different everyday toiletries, so keep an eye out!


Period products are a huge source of single-use plastic waste and so finding reusable alternatives can be really beneficial for the planet, as well as massively reducing costs of buying period products. Alternatives like the silicone Diva Cup, which is a reusable and easy-to-clean switch in place of either pads or tampons. It is very popular with a lot of people that menstruate, but there are still some that may feel uncomfortable with it. As another alternative, there is Fluus, a company which specialises in completely 100% flushable pads, that are microplastic free and are biodegradable – even though they’re not reusable, they are zero waste and look and act as a regular pad would. Thankfully, coming into 2024 there are more and more options available to those that want to make living through their periods more sustainable – the choice is yours! 


Separating Recycling!


We all know how to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. But without separating your recycling waste, your efforts could be futile. Image Credit:  Michael Jin on Unsplash.


This might be obvious, but… Separate! Your! Recycling! Those pretty colours on bins aren’t just for decoration – I know it can be tedious work to separate everything out but it takes so little time out of your day and you can rest easy knowing you’ve recycled properly. Better yet, maybe try to reuse what you can from your recycling pile – get creative (you might just surprise yourself).


TRAVEL


Getting There


Trains not planes! Where it is possible to travel to your destination without flying, try and do so. When finding the form of transport that has the smallest carbon footprint, Our World in Data stated that ‘​​National rail emits around 35 grams [of carbon dioxide] per kilometre. A domestic flight emits 246 grams. So the footprint of taking the train is around 14% of a flight: [ 35 / 246 * 100 = 14%].’ Trains are the way to go if possible – it could make an interesting change!


For young people in particular, sites like Trainline, have lots of railcard options that make railway travel not only an environmentally friendly option but one that doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank!


Picking destinations 


Although going somewhere far abroad to chase the sun sounds like the more glamorous option for travel, maybe a resolution for this year could be to consider ‘staycations’ more often? 


There are so many beautiful places you can reach via public transport that are not only a huge financial saving but far more sustainable. Consider checking out campsite or Airbnb options – there are so many amazing locations to visit this year, practically on your doorstep!


Staying somewhere more local can be just as impressive and exciting as jetsetting abroad – if you do your research. Image Credit: Hasse Lossius on Unsplash.


Well then, Diary, I think that’s a good array to choose from. I don’t think I can pick just one resolution this year, so maybe all of them? Or perhaps I should resolve to be more decisive…

 

Lots of love,

Katie


About the author: Katie Jay is studying a BA in English at the University of Nottingham. She is also Vice President of the university’s Sustainability Society, in which she writes a weekly newsletter for her society’s members, informing them of ways to implement sustainability into their everyday lives. You can find her on Instagram @jjaykk and @nottssustainability.

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