January 5, 2020

Climate Change Resolutions

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

A pretty view of the Glasshouse Mountains, near where I live in Brisbane, Australia.

Happy New Year, everyone!

This year, I am not worrying about stereotypical New Year’s resolutions, such as trying to exercise more or learn a new language. Instead, I am making some climate change resolutions. That is, I am making some resolutions to lower my environmental (including carbon) footprint. These resolutions are not perfect — there is certainly much more that I could do to lower my footprint. However, I have thought about these resolutions at length and have selected them because they will make a meaningful impact — and should also, importantly, be possible for me to stick to this year and beyond.

Without further ado, my climate change resolutions are:


Offset All of My Airline Emissions:

Airline travel contributes the most, by far, to my carbon footprint. I feel guilty about all of the emissions, and I do plan to take more local holidays with my husband and son. However, most of my family lives far away in another country, and I’m not willing to give up our trips to visit them. My job also requires lots of airline travel, both domestic and international. I will try to cut back on airline travel when possible, but I anticipate having to take quite a few flights in 2020.

While an imperfect solution, I will pay to offset the carbon footprint of all flights I take, both personal flights and work flights. Last year I offset all of the personal flights for me and my immediate family. This year I will offset all of my flights. I will do this either through the airline programs (for example, Qantas give you the option to pay a little extra to offset the emissions from your flights) or through a credible offset program, such as Gold Standard.


Walk More:

My next goal is to walk more. For example, to walk to the shops rather than drive — especially when I am only picking up a few items.

I have made progress on reducing my non-airline transport emissions since I moved to Australia last year. I used to drive to work every day. Now, I take the train — and often walk to the train station rather than drive. In 2020 I’ll try to drive to the station as little as possible, especially in the cooler months. This means getting my 2-year-old to walk (or to sit in a pram) on the way to daycare, but I’ll just have to budget extra time for that — and it will be good to show my son the example of walking as much as possible. At least when I do have to drive my emissions aren’t too bad — we purchased a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle when we moved to Australia.


Buy Less Stuff: 

This is a big one. I enjoy shopping, especially for clothes and books. Normally, I buy a few new items of clothes (or shoes or a bag or something along that line) every month. I don’t really need these items — I have a closet stuffed full of things to wear. However, buying them makes me happy. I have many happy memories of going clothes shopping with my mom — or with my sister or friends. Also, I grew up in the US and in a cultural environment where holidays mean that lots of little gifts need to be purchased, often inexpensive plastic novelties that get thrown away a short time later.

Anyway, I am going to make a strong effort this year to buy less stuff. I started with this lightly last year. For four months of the year, I went on a “shopping diet” and bought as little as possible, including no clothes, shoes, or purses.

This year I’m going to try to take that effort much further. I already made a change this December. I didn’t buy any clothes, etc. (for myself) — and I bought many fewer presents than usual. For most friends and family members, I donated to an environmental charity on their behalf and sent them an e-card. No one seemed to mind that I made a donation rather than send a gift – or, at least, they were too polite to say so.

In 2020, I am going to strive to really reduce my shopping. I’m only going to permit myself one “new clothes” shopping exception — I’ll let myself do just a little shopping with my mom when I visit the US. Otherwise, I’m going to really put myself on a shopping diet.

I have to be realistic here — this is going to be a tough one. To make it feasible, I will permit myself to buy a few clothing items from secondhand charity shops — say, every couple of months. I will also allow myself to buy books, but I will strive to buy secondhand books — or to buy e-books on Kindle, if I really want to read something new.

For gifts, I will strive for thoughtful, useful items rather than novelty items that are likely to be thrown away after a short use. When time permits, I’ll make a card for someone — or knit them a little gift. Or, sometimes, I will continue to donate to environmental charities on people’s behalf as a gift.


Waste Less Food and Eat Less Meat:

My husband and I are already pretty good about not wasting food, aside from what our picky toddler sometimes throws on the floor before we can stop him! However, we will try to be even more diligent here and will do our utmost not to waste food. We did just buy a composter, so that will help keep some food materials from going into the trash.

We are also going to strive to eat less meat. I gave it careful thought and have decided not to become completely vegetarian in 2020. I was vegetarian years ago, and I gave it up because I disliked not eating whatever was put in front of me (for example, when I was a guest somewhere), especially when travelling in certain countries. Also, I appreciate trying different cuisines — and my husband really enjoys having a nice steak now and then as a treat. However, there is nothing to stop us from eating less meat at home. Already, we tend to cook vegetarian 2-3 nights a week. This year, we will aim to add more vegetarian recipes to our list (we’ll aim to try at least one new one per month) and will try to increase our vegetarian eating to 3-4 nights a week, at least. If you have any good vegetarian recipes, please share them in a comment below!


Donate More to Climate Change and Environmental Charities:

I don’t have much time to dedicate to charity causes, but I do have some money that I can donate. I already make a monthly recurring donation to the National Center for Science Education, which does some fantastic work on climate change education. I’ll keep up this monthly donation, and I’ll add a monthly donation for Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors.

I’m also currently raising money for Australia Zoo through a birthday fundraiser – see this post.

I’ll make once-off donations, too — for example, as I did for some Christmas gifts this year.


Continue to Learn More About Climate Change:

I will continue to learn as much about climate change as possible, including the science, the economics, and the social/political aspects.

I am committed to this in a major way, since I am currently in my second year of a part-time M.Sc. in Carbon Management through the University of Edinburgh.

Keeping up with these studies while working full-time and being a mom is far from easy, but I will do it. I fully believe that knowing as much as possible about climate change will serve me well now and in the future, both in my professional life and personal life.


That’s all — I’ll let you know how I do with these resolutions as the year progresses.

What about you? Do you have any climate change resolutions? How will you strive to reduce your environmental footprint this year?