5 Simple, Effective Changes You Can Make For A More Sustainable Lifestyle In The New Year

January 6, 2020

The holidays have come and gone, the tofurkey has been eaten, the presents unwrapped, and it’s the first January of a whole new decade (decade!).

For many, January is a month of new beginnings. Whether it’s dusting off that gym membership you bought last year and swore you’d actually use (cliché, I know), taking the first steps to get your finances in order (what is a FICO score?!), or finally gathering the courage to end a relationship that no longer serves you (painful, I’ve been there), there’s no better time than the present to start working towards your goals.

For me, 2020 is the year I really want to begin living more sustainably. The oceans are filling up with plastic, Australia is suffering horrendously from climate change, the rate of species extinction is accelerating…and so on. While we individually may not be able to make grand changes, our daily actions contribute (or don’t) to these big environmental issues. So gone are the days where I *forget* to bring my own tote bag to the grocery store and opt for plastic, or *forget* to bring a straw but get that drink anyway. I’m realizing more and more that when I live in a way that aligns with what I care about, I feel good about myself on a deeper level.

So if you’re in the same boat and want to leave a lighter footprint this year, here are some items that will help you begin your journey.

1. To-Go Ware Utensils

Say goodbye to the days of single-use plastic forks and spoons. This cutlery set comes with a bamboo fork, spoon, knife, and chopsticks in a convenient carrying case (made of recycled plastic bottles) that you can toss in your bag. Bamboo is an incredibly durable material, which makes it heat and stain resistant. As stated on its website, one set of cutlery can replace 1300 single-use utensils throughout its life.

Find it here or here on Amazon.

Reusable utensils with covers

2. Reusable Produce Bags

Does it pain you a little bit every time you grab one of those clear, thin plastic bags when you’re in the produce aisle? Because it sure does make me very aware that I will never use this little plastic bag ever again when I get home, and there it will sit, with all the other single-used flimsy plastic produce bags in the landfill, for the rest of eternity. Okay, maybe not eternity, but for a l0ng, long time.

Anyway, curb that guilt in 2020 with a set of these cotton produce bags! They come in a few different sizes and there are three different bundle options. Plus, the tare weight of the bags is made clear on the tag, for added ease at the grocery store.

Onya reusable produce bag

3. Reusable Straws

Single-use plastic straws are so last, last year. In the past few years, I think we’ve all seen the movement to end single-use plastic gain momentum. In particular, many large companies have vowed to end the use of plastic straws, opting instead for paper straws or providing metal straws as a dining-in option. You can find your own metal, glass, bamboo, and many other options easily at local stores or on Amazon!

Reusable Straws

4. Reusable Coffee Cup

Going along with the reusable straw movement, the movement towards ditching single-use coffee cups has also been gaining more popularity. It only makes sense to bring our own cups for that daily dose because when you start thinking about how many people in the world buy a morning coffee, and then toss their empty cups a few hours later — well, you begin to visualize landfills filling up with sad, empty cups pretty easily.

Luckily, there are more than enough reusable alternatives out there. KeepCup is popular for being the first barista-friendly reusable coffee cup (meaning because their cups are made in the same shape/sizes as the cups coffee shops use, baristas won’t have any difficulty making you a drink in your own cup). Further, their cups come in many different colors and are aesthetically pleasing.

HydroFlask is great especially if you are an outdoorsy person and need your coffee (or tea) on the go. Their insulated tumblrs and cups keep drinks warm for up to 6 hours (yes, it really works) or cold up to 24 hours (whaaat!).

I’ve also heard great things about the brand Frank Green and Contigo, but have not personally used those. If you do a quick search, i’m sure you’ll find more options than you’d know what to do with!

Reusable Coffee Cup

5. Sustainable Menstrual Care

For all my ladies with a flow out there—we know how wasteful period products are. Think about how many tampons/pads you use each month. And then think about how many other period-havers there are out there. That’s a LOT of discarded feminine hygiene products. If this is something you’d like to work on changing in the new year, you could consider a menstrual cup, reusable cotton pads, and period underwear.
There are many types and sizes of menstrual cups out on the market—including Luna Cups, Saalt Cups, Cora Cup, Nixit, and so on. If you’re more interested in trying out single-use pad alternatives, you could consider the Glad Rags or Luna Pads. For those of you with lighter flows, you could even get away with using Thinx period underwear.

Menstrual Cup

6. Go Vegan! (even a few days a week)

The science is pretty clear—the choices that we make on our dinner plates have major environmental impact. Did you know that one quarter-pounder hamburger takes 150 gallons of water to end up on your plate? Or that one calorie from animal protein requires eleven more times as much fossil fuel as one calorie of plant protein?

Eating vegan doesn’t mean eating a boring rotation of salads or smoothies. Vegan food can be super healthy and highly nutritious, super delicious and nutritious for your soul (0r sweet tooth), and more often than not both. This sweet potato breakfast bowl, vegan curry, and brownies are a few of my favorite (and easy!) vegan recipes 🙂

Whether you’re interested in the ethical, environmental, or health-based impacts of a plant-based diet, you have the choice to make this year the year you commit to being a more conscious eater.

If you’re interested in learning more about going vegan or adopting a plant-based diet, GameChangers, Forks Over Knives, and Cowspiracy are great documentaries that you can check out on Netflix.

If you’re looking for even more sustainable alternatives for your daily essentials, I recommend that you check out Package Free Shop. They’re an online retailer specializing in zero-waste, and on their site you’ll be able to find everything from package-free shampoo to biodegradable phone cases.

Happy New Year, and happy new year of sustainability!


Photo: Alexander Schimmek via Unsplash; Rakuten Global Market; Onya; Anthropologie; Me & Reegs

Lillian Zhou is a Michigan-born freelance writer, photographer, and English teacher currently based in Asia. She enjoys making and eating vegan food, listening to sad indie music, and drinking tea while wishing it was autumn year-round. You can find her on Instagram @lillianzhouu.


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