12 positive changes to make in the new year

By planetm | December 15, 2021

As we head into the new year, take control by embracing personal and social changes for the good of our mental health and the planet.

1. Move more

Anyone who has a desk job will know how easy it is to sit still for an hour or more whilst working. This can lead to stiffness, poor blood circulation, back pain and other problems. Try getting up a bit earlier and doing a couple of laps of the block, or walk down to the local park before you start work. Then try and get out again for 10 minutes at lunchtime, and finish the day with another walk.

If there’s somewhere you need to go that’s within walking distance, make a conscious decision to leave the car at home. If you’re working from home, these regular walks could be even more beneficial as they’ll provide structure to your day with ‘start’ and ‘end’ markers around your working day, clearly distinguishing work time from home time.

2. Give up fast fashion

There has been an increasing amount of talk about the impact of ‘fast fashion’, not only to the environment but also to the people involved in the production of the clothes. Fast fashion is second only to oil as the world’s largest polluter, by emitting 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.

Concerned? Check out loveyourclothes.org.uk – it has tips on how to repair your clothes and even upcycle them into new things. Rather than heading to the high street, take a trip to your local charity shop – there are often some real bargains to be found and you’ll be giving money to a good cause at the same time.

3. Go organic

If Europe’s farmland all followed organic principles, agricultural emissions could drop by 40-50 per cent by 2050, with plenty to feed the growing population healthy diets. Adopting nature-friendly farming along with other key changes to our food system could help keep global warming below 2°C. Organic soils store up to twice as much water, too – which makes them more resilient in a changing climate.

Organic farms are also havens for wildlife and provide homes for bees, birds and butterflies. On average, plant, insect and bird life is 50 per cent more abundant on organic farms. When it comes to bees, there are around 75 per cent more wild bees on organic farms. A veg box delivery service is a great way to ensure you’re getting fresh, organic produce delivered each week and will encourage you to experiment with new produce. Try Riverford, Abel & Cole or Novablooms.

4. Shop local

When the world went into lockdown due to Covid-19, we all became very aware of how important local shops were to us. Our local businesses were there for us when we really needed them, so let’s not just turn our backs on them now. So, whether it’s food shopping, gifts or other essentials, head to your local store rather than the supermarket or online. While you’re there, have a quick chat with the person serving you.

Note how much nicer it is to connect with another human rather than just clicking a button on your computer. Small businesses need our help right now – and often the produce on offer is fresher and better quality than the mass produced stuff we get from chain stores. Farm shops are a true treasure trove of goods if you’re lucky enough to have one close by, too.

5. Stop wasting energy

When you hear statistics such as ‘a single light left on overnight over a year accounts for as much greenhouse gas as a car drive from Cambridge to Paris’, you start to realise that the little changes you make around the home can have a really big impact! And you’re fully in control of this. Some actions you can start implementing today include turning down your thermostat (even reducing the temperature by one degree can save up to £75 a year) and turning off appliances once you’ve finished using them.

Have you thought about your energy supplier too? Ecotricity, for example, supplies 100 per cent green electricity and carbon neutral green gas and they’re dedicated to investing in new sources of green energy and developing sustainable projects.

6. Cut down on your food waste

According to food waste charity Wrap, 20 million slices of bread, 5.8 million potatoes and 1.3 million apples are thrown away in the UK – every single day! Combat this by embracing ‘ugly’ fruit and veg, planning your meals for the week ahead and making sure your fridge is set below 5 degrees Celsius – having it at the right temperature can help fresh produce to last three days longer. Check yours now!

7. Cut out dairy

There are approximately 270 million dairy cows worldwide, all of which produce greenhouse gases, water pollution, deforestation and soil degradation. Dairy is also high in saturated fats and can cause eczema, bloating or stomach pains if you have an intolerance. It’s never been easier to switch to plant-based dairy products.

Oat milk is one of the most planet-friendly choices and is incredibly creamy. To avoid cheese, cook meals that you wouldn’t naturally add it to – so opt for a stir-fry rather than pasta, or soup rather than a sandwich.

8. Save water this new year

Conserving water has benefits on all fronts – you use less energy, less carbon is produced in treating and transporting water and you can save a bit of money if you have a water meter fitted, too! To start saving water, first check for leaks. Do a quick scout around your home and get any dripping taps or leaking toilets fixed. These sorts of leaks can waste up to an incredible 200 litres of water every day!

You can also save six litres a day per family by turning the taps off while you brush your teeth. Another idea is to set a timer on your phone to keep your showers short. Every minute you shower, you can use up to 17 litres of water!

9. Try growing something

Gardening and growing your own veg has long been considered a mindful hobby and it’s a great thing to do if you’d like to live a little more sustainably. You can also get a great sense of satisfaction watching something grow! You don’t need a lot of space to grow things. Try regrowing your spring onions – once you’ve chopped the roots off, place the root ends in a glass of water without fully submerging them.

Put them in a warm spot and within a week they’ll start to regrow. Change the water regularly and harvest the greens when they’re grown. Or try cutting your celery stalks from the base, leaving a couple of inches attached. Place in a bowl of water and leave in a sunny spot. New shoots will begin to grow within a week, which can be planted in a pot with soil

10. Try a yoga session

Although yoga has been around for centuries, it seems to really be coming into its own as a popular form of exercise thanks to its ability to improve your strength, flexibility, balance and wellbeing. You may think you’re not flexible enough or that you lack the necessary concentration, but once you find a style that’s right for you, you’ll be amazed at how you much better you feel after even just one session.

Yoga offers so many health benefits, from improving your posture to increasing your blood flow, promoting concentration, helping to lower your blood pressure, releasing tension – even helping you to sleep better. Try Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, or check out The British Wheel of Yoga to find yoga classes in your area.

11. Go meat-free

Red and processed meat has been linked to bowel cancer and heart disease, and animal agriculture is one of the main attributors to climate change. So get creative with your cooking and let vegetables and pulses take centre stage. Visit veganfoodandliving.com for delicious ideas to prove that a meal without meat doesn’t lack flavour.

12. Leave your car at home

When the Covid-19 lockdown began, our cars suddenly became much less important to us. Many of us no longer had to commute to work, and we were encouraged to walk, run or cycle as a form of exercise and to get outside. Do you remember how refreshing that was? How much money you saved on petrol? And how quickly the air in cities cleared and the planet thanked us for this much-needed rest. How liberating would it be if you could make it a regular thing in your life?

Why not walk to pick your child up from school and enjoy the walk home, really connecting with them to talk about their day rather than having to concentrate on the traffic? Or explore your local area on a bike? Cars allow us such freedom and flexibility but sometimes it becomes all too easy to over rely on them.

Think about your relationship with your car and consider if it might be the opportune moment to spend some time apart, for yourself and for the planet.

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This article first appeared in issue 15 of Planet Mindful magazine. Want to live more mindfully? Check out more mindfulness techniques here.

Join the Planet Mindful community and make a pact to prioritise your self care – try an issue here for just 99p!