Green New Year’s resolutions

From buying second-hand clothes to cycling to lectures, there are plenty of ways to commit to a greener 2018

Stephanie Stacey Follow Stephanie Stacey on Twitter

Second hand clothes are also often much cheaper than new clothes, and the unique outfits can make your wardrobe more excitingInstagram : @retrodisplays

Stemming from a tradition that dates back to 153BC, it’s the time of year to make half-hearted promises about improving your life: New Year’s resolutions.

This year, instead of becoming a stereotype and wasting money on a gym membership that you’ll never use, why not let some of your New Year’s resolutions be in the best interests of the planet?

Here are some simple tips to go green in the coming year.

1) Recycle your paper

Those crumpled notes and failed attempts at essays deserve a second life.

The UK uses the equivalent of a woodland the size of Wales in paper every year. On the bright side, currently about two-thirds of paper is recycled, but we can always improve this figure by simply separating our paper from general waste and putting it in the correct bin.

70% less energy is needed to recycle and reuse paper compared to producing it from raw materials, and alongside this is a significant reduction in air pollution.

2) Reuse bottles

Approximately 275,000 tonnes of plastic is used every year in the UK, which is the equivalent of about 15 million bottles per day. Both the manufacture and destruction by incineration of plastic cause pollution of air, water, and land. Most water bottles are made from synthetic plastic, which does not biodegrade and therefore causes large amounts of landfill.

You can easily reuse a standard plain bottle, but treating yourself to something more fun and vibrant could be a good way to stay committed to this resolution. As for me, next term I'll be strutting into lectures with my stylish Disney princess water bottle.

3) Buy second-hand clothes

Buying used clothing reduces waste, and thus lessens the impact of landfill on our environment. It also reduces overproduction, and therefore fewer harmful chemicals and fossil fuels are generated and released into ecosystems and the atmosphere.

Second-hand clothes are also often much cheaper than new clothes, and the unique outfits can make your wardrobe more exciting. Added to this, there’s less chance that you’ll commit the embarrassing faux pas of wearing the same outfit as someone else.

“Unrealistic goals can lead to disappointment and loss of motivation, so know your own limits, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself”

4) Bring your own shopping bags

Similar to water bottles, plastic bags are a major environmental hazard and also a threat to wildlife if not disposed of carefully. It is estimated that shoppers around the world use and dispose of one million plastic bags a minute, which has devastating consequences, including the deaths of about one million seabirds annually.

Using your own bags can protect both the environment and your wallet – those 5p plastic bag charges add up!

5) Don't overfill the kettle

While I understand the desire to ensure you’ve got enough water to make the perfect cup of tea, boiling more water than necessary wastes electricity. If, like me, you live up to the student stereotype of having a heavy dependence on caffeine, the kettle probably sees a lot of action over the course of the year and this could have a significant impact on your energy consumption.

Alternatively, using a teapot so that none of the boiled water goes to waste provides you with the ability to both minimise energy use and maximise tea output.

6) Turn off the tumble dryer

A household using a tumble dryer 200 times a year could save up to half a tonne of CO2e (Carbon Dioxide Equivalent – the standard unit for measuring carbon footprints) by switching to a clothes rack or washing line, according to estimates by Mike Berners-Lee, author of How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything. The average carbon footprint in the UK is about 10 tonnes so this change could have a significant impact.

Although neither a washing line nor a drying rack can offer that beautiful fresh-from-the-tumble-dryer heat, these alternatives are both cheaper, and more environmentally friendly. Sacrifice that artificial warmth for the heart-warming feeling of protecting the planet.

7) Walk or cycle to lectures

This is already pretty standard for most students but I'm a firm believer in achievable New Year's resolutions, so you can feel good about yourself without too much effort. 


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An added benefit is that exercise helps you wake up, so you can remain alert during a painful early morning lecture. Studies have even shown that commuting on foot or by bicycle makes people happier.

Both for combatting climate change and committing to your resolutions, the key is sustainability. Unrealistic goals can lead to disappointment and loss of motivation, so know your own limits, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

Whatever happens next year, may both you and the planet have a bright future