This year, why not think of Earth Day as being like New Year's Day? It's a once-annual chance to make a lifestyle change, to do things differently, and set yourself on track to achieve something you've wanted to do for a while. And if that desired change has the environment at its core, there's no better day to start than Earth Day.
Your change doesn't have to be big. In fact, like a financial investment, a small action can become a big one if you stick with it over time. We've often repeated the quote that "perfection is the enemy of progress," that it's better to start somewhere, doing something, than nothing at all.
To that end, here's a list of small yet effective resolutions you could make on this Earth Day. Commit to doing one of these for a year and see how it affects your waste output, your health, your outlook on the world.
1. Eat vegan until dinner. This diet, also known as VB6 (vegan before 6) and advocated by Mark Bittman and Jonathan Safran Foer, saves more carbon dioxide than being a full-time vegetarian – and you don't miss out on the biggest meal of the day.
2. Send your kids out to play. Sign up for the 1,000 hours challenge, where families accumulate 1,000 hours of outdoor play in a year, or if that's too much, aim for two hours of daily outdoor play. Your children will be happier, healthier, and more connected to nature.
3. Try some zero waste beauty products. Order some shampoo and conditioner bars, some bar soap, a bamboo toothbrush, toothpaste tabs, that menstrual cup – all the things you've read about but haven't gotten around to trying yet. You won't regret them.
4. Set up a backyard composter. If you have a backyard, order a compost bin (or build your own) and install it in an easy-to-access place. Put all of your food scraps into it, excluding meat and dairy, and you'll find the amount of curbside trash you set out weekly diminishes greatly.
5. Shop secondhand. Download the Poshmark app onto your phone or visit the ThredUp website before ordering clothing or shoes online. These companies have grown so much that there's a good chance you'll find exactly what you need, or something similar. Visit Facebook Marketplace, local swap sites, online auction houses, and more to find home furnishings, sporting gear, houseplants, kitchen tools, and plenty more.
6. Hang out laundry to dry. We're entering prime laundry-hanging season, which will get you used to it before the colder months return. Commit to avoiding your dryer unless absolutely necessary; you'll save big on energy and gain much in satisfaction — oh, and your clothes will last longer!
7. Walk or bike, don't drive. See if you can use your own leg power for all trips under three miles in length. It will require making time adjustments, but if you view that time as an investment in mental and physical health, it's not as hard to schedule. If you can sell a car, you might be able to justify purchasing an e-bike, which makes low-carbon travel even more accessible (and fun).
8. Learn how to cook five easy main dishes well. By honing your kitchen skills and developing some 'back pocket' recipes, you'll be less inclined to order takeout (and all its related packaging waste) and more likely to use up food in your fridge before it goes bad.
9. Try a buy-nothing challenge. Consumption is a major contributor to the USA's bloated carbon footprint, so it makes sense just to stop buying stuff. Do it for a week, a month, or a year, or establish a buy-nothing weekend once per month — whatever works for you. Create rules that allow for necessary purchases but eliminate superfluous ones. Discover the satisfaction that comes with using what you have.
10. Make your own coffee each day. And please don't use a single-serve plastic pod! Get a French press or a moka pot, both of which can be found second-hand, and commit to brewing your own at home. You'll save on disposable coffee cups, support local roasters that sell fair-trade, organic beans, and spend less overall on a higher-quality product. Just don't let that coffee go to waste; drink all of it or repurpose it somehow.