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Published on February 12th, 2018 | by The Beam

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We Asked: What Are Your Top 3 New Year Resolutions For A Greener & More Sustainable Lifestyle In 2018?

February 12th, 2018 by  


By Anne-Sophie Garrigou

As 2018 started, many people around the world optimistically set themselves New Year’s resolutions. Most folk probably pledged that 2018 will be the year when they start exercising, stop smoking, save money, read more and learn new skills. But we knew that asking you, our friends and readers, for your 2018 resolutions would yield a completely different set of answers. We’ve picked out the top 3 New Year’s resolutions you’ve made and presented them alongside some tips to help keep them all year long!

  1. Eat less meat.

Among all your answers, the most frequent sustainable resolution for the New Year is to reduce your meat consumption. As a vegan, I can’t agree more with this. Now, for the ones out there who think this is only about the methane produced by cattle, let me tell you what’s not sustainable about meat.

One of the first consequences of a meat-based diet is deforestation. In 1990, the World Hunger Program at Brown University calculated that world harvests, if equitably distributed with no diversion of grain to feeding livestock, could provide a vegetarian diet for 6 billion people, whereas a meat-rich diet like that of people in the wealthier nations could support only 2.6 billion. In other words, with the current population exceeding 6 billion, we are already into deficit consumption of land. The only way to feed all the world’s people, if we continue to eat meat at the same rate or if the population continues to grow as projected, is to clear more forest.

Another thing that’s increasingly problematic is fresh water supply. A few years ago, water experts calculated that we humans are now using half of the available fresh water on the planet  —  leaving the other half to be divided among a million or more species. Since we depend on many of those species for our own survival (they provide all the food we eat and oxygen we breathe, among other things), hogging water poses a dilemma. If we break it down, species by species, we find that the heaviest water use is by the animals we raise for meat.

Now, let’s talk seriously about meat energy consumption, more precisely about the energy consumed on the journey a steak makes to get to your refrigerator. There is the energy needed to grow the grain to feed the cattle, which requires a heavy input of petroleum-based agricultural chemicals; the fuel required to transport the cattle to slaughter, then to the market, and to your home, knowing that much of the world’s meat is hauled thousands of miles. The annual average beef consumption of an American family of four requires over 260 gallons of fossil fuel.

We could also talk about grassland destruction, biodiversity loss and threat of extinction, and lifestyle disease (heart disease is linked to obesity resulting both from excessive consumption of sugar and fat, especially meat fat). So yes, Jose Pontes, “trying to eat more veggie food” does count! 🙂

Now, how can you keep this resolution this year?

  1. Buy yourself a good vegan or vegetarian cookbook and get into it! Here is an example that will shift the way you see vegan cooking.
  2. When you go to the restaurants, have a look at the vegetarian and vegan options, you might be surprised!
  3. Get informed! We have a lot of articles about the future of food and nutrition.

  1. Go plastic-free.

Once you have reduced your meat-consumption, the next step when you’re at the supermarket is to be aware of packaging. I was so upset last Christmas, when visiting the mall in England to buy some fresh veggies for our vegan meal, that all organic vegetables were wrapped with a lot of useless plastic!

What’s the big fuss about plastic? According to a study published in the journal Anthropocene in 2016, humans have made enough plastic since the WWII to coat the Earth entirely in clingfilm! In fact, plastics production has increased twenty-fold since 1964, reaching 311 million tonnes in 2014. This figure is expected to double again in the next 20 years and almost quadruple by 2050. We’re addicted to it!

Some people would say it’s all fine, we’ll recycle it. Well guess what, only 5% of plastic packaging is recycled properly!

In fact, 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year, which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean EVERY minute. This figure is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050. Now, here is the most creepy fact of all, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation “the ocean is expected to contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastic than fish.” Yes, you read that correctly. Unless we take serious action, and industry cleans up the ocean, there will be more waste plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.

Let’s have one last fact for the ride: the plastics industry uses as much oil as the aviation sector. Yikes. “The plastics industry takes up roughly 8% of oil production, and [given projected growth in consumption] it’s forecast to rise to 20% by 2050,” explains Joss Blériot, executive lead for editorial and policy at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Here are some concrete actions you can take in 2018:

  1. Just like our contributor Lucia Lenci, you can start by banning plastic bottles from your life. “I cannot live without my BPA free 24Bottles anymore. Apart from offering a sustainable option, it reduces my carbon footprint thanks to multiple reforestation projects.”
  2. Another easy step is to stop EVER using plastic bags at the mall. Here at The Beam, Caroline Sorbier admitted that she put a sticker on her door to stop forgetting to bring her own bag when going shopping. We love it!
  3. If you live in the city, find the nearest zero waste shop. Theresa Schneider, from RGI, told us she loves the one in Berlin, and I couldn’t agree more! It’s a great concept, and a super cool place.
  4. Be creative! Reuse, recycle, and revamp your food storage. Glass, ceramic, and stainless steel are great food storage materials that can go from stove to fridge to freezer easily. My kitchen is full of it and it looks so much better than plastic packaging!
  5. Nathan Bonnisseau, from PlanA.Earth, decided to stop using single usage cutlery, glasses, bottles, and packaging. “I now have my very own portable stainless steel mug for places that accept this obvious improvement for everybody.” That’s another simple idea to adopt.
  6. Fid Thompson, from Solar Sister, told us that in 2018, she will keep on asking people to stop putting plastic straws in her drink! “Much harder to do in countries where clean drinking water is not readily available,” she admitted.

  1. Travel better.

The third resolution that came back the most in your resolutions was about transportation. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, transportation contributed more than half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides in 2013 in the US, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into the air. Now, the issue with air pollution is obviously health. An estimated 92% of the world’s population lives in areas with dangerous levels of air pollution and, even at seemingly imperceptible levels, air pollution can increase one’s risk of cardiovascular and premature death. In fact, air pollution is almost as deadly as tobacco. In 2016, it was linked to the deaths of 6.1 million people, according the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Once you know that, you can’t just keep on driving your car.

So what have you decided for 2018? Sieun Lee, from the International Organisation for Migration, told us she wanted to switch from car to public transportation for commuting and Tobias Engelmeier, from TFE Consulting, said he was going to try to use the train more. William Brent from Power for All said he wanted to reduce his work-related flights by trying new remote meeting options, and continue to only use public transport. I think these are easy things to do for all of us who live and work in the city. I’m celebrating my Berlin 2-year anniversary and I realized I never, ever, took a car here. I usually bike from March to November, and use public transport when it gets too cold. I am also convinced that it’s way more relaxing than driving my own car and being stuck in traffic!

Now, I can see how difficult it can be to change your habits. We live in a world where traveling became easier and cheaper. Whether you travel for work or for leisure, you want to get there fast, and the plane is usually the best option. But here are a few ideas to help you reduce your carbon footprint.

  1. When you’re invited to a climate-conference to give a talk, take a stand by saying you’ll do it from your office on video-conference. People would probably appreciate it much more than you think!
  2. Instead of flying to Rome this weekend, Amsterdam next week, Porto for a long weekend this summer, and Athens for 3 days in September, take one long holiday! Long holidays are always better anyway.
  3. If you really need to take your car, use any carpooling service. I’ve used BlaBlacar A LOT in France, especially for long commutes. I always meet the most interesting folks on the 7 hours-drive from Paris to my home-town in south of France.
  4. Or like our founder Benjamin Schulz in Berlin, you can also decide to only drive electric vehicles in 2018. We dare you 😉

Here are some of the other resolutions we’ve received:

“As global warming keeps accelerating, my resolution for 2018 is to further strengthen my personal struggle against it. On a private level I keep deploying renewable energy sources at home, eating organic food without meat, avoiding plastic waste and looking for fair trade products in everyday life. And as political advisor, I will keep expanding my national and international activities aimed at improving climate change policy and a shift to 100% renewable energy worldwide.” – Hans-Josef Fell, from Energy Watch Group.

“In 2018, I want to buy sustainable and ethical clothing.” – Jonny Tiernan.

“Pick up trash that isn’t mine. Let’s not put boundaries on a topic that has none. If we declare that we are all responsible for the environment, then all trash is my trash and my trash is your trash. Of course, that nice resolution doesn’t include not telling polluters off when you catch one red-handed!” – Nathan Bonnisseau, PlanA.Earth

“I am going to use natural cosmetics, soaps and creams. The presence of plastic particles in personal care and cosmetic product (PCCP) formulations is risky for the health and it contributes to pollute our oceans.I recently got familiar with INCI names and in 2018, I’ll only buy personal care products which are certified, organically produced and most of the time vegan.” – Lucia Lenci

On another note, the most original resolution we received, and one that I should definitely consider myself, comes from our friend Neha Misra, from Solar Sister: “Mine is to create more space for stillness, silence and meditation in a world of too much noise, constant movement and information.”

I’ll leave you on that beautiful note.

Anne-Sophie Garrigou, Editor-In-Chief of The Beam

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About the Author

The Beam Magazine is a quarterly print publication that takes a modern perspective on the energy transition. From Berlin we report about the people, companies and organizations that shape our sustainable energy future around the world. The team is headed by journalist Anne-Sophie Garrigou and designer Dimitris Gkikas. The Beam works with a network of experts and contributors to cover topics from technology to art, from policy to sustainability, from VCs to cleantech start ups. Our language is energy transition and that's spoken everywhere. The Beam is already being distributed in most countries in Europe, but also in Niger, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Japan, Chile and the United States. And this is just the beginning. So stay tuned for future development and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Medium.



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