The beginning of the new year is always a great time for reflection and goal setting. At reFRESH Marketplace and Cowichan Green Community, we encourage you to strive for a greener 2022 by mindfully working to reduce your environmental footprint. We also know saving money is another common (and important) resolution. So, we figured we’d help you kill two birds with one stone by writing out five eco-friendly New Year’s resolutions that will help you save some money along the way.

Eat less (mass-produced) meat

There’s no arguing against the fact that mass-produced meat is detrimental to the environment. Industrial meat production is one of the greatest contributors to climate change including mass deforestation, biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and soil degradation. 

Reducing meat consumption is actually the single most important action one can take to help the environment. A study from the University of Michigan found eating a vegetarian meal one day a week could save the equivalent of driving 1,160 miles. Even just switching away from eating beef to chicken instead could reduce your personal carbon footprint by 882 pounds of carbon dioxide.

You don’t need to go 100% vegetarian or vegan to reduce your intake and help the environment. At the end of the day, it’s way better to have millions of people doing something imperfectly than to have a few people doing it perfectly. 

Reducing your meat intake can actually help you save money, as well. It’s a common myth going vegetarian or vegan is expensive. While certain plant-based alternatives and restaurants can certainly be a bit costly, the basic protein staples you need to sustain a healthy diet are pretty cheap, such as chickpeas, beans, tofu, and lentils. 

However, if you do eat meat, consider sourcing it from a local producer that manages their livestock using rotational grazing, which actually improves soil fertility. Plus, smaller producers tend to treat the animals more humanely than massive institutional livestock farms, and purchasing from local farmers reduces emissions from transportation. For instance, here at reFRESH Marketplace, we sell meat from Schroeder’s Farm, which is a family-run farm in the Cowichan Valley that feeds surplus food from our Food Recovery Program to its livestock.

Buy second-hand clothes

Fashion trends constantly change, and sometimes people throw out pieces of clothing after only wearing them a few times. Once fabrics hit the landfill, they spend hundreds of years generating greenhouse gases. This is environmentally harmful and financially wasteful, not to mention preventable. 

In North America, 10 million tonnes of clothing are sent to the landfill every year. The fashion industry also consumes massive amounts of water – in fact, it’s the second most water-intensive industry in the world. Specifically, it takes 1,800 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans and 2,257 gallons to make one pair of shoes. The fashion industry is also responsible for around 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second largest polluter in the world, right after the oil industry.

When you purchase second-hand clothes, from thrift stores or from buy-and-sell groups online, not only do you save money but you help combat climate change. Second-hand stores are full of great finds and hidden gems at affordable prices – this way, you can look great, feel good about your environmental contributions, and save some money. 

Plan and prepare your meals ahead of time

Planning and preparing your meals ahead of time is a great way to save time and money while reducing food waste. 

In Canada, an estimated 58% of all food is wasted – largely at the consumer level. Not only do you lose the money you spent purchasing the food, but this food waste has detrimental effects on the environment. When food ends up in landfills, it creates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Also, when food is wasted, all the resources used to make it are also wasted – including the water used in agricultural production, greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, and the plastic packaging used to sell it in the stores. 

Before you go to the grocery store, make a list of meals you plan to make for yourself and your family for the week and then buy only what you need. Consider also planning your meals around ingredients that can be purchased in bulk or with minimal packaging. Then, allocate one or two days a week to spend an hour preparing the meals. 

When you have a fridge full of delicious ready-made meals, you’ll be less inclined to impulsively order take-out, which is often unhealthy, expensive, and laden with disposable packaging. Plus, you’ll save yourself extra time to spend with family and friends and do more of the things you love doing.

Avoid plastic bags while grocery shopping

One of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce the amount of unnecessary plastic waste you use while grocery shopping is to bring reusable grocery bags everywhere you shop. Some cities, such as Nanaimo, have banned the stores from supplying plastic shopping bags altogether.

After cigarette butts, plastic bags are the second-most prevalent form of litter, which then end up polluting our oceans, forests, rivers, lakes, and beaches. Plastic bag pollution contributes to the millions of unnecessary deaths of sea creatures, including turtles, dolphins, seals, and whales. 

The production of plastic bags is also detrimental to the environment, as they are made of petroleum-based polyethylene, requiring 12 million barrels of oil to produce each year. This nonrenewable resource generates a high amount of greenhouse gases, contributes greatly to global warming, and increases our dependency on fossil fuels. 

Most grocery stores sell reusable bags for a few bucks a pop, which will last you for years. There are also a plethora of eco-friendly reusable bags that are slightly more expensive, but are made of recycled or biodegradable materials.  

Upcycle Old Items 

There’s no need to purchase brand new containers when many old products can be repurposed into new and useful things. For instance, you can make super cool planters out of filing cabinets, old toilets, or bottles. Newspapers and old fabrics make great gift wrap. You can melt the wax out of old candle jars and turn them into super cute containers for all kinds of things, such as rubber bands, coins, or even snacks. 

By upcycling items instead of purchasing new ones, you effectively help reduce the amount of hazardous waste production during the manufacturing process, reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, and reduce the need for the production of raw materials, resulting in less pollution and greenhouse emissions. Plus, you get the chance to sharpen your super handy DIY crafting skills instead of buying new things you don’t need.

How will you follow through with your resolutions?

We all know listing our New Year’s resolutions is the easy part – consistently following through with them throughout the year is where it gets difficult. While apps and journaling and setting intentions can all be good ways to help you stay on track, at the end of the day you know yourself and your needs best. After setting these resolutions, sit down and make a plan for how you can best check in with yourself and hold yourself accountable – for the planet and your bank account. Remember, when it comes to adapting to a more eco-friendly lifestyle, it’s better to do something imperfectly than to not do it at all.