Thinking of new year’s resolutions you’ll actually stick to is hard. Gym memberships get renewed, job searches surge, and people start swiping left on dating apps once more. It can feel like a bit of a slog. But it doesn’t have to be. Turn the January blues into positive action with some simple, sustainable New Year’s resolutions. Looking to get fit too? Check out our guides to getting fit without spending a penny.

Recycle your Christmas tree

Sustainable New Year's Resolutions Christmas Tree in bin
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Start your sustainable New Year’s resolutions right after the festive season. Real trees are only a better option for the environment than artificial ones if they’re disposed of responsibly.

According to the Carbon Trust, a real Christmas tree that ends up in landfill produces methane when it decomposes, which is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The good news is, there are plenty of ways to reuse or recycle a real tree. Pot-grown living trees can be reused again. But if it’s a cut tree, there are still ways to curb waste once the decs are all down.

If you’re able to transport it down to your local recycling centre, it can be chopped, chipped and reused on paths or used for soil. And if you can’t, check whether your local council will do free treecycling—some councils let you put them in with garden waste. Check if trees need to be cut into smaller pieces first, and obviously remove all decorations, soil and the pot first.

If neither of those services are available in your borough, some charities like Just Helping and St John’s Hospice will take them away in return for a small donation.

Collection dates and times vary, but are usually between 6-20 January.

If you’re done with your artificial tree and don’t have space to keep it, it doesn’t have to end up straight in the landfill. Check if your local charity shops will take them for the next year.

Redistribute and recycle surplus and old clothes

Sustainable New Year's Resolutions Donation
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It’s fair to say we cheapos love a bargain. But the UK’s love affair with cheap and fast fashion has a (fairly big) negative impact on the environment. The textile industry creates 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. And according to a study by environmental charity Hubbub, British people spend £2.40 billion on outfits for the festive season that will be worn fewer than three times.

There’s not much to love in those stats. But if you’ve started the new year with some new threads, or knitwear-based gifts, the old stuff doesn’t have to go to waste. After Christmas you can drop off items to charities like Help Refugees, The Whitechapel Mission and St Mungo’s. They’ll be given as surplus layers to people who really need them.

If some of your old stuff is no longer wearable, you don’t have to bin it. Even well-worn, torn and moth eaten items can be recycled at textile banks.

Shop second hand

Sustainable New Year's Resolutions vintage clothes
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Sustainable fashion isn’t such a new concept. Vintage and pre-loved shopping has moved from the alternative to the mainstream culture. Look to the past to create new looks and minimise the environmental impact of your wardrobe too.

If you’re new to secondhand shopping, start locally. Charity shops can be a treasure trove for vintage lovers. The downside is, it’s a bit of pot luck when it comes to sizing and style. You might have to sift through a few racks worth of Primark cast-offs to find something more interesting. But, when you do get lucky, you get the bonus of cutting down on your carbon footprint by not buying online.

You might have more luck at vintage markets and shops. Vintage fairs pop up all over London (outside of COVID-19 times, anyway). Plus there are large vintage shops like Beyond Retro, Traid and Rockit. Traid also runs clothing repair workshops if you’re keen to fix things up.

If you have something more specific in mind, try searching online at eBay, Depop and Vinted for vintage and preloved finds.

Buy less, borrow more

Chances are you’ve got a few subscriptions on the go for various entertainment sites. Well, that idea is now extending to the fashion industry. A growing number of clothing rental schemes means saving waste and, let’s face it, precious London storage space.

Rental schemes range from designer outfits to high street favourites. You can read more about UK clothing rental here.

Borrowing doesn’t just stop at clothes. There are plenty of sharing-economy apps and sites like Gumtree and Fat Llama where people rent out anything from power tools to bikes, skis and camera equipment for a small fee.

Sharing is about people as well as stuff too. London can be a lonely place, so sharing items is a good way of connecting with your community too. Apps and sites like Streetbank and Next Door gives users a chance to get to know their neighbours better.

Bulk buy household products

Sustainable New Year's Resolutions buy bulk
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When it comes to domestic products, bigger can be better. Household essentials like cleaning products and toiletries generally have a high-turnover of plastic packaging. However, eco-friendly brands like Ecover, Bio and Method cut back on harmful chemicals in their products, and also come in bulk sizes. You can buy products up to 5 litres with a pump, which can be decanted into smaller, re-useable containers for daily use where needed.

For bathroom essentials like shampoo, conditioner, soap and shower gel, brands like Faith In Nature also offer bulk sizes. They use 100% recycled plastic in their packaging too.

Cut back on meat and dairy

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Climate scientists including experts from UN have been pretty clear in their message about the role of meat and dairy in global warming. Think you’d struggle with Veganuary but want to reduce your meat and dairy consumption? Try a more ‘flexitarian’ diet instead as one of your sustainable New Year’s resolutions.

If the label puts you off, it’s basically switching to a part-time vegetarian or vegan diet. The key thing is, it’s about reducing not eliminating meat and dairy completely. So it could mean anything from eating veggie meals Monday-Friday and having a roast dinner at the weekend, or whatever combination works best for your dietary requirements.

There are health benefits as well as environmental benefits too a flexitarian diet too. A 2015 study by the American Heart Association found that a semi-vegetarian diet reduces risks of heart disease and stroke.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in December, 2019. Last updated December, 2020.

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