The new year is here—and so is your chance to make eco-friendly resolutions your whole family can get behind.
Of course, we all know how successful most New Year’s resolutions are. That’s why making resolutions as a family can be so powerful. “When people pledge together, they’re more likely to follow through because everyone's keeping an eye on everyone else," says sustainability expert Jessian Choy, founder of the green tips website FunandDraconian.com. Try posting your resolution where everyone will see it—like on the fridge or beside the computer—and have everyone sign it. Just be prepared for some major shaming from your kids when you lapse! Says Choy: "Kids will likely have fun saying, 'Didn't you say you would ...?'"
Need some ideas for family-friendly resolutions that will help protect the Earth? Here are five ideas for your clan to try.
Skip beef on Mondays.
If Meatless Mondays seem like too much, try going beefless instead. Deleting just one quarter-pound serving of beef each week can make a big difference to the environment. Eating less beef means fewer livestock will be farmed—and cows take a lot of fertilizer, land, and energy. By eating something other than beef once a week for three months, a family of four could cut the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as driving 348 miles produces, according to Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Skip beef for a whole year, and it’ll be like you’ve cut 1,392 miles.
Speeding to get kids to soccer practice or piano recitals isn’t just risky for us. It could also be risky for the planet. The faster we drive, the more gas we burn—which means more harmful emissions put into the environment. Driving 55 miles an hour is actually 8 percent more efficient than driving 65 miles an hour, and a whopping 28 percent more efficient than driving 80 miles an hour, according to The Sierra Club. In fact, back when the federal speed limit was 55 miles an hour, Americans used 167,000 fewer barrels of gasoline a day.
Take the shower challenge.
Showering guzzles 2.5 gallons of water a minute, which means that a 10-minute shower uses 25 gallons, wasting water and the energy it takes to heat it. Challenge your family to set a timer (apps are great for this) and see if they can stick to a five-minute shower. To make it extra fun, put on an upbeat, five-minute song like “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra. When the song’s done, it’s time to turn off the tap. Bonus: You’ll save money too—about a dollar per five minutes, depending on where you live.
Swap plastic for playtime.
Admit it: Your kid’s room is probably crammed with plastic toys they played with for about a minute. We get it. But recycling plastic can be tricky, and at-capacity thrift stores sometimes have to throw away donations. That means more plastic hanging around for thousands of years in a landfill, or winding up in the ocean. So consider a family resolution to swap out every other plastic “must have” request for a special activity like a family hike, crafting time, upcycling time with an old toy, or a trip to the park.
Adopt some worms.
This one might seem gross, but kids love it. Food scraps and yard waste add up to about 28 percent of what we throw away. But if everyone in the United States composted, it’d be like taking 7.8 million cars off the roads. (In a landfill, food releases methane, a planet-warming greenhouse gas.) Let worms eat your kitchen scraps instead! Called vermicomposting, it starts with simply filling two-thirds of an 18-gallon bin with garden store compost or a mix of yard clippings, shredded newspaper, and soil. Then just adopt about a pound of red worms or red wigglers from your local pet or garden store, have the kids feed them leafy scraps and peels, and let the pooping begin. (A top layer of newspaper will keep your worms inside.) The result will be nutrient-rich compost for your garden.