Three new year’s resolutions to help the planet

This article first appeared in The Independent.

Fourteen days. That’s how long it will take many people to give up on their new year’s resolutions (although some won’t even make it to the second Friday of 2022 or “Quitters Day”, as it’s become known).

Maybe that’s understandable – after all, times are tough. But if you do want to set some goals, how can you make it more likely that you will succeed? Quite often, our resolutions involve making improvements to ourselves, and maybe that’s a bit easier to give up on. But what if we also make plans to help the planet? Would that make us more likely to stick with our resolutions?

If 2021 has taught us anything, it’s that time is up on business as usual. How many people had heard the phrase “heat dome” before this year (the dome of super-hot air that settled over western North America this past summer, smashing temperature records – and burning the land on a terrifying scale) or imagined there would be deadly, record-breaking floods in Germany in the summer or wildfires in Montana in winter?

This is just the start. It is what happens when the earth has warmed by about 1.1C since 1850-1900.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that found that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5C or even 2C will be impossible. Our last best hope at making that happen – Cop26 – failed to heed the IPCC’s warning but, as a result, more people realised that no one is going to ride to our rescue, especially not our governments.

So, it’s up to us now. It’s up to you: 2022 can be the year you make and stick to your resolutions. Here’s three planet-friendly ideas to get you started.

Firstly, pledge to undertake workplace activism. This doesn’t have to mean going on strike and it doesn’t have to be negative – in fact, it can be a positive for companies interested in enhancing their reputations.

While in the past, activism has mainly been used to promote greater rights for the worker, it can also be used to aid the rights of the planet. Take a look at the company or organisation you work for, even if you’re working from home. What could they do better to help the planet? Could they reduce travel for meetings, plough their profits into something meaningful, change their product or green their supply chain?

Could they lobby the government to raise standards in their industry (rather than for regulatory loopholes)? The possibilities are endless. An example of a new organisation that has got off to a good start in this area is Lawyers for Net Zero. Could you do something similar at your work?

Secondly, act age-appropriate. Be an elder, or a responsible parent, in the only way it is possible to be now – by joining with others to change the future, as well as taking care of your own kids or grandkids. Handcuffing yourself to railings or sitting in the middle of busy roads is not for everyone but that doesn’t mean your voice can’t be heard. Check out heymothership on Instagram and Parents for a Future and get involved.

Thirdly, help to build real communities. Being less reliant on carbon means being more locally based. Resilient communities need to adapt to the climate crisis and still be able to function. That means communities growing food locally, producing their own energy and caring for one another in ways that don’t often happen now. There’s much to do here, and the good thing about it is that it can be fun and feel connecting. Organisations worth getting involved with include Climate Emergency Centres, Transformative Adaptation and Transition Network. You could also find an existing group in your local area doing something real, such as a rewilding project with some fruit tree planting included in it, running a green gym or maintaining a community garden. These are going to be the ways in which we take care of ourselves where we live in the challenging years to come.