5 fun ways to reduce your impact in the new year
Living amore healthful and budget-conscious life doesn't sound like fun, and it often isn't, which is why changes you make at the new year usually don't stick. (Hey, just being honest over here.) But what if you could achieve positive benefits for yourself and enjoy them too? That makes resolutions way easier to keep. The ideas below reframe some of your possible new year's resolutions — and they're lighter on the planet's resources too.
1. Don't buy new clothes: This is a good project to work on if you are also minding your budget, as it will definitely save you money. But not buying new clothes doesn't mean you have to go without any wardrobe updating. Limiting yourself to thrift and consignment stores (including online sources, like eBay and Etsy) will force you to be more creative, and trust me, you will find more unique items too. As a bonus, the hunt through the racks is a lot more challenging — and interesting— than just finding your size among a whole rack of the same item. Bring a friend along to make it fun! Trust me, the hard-won prize is always more valued, and you've created a fun memory too.
Not into shopping at all? Pull some old favorites from your closet and take them to your neighborhood tailor (research who's good in your area by asking friends on Facebook or consulting Yelp or Google reviews). He or she will be able to shorten and lengthen hems, sure, but can also revamp a dress into a skirt, a jacket into a vest, or any number of more radical changes.
2. Eat only the best chocolate: Yes, high-quality, organic chocolate is more expensive, which means you will eat less of it, and most likely savor it more (and reap all chocolate's health benefits too). You'll also be supporting cacao growers via fair trade, and organic practices (commercial cacao farms can be environmentally destructive) in those countries too. My favorite brands include Theo, Endangered Species Chocolate, Fearless Chocolate, Equal Exchange, Madecasse and Dagoba.
3. Teach yourself to cook one fabulous meal: Many of us have "learn to cook" or "cook more" on our list of new year's resolutions, but how do you even start to tackle that goal? It's so huge, it makes you want to quit before you've started. Begin with just one meal. Choose a main dish and two sides (if you make one of the sides a baked item, like rolls or a dessert, you can get some baking in too). Simply choose three things to make (maybe one harder thing and two easier ones?) put together a shopping list, and clear your evening in advance. Whatever time the recipes indicate, give yourself more — if you are a less-experienced cook it is likely that you will spend more time reading the recipe as you cook than someone who's experienced. Make it fun by inviting a friend over to hang out with you while you cook — or help you. And keep in mind: You will mess up — hence the three recipes (if you screw one up, you still have two others to eat!). The only way to gain confidence in the kitchen is by cooking, so start with one dinner, and work from there.
4. Get a piggy bank, and feed it: If you have a terrible time saving money (plenty of us do, don't be ashamed!), go old-school. Buy a cute piggy bank that you can set in a prominent place in your home, and feed it dollar bills, quarters, and fives whenever you come home. Small amounts of cash are less noticeable when we save them, and they really do add up over the months. The bonus is that feeding a piggy bank is way more fun (so you're more likely to put money in this bank than to transfer money to your savings account), and they're awfully cute too!
5. Look at your state like a tourist: Start now in planning a long weekend away somewhere within your home state. Find a natural area you haven't visited, a well-reviewed restaurant you've heard about in a far-off town, and a fun B&B or hotel in an area you have never checked out. The natural area should be free or low-cost, and you can use your own car or rent one (in-state rentals are always less-expensive), or even better, go to a city and use public transit. Then you can splurge on staying someplace unique and having a great meal or two. This plan keeps your money local, cuts carbon emissions compared to a longer-distance trip, and still gets you the mental and physical benefits of time off.