Resolutions for A More Sustainable Year
We’re all familiar with the idea of an annual New Year’s resolution where we gear up to take on a challenge that…probably falters by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around. That’s why, at Finch, we’re owning flexibility and celebrating every small win and setting resolutions each month to gradually (and practically!) improve our relationship with the planet.
At the end of the day, we believe our individual actions can have a pretty powerful collective impact.
As we set our goals for 2023, we’re looking back on our resolutions from the past 12 months and doubling down on our faves. All of these can be practiced year-round or on a monthly basis– which will you commit to in 2023?
Here's a look back at all of our sustainable resolutions this year:
- January: Cut Back on Energy Use
- February: Wait 24 Hours Before Buying Something New
- March: Go Vegan
- April: Spring Cleaning is here!
- May: Fight That Eco-Anxiety
- June: Minimize Your Travel Footprint
- July: No Single-Use Plastic
- August: Leave No Trace
- September: No Paper Towels
- October: Don’t Throw Food Away in the Trash
- November: No Take-Out Food
- December: Don’t Buy Anything For Yourself
Cut Back on Energy Use
January 10th was National Cut Your Energy Costs Day. Whether you’re living with your parents, just moved into an apartment with your significant other, or are traveling around the country in your converted camper van, let’s all try to find one or two hacks to cut our energy costs (and emissions!). Since our day of inspiration falls on January 10th, let’s each shoot for a 10% reduction.
January Recap From Our Founder, Lizzie:
“I reduced my energy cost by 7% this month, so I’d say it wasn’t a complete failure!”
Here’s what some of the Finch community found most helpful:
- Buy a smart thermostat - this generally saves an average of 10%-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling! Wow.
- Sign up for Arcadia Energy. These masterminds help you sync with your utility to bring greener energy to your mix.
- Conduct your own energy audit at home. Not included: hard hats & cool electrician outfits (also not necessary).
- Unplug all chargers when they’re not in-use and make sure your lightbulbs are LEDs.
Wait 24 Hours Before Buying Something New
Who hasn’t ordered a sushi-making kit at 1 AM from an Instagram ad after one too many White Claws and regretted it immediately the next day? It’s not just me, is it? Well…our February resolution is all about reducing that impulse control to help your environmental footprint and your budget.
This month, we’re implementing a 24-hour waiting period before buying something new (food & other necessities don’t count...please continue to eat and make sure you have toothpaste. In fact, if you want the inside scoop on which toothpaste to scoop, we’ve made this handy-dandy guide).
Here’s how it works: Browse for things you need or want online or in the store (or those that target you…damn you, brilliant algorithm!), but don’t spring for it until 24 hours later after you’ve had time to really think about it. If you still want it, proudly hit that purchase button. If not, you’ve possibly saved yourself more money than you would have by switching to Geico.
February’s the ultimate “nesting” month and, frankly, there just isn’t a lot we need!
February Recap From Our Founder, Lizzie:
"When browsing the internet, we found it so simple to take a 24 hour breather before buying. After 24 hours, we were either sure we wanted to buy it, or we’d changed our minds. Honesty check? We didn’t account for things that just needed to be replaced…even if they weren’t necessities (although mascara is a necessity for some…). We think we’ll keep doing this for the rest of the year!"
Here’s what some of the Finch community found most helpful:
- Unsubscribe from department store emails. “I found that when I get a ShopBop email, it’s so tempting to be like ‘oh, these shoes are 50% off!’ but, in reality, I didn’t even need the shoes in the first place. Without these email reminders, it forced me to shop only when I needed something.” - Monica, 34, Finch user
- Don’t deprive yourself. It’s totally okay to buy items that you want and don’t necessarily need, but things get tricky once you start buying things you think you want and then realize a week later you’ll likely only use once. That’s when we end up with things like this.
- Put down the wine. A few of our followers said that they seemed a little more “credit-card happy” after a bloody mary or a night out. Generally, it’s best to make sure you’re in a clear state of mind, as objects may appear more crucial than they are.
Finch is all about not having to compromise the things we love because we know how important that is. So, this goal may seem a bit out of left field.
Here’s the thing…the entire food production industry accounts for about 35% of all global emissions and over half of that is specifically meat production. With so many amazing new cookbooks and plant-based alternatives, being a vegan has become easier and more enjoyable than it has ever been before.
The Superbowl is over, Memorial Day cookouts are months away, so use this month to get creative in the kitchen and realize you don’t actually miss that parmesan on your pasta or bacon on your sandwich as much as you thought you did. And, if you decide you DO miss those things, well then you’ve only given them up for a month, seems like a win-win.
**We’re not doctors and know that there’s no one size fits all. If you need animal products for health, religious, or cultural reasons, maybe try repeating last month’s resolution or finding something that works for you.**
March Recap From Our Founder, Lizzie:
"This was one that I felt at my very core at least three times a day. I am usually a pescatarian, so I thought that being a vegan wouldn’t be that hard of a change. Here’s what I noticed:
- Staying vegan at home was a sinch for me. There are so many awesome alternatives to animal-based products that taste fantastic without the emotional (or physical) hangover. My favorite recipe was this one from Jessica Seinfeld’s book.
- Fun fact: lots of store-bought pastas are vegan, so you can have some delicious Italian feasts at home. At a restaurant, it’s likely they’re made with eggs.
- Eating at restaurants was really hard. I started every order with “I’m sorry this is so annoying, but I’m vegan. Do you have any recommendations?” and while most waiters were very nice, I felt guilty making the role of waitstaff a little more difficult than it already is. (Not to say that vegans are inherently annoying! But when you are given a menu of options and they have to be altered in some way to be in line with your diet, that can be frustrating).
- I’m one of those pescatarians who absolutely LOVES the taste of meat, so I depended on those fake alternatives. Some of my favorites were JustEgg, Beyond Meat, Impossible, and Three Girls Vegan. Chicken Pot Pie?! Are you KIDDING me?
- It’s really good to have a buddy. My brother-in-law did this with me and it was awesome to lean on him for tips and check-ins.
- As with everything else, we believe in progress not perfection. I don’t think I’d be able to be a strict vegan, but I love the idea of integrating it more into my weekly meals.
- Health-wise, I felt the same. My energy level stayed fairly consistent, my skin may have cleared up slightly more than usual, but otherwise my body didn’t crave anything more than what it was given."
Spring Cleaning is here!
It’s that time of year to get rid of things that don’t serve us. Let’s channel Marie Kondo and “minimize.” Here are some ideas:
- If you haven’t gone through your closet recently, try finding at least 5 articles of clothing or accessories to sell or give away so that someone else can take advantage of your impeccable style.
- Purge the medicine cabinet. For any expired medicine, creams, or cosmetics, ensure they’re recycled properly (check out our blog on medicine, order a bag from Pact Collective for old cosmetics, and make sure all bottles are emptied, washed out, and recycled according to your local guidelines.
- Swap out your cleaning supplies. We generally encourage people to use the rest of whatever you already have (as opposed to throwing away a lightly used bathroom cleaner only to buy a new sustainable one), so when you’re ready, try a brand like Blueland, CleanCult, or find one at a local refillable store. One of the best ways to avoid falling into old habits is to plan ahead and know exactly what you’re going to get before the moment comes.
April Recap From Our Founder, Lizzie:
"Pact Collective is so.freaking.easy. Wow."
- There are endless second-hand opportunities, but some make it easier than others. We found that the companies that send you a prepaid package and make it as easy as possible to give clothes away won out. (Why is going to FedEx or UPS literally the hardest errand to run as an adult?)
- Check out more tips on how to downsize without hurting the planet.
Fight That Eco-Anxiety
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Life can be stressful no matter what life stage we’re in, and that stress is exacerbated by the impending doom that the world is catching on fire and we’re not doing enough to stop it. Eco-anxiety, which is defined by the American Psychological Association as “the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impact of climate change and the associated concern for one's future and that of next generations,” affects many of us. We’d like to focus May on fighting a little of that anxiety in the ways we know best:
- Write in a journal and give gratitude to at least one thing in the natural world each day.
- Get outside! Try to add 30 minutes to your usual time spent outside. In other words, if you generally are outside for an hour a day, make it 1:30. If you’re normally stuck inside in an office from 8-6, try to spend at least 30 minutes outside. We love this app that helps track your time.
May Recap From Our Founder, Lizzie:
"I made a point of walking outside at least once a day to enjoy my surroundings. I found that previously, I was going outside all of the time to walk my dog, but those walks felt rushed and generally spent checking my email and responding to text messages. It felt terrific to go outside alone with the sole purpose of walking."
- From our friend Tracy: “I loved this resolution because it changed my daily perspective and was generally the only task that didn’t lead to stress. I used the app for the first week, but then realized I didn’t need to track my time outside because it became ingrained in my everyday life after just a few days!”
You always feel better after a 20-minute walk outside.
Minimize Your Travel Footprint
The official start to summer has arrived (YAY) and that means more weddings, college reunions, and family vacations. After two years of minimal travel, we all deserve a few getaways (we interrupt this message to also acknowledge that COVID persists, so let’s continue to be smart and safe). Unfortunately, flying is not only expensive, but also incredibly carbon-intensive. The airline industry is responsible for 2.5% of global CO2e emissions. This month, let’s focus on traveling in the least environmentally impactful way possible. Here’s what we suggest:
- Take alternative modes of transportation, like a bus or train, whenever possible
- Bring reusable stuff when you travel (who wants to spend $6 on airport bottled water anyway?)
- Pack light. If each Delta customer cut their luggage weight by two pounds, the annual environmental footprint from reduced fuel consumption would be equivalent to taking 10,500 cars off the road. Wow.
- If you do need to fly, the one type of offset Finch loves is for travel – check out Wren or Offcents.
June Recap From Our Founder, Lizzie:
“I’m not sure I ever failed something as much as I failed this resolution. My June will include nine flights (two international) by the end of the month. That’s the bad news. The good news: I offset it all using Offcents. Using these types of apps couldn’t be easier if you need to travel by flight."
"I also found myself being more mindful of what I was packing, since packing lighter reduces your individual footprint. I managed to spend 3 days in Paris with only a carry-on (the fashion capital of the world? I think I deserve an award)."
- Some are wondering “Doesn’t the plane fly anyway, regardless of whether I’m on it or not?” This question deserves its own blog that we’ll deliver soon, but in the meantime, this is an interesting read.
- From our friend Oliver: “I just discovered scooters, and I’m obsessed. It’s a zero emissions thrill zooming around a city.” Thanks, Oliver, but please don’t forget your helmet!
No Single-Use Plastic
Let’s challenge ourselves to no single-use plastic use for the entire month. By single-use, we mean something you’ll consume and throw away within 48 hours (so, shampoo bottles and cosmetics don’t count…we’re just getting started and we can start small!). Here are some examples of things to avoid this month:
- Bottled water, soda, or gatorade (and no, it doesn’t count if you fill up your Poland Springs bottle again and again).
- Take-out containers (and disposable cutlery and straws)
- Coffee cups (most hot ones aren’t even recyclable due to their wax lining)
- Plastic grocery bags
July Recap From Our Founder, Lizzie:
"I was nervous about this one, but ended up doing better than I had expected (although far from perfect). Between a mid-day gatorade craving and one particularly weak moment of ordering my favorite sandwich that comes in plastic-wrap (the Italian Sub with no meat…essentially a mountain of cheese on the most delicious french bread. Don’t @ me, it’s delicious), I learned a few tricks along the way:
- We shouldn’t simply replace plastic with a more durable alternative if we’re not going to use that alternative to its fullest extent (eg. plastic straws example here).
- Airport travel is a lot more fun if you bring your own water bottle and snacks from home in a reusable baggie. If you love cheez-its, twizzlers, and ginger-ale on a plane as much as I do, this may be difficult, but bringing snacks from home ends up being a lot more economical (and likely healthier).
- Be more vocal when shopping about not needing a bag or extra packaging. Shop at farmer’s markets and BYO!"
Leave No Trace
Heading to the beach in August or planning to walk in your local park? Challenge yourself to pick up litter where you see it and put it in the nearest bin, even if it’s not your waste. When you’re walking, be sure to bring a small bag (plastic grocery bag, dog waste bag, or tote works perfectly) and a pair of gloves! Your city workers, and the planet, will thank you for your help.
August Recap From Our Founder, Lizzie:
"I spent a fair amount of August by the beach, so made a point of picking up litter whenever I walked my dog. Our favorite beach happens to also be where high schoolers and college kids like to come at night, so there’s unfortunately always some empty nips of hard liquor or empty cans of beer. Interestingly, the town won’t place a trash can there because it’s too difficult to manage, so there ends up being much more litter than their probably would be otherwise."
No Paper Towels
We know that in some cases, the paper towel/dish towel decision depends on your washing machine and a few other factors to determine whether or not paper towels are actually better than reusable options. Check out our super helpful reusable paper towel blog for more intel on this. All in all, we generally advocate for reusable options (only if we keep them in use!), so this is a helpful, at-home test to flex those reuse muscles and break the single-use habit that’s been instilled in us through decades of satisfying marketing campaigns. Let’s store our paper towels in the depths of our pantry for these 30 days and see if we can go without using them.
September Recap From Our Founder, Lizzie:
"I NAILED this challenge! I cut up some old t-shirts and used them instead of my typical go-tos: single-use paper towels. You might be wondering why I didn’t opt for reusable paper towels and, the truth is, textile-based cloths (aka most reusables) have a significantly higher impact (associated with the inclusion of cotton!) than their disposable unbleached paper friends. A fully, 100% cotton rag has over four times the impact of unbleached paper towels, but this is reduced the more times you use them. Reusing old clothes and dish towels are often the way to go! The only time I failed was when we were babysitting my cousin’s new golden retriever, who is the sweetest girl I’ve ever met but hasn’t quite gotten the housetraining thing down. For dog accidents, I still felt like a paper towel that we could completely dispose of was the most sanitary thing to do."
Don’t Throw Food Away in the Trash
We’re in pumpkin season, ya’ll. That means more pumpkin spice lattes (in our reusable mugs), jack-o-lanterns, and LOTS of pumpkin guts. When creating food waste at home, in any form, challenge yourself to avoid any food heading to the landfill. Roast those scrumptious seeds from carving for an easy, more sustainable snack, or get creative with leftovers. If you really need to dump some old grub, opt for the compost over the garbage bin.
October Recap From Our Founder, Lizzie:
"Ok, so the pumpkins we buy to carve do NOT taste very good….don’t try that again at home, folks…trust me. But I used this month to really think through my composting options and realized that there are lots of pickup and drop-off options. Again, the hierarchy we live by is: Compost your food when possible, use a disposal if you don’t have an easy composting solution, and putting food in the trash (and thus, landfill) should be your last option."
No Take-Out Food
It’s SOUP season. Our favorite season of all. This is the time to make huge batches of yummy soups and casseroles that warm you up and make amazing leftovers. Once you make all the recipes in your queue, it’ll be time for Thanksgiving. Use this month to cook at home, make use of those silicone baggies and think twice before heading to that Seamless app.
November Recap From Our Founder, Lizzie:
"We LOVED this challenge. Being with our families over Thanksgiving made it a lot easier, and it reminded us to use what we have in our pantry and fridge before opening the Postmates app. Not all cooking has to be a labor of love - it just requires some planning and a stocked freezer!"
Don’t Buy Anything For Yourself
It’s the season of giving! Aside from necessities, challenge yourself to only buy things for others - whether that’s donations to the needy or to friends and family to help celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever other celebrations may come up this month. What a better way to ring out the new year than a little selfless acting?
December Recap From Our Founder, Lizzie:
This month was one of the easiest of the year! This is such a season of giving, and it was helpful for me to think in terms of external needs as opposed to my own. Whether it was supporting the needy or your closest family member, I loved practicing this. I’m a big fan of the treat yo self mentality, but we have 11 other months of the year to do so!
Do you have any helpful tips to get me started on my 2023 resolutions?
We’re so glad you asked! Here are a few ways to kick-off your sustainability resolutions.
- Keep a record. One of the most helpful things to do every month is jot down a quick note about your starting point. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, so it helps to be clear about what your personal baseline is. Over the course of the month, we also like to make note of what our biggest challenges are and where we’re excelling the most, so that we have some good guidelines to refer back to the next time. It’s also super fulfilling to look back at the end of the month to see how far you’ve come.
- Be kind to yourself. What do we always say? Sustainability is all about progress, not perfection. We have no expectation that every person on the planet will be a Net Zero vegan who makes homemade soap (although, if you’re already there, AMAZING!). Take it step-by-step. If you slip up, it doesn’t mean that your whole month is ruined or that you’re not a “real” environmentalist. We’re all human and we all make mistakes.
- Find a buddy. Challenges are always more fun with a partner. Plus, finding someone who is willing to do this challenge with you means you have someone to help keep you honest on the tough days and celebrate with you on the days you do something great. We like scheduling check-ins with our buddies at least once per week.
And, download this brainstorming tool to set your own personal resolutions if these don’t tickle your fancy!