A New Year for Sustainability

Image of 2024 Happy New Year

The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection - Bureau of Sustainable Materials Management wants to wish Nevadans a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year. In the spirit of change in the new year, here are some easy ideas/resolutions you can make to have a more sustainable 2024 ♻️

  1. Step up your recycling game and start your own at-home compost - The US EPA estimates that food waste accounts for 21.6% of landfilled material in the U.S. Diverting compostable food waste is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint. Learn more about at-home composting.  
  2. Have a clothing exchange with friends - The fast-fashion clothing industry is notoriously wasteful and contributes up to 10% of global carbon emissions. Going through outgrown children's clothing, styles that no longer suit you, or just getting rid of excess items you no longer wear is a great way to shed some clutter from your home, and work towards a more sustainable and product circular lifestyle. If a friend's exchange isn’t quite your style, find a local shelter/charity to drop the clothing off at or join a local exchange group on platforms such as Facebook or Nextdoor.

  3. Bring your own bags to the grocery store - More than 5 Trillion plastic bags are used every year globally. Americans specifically use about 356 plastic bags per year, whereas the people of Denmark only use on average of 4 plastic bags every year. Additionally, even though plastic bags are recyclable, less than 20% of plastic bags are ever recycled. Functional and cute reusable bags are easy to come by and have a low start-up cost. Reusable bags also work significantly better than single-use plastic bags or even paper bags. The handles on typical grocery store bags are flimsy and can’t hold much weight. Reusable bags are better able to accommodate heavier items such as cans and milks. Just remembering to keep the reusable bags in your car is half the battle!

  4. Invest in a reusable water bottle - Similar to the plastic bag crisis, is the plastic water bottle crisis. Investing in a reusable water bottle is one of the simplest solutions for more sustainable choices. 50 Billion plastic water bottles are purchased by Americans every year (3) which comes out to about 156 plastic water bottles per year / per person. Nowadays, most public places have accessible and free water refill stations, but not all so definitely check before you leave.

  5. Up-Cycle something you already own - ♻️You don’t have to be an expert to try your hand at a DIY project. There are a lot of great resources for how to do simple and sustainable home upgrades on platforms such as YouTube. Pick a reasonable project like sanding and repainting an old dresser or cutting up old bath towels into Paper towel size. Not only is this a more sustainable choice, but there will be a gained sense of accomplishment putting in the elbow grease yourself.

  6. Utilize your freezer - As mentioned in tip #1, diverting organic material away from the landfill is one of the best ways to reduce your footprint. Freezing leftovers or food you don’t think you’ll be able to go through also saves money! Have an extra gallon of milk in the fridge that isn’t going to be used? Throw it in the freezer. Have some extra fruit that’s starting to go? Slice it up, freeze it, and enjoy a smoothie later.

  7. Do a pantry clean out and organization - Make a conscious effort to go through your pantry and eat the oldest foods first. In addition, it’s also a great time to take an inventory of what you have on hand, evaluate how much longer it's good for, and then plan to add some items into your rotation. While shelf-stable food does last a very long time, it’s not forever. Did you buy a whole bunch of canned soups on sale last winter and the cans are still sitting there? It is time to use those up!

  8. Bring your own containers for leftovers whenever possible - While some restaurants may not allow it, most establishments will allow you to package your own leftovers at the table. The establishment never touches the container, so there’s very little risk of contamination. Styrofoam to-go containers are specifically extremely harmful to the environment because of how they break down, with many cities even banning styrofoam entirely. Create a new habit this year and push yourself to take the extra step of bringing your own containers.

  9. At home waste characterization - Study your own trash! Doing an at home waste characterization study can be very eye opening to see WHAT exactly is filling up your trash so you know where best to focus reduction efforts. To do an at home waste characterization is fairly simple… Keep a log of every single item that goes into the trash (including scraps) for at least one week, and then just tally everything up. You may notice something like an excessive amount of paper towel consumption, or that fruit scraps are your most commonly tossed item, or even notice that you don’t produce much trash at all. Knowing what is creating your waste, makes it a lot easier to reduce!

Here’s to a more sustainable New Year! Remember to be gentle with yourself, keeping in mind the saying 'Rome wasn't built in a day’ and switching to a sustainable lifestyle also can’t happen in a day. Making gradual changes over time and implementing these small changes consistently eventually leads to significant transformations over time, and entirely new practices for future generations.