Improve your life in 2024 by following our Life, But Better advice for sleep, food, fitness, stress reduction and more. Start with our science-backed guidance on how to make your life greener.
It sounds like such a great resolution for the new year: I’m going to live greener. But what would it actually take to live a life that’s better for our planet, when so much of the harm done is beyond our control?
The climate crisis is not your fault, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. Collectively, we can have a positive impact by making some pretty basic lifestyle changes.
Here are five easy ways to get started in 2024.
Cut meat from just one meal a week
Rib-eye steaks and juicy cheeseburgers are huge contributors to the climate crisis. Raising beef generates a large amount of methane — a powerful planet-warming gas. It also takes a lot of energy to grow food to feed animals, which is why lamb, pork and poultry also have a significant climate impact.
Eating a plant-heavy diet tops the list of Earth-friendly changes, but you don’t need to give up meat entirely to have an impact. If you’re eating meat every day, try cutting it from the menu one day a week.
If you can’t stand the thought of giving up meat entirely, stick with poultry — it has the lowest climate impact.
Living car-free is one of the best things you can do to help rein in the climate crisis, but doing so is not possible for most people.
Instead, try to master the art of eco-driving. High speeds, hard acceleration and hard braking wastes fuel and can reduce your car’s fuel efficiency by up to 30% on the highway. Using four-wheel drive also decreases efficiency, so turn that off when you don’t really need it.
Speeds around 55 miles per hour (88 kilometers per hour) are great for fuel efficiency if you’re driving a non-hybrid, gas-powered car. Anything over that, and you’re burning more gas than you need to.
Call your utility to ask for a clean energy option
Homes are becoming more energy efficient, but they are also getting bigger. Combine this size with higher summer temperatures and more electronics to power, and you have a recipe for an upward trend in home electricity use.
Whether you own or rent, resolve to call your electric utility and ask if you can pay for renewable energy such as solar or wind. Even if it doesn’t offer renewable energy, you’ve at least shown your utility that you’re interested in it and it’s something for which you’re willing to pay.
Take one less flight this year
Could you create the kind of trip you’re aiming for within driving or train distance? Driving has a lower climate impact than flying, especially as cars become more fuel efficient. Driving also costs less than flying, even when gas prices are at record highs.
It also helps to avoid business- or first-class seats, because those sections carry fewer people and thus come at a climate premium.
And be strategic about your travel. Consider taking one long vacation a year instead of two shorter ones if they require flying. You still get the same amount of fun in the sun but with half the number of flights.
Start a conversation
Personal action is necessary to help solve the climate crisis. But it’s not sufficient. We should minimize our climate impact wherever possible, but policymakers and industry leaders also need to make big strides as soon as possible.
In the meantime, start a conversation in your city, church or workplace about how your community can do better.
“We need companies to change, as well as cities and churches, schools and universities, businesses and organizations,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a distinguished climate professor at Texas Tech University and chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy.
“And no matter who they are, or where they are, that change begins when someone starts a conversation — about why climate change matters to them, and what they can do to make a difference.”
Editor’s note: Not sure how to establish a habit? Try out behavioral scientist Katy Milkman’s five strategies for nailing your New Year’s resolutions.