The Art of Climate-Friendly Resolutions We Can Actually Keep

It can be hard to sustain climate resolutions as we get back into the day-to-day of living our lives.

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So the holidays are over and we’ve hopefully all survived any climate-related family conflicts. In fact, many of us have likely followed up on those holidays with New Years’ resolutions focused on greener living and/or making a positive impact on the planet. Yet just like eating healthier, exercising regularly, saving more money, or any other form of resolution or intention setting, it can be hard to sustain those changes as we get back into the day-to-day of living our lives. 

It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Given the incredible urgency of the climate crisis, we can and should find ways to turn our intent into sustained, meaningful action. Below are some ideas to get started. 

Focus on Impact Over Sacrifice

There are many folks going to incredible lengths in service of our planet and its people, and those heroes should be celebrated. Sometimes, however, our movement has a habit of focusing more on the effort itself than we do on the impact of those efforts. Whether it’s divesting your pension fund (assuming you have one) or switching electric utilities, some of the biggest steps you can take are also some of the easiest—and the fact they are relatively easy should be considered a feature, not a bug. 

Join Forces With Others

Our hyper-individualist culture loves to paint climate action as an exercise in personal virtue, and individual choice. Yet we know that the real impact of our lifestyle choices comes from their cumulative impact—so be sure to join with others who are pursuing similar efforts. Whether that’s flying less or eschewing meat, the more you can think of your actions as boycotts rather than behavior change, the more you can create real and meaningful pressure for change. Not sure where to start? Reach out to a group like to find some like-minded locals with whom to cause some trouble.  

Find Joy

I’m not going to lie: The impact our society is having on the environment sometimes keeps me up at night. Yet I have come to understand that we all need to sustain our efforts for the very long term—meaning we have to find friendship, love, pleasure, and laughter not just alongside our efforts on climate, but ideally as an integral part of them. The good news is that whether it’s riding a bike or attending a protest, there are so many sources of joy to be had that it’s hard to know where to start. 

Be Kind to Yourself, and Others

I used to think that guilt has no place within the climate movement. And yet I’ve come to realize that my own guilt informs and inspires many of the positive actions I take every single day. We need to be careful about guilt, and the related concepts of shame and shaming—as spreading them around too widely can cause them to lose their power. That’s why it’s important to stay focused when it comes to identifying who is responsible for the climate crisis and to be judicious about how much time we spend pointing the finger at each other. 

Think Systemically, Even As an Individual

We already know that the systems change versus individual change debate is largely redundant—it should be obvious by now that we need both. Yet one of the biggest things that systemic thinking can do for us, is to start to identify ways that we can make individual change easier to sustain.

Sure, that might mean lobbying the city council for bike lanes but it can also mean simply redesigning your life a little to make biking the default choice. Whether that’s investing in better all-weather clothing, or rearranging your living quarters so the bike is closer to hand, there are plenty of ways to remove barriers to action. The same is true of almost any climate-friendly behavior we might want to adopt. Stop berating yourself for not doing it. Instead, examine what holds you back, and then change it.