5 Green Long-Term Goals for the New Year

New Year’s Resolutions don’t always work. So, how about a different strategy?
woman reading in red checkered pajamas
Source: Photographer

Your ambitions for the new year might be big or small, but lifestyle changes of any kind take some work to practice and perfect. Indeed, 80% of all New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by the end of January. That’s why, instead of New Year’s resolutions, we’ve come up with five green goals to strive for in the new year that you can try, tweak, and restart as the year unfolds.

Buy and Read Banned Books

Many of the books we now value as literary classics were once challenged or banned: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. These books, and many more, were once removed from reading lists and classrooms throughout US history for their “anti-white” sentiments or inclusion of homosexuality, profanity, or blasphemy.

The fight against censorship continues today, as books that celebrate diversity are at risk in public schools and libraries. To join the national conversation about inclusivity, solidarity, and education, read these books that are currently under attack:

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)—This young adult novel about 16-year-old Starr Carter who balances her poor neighborhood with elite suburban prep school has been banned and challenged because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and social agenda.
  • Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison (2018)—This semi-autobiographical novel tells the coming-of-age story of Mexican American Mike Muñoz and has been banned and challenged because of LGBTQ+ content.
  • Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (2000)—This graphic memoir depicts Satrapi’s childhood and early adult years in Iran and Austria during and after the Islamic Revolution, and was challenged for graphic language and images.

Take action to defend everyone’s First Amendment right to read by reporting any censorship to The American Library Association and continuing this conversation at school boards, PTA meetings, and public hearings.

Spring Clean with Reuse in Mind

Sometimes “less is more,” but cleaning for cleaning’s sake is not as great or green as it sounds, especially when items end up in landfills. So, before you spring clean, consider these questions:

Think of the next five years: Before you pitch any furniture or tchotchkes, consider when they might come in handy. Will you have a family member going off to college in need of a desk? You don’t want that Dutch oven, but your Julia Child-obsessed niece or nephew might!

Is this salvageable? Sew a stitch, patch a rip, repaint that old bookcase. Before you discard clothes or furniture, brainstorm how your items can be re-imagined for a second (or third!) life.

Throw away or give away? When parting with items, consider where they will be most useful. Call consignment and secondhand stores, or even houses of worship and local nonprofits, to learn where your items will be most beneficial. You can also post pictures on local online marketplaces to ensure your items will be used and loved, or list on your local BuyNothing group or Freecycle.

Spend Time Outdoors by Growing a Garden

If you want to spend more time in nature this year, grow your green thumb and start (or expand) your garden to help combat carbon emissions. Join the Climate Victory Garden community to add your garden to our map, get tips from tens of thousands of climate gardeners, and learn about gardening to fight climate change.

Start Small: Whether you live in a one-window apartment or have a low-success rate with plants, your home garden can start as small as you want. Re-grow scallions in a mason jar or pot herbs to garnish every meal and cocktail.

Think Big: When expanding your garden, the most important thing to consider is what you actually enjoy seeing and eating! Plant bee- and butterfly-friendly flowers or grow peppers to spice up your life.

Cook with International Flavors

Experimenting with flavor combinations from around the world is a fantastic way to travel the globe and learn about other cultures while supporting local, ethnic grocery stores.

Expand your palate and refine your cooking skills with these 2022 international cookbooks:

  • Mabu Mabu: An Australian Kitchen Cookbook by Nornie Bero
  • Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico by Rick Martínez
  • The Woks of Life: Recipes to Know and Love from a Chinese American Family by Bill, Judy, Sarah & Kaitlin Leung
  • Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home by Eric Kim
  • Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from the Matriarch of Edisto Island by Emily Meggett. The Gullah Geechee people are descendants of enslaved West and Central Africans who labored on coastal plantations in the American south. This geographic isolation allowed for Indigenous African traditions to survive, including food, art, spirituality, and language.
  • Rice is Life by Lotus Foods founders Caryl Levine and Ken Lee. This new cookbook shares rice recipes from around the world that feature “the world’s most important staple food.”

Get Finances in Order and Make Your Money Green

Initiating financial change can always feel like a challenge, but Green America has resources to help get you started.

Examine your shopping habits. When buying soap, candles, clothing, or coffee, explore Green America's certified businesses to shop from sustainable businesses and vote with your dollars.

Break up with your megabank. Join thousands of others who have switched to a community development bank or credit union to keep your money in your community and fund projects you can be proud of.

Consider a new credit card. Many credit cards are tied to major banks and support fossil-fuel investment. Switch to a green credit card (including Green America’s!) that supports social and environmental justice.

Here’s to your New Year's green goals: For you, the planet and all people. You’ve got this!

Updated Nov 2023

From Green American Magazine Issue