10 ways you can make the world better in 2016

A new year is a new chance to start good habits or reinforce old ones. (Photo Credit: John Ottosson)

A new year is a new chance to start good habits or reinforce old ones. (Photo Credit: John Ottosson)

And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, poet

A new year brings new chances – to start fresh or to continue good work from the year before. Here are 10 ways you can start to make the world better in 2016:

1) Waste less food: With grocery costs expected to rise over the coming months, food waste should be top of every consumer’s mind. Canadians throw out the equivalent of $31 billion of food each year, while Americans toss $165 billion. Strategies to reduce waste include using leftovers, understanding use-by dates and shopping with a list.

2) Grow your own: This is one of the best ways to cut both cost and waste. Even a small, shady backyard can produce at least a portion of what a family needs. But many fruits, vegetables and herbs can successfully be grown indoors as well.

3) Think outside the box store: To support local economies and reduce food miles, try to find alternatives for items that can’t be grown at home. Join a CSA, food coop or buyer’s club, frequent your local farmers’ market or find food from foraged sources.

4) Less meat = less heat: Livestock production contributes more to climate change than the entire global transportation sector. Cutting meat from your diet just one day a week can make a huge contribution to your health, your bank account and the planet. Plus, you may discover some new, delicious alternative sources of protein.

5) Be a mindful meat eater: There’s little doubt that factory farming is wasteful, inhumane and a strain on the environment. There are ways to be a responsible carnivore that require little more than creativity and a sense of adventure.

6) Cook the way your grandma did: Making staples like butter or yogurt at home, by hand not only tastes better, it can save money and make your household more self-sufficient. Plus, you can control exactly what is going in your body.

7) Do a home detox: If homemade feels right for you, try making some of your own cleaning products as well.  You’ll be doing the environment, and your wallet, a favour.

Simple changes to the way you wash your clothes can make a big difference. (Photo Credit: Caspar Rubin)

Simple changes to the way you wash your clothes can make a big difference. (Photo Credit: Caspar Rubin)

8) Rethink your laundry: Even if you decide to stick with store-bought detergents, major positive changes can happen in the laundry room. First, switch to cold water washes (washing in hot water wastes more electricity than leaving the refrigerator door open 24 hours a day for a year). Next, dry as much as possible in the open air. It’s better for your clothes and the environment.

9) Avoid the dirty dozen: Even the most careful consumer will end up with packaged or processed foods that contain additives, some of which have been linked to serious health concerns. Get to know the list, which foods contain them and how to avoid them.

10) Do a digital detox: Technology is, for better or worse, part of our modern life. But we are only beginning to understand exactly how it affects us. Studies are revealing initial, potentially grave, findings: social media could promote narcissism, smartphones could cause insomnia, screens could make children less empathetic. Purposefully unplugging could help us feel less anxious, more productive, and more relaxed.

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