Socially Conscious New Year's Resolutions

I’ve never really been one for New Year’s Resolutions. December rolls around every year and there’s not a single year I’ve looked back and thought, “Wow, I’m so glad I gave up sugar in January.” The truth is, I don’t feel especially resolute to do anything with the new year. So this year, I thought I’d try something different. While I might not be able to get myself to do my homework before 10 PM every day or cut out carbs from my diet, I can dedicate myself to something bigger.

Maybe my drive toward some far-off career goal isn’t pressing, but it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the Australian bushfires or the increasingly tense relationship between the US and Iran. This year, rather than make some meaningless declaration, I’ve decided to make the little changes to make my life a little more socially responsible.

For all those people out there who aren’t particularly motivated to improve themselves personally, here are my socially conscious New Years’ resolutions. 

  1. 1. Kick My Coke Addiction

    Every day with lunch I’ll buy a Diet Coke. In the back of my mind, I know that diet sodas are just as bad as sugary drinks and that the aspartame could lead to countless health risks. I also know that caffeine is awful for me and that the drinks are harsh on my teeth. I even know that I’m draining my pockets of my very limited resources. But most of all, I know those things aren’t going to stop me from drinking them.

    What will stop me is the fact that Coca-Cola is the biggest polluter of any brand on the planet. While I guzzle down the unsatisfying Coca-Cola is responsible for over 11,000 pieces of plastic in 37 countries.  Unfortunately, the reality of our dying earth is a lot more present than the inevitability of my individual mortality––I can ignore my health all I want, but I see evidence every single day that our planet is in dire need of our help.

    Though I don’t really like initiatives like the straw ban, I think it’s important that my money, as a consumer, has a lot of power. Climate change is a systematic problem, but as long as I am supporting a company that pretty much funnels their empty bottles directly into our oceans, I can’t say my hands are clean.

    In 2020, I resolve to stop supporting Coca-Cola one bottle at a time. If you’re looking for a way to contribute to the fight against climate change, consider where your money is going. If you don’t have the money to give to organizations or the time to lobby congress, simply reviewing your consumer habits could be a way to help. (It also doesn’t hurt that there are health benefits to losing these products, anyway.)

  2. 2. Actually Donate to Charity

    In more and more chain locations––from movie theaters to Panda Express to Safeway––they ask you to round up your purchase to donate to a charity. I usually say yes; I can’t take the judgmental eyes of the cashier, and I don’t really need the change anyway. Plus, if I’m really honest with myself, it makes me feel good to think I’m donating to a good cause.

    This method donating isn’t necessarily evil but it isn’t the best. While many nonprofits say that checkout charity is a huge source of income, why should a major company be the middleman in between me and a good cause? 

    While it’s a myth that companies get a tax write off for your charitable giving, there is an underhanded reason they do it. Think about the CEOs of these companies. They hoard millions of dollars of wealth (and often exploit tax loopholes) and then turn around and ask the customer to do the charity work. Rather than take initiative and donate themselves, they find a way to save their money and allow us to do their PR work for them.

    I’m not saying you should feel bad about donating to checkout charities--at the end of the day, it does go to charity. But I do think we need to think more critically about our money.

    So this year, in an effort to distance myself from CEOs who created these problems in the first place, I am challenging myself to donate directly to charity. Since I am so often tempted by the easiness of rounding up at checkout, I know I have the money to do it. I won’t shame anyone for donating where they can––but consider being intentional with your donations. Yes, it’s slightly more work, but maybe it’s worth it.

  3. 3. Quit Fast Fashion

    We all know in the back of our minds that fast fashion is bad. Fast fashion, for those who don’t know, are places like Forever 21, H&M, and Zara that are constantly importing new and cheaply made clothes. Unfortunately, fast fashion is quickly turning into a revolution in the retail industry. As companies like Zara see sky-high profits, many other companies seek to meet this high demand.

    It’s so easy to fall into fast fashion. New trends come and go with each passing week, and that $13 shirt is so tempting on the rack. Sure, it’s a cheap material, but you’ll get a couple good wears out of it, anyway. But don’t fall for these cheap tricks. Instead opt for hand-me-downs or thrifted items, they’ll be easier on your wallet anyway.

    We know about the labor concerns that come with fast fashion. How else would companies manage to have over 100 “seasons” in one year besides exploiting cheap labor? With awful conditions and barely six dollars an hour, Forever 21 is built on the backs of mistreated workers.

    In recent years, fast fashion has also been exposed for major greenwashing. While that tag might say it’s “sustainable”, there’s little evidence to prove that it actually is. With clothes flying on and off the rack, the amount of water and raw material used to make that ten-dollar steal probably isn’t as green as you’d like to think.

    Of course, in our capitalist society that values money over everything, it’s impossible to completely wash our hands of these corporate evils. I know that I’ll never be completely ethical when it comes to clothes, but this year, I’m making it my mission to try.

    This looks like a couple different (and pretty easy) changes in my lifestyle. First, cut out the very worst offenders: online outlets like Zaful and Shein and places like H&M and Zara. Second, buy fewer clothes. For me, this means less online shopping. I don’t need to impulse buy something, especially if I can’t guarantee it will even fit. Finally, when I need to buy clothes, try and buy second hand.

    The process of getting rid of our clothes is a huge source of pollution. While I might think that upcycling or returning clothes voids responsibility, more likely than not, that shirt I didn’t want could end up on fire in Kenya. Buying second-hand means fewer clothes go into this awful process of “recycling” companies market to us. Sure, it’s not a huge change, but at least I can hold myself accountable for my waste.

I know these changes won’t save the world, but I think it’s important that I own my part in our consumerist society. As the New Year fades into regular old January, I resolve to be more mindful of the money I am spending and how I operate in our society. I can take a breath of fresh air, knowing that I don’t have to try to improve my diet or “be more responsible” this year, all I have to do is try to save the planet.