Many of us make New Year’s Resolutions. I do. Mine aren’t all that original. They include the typical things like going to the gym, eating healthy, being more patient with other people and making my bed every day. I could pretty much take last year’s list and change the date and I would be good to go for 2017. It’s not that I don’t accomplish the things on my list, it’s just that they are hard things for me and I find that year after year, I have to keep working on them. If I don’t include them as part of my resolutions again then I might not be inspired or reminded to do them.
This year I decided to do something different. My usual New Year’s resolutions are all about me. They are the things that I need to work on. They are about me improving me. Instead, this year I feel inspired to do something that looks beyond me and looks at the world.
One of my guiding principles is to take small steps to take better care of the earth. It’s pretty daunting to think about the big environmental issues facing the world, particularly global warming. I feel overwhelmed that I’m just one person in a world of 7.475 billion people. I question the significance of anything that I might do and its impact on the world. But rather than doing nothing, I do my small things. There is a fascinating website called the World Population Counter that continually updates the increase in the world population. While I am writing this article the population of the world has gone up by almost 160,000 people. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed in the face of an ever-increasing population.
So my New Year’s Resolution this year is to share with you my small contribution. Not that I think what I do is a big deal or in and of itself it makes a big difference. What I really want to do is to inspire you to make them your small contribution as well. Then it just isn’t me, but it’s me and my friends and my friends’ friends. You get the idea. Perhaps, it will create a shift in attitude about our individual place in the world and the importance of individuals making small changes in their lives and inspiring others.
My commitment is to not use single-use beverage containers. This means no bottled water and no single-use coffee cups. I’ve done this for years and I preach about it to my friends. I can imagine them collectively rolling their eyes as they are reading this. It was inconvenient in the beginning but is was easily incorporated into my life. I carry a reusable water bottle and a reusable coffee mug with me wherever I go. I don’t really enjoy my Starbucks coffee quite so much in a plastic mug but it is a small sacrifice I make to feel like I am making a difference.
I don’t get it right 100% of the time. Sometimes, I don’t have my mug or my water bottle, but that’s okay. Using a reusable container most of the time is better than never.
I think about the billions of bottles of water sold each year. One website, Ban the Bottle estimates that the United States consumes 50 billion bottles of water each year. We can debate the accuracy of this number, but even if it is 50% overstated, which I’m not suggesting it is, that is still 25 billion bottles. That is a really big number and it’s an unnecessary purchase. I think about the 21,000 Starbucks there are around the world and the 4 billion cups of coffee they sell each year. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. I’m not picking on Starbucks. They will happily serve you coffee in any reusable cup that you present to them. It’s really about the choices that we make. I also think about all of the other coffee vendors around the world and I can’t even fathom what the total number of single-use coffee cups might be.
You might be telling yourself that you recycle your water bottles. That’s okay. It’s a start. But, think about it in terms of “good, better, best.” It’s good if we throw our single-use container in the garbage instead of littering. It’s better if we recycle it. But the best thing to do is to not use it in the first place. Think about this. I can buy water at my local store that is bottled in Norway! It has to find its way to the shelf in my supermarket in the middle of Canada before I can buy it! When I’m done, this bottle has to be recycled. Think about the resources that this process consumes compared to me walking to my tap, which is conveniently located in my kitchen and having a glass of water. What I’m saying really isn’t anything you haven’t heard before but we just need to think about what we are doing and about the choices that we make. There is a concept of “picking the low-hanging fruit” which involves doing the simple and easy things first in order to solve a bigger problem. Not using single-use containers is the low-hanging fruit. We can easily do this and as part of a collective effort of many people, it makes a difference.
So, if you already have a reusable coffee mug and a reusable water bottle, dust them off and use them! If you don’t, buy one and use it. That’s my first ask. If you need some motivation, keep track of how many times you use them this year. Then come 2018, you can pat yourself on the back on how many cups and bottles you haven’t used.
My second ask is that you share this on social media to challenge and inspire others. What’s where the bigger change is made because then it isn’t about just me and you, but about many people.
Even if I don’t accomplish anything else this year, I’ll feel good about this. I will have inspired others to think about the small change they can make. Not that it will save the world, but it will be a step in the right direction. I even think I might give myself a pass on making my bed every day in 2017.
So, what do you think? Can you make it your goal for 2017 not to use single-use beverage containers? Can you inspire others to do the same? If so, share this on social media.
For those of you reading this as part of my Well Spoken blog where I usually address the lighter-side of cycle tourism, I apologize for interrupting your New Year’s Day with something more serious, but I hope you will join with me to make this your small improvement, too.