When many people think of New Year’s resolutions, they think of ways to improve themselves for the year ahead. What if we broaden these aspirations to include resolutions that also benefit our communities, society and the planet?
It might not be a typical approach, but it can broaden your horizons to show how you can be of service to others as well.
Here are four popular New Year’s resolutions with a twist to improve your relationship with nature in 2022 and beyond.
Pay more attention to the impact of your actions on the environment
We each have an environmental ethic that reflects how we value, manage, and ultimately relate to nature. Balancing the scales of reciprocity between us and nature – how much we give and take – can improve this relationship in many ways. Whether it’s our addiction to single-use plastics piling up in landfills or fossil fuels warming the planet, a poorly managed relationship with nature is doing us or the Earth a disservice.
In 2022, we can all take more responsibility for how our actions exacerbate environmental problems. We can also encourage governments and businesses to make it easier for people from various socio-economic backgrounds to protect the environment. This includes making recycled products affordable and reliable public transport widely accessible.
Check out resources from the United States Environmental Protection Agency describing very simple ways to reduce waste in the home, at work, in our communities, and on vacation. Tips from the website include turning lights off or unplugging during the day, reusing packaging materials, and using online billing services instead of paper mail.
Lose the weight of social injustice – it harms nature too
The dangers of social injustice stress multiple aspects of society. Racism and inequalities can lead to disparities in health, and they also affect the natural environment.
A recent study described how practices such as redlining and residential segregation have led to unequal access to nature, excessive pollution and loss of biodiversity. These practices have created highways and industries that undermine the quality of the environment in marginalized communities. They also left neighborhoods with fewer parks and trees that cool the summer and benefit the planet.
The perpetuation of social ills like systemic racism and the inequitable allocation of resources is detrimental to the environment, to marginalized people and to society as a whole.
To help turn the tide, you can speak up in your community. Join groups that seek to promote environmental protection and social justice and bring nature back to communities. Call on your city, state, and congressional leaders to urge them to take action. Also refer to the section of the Green 2.0 report on the success of diversity initiatives for concrete ways to make this happen in your workplace.
Learn something new about nature and how to reduce damage to the environment and to yourself
Clean air, water and soil are essential to our survival, but research shows that many people lack the basic environmental and health knowledge to know how to protect themselves.
In 2022, get to know your own impact on the environment. Learn more and start exploring ways to preserve the integrity of natural resources in your area. For example, find out where you can stay on top of local land use decisions that impact the environment and your entire community.
You can also support local educators and encourage them to incorporate the environment into lessons. Environmental issues cover many other subjects, from history to health. This website includes a framework and materials for educators to help students develop their environmental knowledge.
Staying connected with the media who discuss the latest research can improve awareness. You can also try associating environmental facts and knowledge with your game night and team building activities.
Spend more time with family and friends in nature
Studies show that spending time in nature, including in urban green spaces, can improve your relationship with nature and with others.
Time spent in nature can increase social cohesion. Throughout the pandemic, many people have discovered the outdoors as a place to decompress and reduce stress. Spending more time outdoors can encourage healthful social interactions, lessen emotional distress, and encourage the use of these spaces, which can help protect them for the future.
Here are some tools that outline best practices for improving parks and recreation near you. Here are also ways to make outdoor environments more inclusive for families from various communities.
Collectively, reflecting on our relationship with nature and finding ways to protect the environment can help us be better stewards of the planet.
Viniece Jennings is with. Agnès Scott College. The Conversation is an independent, non-profit source of information, analysis and commentary from academic experts.