2019 was yet another difficult year in an age where the world appears to have taken a dark turn. Every morning, the headlines told new horror stories and with the early hours of 2020 bringing apocalyptic images of the fires raging through southern Australia, it’s not likely to improve any time soon.
But a new year and a new decade is an opportunity for change. It is an opportunity to commit to actions and habits you have been developing in order to maximise your positive impact on the world.
With the climate crisis on everybody’s lips and major political events approaching, here are five resolutions you can commit to in order to find fulfilment and leave a positive impact on the world.
The global garments industry is one of the most environmentally destructive forces on the planet. Clothing production has doubled since 2000, and most of that growth has been in the production of cheap, poor quality items, often made in exploitative conditions.
“Fast-fashion” is characterised by rapid production and turnover of new items, often available for sale within days of being spotted on the catwalk. This means that these items are not only immediately on trend, but are extremely affordable due to low production costs. Online outlets such as Missguided, Romwe, SheIn and ASOS are some of the most popular newly ubiquitous fast-fashion brands, but high-street brands like H&M, TopShop, River Island, Zara and Primark also fall into this category.
Often these clothes are made entirely of plastic, one of the most dangerous pollutants in the world. Clothing waste makes up a third of all microplastic pollution in the oceans, which has a devastating impact on marine life and potentially on human health. “Natural materials” like cotton are no better. According to the World Wildlife Fund, 20,000 litres of water are needed to produce the 1kg of cotton needed to produce a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. To put that in perspective, it is estimated that 97% of water from the Indus river is used to grow cotton, and the Aral Sea lost 80% of its volume as its waters were diverted to grow cotton in arid Uzbekistan.
One of the simplest changes you as a consumer can make is to reduce the number of clothes you buy in 2020 and beyond. This not only means you should buy fewer items of clothing, but that you should wear clothes until they wear out, as opposed to emptying your wardrobe every season. One way to extend the lifespan of your clothes is to buy better quality items.
Also, we need to be conscious of how the items in your wardrobe were produced. Did they use sustainably grown materials? Did they use slave labour? Do they dump their waste into the environment? Researching brands using tools such as Ethical Consumer and Good On You can be helpful here. And just because “fast-fashion” is so cheap, does not mean that “slow-fashion” has to be expensive. There are lots of fashion houses which provide ethically produced, environmentally-conscious and good-looking clothing.
Reduce Your Meat Consumption
You don’t have to go the whole hog and never eat another chicken wing again, but it would benefit your health and the planet to explore some plant-based alternatives to meat.
This is an issue we have already explored on Spyglass. The livestock industry accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and requires huge amounts of land and energy to meet the world’s growing demand for meat. Not only that, but there is evidence that eating less meat – especially red meat – can reduce your personal risk of developing heart disease and some cancers.
Small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference. Dropping meat from one meal per day, or even abstaining from meat consumption for an entire day as suggested by Meat-Free Mondays can still be impactful. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has suggested that “flexitarian” diets like this – where people eat a predominantly plant-based diet – as one of the best ways to combat the climate crisis. It’s important, though, to make sure that what meat you do eat is sustainably and ethically produced. Even better, support your local farmers and butchers by skipping the supermarket in favour of supporting your local independent suppliers.
If you decide to go vegetarian or even vegan, that’s great! If you’re considering it but feeling nervous, gradually reducing your consumption of meat over a period of time, dropping more destructive forms of red meat first before gradually moving onto white meats like chicken. If you decide to make this change, make sure you pay close attention to what you are eating to make sure you get all the nutrients and vitamins you need to stay healthy.
Check it’s True Before you Share
Social media has the power to connect people in a way never previously imagined. But it also has the power to allow the unabated spread of misinformation through thousands of people with only a few clicks, possibly influencing major policy decisions or elections.
Don’t let yourself be a part of the fake news problem. Follow advice from factchecking bodies like FullFact and check articles from untrustworthy sources or which seem too good to be true before you share them. This can be as simple as a quick search to see if the story is reported the same way somewhere else.
One essential piece of advice to follow, is that there is often much more to a story than the headline alone would have you believe. The purpose of a headline is to get you to click on the article in the first place. In major news organisations, headlines are written by a different person to the rest of the article. Headlines which include outlandish claims, words highlighted in ALL CAPS or with exclamation points are particularly suspicious.
Get Informed, Get Angry, Get Active
Knowledge is power, and one of the best ways to avoid falling into despair when the world feels confusing, hostile and hopeless. One of the best ways to keep going is to find your power.
Find an issue you care strongly about, be it climate change, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s reproductive rights, consumer protections, political integrity – anything – and research it. You don’t need to become an expert, but it is vital that you are well enough informed to be able to credibly advocate for the change you want.
Work out why you care about the issue. If you don’t care about it, why should anyone else?
The next step is to find out what you can do about it. Getting involved with activist groups, whether in person or online, is a wonderful way to find a community of like minded people who can support you when the going gets tough. Becoming a part of an organisation can also help you find out how you can maximise your use to achieve as much as possible.
Are you a gifted artist? Volunteer to help design campaign materials like postcards and pamphlets. Are you musically inclined? Write a protest song. Are you a canny debater who can win people to your side? Volunteer to engage with people on the streets or meet with lawmakers.
Campaigning for something you care about can be extremely fulfilling, but there are other ways you can take action. Volunteering at food banks, animal shelters or community centres can make a real difference on a small but nonetheless important scale. Whatever you care about, the 2020s should be the decade where you leave you mark.
2019 was a year defined by ordinary people taking a stand for what they believed in. While some of these protests could be violent, destabilising acts of desperation, others were peaceful. But all in all, they made 2019 feel different. It felt like a consequential year. Change was in the air.
Protests don’t solve everything. While they are great for giving a cause visibility in the short term, they need to be followed up with sustained political action. As outlined above, campaigning is essential, but so is voting.
2020 will be a big year for democracy, with the US presidential primaries and election dominating global headlines. But there are also local elections in the UK, presidential elections in Poland and parliamentary elections across Europe. New Zealand will also be holding referenda on the legalisation of cannabis and euthanasia.
It is essential that you make the most of every possible opportunity to vote, no matter how small scale the decision. Local lawmakers may develop into national figures one day, and the composition of local councils can be pivotal to solving regional issues.
Whatever happened in the 2010s, let’s all make the 2020s a decade we can look back on with pride. Let’s make it one where we hold the powerful to account, demand that they do better with our actions and our votes, and that we recognise our own power to make a difference.
What are your resolutions for 2020 and beyond? How are you planning to make a positive impact on the world? Leave a comment below and follow The Spyglass Magazine for more content over the 2020s.