PODCAST: 10 easy ways you can be more eco-friendly in the new year

The new year offers a great opportunity to live more sustainably.
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 10:47 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2023 at 5:29 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Still looking for a resolution to start the new year on the right foot?

Here’s one idea: Create green habits. The new year offers a great opportunity to live more sustainably and, as HNN’s “Repairing Earth” podcast recently made clear, you can do just that by following some of easy tips.

You can listen to the conversation here and read more below:

1) Reduce food waste

Food waste
Food waste(AP Photo)

One way to reduce food waste is to take inventory of what you already have before heading out to the grocery store.

According to the Department of Environmental Services, Hawaii residents throw away about 25% of all food and beverage purchases, which equals to a loss of about $700 per person every year.

By buying more responsibly, you reduce your chances of letting food sit and expire, and it saves you money.

2) Shop local

Shop local
Shop local(Hawaii News Now)

Shopping at local businesses has many benefits. It not only cuts down on carbon emissions by not buying shipped goods, it also supports Hawaii artists and bolsters the economy by keeping those dollars in our state.

On top of that, some eco-friendly businesses also donate part of their sales to environmental organizations working in conservation.

Just look for that “Made in Hawaii” tag.

3) Use eco-friendly cleaning products

Hurricane residents are experiencing door-to-door soliciting, where people come to their door--...
Hurricane residents are experiencing door-to-door soliciting, where people come to their door-- claiming to sell cleaning products. If turned down, the seller’s motives can become aggressively persistent.(Marlee Pinchok/WSAZ)

With many cleaning products sold in plastic containers that take years to decompose, some companies are starting to switch to greener formulas.

For example, instead of liquid detergent, that usually consists of mostly water, one company has created sheets of detergent that dissolve in the wash.

Other companies have also created dissolvable cleaning tablets where you can fill up a squeeze bottle you already own with water.

There are also brick-and-mortar stores in Hawaii where you can refill on soap, shampoo and other hygiene products — you just have to bring your own bottle or even a mason jar to fill up.

4) Cut out single-use plastics

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

You’ve heard it time and time again, but bringing your own water bottler or flask can tremendously cut plastic waste in Hawaii and around the world.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, it can take up to 450 years for one plastic water bottle to decompose — and when you add on plastic utensils, that’s hundreds of more years.

While there are plastic bans in effect in Hawaii — for plastic grocery bags and a movement to implement compostable cutlery and take-out containers — the best way to cut down on single-use items is to carry around items we already own at home, whether that be metal utensils and reusable water bottles.

5) Eat less meat

FILE - Look for ways to cut out eating meat by switching up with veggies.
FILE - Look for ways to cut out eating meat by switching up with veggies.(PRNewswire)

Now, we aren’t saying you have to be vegetarian or vegan to live more sustainably, but a great way to think about eating less meat is to live by the saying: “everything in moderation.”

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to livestock farming, which produces carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — all leading causes to global warming and climate change.

Because of these statistics, when it’s possible, try to cut out meat in some of your meals. There’s a lot of alternatives out there, from using just veggies, tofu and maybe even dabbling in plant-based meat.

6) Start your own little home garden

Young squash plants being transplanted.
Young squash plants being transplanted.(Storyblocks)

While starting a garden can be daunting, the key is starting small. Even if you don’t have a big backyard or maybe live in an apartment, there are actually some foods that are easy to grow.

For example, green onions grow rather well indoors, you can often replant the root end after chopping up the top. Growing herbs are also a great option to bring in fresh flavors, and if you are up for a challenge you could also try planting lettuce and carrots.

Plus, community gardens are growing in popularity where you can grow more fruits and veggies in a shared space.

7) Use electricity wisely

Electrical outlet
Electrical outlet(Hawaii News Now)

The best way to do this is to unplug your devices and wires from electrical outlets when not in use. If you don’t, you could be losing your money to phantom electricity.

An easy way to reduce the cost and environmental impact is to make it a habit of unplugging, using smart power strips and completely shutting off devices such as TVs and computers instead of leaving them on standby mode.

And if you haven’t yet, switch out those incandescent light bulbs to LEDs.

8) Going on a trail or to the beach? Pick up your trash

Hiking along Oahu's trails.
Hiking along Oahu's trails.(Courtesy: TJP Photography)

In Hawaii, locals and visitors alike enjoy relaxing at beautiful beaches and walking along picturesque hiking trails, but to keep these places looking like this, we also have to malama the land.

This why it is crucial to pick up what you pack in. Leaving behind trash doesn’t only impact people, it affects the animals and plants that live and grow there too.

Even if it isn’t your trash — and it’s safe to pick up — throw that out too. It is all our kuleana to care for the places we visit and call home.

9) Volunteer on community work days

A new website called 808 Volunteers makes it easy for students to find organizations that need...
A new website called 808 Volunteers makes it easy for students to find organizations that need volunteer help.(Courtesy: 808 Volunteers)

One of the best ways to give back to your community is volunteering.

There are tons of organizations across Hawaii that host volunteer days where people can participate in beach cleanups, kalo planting, invasive species removal and so many other important tasks.

Doing events such as these are extremely rewarding and you go home knowing that you had an active role in combatting environmental issues on a local level.

For a list of some organizations, click here.

10) Vote: Your voice matters

I voted sticker
I voted sticker(Contributed)

While there’s many things we can do on the individual level to reduce our impact on the environment, bigger change comes from government action.

By voting in leaders who put climate and people as top priorities, we will be able to safe guard native ecosystems, create more resilient infrastructure and work to help underserved communities who often take the the brunt of climate catastrophes.

At it’s core, the fight against climate change is not only an environmental problem, it affects people too.

For more on the conversation, listen to Episode 13 of Repairing Earth, “Creating Green Habits,” on the HNN website or anywhere you get your podcasts.