3 Ways to Make Your 2016 Resolutions More Realistic and Attainable

Okay, we’ll skip the traditional holiday gift lists because, frankly, if there’s one thing you can do for the planet during this most hectic and commercialized season of the year, it’s to buy nothing at all. We’ll just go right ahead with the New Year’s resolutions because we all could use one or two.

Image courtesy of Calvin and Hobbes

Image courtesy of Calvin and Hobbes

The problem is—and this is almost always the case with resolutions—resolutions are so challenging to keep. It’s as if they’re bound to self-destruct the moment you decide on getting one. Here are the three reasons why resolutions fail, and what you can do about them.

 

Ditch the Element of Suddenness

When making resolutions, we often mistake the element of suddenness for urgency. Come December, we start committing ourselves to doing (or refraining from doing) something all of a sudden without any thought or preparation for it, thinking the ending year is enough to inspire and prod us.

Last-minute resolutions ask you to plunge yourself to a life-altering decision you may not actually be ready for—be it a going on a strict diet, engaging in a more active lifestyle, or managing one’s finances. Don’t just suddenly embark on a resolution in one fell swoop come December. Instead, take it easy and one at a time.

If you resolve to quit smoking next year, it’s more realistic to start cutting

Image from https://kellyjohnsongracenotes

Image from https://kellyjohnsongracenotes

back on it a few months earlier, say even before June or July sets in. So by the time December rolls by, you’re more prepared and less likely to break your promises. The result: The resolution you create in December is thus backed by a habit you’ve built earlier.

 

Installment Basis

One other reason why resolutions fail is because we turn them into all-encompassing pledges that can either be limiting to our current lifestyle, overwhelming, or just plain unrealistic. Big-time resolutions can seem well-intentioned, but once we fail on just a single aspect of it, it can go downhill from there.

For example, eating healthy is a good resolution to have, but it’s too broad. If you’re used to a convenient diet of fast food and instant snacks, that can be downright impossible. Instead, focus on a manageable portion that you can sink your teeth on (pardon the pun).

Making resolutions VS Not making resolutions

Making resolutions VS Not making resolutions

What’s the alternative?  How about cutting back on colas, energy drinks, sweetened fruit juices and other beverages?  It’s just one component of the eating healthy goal, but you’ll have to admit it’s way more achievable. Next year you can tackle another aspect of your healthy diet goal, such as getting more fiber or eating more fermented foods, while still retaining your No to Sugary Beverages policy.  New Year resolutions don’t have to be grand, you can do it by installment basis.

 

Get a Support Group

A third reason for failed New Year’s resolutions is the lack of support group.

Resolutions don’t have to be private, secret undertakings that you should be embarrassed about. Let  your friend and family know what your goals are for the next year so they can guide you along and remind you when you’re straying from the path. They can even share their own resolutions with you, so you guys can help each other out.

Having a support group helps because it keeps everyone honest, it makes the resolutions less challenging than they should be, and actually makes them more fun to pursue.

 * * *

Let’s face it, New Year’s resolutions are traditionally meant to fail right from the start, but that’s only because we’re tackling them the wrong way. By modifying our resolutions to more realistic proportions, we’re more likely to keep them for a much longer time.

But don’t worry, if ever you break them prematurely. Forgive yourself, move on, and resolve to do better the next time.

7 Ways to Sustainable Shopping this Holiday Season

From the get go, the phrase “sustainable shopping” seems like an oxymoron.  It’s especially impossible during this holiday season, a time when malls are jam-packed with various new exciting merchandises that tickle our every fancy.

Given the countless irresistible things we can buy to spruce up all aspects of our lives, how is one supposed to shop sustainably this holiday season?

You’re probably saying sustainable shopping is best left for hard-core treehuggers.  We’re used to shopping indulgently, it’s our money after all.  We shop for pleasure and as a way to reward ourselves, to have something tangible, to finally obtain that sweet, sweet fruit of our labors, so why edit ourselves?

But here’s the thing: everything we do leaves a ripple of consequence for the environment.  It’s called a carbon footprint—the total sum of greenhouse gases caused by all our activities—whether that be traveling by car, or watching TV, or eating dinner, or manufacturing the endless array of products that define our commercialized lives.  Even something as trivial as a cutesy disposable smartphone case or yet another fancy thingamajig that will eventually just end up being forgotten in the drawer—those little things add up and impact the environment because of their carbon footprint.

Of course, it’s the holiday season and we have to do some shopping at one point or another.  We won’t be a wet blanket and beseech everyone not to shop.  But we can at least give you a few tips on making your purchases as sustainable as they can be.

BYOB!

BYOB!

Bring your own reusable bag.  This is the most basic.  Say no to the paper or plastic bag offered to you, and instead whip out your own sturdy canvas bag or nylon bag for carrying all your purchases.  Not only are you doing your part for the environment, you’ll also be inspiring your fellow shoppers at the checkout counter to do the same (hopefully).

Resist the impulse.  Perhaps tied to the concept of sustainable shopping is mindful buying.  When we think twice about buying things, we’re less likely to end up with a regrettable purchase, and actually get to buy the stuff we truly need.

  • Ask yourself: Do I really need this item in my life right now? What special purpose will this item fulfill in my life?  Will this my life be any less richer without this item?  Big questions, we know.
  • Identify your urges. Am I just buying this out of impulse, or because of that rather tempting advertisement, or simply because my friend already has one?
  • Think longevity. How will this item last?  How long before I outgrow my interest in this item?  Can I hand it down to my kids, friends, and loved ones, and will they actually find use for it?

There’s (absolutely) nothing wrong with regifting.  We’re bound to receive that weird Christmas gift we really have no use for, or just doesn’t fit in our lives.  Don’t worry, you can always regift it as long as you’re sure your recipient will have better use for that item than you’ll ever will.

Try experiential gifts.  We’re all for experiential gifts because, in terms of value and memories, they certainly trump material gifts.  The trick is to tailor-fit your experiential gifts for people so that it’s something that’s out of the ordinary but also one they’ll actually enjoy.

  • Especially welcome are tickets to the museum, a play, a concert, or an art exhibit.
  • Schedule permitting, you can also enroll your giftee in cooking, baking, or painting classes, or even a session at the gym, spa, or the beauty parlor.
  • Conspire with your tailor and have your giftee visit his shop for a bespoke suit.
  • Lessons in swimming, fencing, bowling, or any other good ol’ sports are also welcome.
There's a certain inexplicable triumph finding that unique item at thrift shops.

There’s a certain inexplicable triumph finding that unique item at thrift shops.

Take a trip to the thrift store.  If you just take the time to comb through the shelves and racks of thrift stores, you’ll discover lots of fantastic finds that are actually gift-worthy, whether that be a vintage copy of Mrs. Dalloway (for your bookworm friend), an ornately carved lamp (for your aunt), a vinyl record of Led Zeppelin (for your music aficionado cousin). Don’t be afraid to buy for them, especially if you know they can appreciate it.  What’s nice and sustainable about thrift stores is that no new products have to be manufactured (entailing carbon footprint in the process)—they only sell already existing things.  Of course, learn to draw the line between what’s an acceptable second-hand gift and what’s best bought new instead.

Heroically wrapped.  (Photo courtesy of Treehugger)

Heroically wrapped. (Photo courtesy of Treehugger)

Mind your wrapper.  Honestly, we don’t really need to buy gift wrappers at the bookstore, we actually have plenty right in our own homes: old calendars, the comics section of the Sunday paper, old magazines, scraps of wallpaper, even leftover art paper from kids’ school projects.  Even gift tags can be made from sturdy cardboard packaging, such as cereal, chocolate, or donut boxes—just be creative.  If you really insist on using a new gift wrapper, at least write a note to the recipient to reuse the paper for his or her own gifting purposes.

Write to the manufacturer.  In this day and age when voicing our thoughts and opinions is just a click away, whether that be on Twitter or Facebook or plain old email, there’s really no more excuse not to let companies know what you think about their products and how they can still improve it.

  • Tell those companies, for example, that they need to ditch the excess packaging or opt for a more eco-friendly formula for their ingredients.
  • Want to know if companies are operating sustainably as best they could? Check out the Buycott app for info on companies and their products, and even lets you support campaigns regarding fair trade, child labor, animal rights, GMO labeling, etc.
  • Share your discoveries with your friends on social media.

The Takeaway.  When we think of greenhouse gases we think big factories spewing out billows of dark fumes.  Or the millions of vehicles on the road each and every day, with their exhaust pipes full blast.

But few people take time to acknowledge that our own indulgent lifestyles—which is more and more defined by our purchases—also has a direct link to what’s happening to the planet today.  When we buy stuff it sends a message to companies that there’s a demand for their product, which will prompt them to create more.  Sustainable shopping doesn’t really have to have that killjoy ring to it.  It’s all about taking the time to carefully choose what to buy for ourselves and the people in our lives.                                 Continue reading

Geoengineering to Curb Climate Change

Every year, during the climate talks such as the one happening in Paris right now, the topic of geoengineering never fails to come up.

Geoengineering is just what it sounds like: engineering the Earth to achieve a favorable outcome.

Apparently, it’s a concept that’s been around since the ‘70s; even Word’s spell check recognizes it as a legitimate word despite its iffy nature.

Bioengineering and its many ways. (GIF from ChooseClimate.org)

Bioengineering and its many ways. (GIF from ChooseClimate.org)

And why shouldn’t it be a bit iffy? Geoengineering is essentially hacking the planet’s natural systems—whether that be the oceans, the soil, forests, or even the weather. The mere fact that our continued reliance on fossil fuels has been driving temperatures up to unprecedented levels for decades is already geoengineering at work.  Climate scientists just want to be able to curb the rising temperature of the planet, to prevent, if not reverse, its disastrous consequences.

Obviously, geoengineering is the scientific side of the climate change coin, which for the last two decades have always been mired in politics. What political stalling and bureaucratic red tape will fail to do (fingers crossed), science might be able to address more speedily.  Here are some options:

Massive ash clouds smothered the landscape during the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 (Photo courtesy of Albert Garcia)

Massive ash clouds smothered the landscape during the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991 (Photo courtesy of Albert Garcia)

Sky seeding
Seeding the sky with sulfate aerosols that will block the sun’s radiation. This procedure essentially mimics a volcanic eruption, which historically has been known to cool the Earth by as much as 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (as in the case of the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.)

 

Ocean seeding
The goal here is to enrich the oceans with iron so as to supercharge the phytoplanktons (also called microalgae) into consuming more carbon dioxide and giving off life-supporting oxygen in return. These tiny microorganisms are usually dormant in iron-deficient parts of the ocean, so fertilizing the waters with iron could help make them more active.

A Lesson from insects
It turns out ants are excellent catalysts of carbon capture. As they tunnel their way underground and break down calcite in the process, the calcium bonds with carbon in the air and becomes limestone. This discovery, recently made last year, can inspire synthetic materials that can naturally break down and ultimately capture carbon in the process.

Space mirrors
Here, launching huge wire-mesh mirrors into orbit will theoretically deflect sunlight. Lowell Wood, the scientist who first proposed it in 2001, had calculated that deflecting even just one percent of sunlight would restore climate stability. The concept is considered only as a last resort however because of the high cost of its installation.

Marine cloud whitening
This technique involves spraying seawater into clouds to add to their condensation and increase the size distribution of the drops within them. The result is brighter and whiter clouds that reflect sunlight better. Robotic rotor ships will be used here to spray seawater into the air.

Of course, these geoengineering efforts will have to be executed on a massive global scale for the intended effects to kick in and make a difference. However, even scientists aren’t sure the effects will always be positive; tampering with nature on such as wide scale might actually have dangerous results. Hacking the weather, for example, in a particular region might have unintended effects on another.

In this case, since most geoengineering technology can be costly, only rich nations and corporations can afford it.  Smaller countries thus stand at a disadvantage, and might even be vulnerable to the disastrous effects of geoengineering gone bad. Once again, climate change becomes an issue of inequality.

Morever, when geoengineering becomes the go-to solution, it diverts everyone’s attention from the bigger picture of why climate change is happening in the first place.

When There’s a Will…

At this point there is still a lot that can happen in the COP 21 Paris Talks, even as the world’s most powerful nations (and also the biggest polluters)— the U.S., China, European Union—have already pledged their commitment regarding target emissions. If ever the Paris Talks fails to produce a legally-binding agreement, scientists might be asked to step in to save the day. And yet resorting to science and technology smacks of a cop-out.

It’s well and good that technology can be relied on, but it shouldn’t absolve us of our responsibilities.  We shouldn’t forget the real root of all this.  What exactly contributes all these carbon dioxide emissions? Corporations never-ending quest for profits, which is sustained by our insatiable appetite for material goods and petty conveniences. Of course, the easy answer is to limit our consumerism and turn to clean renewable energy, but that kind of thing involves a massive paradigm shift, one that excludes pride and greed in the end.

Via

Friends of the Earth
The Guardian
Associated Press
Newsweek

Real Talk on Climate Change

Not too many people are talking about climate change.

Yes, it’s in the news, it has plentiful coverage from the media people who’ve flown in to Paris to witness the COP21 talks.  Various think pieces are being written about whether this new round of talks will solidify the good intentions of the previous talks in Lima, Peru, or whether it will devolve into yet another Kyoto Protocol failure.  And the Twitter and Facebook discussions are energetic and lively among people for whom the topic resonates the most.

Climate change demonstrators left their shoes on a square in Paris after authorities cancelled their march in light of recent terrorists attacks.

Climate change demonstrators left their shoes on a square in Paris after authorities cancelled their march in light of recent terrorists attacks.  (Photo from The Guardian)

But if those websites that gather trending topics on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are to be believed: not too many people are talking about climate change.  There’s talk about HIV awareness (and that’s good, of course), about Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus, about Mark Zuckerberg finally being a dad, about Giving Tuesday.  There’s even a hashtag for breakup in five (5) words and the welcoming the first day of December.  All well and good.

On Twitter, if you use #climatechange, a charmingly heart-shaped green and blue Earth automatically attaches to your hashtag, so you have to be careful what you tweet about.  There’s also a Twitter account run by Climate Change itself no less, personified as a grinning businessman smiling and proud every time he gets a mention in the news, blogs, on Twitter, Facebook, etc.  Climate Change thus peppers his tweets with the hashtags #meeeee, #validated, and #loved.

Recently while we were in the mall, we posed as an intrepid researcher doing some sort of thesis for school, and asked a few random people in the age range of 18-30 what they know about climate change.  Our questionnaire had three simple questions:

  1. What do you know about climate change?,
  2. What do you think you can you do about climate change?, and
  3. Have you shared anything about climate change on social media?

The last question was primarily for finding out if people are as comfortable and game talking about an unsexy topic as climate change as they are when they converse about fashion, music, smartphone specs, their favorite TV series and their hotly-anticipated films, etc.  Of course, people’s interest in such things doesn’t necessarily cancel out their positive stance on climate change.  One can be the most ardent fan of Scream Queens and still have a say on climate change.  But we want to know if millennials can actually sustain conversation regarding climate change on social media, or if that’s something they simply post a single tweet about and are done and over with it.

Out of the ten we interviewed, only one happened to know about the ongoing Paris Talks.  Regarding the question of what they can do about climate change, my interviewees offered suggestions like recycling trash, planting a tree, and using a reusable shopping bag, known tenets of eco-friendliness since our grade school days.

Of course, ten is such a lousy small sample, but we just gave up too early in frustration.  It’s a sad thing because we millennials are the very people who will be inheriting the Earth, in all its currently messed-up state.  And oh, one more thing, all our respondents are of the belief that climate change is something way above their heads, something best left to our world leaders.

That’s true to a point.  Big bold actions from the nations most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions are needed to veer us away from the dreaded 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature.  We can’t afford another watered-down agreement like last year and the years before that because as French President Francois Hollande said, “Never have the stakes been so high.”  Those legally binding agreements need to be ratified now, because if they aren’t, are we going to wait another year for COP22?  To put it bluntly, Wired calculated the amount of carbon dioxide the Paris Climate Talks will generate.  They came up with 300,000 tons to account for the 50,000 attendees who will be flying in from all over the world.  So that massive carbon footprint had better be worth it.

Yes, climate change is such an unsexy topic, but we need to talk about it because our lives depend on it.  Even the Pope has chimed in: “We are on the brink. We are on the brink of a suicide, to use a strong word…”  On Twitter, the hashtag to use is 2degrees.  It’s there for us to read about and share stories to people who may not know yet that right now the fate of the planet and the human race is being decided on by our world leaders.

Of course, a tweet is infinitely different from good ol’ action, so when we put down our smartphones, let’s do something.  By all means, let’s recycle our trash, and bring along a reusable shopping bag, and plant a tree.  Let’s ante it up and limit our meat consumption to once a week, and use our bikes or commute to work instead of taking the car and have second thoughts about buying unnecessary things in the malls, and be mindful of what we throw away, and actually demand efficient policies from your politicians.  Those little acts may look inconsequential but trust us, they ripple outwards, especially when you talk about and share them.