We like to begin each year on a fresh note. Challenging ourselves in different ways to bring about positive changes in our lives. For some losing weight is important while for someone else it can be something as profound as ‘live life to the fullest’. Some resolutions we stick to while others just fizzle and die away as the mundanity of life takes over. Others we repeat year after year! (I made a resolution to live life to the fullest in 2010 and am still trying to achieve it!).
What if, this year, instead of taking up one resolve for the entire year, we ‘challenge’ you to take up a new one every month? So, in the spirit of new beginnings and new year resolutions, we have curated a list of monthly challenges – eco-challenges 2021 – which you can implement on a monthly basis to reduce your impact on the planet. And what’s more, we have tried and tied them up (some and not all) with different environmental events scheduled throughout the year, making it easier for you to mark them on your calendar, get organised and most importantly find no lame excuse to miss it (Wink. And an all-knowing cheeky smile) :
January is Veganuary (Go Vegan)
Why not begin the new year by turning vegan? Too difficult you say? Try it for the month of January only then.
Aside from the obvious health benefits of a vegan diet, you would be helping the environment in a big way. You can follow this month’s sustainability challenge in one or all of the following ways:
- Start by checking out the website of Veganuary, a UK based non-profit organisation that encourages plant-based diets and discover a whole world of recipes, tips and people who can help you in your endeavour. Subscribe to their free e-cookbook containing 31 days of inspiring recipes.
- Afraid you won’t be able to resist meat for an entire month? Why not start with only one day in a week – say, a dedicated meat-free day like a ‘Meatless Monday’? Suddenly sounds accessible, right?
- Being vegetarian doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing game. Even only cutting down on your meat intake with one vegetarian meal every day is a small step in the right direction.
- Try a scrumptious meat-free recipe on the day you choose to go meatless . For inspiration, recipes and tips follow #meatlessmonday or try making some vegan popsicles when craving for something sweet.
- Still looking for some inspiration? When going out for a meal next, choose a vegan restaurant to satiate those taste buds. We have curated an entire list of vegetarian restaurants in Singapore for you (a few of them are vegan too).
Foodie February (Have fun with food waste)
Since the new year began on a note about food, why not make your next eco-resolution about food as well – but with a twist. This green challenge is not about what you eat but rather about using what you do not eat. It’s about targeting food waste reduction by using scraps, leftovers, stale and expired food to create something useful.
- Those new to the concept of zero waste kitchens (but make up for it with their enthusiasm) can begin with saving food scraps which are usually thrown away – and use them in other recipes for food, cleaners or even cleansers! Our orange peel recipes are a great place for you to kickstart this monthly nature challenge.
- Those already well-versed with reusing food scraps can make their own eco enzymes by fermenting fruit and vegetable peels.
- The pros of food waste reduction can up their game by giving composting a go. Already composting? Help your friends acquire the skill as well!
Hey, don’t let us tell you which level you are at. If you want to open your green challenge account with composting- more strength to you we say.
March on the wild side (Celebrate World Wildlife Day)
The United Nations has deemed March 3 as World Wildlife Day in an effort to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. So we think, it is only fitting you dedicate this month’s eco-challenge to biological diversity:
- Explore nature walks and hiking trails to discover flora and fauna in your city / neighborhood / country. Take the time to hear the birds and bees while you’re at it!
- Want to know the history of Singapore via an interactive app that you can use as you walk along Singapore River and Fort Canning Hill? Download the Baliksg app on your iOS or Android device. The app uses AR technology to take you on a journey back in time. The storytelling is authentic and has been endorsed by National Heritage Board and National Parks Board of Singapore.
- Visit a national park to get captivated by wildlife and nature. Don’t forget to look for signs of an unethical wildlife safari while you are at it.
- Commit to never buying products which encourage illegal trade of wildlife parts.
Fashionably Austere April (Follow sustainable fashion)
The annual Fashion Revolution Week is slated for 19-25th April in 2021. This annual event started in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse (an industrial disaster caused by unethical practices in the garment industry that cost 1100+ lives) to bring about a systemic change in the fashion industry, to make it more ethical and more sustainable. So we propose fashion austerity – cutting down of fashion related waste and pollution – as the green challenge for April. Here are few ways to tie-up your eco-resolution with this environmental event:
- We have a whole list of ways to begin your journey towards fashion sustainability
- Resist the urge to buy new clothes simply because you are bored. There are many ways to build up a sustainable wardrobe without always spending the moolah.
- Amp up your fashion quotient a few notches. Mix and match old clothes to create something completely new and wow.
- Loved the red dress your friend wore for dinner last time? Organise and invite friends for a swap party and (maybe) get your hands on it without spending a penny.
- Want to pick from a curated collection of swappables? Head over to The Fashion Pulpit for an in-store experience, or to Swapaholic for either an instore or online experience. There is no excuse really!
- Fill in the gap in your wardrobe with pre-loved clothes. They are easy on your pocket and on the environment too.
Mindful May (Connect with nature)
International Day for Biodiversity falls on 22nd May, but you can celebrate it through the month by challenging yourself to forge a deeper connection with nature. Here are few ways in which you can complete this month’s sustainability challenge:
- Go for a leisurely walk in a local park or beach around you and do not forget to drag your family members and friends along.Give your eyes and ears a break as you smell and feel the earth as you walk barefoot in your backyard or in the park near you.
- Let all your senses come alive as you go forest bathing and let the restorative power of nature wash over you, healing your body, mind and soul.
- Enjoy a picnic or barbecue with family and friends over the weekend. (Remember to carry your reusables and not disposables).
- Enjoy a camping trip on one of the weekends with your friends and family to breathe in the natural life teeming around you.
- Challenge your friends to a bird sighting competition. List down and compare names of all the birds you sight and know. Download SGBioAtlas [the official app by National Parks Singapore] or Merlin [by Cornell University] to help you through the challenge!
Toxin free June (Cut use of toxic personal products)
A leading event on the environmental calendar, World Environment Day is celebrated every year on June 5 with themes focusing on different environmental issues. This year’s theme is it’s time for nature; and we challenge you to pick more earth-friendly lifestyle choices by reducing the toxic load of the everyday products you use. Wondering how?
- Educate yourself on toxins found in toiletries such as soaps, shampoos and makeup. Environmental Working Group is the go-to resource for consumers interested in choosing better products.
- Check the ingredients of your soap for toxins like microbeads before making a purchase. Transition to an eco-friendly bathroom with products which keep the environment as healthy as they do your skin.
- Keep your skin glowing with homemade concoctions and recipes which use safe and easily accessible ingredients. Bonus: you also get to ditch cumbersome packaging!
Plastic Free July (Can you ditch the packaging?)
We have set this month aside for the Plastic-Free July campaign– a global movement which inspires millions of people across the world to ditch single-use plastic. On a personal level, you can support this international campaign by cutting down (drastically) your dependence on single-use plastic products like disposable straws, coffee cups and plastic bags. And oh- do not forget to carry your reusables. Read our post on Zero Waste Toolkit for more tips on useful things you can carry in your bag for a plastic-free lifestyle. We know eliminating plastic from our lives is just so damn difficult -we have our personal challenge scars to show for it. But impossible it is not.
Creative August (Let’s try DIY!)
It’s time for summer hols! With kids at home, you will need to keep them busy. Why not combine your environmental challenge for this month with your attempt to teach kids about sustainability:
- This may sound impossible – but try to buy no new games for yourself or your kids in August. Instead give DIY upcycling and recycling projects a try. Repurpose old coasters, junk cans and fallen leaves to unleash their creativity and imagination.
- Have a whole collection of wine corks? Use them for fun craft activities.
- Draw up reading goals and do some serious summer reading.
- Take up gardening and plant a tree or a herb or even a flower. Make kids responsible for nurturing the plant. Upcycle your old cigar box, egg carton or shoe to use as a planter.
Cleanup September (Make oceans clean again)
While there is no dearth of eco-volunteer opportunities all year round, September is the perfect month to participate in beach clean-ups (as many times as you can). This eco-resolution fits in perfectly with Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Clean-up Day – a global annual event slated for the 3rd Saturday of September every year – when people across 100+ countries undertake to clean coastal areas in their respective neighbourhoods. In 2018, more than a million volunteers worldwide cleared out 10 million kgs of trash! The idea behind this global campaign is not only to clean the beaches, but also to gather valuable data as to what are the pollutants in our oceans.
- No doubt, you will find events and beach clean-up drives all through September. Join the crowds or go on your own.
- Picking up trash as you jog (aka plogging) on the beach or in a park or even in your neighbourhood is one of the simplest ways of preventing trash from making its way into our waters.
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Carbon-counting October (Can you remove cars from your daily diet?)
Our daily transport choices are a significant part of our carbon footprint. Though we can’t avoid traveling in our standard urban lives – we can make better travel decisions. So this month, challenge yourself to go all out in using public transport for long distances and bikes or your feet for shorter hauls!
- Avoid taking the car – and use the bus, train, cycle, carpool instead. Allow for extra time in your schedule to manage the shift!
- If you have a bicycle, you’re perfectly placed to ace this resolution. Whether it’s biking to work or running errands or meeting friends or mountain biking or exploring the city… take up this month’s sustainability challenge to make the bicycle your go-to choice of transportation in October.
- Ride more. Bonus: you also get fitter in time for end-of-year festivities!
- Look up the bus routes that run through your neighborhood; scan the stops. Discover any of your usual pit-stops there? Figured the shortest route to your workplace? Knowledge gained is knowledge used!
Joyful November (Daily acts of kindness)
November is the month in which brands push consumerism into our faces with hard-to-resist sales and oh-so-tempting offers. Festival season makes the retail pressure and allure of new things that much harder to ignore. Cut the consumerist pressure of November by focusing your time, energy and money on practicing daily acts of kindness. As a part of this monthly nature challenge you can:
- Take time to call and check-in on someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
- Give unexpected compliments.
- Give someone your seat in a crowded train or a bus.
- Open the door for someone.
- Give a generous tip along with rave reviews.
- Donate old things which pile up over time. Use our guide as a ready reference for places in Singapore to donate.
Red, white AND green December (Have a green Christmas)
You cannot mention the word December and not think of Christmas. This month is all about red and white decorations, beautifully adorned Christmas trees and the anticipation of gifts – all of which make this month’s eco-challenge, well for the lack of a better word, more challenging. This year commit to making Christmas (and all the other festivals) green and planet-friendly by:
- Using your decorations from last year and years before that to decorate your Christmas tree.
- Buying a second hand Christmas tree
- Making socially conscious and eco-friendly gifting choices.
- Practicing mindful gift wrapping by using brown paper and newspaper instead of wrapping paper. Re-use gifting bags and gift wraps lying around in the house instead of rushing to the store for a new one.
So much to do and so little time
With so many climate issues to tackle, deciding where to begin can get overwhelming. We hope these monthly sustainability goals will help you learn and think about them one at a time and develop new habits in a fun and inclusive way. Here’s to living an eco-friendly life in 2021.