Easy things you can do to help the planet: keep your phone, buy fewer clothes, waste less food

One Thing You Can Do: New Year’s Resolution Version

By Kendra Pierre-Louis

A new year is a time to look back and to look forward. So, in that spirit of reflection, we reviewed our “One Thing You Can Do” series, looking for some New Year’s resolutions. These individual actions are not a substitute for broader systemic change, but they can still help you lower your personal contribution to global warming.

New Year’s resolutions often mean doing more, like working out more or saving more for retirement. But one common thread we found was that if you want to lower your climate footprint, you can find some success in simply consuming less. And it will save you money, too.

Hang onto your phone

Take, for example, your cellphone. Most of us hold onto them for only two years, but as we noted in November, producing a common smartphone released the equivalent of 178 pounds of carbon dioxide, about as much running a modern refrigerator for a year. That is one of the biggest reasons that the global carbon footprint of smartphones is projected to increase by 730 percent this decade.

While some companies are making strides in reducing the environmental impact associated with producing our favorite mobile devices, hanging onto your phone for longer than two years is one way to make a difference.

Buy less clothing

Another thing that’s helpful to hold onto? Your old clothes. The amount of textile waste in the United States increased by more than 800 percent from 1960 to 2015, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. (The population grew by about 78 percent during that period.)

The process of creating all of that fabric has a significant environmental impact, including on the climate. One thing you can do is to buy less clothing; spend the new year shopping in your closet instead.

Reduce food waste

Also spend more time searching through your cupboard this year. January is a great time to use up the contents of your fridge and cabinets before food spoils and you have to throw it out.

Globally, we throw out about a third of the food we buy, and if food waste were its own country it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the United States, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Reducing food waste is a great way to cut your greenhouse gas emissions, and it can help reduce your grocery bill at the same time.

But while you’re thinking about the best ways to cook up holiday leftovers, don’t do it in front of the refrigerator. Make sure to shut the fridge door when you’re not pulling things out — keeping the door shut is the most effective thing you can do to lower your fridge’s energy consumption.

Eduardo Garcia, Henry Fountain and Julia Rosen contributed reporting.

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