New Year’s Resolutions for the Planet

Cartoon of hands holding up Earth.

By CLAIRE O'NEILL and JOHN SCHWARTZ, from The New York Times

Release date: January 14, 2021


In December, we asked the readers of our newsletter Climate Fwd: and our Twitter followers what they were planning on doing differently in 2021. We got some amazing responses. If you’re thinking of making a “green” New Year’s resolution, here are a few ideas, collected from those replies.

Get involved in your community.

Self-improvement is a classic theme of New Year’s resolutions. But to improve the planet, collective action is important. And the best thing you can do is get involved. At the national and state level, that means voting, for starters. And locally, it means helping to make changes in your community: in schools, in local groups or at the town hall.

Travel differently. (Or just less.)

Transportation is a big part of nearly everyone’s carbon footprint, whether it’s the daily commute or that vacation flight. Personal and commercial transportation is the United States’ biggest contributor to greenhouse gases, at about 28 percent of the total.

So, until we can shift the nation’s transportation infrastructure to favor lower-emissions travel, a lot of you are looking for ways to get around without burning fossil fuels — or, at least, to do it without producing as much planet-warming carbon emissions.


As complicated and challenging as trying to limit global warming might seem, one action can be stated simply: Electrify everything. It’ll need to happen at a large scale and not just in your home to have the impact the planet needs, but consumer demand can help tip the market.

That can mean electric cars, sure — but that’s only the beginning. Instead of heating your home with natural gas or oil, consider an efficient electric heat pump. In the kitchen, switching from a gas cooktop to one run by induction can leave your indoor environment cleaner and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Put your money where your mouth is.

You want your money to work for you, but it can also work to save the planet — or, at least, to avoid damaging it. It makes financial sense, too. As fossil fuel stocks falter, so-called “impact” investing funds that focus on doing good are also performing well. Many of our readers are looking for ways to spend in a greener way, whether that means buying more sustainably or investing in ways that don’t reward companies that contribute to global warming.

Little things at home.

Think globally, act in your kitchen. That’s the message we got from many of you who are looking for ways in the coming year to reduce the use of single-use plastics and packaging waste. Many are also looking to shrink their carbon footprint by changing how they eat, mostly by reducing the amount of red meat in their diet, since animal agriculture produces moo-coup greenhouse gases.


global goals.

Sustainable Development Goals:

11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 

12. Responsible Consumption and Production 

13. Climate Action