Last year was the hottest on record, with scorching heat waves and natural disasters underlining the urgency of the climate crisis. Forecasters are already bracing for more of the same in 2024.
And yet with a new year comes a renewed sense of possibility—and new routines that can lessen the impact of daily life. After all, research has shown that taking action, particularly with other people, is one of the best ways to alleviate climate anxiety. With that in mind, here are nine easy ways you can have an impact in 2024.
1. Try plant-forward eating
A plant-forward diet—one that prioritizes plant-based foods but is not restricted to them—can improve human health and support a sustainable planet. A plant-forward diet centered around fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds, healthy oils, and whole grains has proven to reduce the risks of heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. And eating less meat significantly reduces the carbon emissions as well as land, energy, and water consumption associated with your meal choices.
2. Wash clothes in cold water
Washing in cold water—rather than warm or hot—doesn’t just extend the life of clothes, it saves a significant amount of energy. For instance, 100 loads of laundry washed and rinsed in cold water saves about 500 pounds of CO2 emissions—the equivalent of charging 27,586 smartphones for one day.
3. Get involved in environmental justice
The Yale Center for Environmental Justice offers a wealth of information and ways to get involved, including a list of related courses, free speaker series, learning resources, certificate programs, research fellowships, and more.
The Yale Student Environmental Coalition encompasses a number of student-led projects that promote environmental justice—from the Equitable Bikeshare at Yale to the Plastic NEST (Nexus of EcoSocial Thought), in which participants “revalorize” plastic and plant waste into “environmentally harmonious creations.”
4. Try commuting by bicycle
Pedal power is a healthy, zero-emissions way to get around. Yale has numerous resources to make bike commuting convenient and safe, including a New Haven bike routes map, a Smart Streets guide to safety, a map of bike rack locations, a shower pass for Payne Whitney Gym, and bicycle safety courses (starting in spring).
5. Take public transit
Taking public transit—even just once a week—can significantly reduce your carbon footprint, improve your health, and save you money. For Yale employees, the Commuter Benefits Program lets you use tax-free savings to receive a discount on transit tickets and guarantees a ride home in case of emergency. The nonprofit CTrides offers free commuter counseling and rewards for transit riders. The Yale Shuttle offers free transit to and around Yale’s campuses with a mobile site that shows shuttle locations in real time.
6. Learn what’s recyclable
Recycling remains a critical way to practice reuse and divert waste from landfills and incinerators. But with so many different kinds of material to sort, knowing trash from recycling can be tricky. Two easy tools can help: The Recycle CT Wizard lets you search any item to make sure it gets into the right bin, while the Yale Sustainability recycling quiz lets you test your knowledge (and learn) in a fun, interactive way.
7. Buy (and sell) secondhand
The environmental and human rights impacts of fast fashion —the mass production of cheap, trendy clothing—are well documented. Instead of buying new this year, consider participating in the circular economy by buying and selling used clothing at local thrift stores, at the Yale-based Common Closet, or at any number of second-hand websites.
8. Get out in Nature
Caring for your mind, body, and spirit by taking regular breaks in nature has proven benefits for health and well-being. The New Haven Nature & Health Initiative, a group formed during the Covid-19 pandemic to promote equitable access to natural spaces, has compiled a list of community groups and professional organizations to help you get outside.
9. Confirm your voter registration, and learn about candidates’ positions
This year’s state and federal elections will have far-reaching consequences for climate policy. It’s a good time to confirm you are registered to vote (or to register, if you’re not already), learn about candidate positions, and organize with others to make your voice heard. Voting at Yale has resources and information about in-person and mail-in balloting, early voting, requesting an absentee ballot, and more.