Hearing about climate change can feel daunting. But even on an individual level, there are ways you can help. We know resolutions are easier to keep when you have accountability partners, so we reached out to our elected officials, community leaders, experts, and students from Columbia University to learn what they have planned for the coming year.
Let their resolutions inspire you, or come up with a few of your own. Some small actions you can take to reduce your carbon footprint include composting your food waste, choosing to shop from environmentally responsible companies, or switching to more energy-efficient products. And if you still need additional suggestions, check out these 37 easy ways to reduce your personal greenhouse gas emissions.
How will you resolve to nurture our planet in 2023?
Responses below have been edited for length and clarity.
Hear from Columbia University faculty, staff, and students:
Daniel A. Zarrilli, special advisor for climate and sustainability at Columbia University: “The reality of our climate crisis is clear. Yet far too many of us have been made to think that we are alone in being concerned, so we don’t regularly talk about it with friends and family. It shouldn’t be this hard to learn from each other, share our worries, and come together around solutions. In 2023, I resolve to encourage others to feel more comfortable talking about what’s happening all around us and what we can do to solve it.”
Alex Halliday, founding dean of the Columbia Climate School: “I plan to eat less red meat in 2023.” Reducing red meat consumption is one simple but important step toward lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Radhika Iyengar, senior scholar at the Columbia Climate School’s Center for Sustainable Development: “I will cook the last pepper with a lot of care.” (Iyengar is referring to her experience being homebound during the height of COVID-19, reflecting on biodiversity and food waste, and seeing the last green pepper in her fridge. Read her full post here.)
Kate Morsink, a student in the M.S. in Sustainability Management program and director of engagement for Women & Sustainability, a student group dedicated to empowering female leaders in sustainability: “My current resolution for 2023 is to reduce my plastic consumption as much as possible. Some first steps will be getting refillable dish soap, shampoo, etc. In addition, I also want to try and eat more imperfect food. I went vegan eight years ago and want to try to find a service where I can get produce that is deemed unfit for grocery stores so it doesn’t end up in landfill!”
Emma L. Lauterbach, a student in the M.A. in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology program: “One of my resolutions is to stop buying personal care products—soap, toothpaste, lip balm—that come in plastic packaging. It’s so wasteful, and I want to explore more sustainable options for my everyday life.”
Lew Ziska, associate professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health: “My resolution is to be more aware of my carbon footprint and consider ways to reduce it—from transportation choices to menu planning.”
Jeffrey Schlegelmilch, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia Climate School: “My resolution is to get better at the Rubik’s Cube. I often use it as an analogy for how we look at policies for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. But we only look at one side, and forget about how we are changing the other sides—sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. And in our hyper-focus on the issue in front of us, we lose sight and empathy for others affected by the decisions. The truth is I am really terrible at the Rubik’s Cube, and always need to take the stickers off to ‘win.’ There is probably a deeper metaphor at work here. Or maybe there isn’t, and I just want to finally defeat that darn cube….”
Josh Nodiff, climate justice writer and graduate student in the M.A. in Climate and Society program: “It can be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting to combat the climate crisis. This year, I want to develop healthier ways to care for myself, while learning how to elevate the most equitable climate solutions through narrative.”
Kyle Pope, editor and publisher, the Columbia Journalism Review; co-founder and chairman, Covering Climate Now: “My New Year’s hope for the climate is that the world’s press will finally recognize they are part of the climate solution. For too long, the media’s efforts to cover the climate crisis haven’t matched the scale of the problem. That’s finally beginning to change, but so much more needs to be done. This is the biggest story of our lives, and newsrooms need to reflect that in their coverage.”
Andrew Revkin, founding director of the Columbia Climate School’s Initiative on Communication and Sustainability: “I resolve to center our communication work on answering a compelling call to climate action made last spring on our Sustain What webcast by Jigar Shah, director of the Loan Programs Office of the US Department of Energy. With the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, thousands of communities can now cut climate vulnerability, energy budgets, and heat-trapping emissions, Shah said, which requires a sustained effort at the local level. The $370 billion for clean energy in the Inflation Reduction Act President Biden signed in August hugely amplifies the opportunity. For communicators, whether in journalism, climate campaigns, or at universities, the task is no longer storytelling. It is fostering community connections with resources, expertise, and local decision makers, with a particular focus on those with the greatest needs and vulnerabilities. Our sustainability communications network will be here to help in 2023, but will only be effective if scholars, students, scientists, and staff committed to climate progress join in the work.”
What our community leaders and elected officials said:
Emily Maxwell, director of The Nature Conservancy’s New York Cities Program: “In 2023, I am doubling down on uplifting climate justice, ensuring great climate solutions like the urban forest and green roofs are funded and justly distributed, being an ally to all those working seriously to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and cooking and sharing delicious, climate-friendly meals.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr.: “In 2023, I’m going to keep fighting to ensure Queens is on the front line of the fight against climate change by pushing for intersectional projects that impact us all now and in the near future. We know the fight for a better tomorrow encompasses all aspects of our lives, including composting for all, open streets, and equitable access to clean water and air.”
New York State Senator Robert Jackson: “My resolution is to push New York towards green jobs, reduce our carbon footprint, and properly fund the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act so corporate polluters can pay for just transition and communities of color like the ones I represent can benefit from job retraining programs, energy technology research and development, and environmental justice.”
New York State Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell: “I resolve to incorporate climate justice into the fight for climate change. That means that large institutional players have a major role to play in stepping up and addressing historical inequities. Even as we take aggressive action to reduce emissions, we cannot lose sight of the impacts climate change is already having on marginalized communities, from blistering summers and freezing winters to more frequent heavy rainstorms. It is the utmost priority that historical inequities are addressed through the lens of racial and economic justice when developing climate solutions. Our working class and communities of color are continuously, disproportionately affected by climate change—this has to end.”
Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice: “My New Year’s resolution is to ensure that the city, state, and federal governments deliver on their climate goals. For example, I want to make sure New York City meets the emissions reduction targets it set with Local Law 97 of 2019, which requires buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to cut their emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. My staff and I will also be vigilant on the City’s implementation of Local Law 154 of 2021, which mandates that new buildings under seven stories be built all-electric beginning in January. Buildings account for about 70 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the city, so it’s critical that we meet these targets. On the state level, in 2023, I resolve to fight to prioritize funding and policies that will help us achieve the emissions reductions mandates set forth in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act—a 40-percent reduction economy-wide by 2030 and no less than an 85-percent reduction by 2050 from 1990 levels. This is one of the most ambitious climate laws in the world, and my goal is to make sure the State delivers as promised.”
New York City Council Member Shaun Abreu: “I resolve to do my part to promote composting and community gardens. These practices can help us reduce waste and grow local, healthy produce. Together, we can invest in our health and future.”