I’ve not been much of a New Year’s resolution maker for years. But one of my cycling teammates recently posted to our team Facebook page that resolutions are things you usually give up on so she was making evolutions this year, recognizing that habits are hard to change and go in fits and starts (it also makes a great play on our team name: Revolution Velo). I thought it was pretty brilliant, so I am stealing her idea! Making evolutions acknowledges that change is an ongoing process, and intended changes often bring about other changes as well.
So here are my Evolutions for 2021
- Continue to reduce plastic. James and I have come a very long way with zero waste grocery shopping and that has spilled out into other areas of our life too. We think twice before buying something that is plastic—want or need?—and if we decide we need something, we will see if we can find it made without plastic or with less plastic. The pandemic has made things extra challenging and for a little while we had to use plastic bags for some bulk bin items. So it’s time to get back on track and reduce our plastic use even more. Some of the other evolutions will help with this like …
- Buy quality/buy less/buy from companies that reduce waste/buy local. In other words, consume less and make sure what we do consume is going to last and is made by companies that are local or that are working to reduce waste like Patagonia for instance.
- Even better than buying is not buying. Over the summer someone in my neighborhood set up a Buy Nothing group. While I have not yet received anything from the group, I have given a couple dozen eggs from the Dashwoods and some blank journal books that I have had for years and never used and were not the kind of journals I like to write in. One of them had a hummingbird on the cover and went to someone who was absolutely thrilled to have it because hummingbirds have a great significance for her and her family.
My Buy Nothing group also allows us to ask for short term loans of things. So, for instance, if I am working on a project and need a specific tool that I don’t own and won’t need again, I can ask my neighbors in the group if someone has it and can lend it to me. Not only is it a way to save money, but it also keeps things out of the trash and in use, and it’s a great way to get to know neighbors.
- In an effort to further get to know neighbors and be part of community building related to climate change, I am going to begin attending my neighborhood association Green Committee. I found out in late 2019 that this committee existed but their in-person meetings were at a time that made it really hard for me to attend. When the pandemic arrived, they changed to zoom meetings. And at some point they must have changed their meeting schedule because in the latest neighborhood newsletter I noticed they meet on a day and time that I can actually attend! So now I know what I will be doing the evening of the third Thursday of every month.
- Continue to reduce my personal and household energy footprint. We are in the process of improving all the cold air leaks in our house. When the pandemic is over we will be adding more insulation in our attic. At some point in the spring or early summer, we will be getting a new stove/oven range. Our current one is twenty years old and runs on natural gas. It still works just fine but the buttons of the clock and timer are all broken and, well it’s gas. I’ve been learning recently about indoor air pollution and how gas ranges are the biggest contributor to it. They throw out some really nasty stuff into the air! I always assumed the flame burned everything, but nope. So in the name of better indoor air quality, and moving away from fossil fuels, we plan to get an electric induction range. They are more energy efficient and, my local electric company is gradually transitioning from coal to renewable sources of electricity.
In addition, my main form of transportation this year has become my bicycle. I am even biking in the snow and frigid cold! Sometimes it really sucks, but most of the time it isn’t bad. Biking to work on cold, quiet, dark mornings is remarkably peaceful. I, however, happily use the car when James doesn’t have it at work or will ask him to pick up my books from the library on his way home. So in the coming year my plan is to use the car even less. We already drive well under 7,000 miles a year. I’m wondering if we can reduce it to 3,000 miles or less?
- Learn how to preserve food besides canning and freezing. In the midst of busy fall preserving last year we needed more canning jars and lids and were unable to find any because of the pandemic. Not only were more people preserving their garden produce, but there was a supply shortage as well. We packed our tiny freezer so tight that it became quite a chore to get anything out of it or anything new into it. We used our dehydrator for apples but we could only do a little at a time and drying takes so long that is was only a minor help.We have a book on fermentation, Wild Fermentation, and we have made our own sauerkraut several times, even have some going now. And we also regularly make our own apple cider vinegar. But there is so much more we can do with fermentation, and it doesn’t require we buy any special equipment. The resulting ferments don’t require refrigeration or canning and will keep for a very long time. Plus there is the huge benefit for our gut biomes. So many wins on this one!
- Take a local foraging class or two since foraging is a seasonal activity. There is a group in my city that regularly hosts classes on wild foraging. They meet at a park or other location and away they go, learning while doing. I have wanted to take a class since I learned about them two years ago. I think this is the year, COVID permitting.
- Speak out. I’ve been to protests but I am not a big protest/direct action sort of person. I’ve wanted to be involved in making change but haven’t had any idea where my place in it all might be. So this is the year to figure it out and start doing something about it. I was listening to podcast recently and the person being interviewed commented on how the issues of climate change are so big and varied that people often have a hard time figuring out where to pitch in. That’s me! She suggested you take the time to think about things you are passionate about and then focus your efforts on those areas. So, for me as a gardener and cyclist, those areas are food and land use and transportation.
I’ve already gotten started by sending an email with some very pointed questions to my county climate action committee on a climate plan they are putting together. They had the right stuff in there to promote cycling, walking and public transportation, but they were sorely lacking on food issues. Their only initiative was dealing with food waste. So I asked them what was the plan to deal with food insecurity and how are they going to support local agriculture? How are they going to make sure the most vulnerable parts of our population have access to fresh, affordable food? Do they have plans to encourage more urban agriculture? Will they be offering free or low cost programs to teach people how to grow food in their yards? They have not answered me yet.
So there it is. It’s a lot, but none of it is really new, mostly a deeper commitment to what I am already doing with some new approaches and new learning opportunities, moving from just me and James to connecting with the wider community. And of course I will share how things are going!
What evolutions will you be making in 2021 especially when it comes to the climate emergency?