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?

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31 thoughts on “Evolutions Not Resolutions

  1. This all sounds great! I love how varied (but also integrated) your list is. We have a similar group here in Toronto for sharing resources, both at the individual level (we cut our holiday decorations in half and offered them to a family that was looking for some) and at the community level (sharing tools and games)…it’s been so inspiring. And it also reinforces the idea of buying quality because you can share items for longer if they remain in working order more reliably. (There are people, too, though, who repair when necessary…handier folks than I am LOL.) In 2021, I’d like to try to make our own pasta to cut out that packaging (you might remember that we’ve been gradually removing packaged products from our kitchen and bathroom products) but we might have to shift that. And I’m trying to improve my sewing skills to become more slave-labour-free in my closet (while buying key items certified cradle-to-cradle in the meantime). Right now I’m working on very small projects (not at all fancy)!

    1. Thanks BIP! Everything is connected! I have been doing reading on systems thinking lately 🙂 So happy to hear you have something similar in Toronto to the Buy Nothing group! Oh, making your own pasta is a great idea! You will have to let me know how it goes. Sewing is a great skill to have! I know how but haven’t had the time. Though these days I am focusing on creative mending that tends to involve lots of hand sewing, something I am not good at. But like anything, the more you practice, the better you get. Keep up the good work and have fun!

    1. Thanks Liz! Yes, I try much like the idea of growth lurking within evolution. Resolution to me so often means reaching a goal and being done–I lost 10 pounds, I reached my goal, I am done. But evolution is ongoing 🙂

  2. I love these evolutions, Stefanie! I think the world is not so great at resolutions either – remember Kyoto? Copenhagen? Paris? We need to start evolving quickly. I love your Buy Nothing group. I am struggling to get involved with politics and activism here in Serbia because of the language barrier and cultural barrier, but one of my goals for 2021 is to break those barriers down and start getting more involved.

    1. Thanks Andrew! Heh, yeah, the world is great at making promises but not so great at keeping them. You’re in Serbia these days? Wow! All the best to you as you search for ways to break down those barriers and get involved!

  3. Those are wonderful goals for the year! I too want to find ways to be more involved in politics and political action, though I haven’t quite found the best ways to do that yes. I specifically want to find a Senate candidate and a gubernatorial candidate to volunteer for — I haven’t had any success with this in the past but I’m hopeful for the next set of election cycles.

  4. What inspiring resolutions Stefanie! One thing I do have in common with you is to buy less and buy local. Especially in the pandemic our small farmers and business owners are struggling to make a living and buying from them is key for overall well being of community and economy.

    1. Thanks cirtnecce! Yes to buying less and local! Support those farmers and small businesses! I read recently that for every $10 million of sales Amazon employs only 23 people, but an equivalent local business would employ over 200 people. That is jaw dropping!

  5. Very impressive! My resolutions tend to be far less far-reaching than these, but one of my 2021 resolutions might fit in. It’s to reduce food waste by being sure to eat, cook, or freeze food before it goes bad and has to be thrown away, and to use foodstuffs we already have before buying more. We have already cut way back on the frequency of shopping trips due to the pandemic, so this is just building on the concept of pantry cooking that we started doing back in the spring. My husband had been in the habit of running to the supermarket a few times a week, now it’s once every two weeks.

  6. I also assumed that natural gas just burned off any nasties and Jack’s got a PhD in Chemistry, he might have warned me! The lending things is such a good idea, at the beginning of our first lockdown in February one of our loo cisterns leaked and we had to click and collect three different tools before we got one that worked properly on our pipes. I also think ‘buy cheap buy twice’ so I think it’s a false economy although you have to be careful as often expensive ‘famous name ‘ things are just poor quality relying on their past history of quality which has sadly disappeared.

    1. I was really surprised about the natural gas Katrina. But the more I thought about it the more I realized, oh that’s why I have to have an air exchange fan in the kitchen that is always going and a carbon monoxide detecter. No one has ever accused me of being quick on the uptake! 😀 It is really nice to have the lending option available, we’ve been in the same situation as you, needing to buy a number of tools to fix something and then not using them at all since. And I totally agree about the “buy cheap buy twice” sentiment and big famous names. The price tag of a high quality, long lasting item seems big but when you think how long it will last compared to if you buy several of the cheaper version multiple times over the course of years, you really are saving quite a lot.

  7. I love the reframing to “evolutions.” Brilliant! Your goals are excellent and I look forward to reading about your progress.

    I would like to try cooking one new vegan recipe a month. I already don’t eat red meat or pork, but I would like to reduce my poultry/dairy consumption.

    1. Thank Laila! I can’t take credit for evolutions though 🙂 Oh, have you made your vegan meal for January yet? How did it go? If you need any recipes, let me know! 🙂

  8. Your example of how to use the Buy Nothing group has given me an idea for a similar group that exists in our neighbourhood via Facebook. So far it’s just been people donating clothes, cooking equipment and household ware. But using it for “loans” would be a great extension.

    We did start a plant swap group during the lockdown where people donated seedlings they didn’t want. I grew my first aubergine plant that way.

    1. I hope you are able to add a new layer to your local group BookerTalk! I love the plant swap. Congrats on growing your first aubergine! I’ve tried to grow them in my garden but the squirrels always eat them.

  9. I am also not one who has ever been big on New Years resolutions.

    I am impressed with how much you have modified your lifestyle do far.

    Due to Covid and working at home. My driving is under 5000 miles a year and there is a good chance I can keep it that low even after the pandemic passes.

    Good luck on these changes.

  10. Those are some great goals for the year, especially since it sounds like you can meet most of them! I would be satisfied to accomplish any one of those! `I would like to can my own food but I just can’t seem to grow enough extra than what we eat for the season.

    1. Thanks Jeane, I hope I can! Some years there is more to can than others. This year the fruit production in the garden was enormous! And there is always more zucchini that we can eat or want to eat in the summer so turning it into relish to enjoy in the winter is a favorite option. Plant an extra row in your garden next year and see what happens! As an alternative, you can always pick up veg from the farmers market and can that.

  11. I think this is a great way at looking at a new year. Evolutions! Although I hate that we’ve been in a pandemic I have to acknowledge that it has been good for several things. One being we’ve hardly used our cars since we’re both working from home. And, I haven’t eaten any red met since March. Granted, I don’t eat red meat but maybe once a month but still. Small steps and all that! Really applaud all of your efforts and can’t wait to hear how the year goes for you!

    1. Thanks Iliana! Well done on your efforts! I think not diving much is huge as is not eating a lot of meat. Both are such big contributors to greenhouse gases. Keep up the good work!

  12. I am one of those people who actually enjoy setting goals, but I normally do it over the course of January. Actually, one of my possible revolutionary evolutions is to try to align my job on my values, especially re: climate emergency. I do not approve of the always bigger data centers and everything online, especially when much of the cloud is owned by Amazon et alii… we’ll see…

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