My last update on my 2021 “evolutions” was was in April, so it’s time for another update.

My 2021 evolutions came about in January when I decided that Evolutions were better than Resolutions because resolutions imply product, imply ending, and evolutions are an ongoing process that recognizes setbacks and changes. My plan was both broad and narrow and overall, I am feeling pretty good about it.

Continue to reduce plastic

Being aware of plastic has pretty much become second nature. When our strawberry crop failed because of heat and drought, we paid extra from strawberries in a paper box instead of buying them in a plastic container. We did not buy any grapes this summer because we could only get them in plastic bags. We did cave in and buy blueberries in a little plastic container, but saved the container for seed starting in the spring because it will make a perfect little greenhouse. 

At this point, our plastic consumption has almost entirely become incidental, like when I bought a book online in May and it arrived with plastic bubble filler in the box. Or the vitamin B12 tablets in a glass bottle that has plastic wrapped around the top to make it tamper proof. We have not been able to get ourselves to stop buying a bag of organic tortilla chips once a month or so, or flour tortillas (made locally) packaged in a plastic bag. We could make our own tortillas, but James already makes all of our bread and so much else from scratch that a large chunk of his time at home is spent in the kitchen. He loves it, but he needs downtime too. Like me in the garden, if he didn’t have to work he’d be all-in on doing flour tortillas and many other things from scratch.

So on this one we have reached a point of maintenance with the caveat of looking out for alternatives when there is something we need that is predominately plastic but might have non-plastic solution.

Buy quality/buy less/ buy eco-friendly/buy nothing

We have pretty much not bought anything other than food and a couple books. When we were trying to rabbit-proof the garden (fail!) we did buy wire fencing and steel fence posts, both of which are long lasting and plastic-free. I did give in recently and buy a thermal cycling jersey, thermal cycling cap, and neck gaitor to prepare for when my bike commutes turn cold again. All of these are synthetic, oil-based fabrics. But they are high quality and should last me many years of bike commutes. I promise to wash them carefully so they don’t shed large amounts of micro-plastic. 

Personal and Household Energy

We are currently in the process of getting bids to add insulation in our attic. We will use cellulose insulation (plastic-free!), and hopefully end up with lower energy bills as a result. After we get the attic taken care of, we will start budgeting for an electric stove/oven and the electrician to upgrade our wiring.

I continue to bike commute every workday, rain or shine. While the drought means we haven’t gotten much rain, that doesn’t mean I haven’t had commutes in a downpour. I don’t mind cycling in the rain, but my office at work ends up looking interesting with all my wet bike gear spread out to dry. James has biked to work a few times this summer, but because it has been unusually hot and heat makes his MS fatigue worse, his bike commutes have been fewer than he would have liked. Perhaps we will have a long autumn during which he can bike frequently.

The car mileage is currently at 2,793. I had hoped to keep it below 3,000 but we are going to end up going over. Now the goal is to keep the overage to a minimum. James is the almost sole driver of the car, so we’ll have to take a look at how he’s been using it and how we might make reductions.

The drought has been extra incentive to reduce my time spent in the shower and I am now regularly less than 5 minutes. I don’t feel deprived at all, in fact, I feel rather accomplished and have more time in the mornings because I don’t dawdle in the shower. Using less water and spending less to heat it while gaining more time feels like a big win.

Because there have been so many hot days this summer, the air conditioning has been going more than usual. We generally have it set at 78F but bumped it up to 80 and will turn it off and open doors and windows in the evening when it’s 83 and cooling outside.

We are working out a plan for winter around the concept of warming the person instead of the whole house. We turned our occupied house temperature down last winter from 65F to 64F. It’s not much but psychologically it is huge to creep down from that nice round number. Our away temperature was 60F because of the cats, and our night temperature was 57F. I read recently that the savings from all the changes in temperature is not much at all and you are better off to choose one temperature and stick with it. I have proposed a set occupied and unoccupied temperature of 60F. But because I also sleep better in a cold room, I still want it colder at night. I’d love to knock it down to at least 55 and preferably 50F, but because of his MS James has temperature regulation issues and gets really cold easily. So there will certainly be some negotiations.

Our house is heated by a gas furnace. Bad, bad. But it is working and I can’t justify replacing it at this time with an electric furnace. However, I will be doing some off-grid heating research this winter to find out if we might be able to build a rocket mass heater in our living room. 

Food preservation

James tried to make a ginger bug and failed at it and we have not tried again. We had all sorts of other plans based on produce from the garden, which did not happen due to the drought. So this one is kind of in a holding pattern for now.

Take a foraging class

I have not taken any classes, but that has not stopped me from learning about foraging. I even found some mulberry trees in the area and James and I went on a drizzly day picking expedition. I found a few nearby places where I can forage sumac berries instead of cycling 40 miles to the park reserve where there is a veritable sumac forest. They are ready to pick, so I think next weekend I will drag James on another expedition.

Community and speaking out

In April I reported that I had become a regular attendee of my neighborhood Green Committee. Well in June I became co-chair! This was not planned. The chairs change every June and at the May meeting I was the only one in attendance who had never been a chair so I was basically told by the other 5 people that I was the new co-chair. The other chair was co-chair last year and volunteered to continue. She and I switch off running the meeting and taking notes. But, ack, I had to stand up at the annual meeting two weeks ago and give a little speech about the committee and invite everyone there to join us. I am not a public speaker, but James said I did fine and that I was very high energy which kept everyone’s attention. So I guess that’s good?

We are planning a fall clean-up day, a campaign for zero waste holiday wrapping, veganuary, and I got 30-days of biking/National Bike Challenge on the calendar for an April/ May campaign. I even offered to do a webinar or in-person event on bike commuting. So we shall see how that pans out.

On the activist front, my emails and comments during the public comment period, helped stop the city and county’s plan to expand a polluting county maintenance facility. Whether the neighborhood, who wants to use community and donor funding to turn the piece of property into an urban farm, workshop and education center, and small business “market,” will get to do that is up in the air. The city will not promise to sell to them but is trying to open up the property to development bidding. The neighborhood is one that has suffered from racist policies that has caused pollution, health problems, and economic hardship for the people who live there. This is a major eco-justice issue and the mayor and a coupe city council people are blocking the neighborhood-driven movement for self-determination and improving opportunities for those who live there. It is infuriating. There is a lot of support for the urban farm from across the city, so hopefully a continued outpouring of voices on the matter will make it happen.

I’ve also been sending emails and making public comments on transportation planning and road reconstruction insisting on public and active transit and the need to de-prioritize cars.

And I have been sending emails to various elected officials asking them to stop the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. The pipeline construction continues in spite of mounting opposition. Enbridge insists it is safe and will not pollute all the rivers it is crossing, but in the process of building they have already polluted Willow Creek when they released contaminated water from their drilling and construction “accidentally” into the creek. If they can’t build the pipeline without accidents, how are they going to keep from spilling oil into Minnesota waterways? But it is also about Indigenous rights and honoring treaties. Public outcry finally stopped the Keystone pipeline. Won’t you lend your voice and help stop Line 3?

I did hear back from the people at my county working on the county climate plan regarding my inquiry about why their plan did not include anything about food insecurity and climate change. The lead committee person replied that they were very aware of food insecurity and climate change and had discussed it quite a lot but decided that it was a bigger issue than what could go into the climate plan outline they had been tasked with. He assured me that they were looking into other ways to address the issue. It was a very nice email and I am glad they talked about the issue, but too big to put into their plan? I understand a county not having the resources to coordinate big programs, but they could have at least put some kind of acknowledgement into the plan.

I recently learned that the Minneapolis climate plan has not been updated since 2013. Guess what I’m going to send emails about next? It’s an election year for the mayor and the city council and they are not likely to do anything about the plan any time soon, but maybe if I start prodding them now it will get onto their radar. My district councilperson is awesome and I hope he gets re-elected. I think he will be responsive to a climate plan email. The mayor, not so much. He’s got to go.

Evolving

I feel pretty good, like I’m moving in the right direction. As a shy introvert, I suffer from major awkwardness when interacting with people, but I keep a reminder running in my head that my discomfort from social situations is nothing compared to the discomfort of global warming, and I get over myself pretty quick. I will always be an introvert, but maybe one day I will cease to be shy. 

How have you been evolving lately?

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13 thoughts on “Evolution Progress Report

  1. Wow, this is great, Stefanie! Sounds to me as if you’ve gone from resolutions to evolutions to revolution 🙂 I’ve been reading the IPCC report lately (well, the summary anyway), and it’s clear we’re going to need a lot more actions like this to make real changes. I’m particularly impressed with all the speaking out because, like you, I’m an introvert and really struggle with that kind of thing. But you’re right, I think I’ll struggle with an uninhabitable planet a lot more! Very inspiring stuff.

    1. Thanks Andrew! It’s so hard to put aside the personal discomfort for the broader vision, but it’s going to be a lot more uncomfortable as you not, if we don’t do something. I’m trying and learning 🙂

      Oh that IPCC report is a wake up call. Part 3 will be out in the spring and it was leaked by XR scientists in Spain because they were afraid governments would water it down too much in revision. It will be interesting to see what happens with it.

      1. Wow, I hadn’t heard that about the leak. It’s crazy that governments get to “revise” scientific findings into something that gives them an excuse to do nothing. Good for those Spanish scientists! The unvarnished truth is so necessary right now. Even though I agree that the report is a wake-up call, it feels as if most people just hit snooze 🙁

  2. Wow, that’s a lot of progress! and congratulations to becoming co-chair! Your post is so very inspiring, I need to make a little soul-searching on my own. During my holidays we went to air-b&bs which all had composting because the towns collected compost waste separately, which my town doesn’t do. My town proudly states that they can co-finance a composter but if you don’t have a garden, either individual or collective, it isn’t feasible. I think they take the easy way out, I might take your example to be more vocal about it.

    1. Thanks Smithereens! My city does compost collection and while I have a compost pile in my garden it’s great for winter when everything is frozen. I think advocating with your city for a regular collection for everyone is an awesome thing to work for! Good luck!

  3. I feel like I’m devolving in this move… but my hope is to get back on track as soon as I can find sources and people and so forth. Only just couple weeks ago found a local dairy that sells in returnable glass bottles — and doesn’t pasteurize the proteins to death. Important for any sort of dairy fermenting. Also found a goat farm! They do milk, cheese, fiber and of course the best fertilizer you can find. Sadly I doubt I’m ever going to have goats again. Maybe I can talk Barre into a community pasture and herd? And of course they’d need a volunteer goat-herd… 🙂

    1. Moving upsets everything Elizabeth so be kind to yourself. That is fantastic you have a local dairy that doesn’t pasteurize! Do you make your own butter, cheese and yogurt? And a goat farm! I would be angling to make regular visits during kidding season to play with all the babies. I think goatherd of a community pasture/herd would be awesome!

  4. Great progress on so many things! You are inspiring. We are making slow progress, but we agreed to start reducing meat in our diet (I’d happily be vegetarian but Keith is not interested) — we now eat vegetarian probably half the week, sometimes more. Starting in January, we will try to be vegetarian (maybe some fish) during the week, and when we do buy meat, we will buy it at our local co-op. I have pulled out all my old vegetarian cookbooks and it’s been very fun to find new recipes that we both love. We’ve also been buying local more than online shopping; more mindful shopping and better for local business. We both work from home so our cars aren’t driven that much, but we have been biking a lot more; we have a grocery store and a hardware store less than 2 miles away from us, so I aim to start using my bike for those quick errands more often. I love the ‘buy nothing’ idea and we have been talking about trying it. Getting there! And congratulations on speaking up and out. I serve on our local fire board and try to pay attention to responsible spending and use of resources. Thankfully our district is already pretty conservative with resources. Keep up the good work! You are definitely inspiring many people to make better choices (people like me!)

    1. Thanks Daphne! That’s fantastic you are reducing your meat! Your plan sounds great! There are also so many vegan/vegetarian recipe blogs these days if there is something you are looking for that isn’t in one of your cookbooks. Yay for local and for biking! You are doing great! I think it’s really cool you are on the fire board. Maybe one of these days I will work up the courage to be on one of the city boards here. 🙂

  5. I applaud you for taking a leadership position and speaking in public! These are not easy things! I’m a shy introvert as well. Thanks for writing these evolution updates. You inspire us to do more ourselves.

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