2021 Evolutions and Plans for 2022

Resolve to be always beginning—to be a beginner.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Happy New Year!

Looking back at my 2021 evolutions, I’m pretty pleased with how it all went. My 2021 evolutions came about in January last year 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. Here are my progress reports from April and August. I had several general themes and a few specific actions.

Continue to reduce plastic

We continue to do really well with this; it has become a habit. We have the grocery shopping down pretty well, even began getting lotion in bulk. And finally found some good vegan dental floss made from bamboo. We have so little garbage most of the time, that sometimes it would take 2-3 weeks to fill our 1-gallon trash bin. We realized during the summer that purchasing something online, even if it is eco-friendly, usually means it comes encased in a lot of plastic. This realization means that we have dramatically reduced online purchases unless we are unable to find what we need locally. 

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

Most of the time we bought nothing. We have a local Buy Nothing group and we were able to get a few things we needed or wanted. James decided he wanted to learn how to play the guitar and someone on Buy Nothing had an old guitar they gave him. I needed some kind of mat that was mostly waterproof to put down under my winter bike for snow and ice to drip onto, and I was able to obtain an old yoga mat from someone. It works great!

As winter bike commuting approached, I did decide I needed a different base layer than the one I had from last year and a mid-weight neck gaiter. I found them both through Patagonia. Expensive, but high quality and carefully made. They are perfect and will last a long time. I can still wear the base layer I have from last year, but it was cheap, completely synthetic, and already showing wear, so it’s nice to have two choices, especially since the new layer is warmer.

In previous jobs, James has always had to wear a dress shirt and tie, or business casual attire, jeans were never allowed. But at the bookstore where he is now, he can wear jeans. But the jeans he owns are all pretty scruffy. So he did his research and decided to get a couple pairs of Levi’s 501s made from organic cotton. I have Levis from 20 years ago I still wear, so hopefully these will last him a good long time.

Energy

This summer during the drought, I got really good at taking five-minute showers and I continue to keep them at 5 minutes or less. We also had insulation added in our attic in September. It has made an enormous difference. Not only do we not have cold air pouring down the stairs from the attic, but we have very little heat escaping through our roof. I can tell this because the snow doesn’t melt off the roof like it used to, which also means we don’t have problems with ice building up on the southeast corner of the roof like we used to. Yay! It turned out to be not very expensive as far as house things go, and we even got a nice rebate. We are now debating whether we should have more insulation put into the outside walls or get some new windows first. I suspect we will go for the walls.

This winter we have also decided to set the thermostat lower. In years past we had it set at 64F during the day and 59F at night. We have moved it down a few notches  to 62F during the day and 58F at night. Yes, this means we wear layers in the house, wrap blankets around ourselves if we are sitting still for longer than 10 minutes, and sometimes wear fingerless gloves. But it’s worth it.

I did a bunch of research about the possibility of installing a rocket mass heater. It would not be illegal, but, because we have a basement and rocket mass heaters of a proper size weigh in at 1,000 – 2,000 pounds (I never realized how serious the mass part of the equation was!), we would have to have our foundation and floor reinforced, which is prohibitively expensive. So now we are researching small wood stoves, trying to find the most efficient and best size for our alternative heating needs.

Food preservation

Nothing new here. I was hoping to be able to freeze a bunch of greens from the garden to use in soups throughout winter, but I didn’t manage it. I’m going to try again this coming summer.

Take a foraging class

I never did take a foraging class but I still managed to learn about foraging and find some places to do it. I found some staghorn sumac only a mile and half from my house, but when it was time to go picking, circumstances conspired against me and I never got to go do it. Next year! 

I was hoping to forage acorns but it was not a mast year. And, allegedly, they need to be picked up before they have been long on the ground otherwise insects will get into them. So I am not quite sure how acorn foraging can work. I also found some walnut trees in my local park, but judging by all the broken open shells, birds and squirrels know all about them already and my chances of getting any are zero.

Community and speaking out

This has gone really well. I actually managed to get the neighborhood green committee I co-chair to host a climate change discussion, something they had never done before. There were not many people, but everyone who was there participated and it felt great! 

I was really happy to see the city plans for rebuilding a section of one of the busiest streets in the city. Of the three potential plans, only one of them had protected bike lanes and dedicated bus transit lanes. I was among the majority of people during the public comment period who insisted there needed to be bike lanes. And that’s the plan that was chosen! This month is the public comment period for the chosen design, which includes a two-way off-street protected bike lane, dedicated bus transit lanes, and lots of great pedestrian safety improvements. There will be only one lane for cars going in each direction and a whole lot of street parking will be lost. A couple of restaurants are not happy about the parking, but study after study shows that improving bike, transit, and pedestrian access is good for business. So of course I have sent in my comment on the chosen plan, saying how fantastic it is. James’s bookstore is on the section of street that will be affected and he is really happy about the bike lane that will make bike commuting for him much safer.

Evolving

Overall, the year went pretty well. Can I do more? Absolutely. And I will continue with the themes from 2021. In terms of the energy theme, this includes finally getting around to building a solar dehydrator. I’d like to make a solar oven too if I can manage it. In addition, I am going to try and grow some annual vines on the south side of the house and see 1) if they will grow in the tiny space and 2) if they help keep that side of the house cooler. If it works, then I will make plans for perennial vines.

It wasn’t specifically included in my evolutions of 2021, but James and I have been trying as much as possible to localize. We decided to ditch our national bank and use a local credit union. We’ve been with this bank for about 27 years. Well, when we moved to Minnesota the bank was a small, regional bank and then it got bought by a bigger regional bank and then it got bought by a national bank. It’s taken us six months to get everything switched over to the credit union, but we are finally ready to close out our accounts with the bank. Really happy about that. 

We also are trying to use local businesses over big national retailers. It isn’t always possible, but more often than not we’ve found what we need at the local hardware store and other small businesses. Our mantra is local first. I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out in 2022. 

How about you? Do you have any evolutionary plans for 2022?

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18 thoughts on “2021 Evolutions and Plans for 2022

  1. I wish I could say that we are doing as well as you are re plastic use, but it isn’t as bad as it used to be as the local supermarket now sells loose fruit and veggies, not encased in plastic. We’re doing better than you with our heating though as we used to live in an old Victorian house with high ceilings, it was impossible to heat well so we got used to being cold. Since Jack retired and we moved to a modern well insulated and double glazed house we keep our thermostat at 12 Celsius (53.6F) during the day and it rarely comes on at all, but we move it to 15 C (59 F) at 6 pm and we feel really warm. In the morning we walk for the Guardian, 3 miles or more all round and get too hot on the way back! wherethereisjoy should try eating those nasturtium leaves if she grows them, nice and peppery and I think you can pickle the seeds although I just stick them in the ground for next year!

    1. Oh Katrina I wish I could set my thermostat for 12C but if I did, that’s what the indoor temperature would be, especially when it’s -34C outdoors. My house was built in 1950 and I’m pretty sure even after we add more insulation to the walls and update our windows, we won’t be able to go that low. Kudos to you! I hear you though about getting warm on your walk. I generally get sweaty at some point on my bike commute not matter how arctic it is!

      I’ve heard you can pickle nasturtium seeds too, though like you, I’d rather save them for the next year’s garden 🙂

  2. Oh I loved this “In previous jobs, James has always had to wear a dress shirt and tie, or business casual attire, jeans were never allowed. But at the bookstore where he is now, he can wear jeans.” One of the reasons I loved my job – besides the fact that I loved my job – was that we could dress casually. When I first started my career in the mid-1970s, everyone dressed for work, if you know what I mean, but by the mid-80s in places like mine (cultural institution) things had relaxed and jeans and comfortable clothes were perfectly acceptable. I’ve never been big jeans wearer – I prefer softer fabrics and looser clothes – but I certainly loved wearing those soft pants and (nice) t-shirts, etc. Having to dress formally for work would be my idea of hell.

    As for evolutions, love it. We are not doing anywhere near as well as you, but we are making improvements, and “localising” is one of those things we are increasingly doing. I think the pandemic has pushed people more in this direction too as we’ve been encouraged to support local, but I hope it’s also part of a larger more environment conscious movement too. I “think” it is. I am working to reduce plastic and have made some inroads there.

    We have a well insulated house, except we could double-glaze our windows but that would be mega expensive and disruptive. There’s no way I could get Mr Gums to reduce our winter thermostat in the day, though we did reduce it at night this year. We don’t walk around in winter wearing summer gear as I have seen in Northern America. We wear long sleeves, socks, etc, but not gloves and heavy layers. On hot days we watch the temperature closely, and as soon as the outside temperature drops below the thermostat one, we turn off the AC, and open front and back doors to let the air flow. Bliss! I love it when we get to that time.

    I have also researched recycling options for items that can’t go in recycling bins, like blister packs, used pens/markers/highlighters, bottle tops, etc and have found a drop of place for these which I hope results in ethical treatment of those items. It’s not always easy to discover that, we find.

    Anyhow, I am trying, and will keep doing so … and love the inspiration you provide.

    (PS I forgot to ask in my Solstice comment – how do you make microwave roasted garlic? We love roasted garlic and I would love the recipe)

    1. Heh WG, not having to really get dressed up for work is pretty great. I can be pretty casual too, which makes my feet happy that they don’t have to be crammed into uncomfortable shoes!

      Yay for localizing! I think you are right that the pandemic has pushed people more towards shopping locally, that and all the supply chain problems, assuming you are having similar issues in you part of the world.

      In Minnesota, it’s point of stubborn pride for some people, mostly of the male variety, to wear shorts all winter. Personally, I think they are idiots 😀

      Well done on the the recycling research!

      Oh, and the microwave roasted garlic: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/katie-lee/microwave-roasted-garlic-5287681
      Enjoy!

  3. Inspiring stuff, Stefanie! That’s great news about the city planners choosing to a bike-friendly option. Good for you for speaking out about it. Wishing you and James (and of course the Dashwoods and the Nuggets) a very happy, healthy and positively evolving 2022!!

  4. At -24C now and going down to -31C (that’s -24F) later today, the only thing I’m saving is gas for the car as it’s too cold to go out. But I’m sure the heating bill will overcompensate that. 🙁

  5. Okay, it’s lunch time and I’m back because I just read that in a goldmine they found a pair of Levi jeans dating to 1879. I think you got the right jeans, Stefanie! LOL.

  6. We never had the money to be a fashion-forward family when I was growing up (and I can’t believe each “season” has new clothes, new color schemes, etc), so as an adult, I’m still not big on buying new clothes. I’m a happy Goodwill shopper — and it’s surprising how many clothes at the Goodwill store by my house still have new tags on them.

    My city reduced downtown traffic from one-way streets with four lanes to one lane in each direction. They added the bike paths as part of the large sidewalk, which, oddly, people don’t use. They ride in the street. The bike lanes added on the street are simply painted lines, which drivers see as a passing lane. It scares me to say that I know a handful of people in my current city who have been hit by cars while on bicycles. I hope you and James stay safe.

    1. GTL the whole fashion industry is pretty crazy! My mom made a lot of my clothes when I was a kid and when I was older I hated shopping so have never been much of a fashionista. Still managed to accumulate plenty of clothes though! I’ve been winnowing the wardrobe for the last few years and It’s getting pretty small, not capsule small, but it’s getting there. Good for you for shopping Goodwill! That is a fantastic option, it’s like hunting for treasure. I have a few “new” things I got a couple years ago from a local thrift shop and I love them.

      Super cool about the 1879 Levis!

      How strange people don’t use the off street bike paths. One just got finished this fall on my bike route to work and I absolutely love it especially now that there is snow and ice to contend with. I know many cyclists who have been hit by car drivers, no one who had been killed, thankfully. Though I have bike friends with friends who have died. It always makes me think, it could have been me. James and I keep as safe as we can! Thanks!

      1. I’m currently reading this memoir by a black woman whose parents were both Deaf. Her mother was so good at sewing and and such a memory that she would see fashion magazines, memorize the patterns, then make her own clothes. She was the most stylin’ teacher at the Deaf residential school. Makes me wish I could sew!

  7. Inspiring evolutions! We didn’t really keep track of what we did last year but I know we made more effort to shop locally, shop thrift first (or look on our Buy Nothing group first), and we are trying to use up all the stuff we have before buying more (so many toothpaste samples from the dentist!).

    This year I am going to try a month-by-month experiment of buying no new clothes (unless I actually need something, like James’ Levis!) or other unnecessary items. I may make an exception for occasional thrift-shop finds (I love finding old Levi’s and funky shirts!) but no new-new clothes unless absolutely necessary. Going month by month so that I don’t feel like I failed if I cave one month — but ultimately, trying for the whole year.

    Additionally, continuing to shop locally rather than online, and choosing local retailers (love that one), and shopping thrift stores first.

    I love how little trash you produce. I am going to think about ways we can start doing that, ourselves. We recycle like crazy and don’t produce that much trash, but can always do better. I think when we have to buy something, we’ll try to find the least-packed option available. I also want to shop more at the co-op and bring our own containers. Our co-op can be shockingly expensive so that’s a shift that will take some thought.

    I’m also hoping to find some vines to cover one side of the chicken coop run for shade for them — ideas? I’m thinking nasturiums — so pretty and easy to take down later.

    1. Fabulous evolutions Daphne! The more I learn about the fashion industry, the more I want to avoid it as much as I can. Thrifting is one really good way. My co-op can be really expensive too since we buy local, fair trade, organic. But we’ve been doing it so long it’s not as shocking as it used to be.

      As for vines, nasturtiums would be pretty but the chickens might find them tasty. Morning glories would work. I’ve had rogue morning glories grow up the wire of the run and the chickens leave them alone. Do not do scarlet runner beans unless you can protect them. I managed it once and then the girls figured out how to get to them and chomped them all down. Who doesn’t like bean sprouts? 🙂

  8. My evolutions (and yes I LOVE that term! thank you!) for 2022:
    — figure out how to eliminate the oil heat, or at least reduce it to emergencies, though I’m not sure what those would be… when the power goes down, the heater might make heat, but it won’t get to the rest of the house.
    — take the first steps on the hellish 1/4 acre I own on the other side of the street… considering turning it over to some sort of community trust to be a managed orchard. We’ll see how that works out.
    — find someplace I can plant potatoes and onions and bulk beans
    — relatedly, make a cold cellar to store more harvest without the freezer
    — learn how to make more soap and hygiene stuff myself! It’s amazing how much trash comes in via the bathroom!

    On your woodstove issue: go with Hearthstone. The ones they cover with soapstone. They cost a lot, but it is worth it. A modest-sized one will heat your whole house with not a whole lot of wood use each day. And the soapstone means the firebox neither gets ridiculously hot nor cold. Stuff it good at bedtime and back off the oxygen and you have radiant heat until morning — and a really easy morning kindle!

    Happy New Year, Stefanie!

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! I like your evolutions! Too bad I don’t live nearby or I’d volunteer to help you with your 1/4 acre. Maybe after after you get it cleared of all the brambles, etc it could be a place where you could plant potatoes, onions, and beans in the sunny places between the trees? Oh, bathroom trash is a good one. I have a tooth powder recipe using xylitol and baking powder (or is baking soda? I always get the two confused) that works great. Since you aren’t vegan you have the option of using silk dental floss. There is a brand that comes in a tiny glass container with a top that cuts the floss and all you buy is refills in little thin cardboard boxes. And soap, I use glycerin soap I buy at my co-op and it doesn’t come in a box. I don’t generally use shampoo, but when I do I use a shampoo bar. It works great and comes in a thin cardboard box. I clean the bathroom with white vinegar and that seems to work just fine.

      Thanks for the tip on the stove! I even found a local dealer and there is currently an uncapped tax credit 🙂

  9. I love reading about your evolutions, reached for and achieved. You inspired me to take a shorter shower this morning! I look forward to reading about your planned solar oven and dehydrator and the vines.

    I think I also want to buy longer lasting clothing items when needed. I’m going to make that a goal for 2022.

    1. Thanks Laila! Yay for shorter showers and longer lasting clothes! We shall see how the solar dehydrator and oven go. There is much room for disaster 😀

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