Happy New Year! We are not late-night people at my house. After riding my bike 83 miles on Zwift yesterday, I barely managed to keep my eyes open until 9. We did celebrate with burgers from our favorite plant-based cafe though. And today James made us black-eyed pea fritters and rice pilaf for good luck, health, and prosperity today. The black-eyed peas are from the garden this past summer. Very satisfying!

I don’t make annual resolutions because they focus on end results. Instead, I make evolutions that focus on the process of change. In 2022, my New Year evolutions took me where I didn’t plan to go. We planned on driving less than 3,000 miles. We definitely managed that since we ended up going car-free in May! Selling the car has worked out quite well. I was most worried about James and how he would take to biking everyday, but he loves it!

Going car-free has forced me to slow down. Biking, walking, taking the bus, are not a fast way to get many places. It has not always been easy. But slowing down has actually been a surprise side benefit, an unforeseen gift I hope to write more about in the future, and I mean to carry it into other areas of my life this year besides just getting places.

One of those ways is by taking a weaving and a spinning class. The Minnesota Weaver’s Guild, to which I had an adventurous bike ride last summer for a sale, has moved from St Paul to Minneapolis. Their new location is about a block away from the road I bike on five days a week to and from work. So biking there will be easy. I can also take the bus from my house to their doorstep without a transfer. I am so excited about this! I hope to take a class on how to use a drop spindle as well as a beginner weaving on a rigid heddle loom class. And after that? Who knows what might happen?

In 2022 James and I broadened our dandelion and mulberry foraging to include plums. This year I am going to drag James around in search of white oak trees that we can gather acorns from in fall to try and make acorn mash and flour! Also, there are black walnut trees at the lake near my house. I want to see if I can forage some walnuts or whether the critters get them all, in which case I then might be able to collect their shells to use to make dye. So much to do and learn and none of it will be fast, but all of it will be satisfying in some way or other.

And you, what sort of evolutions are you planning?

I read a recent article in the Atlantic by Michelle Nijhuis “How to Be a God Person Without Annoying Everyone. She writes about why vegans in particular, but “moral rebels” in general, make people so uncomfortable:

One reason moral rebels inspire defensive reactions in so many of us, Brouwer and Bolderdijk say, is that their example highlights the gap between our own values and behavior. Maybe we’re worried about climate change, too, but we went ahead and bought that cheap air ticket to Europe; maybe we’re convinced of the importance of civic participation but we haven’t bothered to attend a city-council meeting. “Moral rebels tend to remind you of your inconsistencies, which can be very painful, because it can lead to the conclusion that you’re not a good and moral person after all,” Brouwer, a Ph.D. candidate at Pompeu Fabra University, in Barcelona, told me.

I am so utterly familiar with those defensive reactions even when I don’t say anything other than, “no thank you, I don’t eat XYZ because I’m vegan. The reactions range from a guilty, “well I don’t eat (much) red meat,” to a full attack on me and my choice. Strangely, it also happens when I refuse a Coke or other soda, or a highly processed sugary food, and lately when I explain I ride my bike everywhere or take the bus because I don’t own a car. The article helped me make a bit more sense out of what is going on.

It also suggested “moral rebels” should be more vocal, instead, like me, simply quietly refusing the proffered pepperoni pizza, for example. Because apparently,

Brouwer and Bolderdijk suggest, [this] can act as “motivational fuel” for change. “That people react negatively doesn’t mean you’re not having an influence. It means you’ve struck a nerve,” Bolderdijk, an associate professor at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, told me. Rather than trying to avoid provocation, he said, moral rebels should seek to provoke more productively.

So may I suggest one of your New Year evolutions be eating less meat and dairy? January is Veganuary, what better time to start? Give it a try, designate one day a week as vegan day–breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you already manage one or two days a week, add one more. If you don’t think cutting meat and dairy out of your diet will make a difference, check out the environmental impact of commonly consumed foods or read the Washington Post article about a new study published in Nature Sustainability Journal on how diet impacts the environment . For an opposite approach, check out this article in the Lancet about the environmental and health impacts of plant-rich diets.

Will reducing meat in your diet end climate change? Not on its own. But as the Atlantic article notes:

individual consumers cannot reverse climate change—or any other environmental ill, for that matter—and their choices are no substitute for systemic reforms. Yet collective action, consumer and otherwise, does have real power, and, as Bolderdijk pointed out, collective action begins with a solo act.

To help you out with some food idea, here are a few of my favorite plant-based food bloggers:

And if there is a dish you love and want to know how to make it vegan, let me know! I very likely have a recipe I can give you and if I don’t, I know a guy named James who can veganize just about anything. Seriously. We make our own vegan hot dogs.

Another evolution you might consider if you have access to a piece of land large or small, or even a balcony, turn it into a Homegrown National Park! I registered my front yard prairie plantings. Your National Park might provide a refuge for a bee, butterfly, spider, a tired bird, a toad or other critter. Plus, it’s so much prettier than a sterile lawn.

So let’s evolve together! The great thing about evolving is that you start wherever you are and do one thing, day after day until after an accumulation of days you realize you’ve changed. And then you keep at it, add something else. Aim for process, not product, because everyday brings a chance to change and grow and become someone, as Buddhism calls it, in right relationship with one’s self and the world.

  • Podcast: Weaving Voices: Reflections from an Industrial Ecologist. Transcript. I learned all about LCA, Lifecycle Analysis and how companies lie by omission regarding the effects of their products on people and the environment.
  • Podcast: The Great Simplification: Staying Warm Data with Nora Bateson. This was recorded in early December and host Nate Hagens talks with Nora Bateson. Bateson is an American currently living in Sweden and she talks about what the energy crisis means for Sweden this winter: heating bills approaching $1,000 a month, keeping your house just warm enough so the pipes don’t freeze and wearing your winter coat indoors, taking very short showers, line drying clothes, and more.
  • Mini Series: Witcher: Blood Origin. I have never read the books or seen any of the other Witcher shows but you don’t need to to enjoy this. And enjoy it I did. Lots of gore mostly from arrows and swords. But the story is good and there are some good jokes for counterbalance. Oh, and star-crossed lover romance. Also, I give props to the costume people who made all the amazing gowns for Merwyn the princess/Empress. I can only imagine the amount of work and detail and hand sewing that went into to making them.

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18 thoughts on “New Year Evolutions

  1. Happy New Year, Stefanie! I hope you had a lovely holiday. I think it’s wonderful that you’ve been able to go car free and wish we could do that but at least for a full year now we have been back down to one car. Since the pandemic started we began to cook more at home and we don’t use meat so that’s been a great change. Still difficult to let go of milk and eggs. Anyway, thank you for sharing the links to the blogs for vegan recipes – we can always use new recipes! And, can’t wait to hear more about your craft adventures. So exciting. Here’s to a fabulous 2023!

    1. Happy New Year to you too Iliana! One car is good! We had one car for years and worked at whittling down how much we drove it. I understand letting go of milk and eggs is hard. Finding a local farmer for those would be pretty awesome. Giving them up entirely is not necessary imo, just eating less and sourcing them from non-industrial farms. Which is a challenge, I know! I hope you find some new favorite recipes at the links!

  2. Evolutions is an interesting approach – also fewer feelings of frustration if things don’t go the way you planned and you never meet that self imposed goal.

  3. I can tell that my first day of school has tired me, because when I read “a weaving and a spinning class” I assumed you were taking 1) a weaving class with fabrics and 2) a spinning class on bicycles with loud music. And I thought, “Why in the world would Stefanie participate in the noisy nonsense, especially when she already bicycles everywhere??” LOL. I need a nap. Calm down, brain.

    I quit drinking milk at the end of last year and instead do unsweetened almond milk in an effort to get sugar out of my diet wherever reasonable/easy. I do think one of the reasons I feel a bit defensive about vegans is not because what they’re doing conflicts with my moral values, but because I consider how in many cases a vegan life, and a car-free life, are often reserved for those who have the privilege to choose such a life. Food deserts, rural areas with no biking paths or safe means to travel, have several small children, disabilities, etc. So, I don’t feel defensive, more that in the back of my mind I’m wondering if vegans consider those aspects. From everything I know about you, I am positive you are one who knows what I am talking about and have thought about it.

    1. Hahaha Melanie, a spinning class with loud music would send me screaming and running from the room! But the thought of it is pretty funny 🙂

      Yes, there is a certain amount of privilege in being able to choose both a vegan and a car-free life. But I also know there are many people in my city who are not privileged but have no cars because they cannot afford it or they have physical mobility issues that do not allow them to drive. For years when I took the bus every day there was a blind couple who got on at one of the stops on their way to work. But yes, there are many things involved depending on where you live, etc.

      As for vegan choices, even vegetarian, I think it’s not folks with fewer resources who need to cut out their meat eating at this point. As you say, food deserts are a real thing, and food policy in the US that makes a Big Mac cheaper than fresh food has to change. These things are systemic and we need to work on systems change. The folks that really need to look at cutting back meat consumption are those who do have privilege, who have the ability to choose. The highest carbon emissions and the biggest consumers of all things are wealthy people and they can 100% afford to make better choices. Bill Gates thinks we need to breed African cattle that fart less so the poor subsistence farmers there can have a few cows. I think their cows are fine and Bill Gates needs to become a vegan so the Brazilian rainforest doesn’t keep burning in order to raise beef 🙂

      1. Ahhhhhh, I see what you’re saying about vegenism and vegetarianism. That makes so much sense. I also did not know Gates was on a journey to find fart-free cows, but that sounds like a tech guy thing.

        Doesn’t spinning class just seem like consumerism on fake wheels? It’s bizarre and I hate it.

        1. Gates is on a techno-wizard mission to feed the world. He’s buying up farmland, investing in lab-grown meat, and all sorts of other things. Don’t let his aw shucks nerdy demeanor convince you he is a a good guy!

          As for spinning class, I think it’s capitalist body-shaming gym culture at its worst.

  4. Happy New Year! I so enjoy reading your blogposts and I’m sure that you do influence people to try to make better personal decisions for the future. Veganism has really become fashionable in the UK, certainly not something to be apologetic about, and many people seem to be sticking to it, which has surprised me. We haven’t eaten beef for 35 years or so and I’ve never been able to stomach milk, porridge is better with water anyway, and sometimes I realise that we haven’t had any meat for days, without planning it. I definitely have to try harder about plastic though.

    1. Happy New Year Katrina! You are very kind. That’s great to hear about veganism in the UK! Plastic is hard because it’s everywhere and sometimes you have absolutely now choice other than plastic. But I think it’s still worth the effort. Good luck!

  5. Thank for the yummy links! My evolutions this year are to buy used/find for free/reuse whenever possible, bring my book with me everywhere (trying to increase my page count for the year!), and increase our mocktail menu!

    1. I hope you find some good recipes at the yummy links! Very good evolutions Daphne! You are so creative, I suspect used/free/reuse will be an artistic challenge 🙂

  6. Provoke away! I appreciate you and your sharing about your life and you ARE influencing me. I like the idea of evolutions and will think more upon it. Negative reactions as you quote are true for MOST negative reactions to any other provocation. It’s never about YOU but about the person doing the reacting, yes? Thank you for being a bright light in my world.

    1. LOL Care. You are so kind! Thank you for being so full of encouragement! And yes, negative reactions are generally about the person who is reacting. It is hard to remember that though, and hard to not get defensive oneself. Being compassionate towards challenging people is something I am forever working on but not always successfully!

  7. Love the shift from Resolutions to Evolutions. Thanks for the vegan food blog recommendations! I could reduce dairy and chicken (haven’t eaten red meat or pork since high school.) I can’t wait to read about your acorn and walnut foraging experiments. Ceremony is on my Classics Club list – I read it in high school but don’t remember it at all! I’ll check out that podcast about staying warm in Europe, sounds interesting.

    1. Thanks Laila! I hope you find some good recipes at the blog links. Aaron and walnut foraging could be great or a disaster, wither way it will be an adventure! Ceremony is so good!

  8. That’s a very smart way to go about change, the seemingly little steps can lead to surprisingly big changes. The idea of overhauling your life cold turkey starting on one specific day, especially if that day also includes a nasty hangover, seems like an obvious recipe for failure. Have fun with your evolutions, it sounds as though they could take you to some interesting places!

    1. Thanks Julé! Sometimes change happens fast, but personal change works better I find in small increments that allow you to be kind to yourself if something doesn’t go well. We’ll see where it all leads!

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