Notes from Seattle: New Year, New Opportunities

There is a common practice of making „new year resolutions“ during the holiday season. If I were to poll people on whether they are able to stick to their resolutions, I would guess that a great many do not last for very long. With the new year comes a huge motivational push, and when we find that we can’t seem to meet the high expectations we have placed on ourselves, there is a tendency to become frustrated, and in some cases, eventually give up.

The good news is that we are constantly presented with opportunities to start fresh. Each year, each month, each day, each hour, each moment. Our days are filled with hundreds of choices, and yet because we are accustomed to behaving in certain ways and thinking in certain ways, we become desensitized to all of these choices. If I could suggest one single intention for approaching this new year (or new day), it would be to increase one’s awareness, in each moment. Become more aware of the opportunities to choose, whether it be a thought or an action. Become more aware of what it means to live your own authentic life. Become more aware of how truly interconnected you are with all that is around you.

For those who are looking for more „practical“ intentions or resolutions for the new year, consider the following:

* Commit to finding ways to live a more earth-supporting lifestyle. Don’t try to make too many changes all at once – you may become frustrated and give up. Try committing to one thing a week. Define it, schedule it, do it, and make sure to acknowledge yourself for your efforts. There are many websites and resources available to support you — including Almende!

* Keep tabs on your consumption. Move towards buying only that which you truly need. Consider building a „sharing circle“ with friends and family. When you need to make a purchase, make it one of sufficient quality to last a long time and, when possible, buy used. Purchase items in recyclable or biodegradable packaging, when possible.

* Act locally. By spending money in your own community on items that are made or grown locally, you lower energy costs and keep resources at home. Find local efforts to protect the environment and make a commitment to help.

* Minimize use of plastic bags. Get or make yourself some canvas tote bags and keep them handy. Rope-style bags compact to a very small size and can easily fit inside a backpack, briefcase, or handbag. Get in the habit of carrying one with you.

* Reduce your usage of disposable containers. If you regularly buy coffee or tea before work or class, bring your own mug. If you don’t normally finish your meal when you go out to eat, consider bringing a food container from home, rather than using a styrofoam to-go box.

* Opt out of fast food and increase your enjoyment of slow food. Cook at home or eat in restaurants that don’t use disposables. Research raw food recipes that can replace cooked ones. As you collect recipes that you enjoy, consider making cookbooks as gifts for your friends.

* Examine your driving habits. Try keeping track of how much you drive and honestly ask yourself each time „Is this trip really necessary?“ Decide on changes you can make immediately and over time to cut down on driving time.

* Take steps to lower your family’s energy consumption. Turn off lights (who doesn’t love candlelight?), insulate and seal leaks in your home, turn down the water heater, dry clothes on the line when possible, schedule TV-free and computer-free evenings — make a list of the things you will commit to do personally to conserve.

* Grow your efforts. Look for ways to change practices on a larger scale in organizations in which you participate. If you own a business, belong to a church or community group, or work in a corporation or school, lobby to make changes that will be multiplied many times over. Something as simple as using washable cups at a business or community meeting (and don’t forget to buy them at a thrift/used-goods store!) makes a big difference over time and interrupts the usual unconscious patterns.

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