Getting Started on Your Journey

At least once a year (usually in January, but it can be anytime) I like to take a few moments to reflect on life and my progress on my sustainability journey. I think there’s huge value in reviewing my actions to make sure they’re a good reflection of my core beliefs and that I’m living the life of my dreams (or at least actively striving for it).

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I measure my annual environmental footprint (using this calculator) and reflect on my progress. So, here are my results for 2019 vs 2018:

I expected my overall environmental footprint to increase in 2019 because we took three family vacations (with air travel), compared to zero in 2018.

On the other hand, I spent a lot of time in 2019 improving my food choices. I love growing my own vegetables in my backyard garden, shopping at the farmers market and have always purchased local meat (in bulk, like a half a cow and a whole pig). In 2019, I focused on buying more local food during the summer and canning or freezing it so I can eat more local food in the winter too.

I spent a lot of time trying to reduce the amount of packaging I inadvertently purchase with my food. I have reusable shopping bags, yes, but in 2019 I started using reusable produce bags. I also started buying all of my dried goods, such as beans, rice, and nuts, in bulk and brought my own glass jars to the store to use instead of the plastic bags provided.

Lastly, I focused on not buying “stuff” I don’t need or buying it used, instead of new. This “stuff” is categorized as “goods” in the environmental footprint calculator.

Looking for the improvements from all of my hard work in 2019, I dug a little further into the details of my environmental footprint and found a visible decrease in the food and goods categories!

I’m pleased with those reductions, but as expected, my increased air travel for family vacation (three flights from Michigan to California, Texas, and Spain) undo all of the great improvements I made in the food and goods categories. And mobility (AKA transportation) represents nearly half of my environmental footprint.

Which brings me to my 2020 Goals…

I have two big ones that will help improve my 2020 environmental footprint:

  1. No personal flights
  2. Spend more time and energy focused on my local community

I’m excited to focus my weekends and vacation time exploring my home state of Michigan and I’ve started a bucket list with my kids of local places we want to explore and activities we want to do. Can you believe I’ve never been to Mackinac Island? And I’ve lived in Michigan nearly my entire life! I’m certain we can have lots of family fun without flying anywhere and I am very much looking forward to proving it. Please share your favorite activities in Michigan (or nearby states) in the comments!

I’m also excited to share my passion for personal sustainability with my local friends, family, and community!

And then COVID-19 hit… and just like all of you, I’ve had to adjust my plans.

On one hand, my goal of no personal flights became a whole lot easier! On the other hand, my big plans for monthly in-person events here in Rockford, Michigan, have been scuttled. I’m adjusting and moving to online events, workshops, and presentations… it’s not the same, but on the upside I get to interact with and bring people together from all over the country, who would not otherwise get to meet.

How are you adjusting your goals after COVID-19?

Do you think your overall environmental footprint will be lower in 2020 due to the changes you’re being forced to make by the pandemic?

What habits are you forming right now that bring more joy into your life and lessen your environmental impacts? And how are you going to keep those habits as you rebuild your “new normal”?

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