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8 Ways to Be Kinder to the Planet (And Ourselves) in 2017

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You know how every year, millions of people swear off sodas and fast food, and by the following month, they’re already off the wagon, and those resolutions are just a guilty memory? What if we skipped that part this year? What if our health, happiness, and care of the earth could be tied into the same mission this year for our New Year’s resolutions?

I’m a firm believer in the reason most people fail to stick to their guns every year is simply because they make a half-hearted promise, maybe belt it out on social media, and that’s the end of it — it’s just a statement of intent, and the statement alone isn’t enough to motivate them to follow through (hey, myself included).

What’s really needed to stick to your New Year’s Resolutions isn’t a different promise or a stronger cause — it’s a different approach. What if instead of saying we were going to do something this year, we decided we were going to be something else?

There’s a sad song from The Avett Brothers, Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise, that strikes a chord with me in this line of thought: “Decide what to be, and go be it.” We don’t need a list of resolutions, or a goal weight, or a figure to strive for in our bank accounts — we need a mindset shift. We need to focus on why we need to accomplish something, instead of just how badly we want to accomplish it. It doesn’t have to be a health focus, or a financial agenda, or some career-climbing master plan — just make it a shift in the way you think, every single day, and the rest will fall into place.

So here’s an idea: What if instead of just focusing on one measly, lame goal this year, we focused on bettering ourselves, by feeding what we feel we are lacking the most? What if we looked at the things that we wanted, and followed the thread back to the reasons we actually want them? What might that do to our resolve, our outlook?

Take a fresh look at the things you want to accomplish this year, and you might find that many of the things on this list fall in line quite naturally for you. We all want to come out of 2017 feeling better about what we accomplished than the year before, but life needs to be lived for the right reasons — get your mindset around why you need these things, and you’ll be well on your way to a more well-rounded you.

Here are a few things you can try in 2017 to lessen your impact on the planet.

Start a Waste-Reduction Project

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Trash has become a massive epidemic worldwide — we simply throw away too much, and it’s not breaking down fast enough. As you throw things away each week, write it down — keep a clipboard on the wall next to your trash can. At the end of the week, sit down and figure out what you would have to do to make sure each piece of trash didn’t wind up in there

Maybe you won’t have a solution for every piece, but it’s a strong start to, and there are a slew of other benefits as well.

Resolutions for Waste Reduction

Health - less packaged, processed foods

Care of the earth - Less strain on landfills

Budgeting - Less money spent on consumables

Care of family - healthier foods usually don’t come in plastic packaging, more food prep together

Community - Coordinate community recycling efforts

Plan a Garden This Year

Now’s the time to start mapping out a garden, if you’re up for the task. It’s a lot of work, sure, but practices in permaculture make it much easier, with no-till methods, seed broadcasting, mulching, and polyculture to save you from hours of weeding and hoeing.

Gardening does so much all at once - it improves your health with manual labor and fresh food, it educates you on new subjects, lessens the carbon footprint of your food by putting a source right in your own backyard, and takes some of the strain off of your food budget.

Start planning now what you’d like to grow, and how you’d like to grow it. Permaculture makes it all pretty simple and low maintenance, but it is a new concept for many people to get their heads around. If you’re looking for a learning resource, check out Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway to get started planning your own permaculture garden this year.

Resolutions for Planning a Garden

Health - More fresh produce on hand

Care of the earth - Lessens carbon footprint, puts sustainable food production in your control

Budgeting - Save money on groceries (even save your seeds for next year)

Care of family - Spend time together in the garden working toward a common goal

Personal education - Learn some new skills!

Career - Sell excess, teach classes if you get good at it!

Learn to Forage in Your Area

If gardening sounds like more than you have time or space for, foraging is an excellent alternative, and is a great way to find wholesome, nutritious food somewhere besides the grocery store. You may not realize how many edible plants are in your area, so do some research to be sure you only harvest was is safe and edible.

Local extension offices are a great source of information, and a local plant and field guide can help to get you started. If you’re still not sure where to begin, look into more forage-based education, either through a local guide, or with a book that specifically covers wild edibles.

Resolutions for Foraging

Health - Wholesome, nutrient dense foods, and exercise getting it

Care of the earth - Less dependency on grocery store food

Budgeting - Get organic, natural foods and herbs for free

Care of family - Spend time together hiking and exploring nature’s bounty

Self-education - Learn about plant identification and foraging practices

Career - Sell some of your harvest, or offer guided tours

Start Hunting and Fishing

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Commercially raised livestock is perhaps one of the largest crimes being committed by humanity right now — the treatment of these animals is abhorrent, and the manner in which they’re raised and processed has left the meat products often tainted with bacteria, and much less nutrient density.

Hunting and fishing are essential survival skills that yield an incredible reward — ethically raised and harvested free-range meat — straight from nature. Pair up with a mentor and undergo the necessary licensure process to get started. Take plenty of time to practice, and treat it like a second job — though time-consuming, hunting and fishing are practices that yield big rewards.

Resolutions for Hunting and Fishing

Health - Incredibly nutritious, lean meats

Care of the Earth - No commercial meat operations involved, animals are in their natural habitat, less carbon footprint, no styrofoam packaging

Budgeting - Incredibly money saver - buy less meat!

Care of family - Teaches valuable lessons on the sanctity of life

Education - An incredible skill set to acquire

Career - Get good enough at it to start offering mentoring/outfitting services

Source As Much As You Can Locally

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I get it — MacBooks don’t grow on trees. Sometimes, you just have to order things online, and a lot of times, even when you buy something locally, it was made a long ways away from where you bought it.

All the same, if you can start narrowing down your local market for things you buy regularly, you might be surprised at what gets produced in your area. If you’re not up for producing your own food, local farmers will often happily sell you bulk meats, and share of their crops via CSA programs.

Look at your grocery bill - can you buy bread from the local bakery instead? Can you buy flour from a local mill? Is there a girl in your neighborhood that does a bang up job making her own laundry soap? Get involved with your community, and see if you can spend some of your money locally, instead of sending it to the big box stores.

Resolutions for Buying Locally

Health - More aware of what goes into your food

Care of the earth - Less gas needed to get your stuff to you

Budgeting - Support your local economy, be more aware of where your money goes categorically

Community - healthier foods usually don’t come in plastic packaging, more food prep together

Career - Is there a need to be filled? Can you produce something in demand?

What Can You Live Without?

My husband jokes that I love to get rid of things, and it’s true — I hate clutter, and I hate things that sit for months on end, never touched. Here’s the thing: No matter what your budget, most of us in the developed world live well beyond our means. We spend our lives in a consumer culture, and our house becomes a rat’s nest of forgotten possessions.

Take your clutter, and turn it into someone else’s good day. Maybe you don’t need 37 pairs of shoes, but maybe five other people could use a few pairs. Go through your home from top to bottom, and make a rule for yourself - get rid of anything you haven’t used in the last six months, that you won’t use in the next six months, and that doesn’t make you happy to have.

The catch? You’re not allowed to just throw things away. Donate them, repurpose them, sell them - whatever you have to do to simplify your life, but do not transfer the burden of your clutter to the landfill.

This doesn’t just apply to stuff either — what about consumables? Are there things you don’t necessarily need to buy every month? What if you reused dog food bags, and bought 20% fewer trash bags? What if you split your jar of coconut oil in half, and stopped buying lotion? Could you get away without using shampoo? Do you really need a bottle of Windex, or will a little white vinegar suffice?

Be brave — you’d be amazed what you can live without.

Resolutions for Being a Minimalist

Happiness - Less clutter makes for a more peaceful state of mind

Care of the earth - Repurposing or donating things you don’t use

Budgeting - Make a little cash off of your junk!

Care of family - Show the value of experiences instead of things

Career - People actually do this for a living - get good enough at it, and start selling it to people that don’t have time to do it themselves!

Productivity - It’s easier to keep a clutter-free house clean

Are Your MedsTreating the Problem or the Symptom?

This one’s a touchy subject, and let me just start by saying, just because you take a pill, doesn’t mean you’re weak, or thoughtless — sometimes, we need modern medicine, and thank goodness it’s there when we do.

That being said though, I know a great number of people that take several pills, every single day, then more pills to combat the side effects of those pills, then see doctors and specialists because their hormones are out of whack from taking so many pills — it’s a vicious cycle. If you can simplify your health, do it.

I have my own health concerns, and I know it can be challenging — many medications are given to us to accommodate what will ultimately never happen, but fix our problem — a lifestyle change. If there’s something in your life that you can change though, to try to wean yourself off of those medications, have an honest conversation with your doctor about it. Tell them what your goal is, and tell them even if it doesn’t work, so long as it’s safe, you’d like to try.

If nothing else, a lot of ailments can be managed with simple, natural remedies - look into what's causing your problems, and do a little research on herbal treatments that may be a more natural and effective means of treating them. 

Resolutions for Assessing Your Meds

Health - Simplify things with fewer side effects

Care of the earth - Fewer medications entering water supply

Budgeting - Less money spent on insurance, prescriptions, and doctor visits

Care of family - Be there to see them grow, even if the pills aren't

Detox Your Home

Well causes cancer!’

To which I say, that’s because we have carcinogenic ingredients in everything we use. Cancer-causing compounds are in everything we touch, eat, drink and breathe, and that’s why everything causes cancer. But what if we simplified things? The process of detoxing your life in this way is overwhelming and exhausting at first, so take it in steps initially, to make it easier. Pick a thing, and go after it in every corner of your home, until you’ve eradicated it, and then move on.

For us it was MSG, then corn syrup, then parabens, then plastics, pesticides — after a while, you start to realize that it’s just easier when everything you use is simple — the few the ingredients and materials, the better. Stainless steel or glass for dishes, raw spices instead of blends, cocoa powder instead of eyeshadow. You make small changes over time, and they add up to a complete lifestyle change.

Pick a poison you want to focus on eliminating, and then make it your mission to eradicate it from every corner — then move on to the next one. Whether it’s lead, artificial colors, preservatives, or fluorescent light bulbs, it’s much easier to just pick one thing and run with it for a while.

Resolutions to Detox Your Home

Health - Take control of what your family is exposed to

Care of the earth - Way fewer biohazards and nasty chemicals going into your groundwater

Budgeting - Less money spent on consumables

Care of family - Make healthier choices together

Career - Start offering a home detox service locally, you’d be surprised how many people take you up on it!

Destiny Hagest is personal assistant to Paul Wheaton, founder of  Permies.com  and  RichSoil.com, as well as a content curator and freelance writer. You can catch Destiny hanging out in the forums at Permies.com quite regularly, and visit her LinkedIn profile, and follow her on Twitter. Read all of Destiny's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 


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