Last year I set a goal to “Be More Sustainable”, and while I hope to continue the habits I developed beyond 2019, I thought it would be fitting to follow up on my post announcing my goal a year ago to share how my plans manifested, what was easy and what was more challenging.
First of all, my biggest ‘failure’ was definitely the lack of sticking to my plan to go car-less once a week. The biggest factor was the inconvenience of public transport and walking options from where I live to where I work. It takes me 5-10 minutes to drive to work, but if I take the bus, there is no direct route so I have to transfer buses and it takes about 40 minutes if the buses are running on schedule. It sometimes took longer if there was a delay at the transfer stop. This extra time and unpredictability, especially in the evenings if I had somewhere I needed to be after work, were the main things that I allowed to stop me from going totally car-less as often as I had intended. However, I did much better with my related goal of bringing a lunch to work nearly every day so that I was not driving to buy food in the middle of the day as well. Also, I ended up buying a ‘new’ (used) hybrid car when my old non-hybrid car went kaput, so even though I drove to work nearly every day, it hopefully had less impact. I also did increase the number of times I went places by walking, either not driving at all or leaving my car parked in one spot while I walked between all my nearby errands.
I definitely think that more could be done, and needs to be done, on a community-wide level in order to make public transport or walking a feasible option for more people. My city is considering eliminating bus fares, which I would support, but which wouldn’t make me more likely to ride unless the route options also changed, either to go more directly where I needed without transferring or to be more frequent so there wasn’t so much wait time. I also think there need to be more and better walking paths, as part of the route I would need to follow if I walked to work does not have sidewalks. I think in 2020, one of the ways I will continue my goal to “be more sustainable” will be to advocate for these systemic changes.
Another plan that I had for 2019 was to eat less meat, and while I’m not sure I had a very high percentage of totally meatless meals, I did cut beef almost entirely out of my diet. Inspired partially by this article, I limited my meat consumption to chicken, pork, and turkey. I made turkey tacos and turkeyburgers to replace beef recipes at home, and just ordered something without beef if I went out to eat. It was a relatively painless transition, and I feel confident I can keep it up. Maybe I will be able to transition toward eating even less meat in the future.
For makeup removal and skincare, I tried a lot of different types of cloth to replace disposable wipes, but what I ended up liking best were just simple reusable cotton rounds that I got on Etsy. Etsy, by the way, announced a carbon neutral shipping policy in 2019 so I felt good about using them to source items I couldn’t find locally. I tried to shop local for nearly everything throughout the year, since that way I wouldn’t be creating a need for additional shipping. One of the big example of this, and also of sustainable use of existing resources, was when I stained and re-upholstered my dinning table chairs. I got the upholstery and foam at a local craft store, so my pattern choices were more limited than what was available online, but I was still pleased with how they turned out.
I did all sorts of other little things too–I was already using reusable bags when shopping (I like the Baggu brand ones because they fold up small enough to fit in my purse and that way I never forget to bring them to the store), but I also added mesh reusable bags for produce this year. I kept my thermostat relatively high in the summer and relatively low in the winter. I added a couple pairs of Thinx to my collection so that I can just use them instead of disposable items, if I time my laundry properly during my period. When I did order something online, I chose the least-rushed shipping possible, or had the item shipped to a nearby store if that was an option. I set my energy utility account to be sourced 100% by wind energy, since that was an option offered by the company (Evergy, formerly Westar).
In general, everything I did was pretty easy and just required a little bit of extra planning ahead or patience. I’m going to continue and hopefully add even more personal behaviors that are more sustainable going forward, but everything I’ve read about the climate crisis this past year has made me even more convinced that what we need are massive systemic changes. I think in 2020, the biggest impact I could have might be to volunteer for the campaigns of candidates who are committed to taking meaningful action on the issue. I encourage you to join me in both the personal and public goal to strive for sustainability.