2021 green goals

Happy Holidays! I hope this post finds you healthy and safe – and getting some much needed time to relax and recharge. Now that we are near the end of 2020, I figured it’s time to reflect on my goals for 2020, and set some new ones for 2021!

Here is the list that I posted on Instagram back on Jan 1st this year.

  • Cook more Chinese food
  • Learn to sew
  • Switch our our house to 100% renewable energy
  • Host at least 2 sustainability workshops/presentations
  • Start a compost at work
  • Organize a community swap
  • More involvement with my local bike advocacy org beyond donation
  • Start a digital environmental book club

I’ll tick off each one below.

Cook more Chinese food: The intention behind this goal was to learn how to make some of the staples that I grew up eating but never tried making, as I realized a fair share of packaged foods I still buy from the store are Chinese food and ingredients. Little did I know how much more we’d all be cooking at home this year, huh? As it turns out, 1) reducing grocery store trips by stocking up became pretty necessary this year and 2) I’m a cliche and took up sourdough baking back in March – so admittedly I became much better at baking bread than at cooking Chinese food this year. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Still, I’m happy to report I did learn to make a few things from scratch: fresh tofu from dried soybeans, scallion pancakes that can be made in batch and frozen, chili oil, and hand pulled noodles. Woks of Life and Omnivore’s Cookbook are two resources I relied on most often! (Xiachufang is a Chinese app that I browse a lot too. It’s a bit like Allrecipes, but as per tradition, most users don’t post measurements on Xiachufang!)

Learn to sew: I made some handkerchiefs from old t-shirts early on and didn’t make much progress on this for most of the year (not having a sewing machine, I’d need to go to the community art studio to use one, which closed after the pandemic). Of course, some of you know from my last post that I finally got a secondhand sewing machine in October, so I’ve been getting busy with it! This crossback apron is my latest creation; it took muuuuch longer than I expected, but I’m delighted with how it came out!

Switch our our house to 100% renewable energy: Check! We moved in the summer, but I was able to sign up with a municipal program in our new town. Learn more about how to sign up for clean electricity from my post here.

Host at least 2 sustainability workshops/presentations: Also check! I was organizing a zero waste meetup in the city back in March and some Earth Day events…atlas a virus sort of scratched our plans. In any case, I was lucky to enough to (co)host a couple of virtual events this year: an Earth Day presentation on global waste (co-hosted with my friend Sarah Atkinson) for an international conglomerate’s regional office, a Lunch & Learn type talk on reducing waste at home for a local startup, and a community Zoom discussion on how to bring more family and friends into the environmental circle (co-hosted with my friend Sarah Levy @Cleenland).

Start a compost at work: This didn’t happen…and I’m going to place 100% of the blame on the pandemic. My office is in a large commercial office building that does’t provide a composting option, and composting outside in the middle of the city isn’t feasible. I had a passionate squad of colleagues who brainstormed with me, got quotes from various local composting firms, and were about to start a mini pilot program in the office kitchen when…you guessed it…we all started working from home. But one day! I’m confident this can still happen! Ultimately, I hope this is something that the building can provide for all its office tenants, and I connected with several orgs on other floors earlier in the year. Cost was the biggest concern, but I hope to make more headways with this sometime in the future.

Organize a community swap: I pitched the idea to our office and we held one at the end of February! Most of the credit goes to my colleagues who drafted emails, sent reminders, and participated enthusiastically, but mostly I’m just happy that we were able to spread the idea of a “swap” to many people who have never heard of it before! If you are also interested in hosting a swap in your office (when we are able to spend time together in-person, of course), I wrote up some tips here.

Happy swapping colleagues!

More involvement with my local bike advocacy org beyond donation: Nah, this one also didn’t happen. I signed up for volunteer opportunities with several local advocacy organizations, but as everyone minimized in-personal interactions, most organizations reduced or completely suspended their normal volunteering activities. More donation it is! For some of the places I’ve donated to this year, check out my Sustainability Journal entries.

Start a digital environmental book club: This was off to a good start with 15 or so women at the beginning of the year, but our effort fizzled out by the time we got to book #3. In part, the format was challenging for some folks: Goodreads was difficult for some to navigate, and a forum format meant people needed to keep up with pace and participate in the discussion multiple times throughout the weeks (as opposed to a single designated time to meet and discuss). In part, many participants took on more child care work during the pandemic, so even reading a book every other month became quite unattainable. In any case, I’m grateful to have met some incredible women through the process!

By and large, I’m pretty proud of how much I’ve stuck to the goals I set for 2020. With lots of unknown for 2021, here is a tentative list of things I’d like to accomplish:

  • Start a garden at home: This has been a dream forever, and now that we have a backyard I can finally make it happen this summer. (I was part of a community garden in years past, which you can read all about here.)
  • Finally learn how to properly roll out dumpling wrappers: Continuing with the theme of “cooking more Chinese food”, I’d love to get better at this (and master more Chinese recipes)!
  • Try natural dye: With lots of old plain t-shirts to upcycle, learning how to dye at home seems like a fun project to take on!
  • Reduce phone screen time to <2 hours day: Eeek, I know. As someone who spends all day staring at a computer screen for work, I somehow still manage to clock in an average of 3 hours of phone time a day! Shocking and sad. If I manage to reduce my screen time in the new year, I’m hoping to redirect it to more reading. Despite many hours saved from not having to commute, this year I only read 27 books, less than the past 2 years, when I read 30 and 51 books respectively.
  • Join a fossil fuel divestment campaign: Still researching this one (starting with my alma mater), but divestment is something I’m hoping to dive into more this year.
  • Become a certified health plan navigator: Not strictly sustainability related, but as I wrote here, if the pandemic has taught us anything, is that environmentalists must broaden our work. Helping folks with their health insurance (e.g., getting coverage, providing resources) is something I already do on a casual basis; for example, I offered to share information about how to get on state-subsidized insurance on our local Buy Nothing group when folks started losing their employer-sponsored coverage. One caveat is that since I’m not a certified health plan navigator, my knowledge is limited to what I know from my professional work (health policy), so I can’t help anybody in a “official” capacity. After lots of research, it’s still unclear how I can become certified, so more to come on this, hopefully!

How about you? Do you have any resolutions for the new year?