I learned a long time ago not to make New Year's resolutions per se. They could be so general and vague, they could also be frustratingly easy to abandon. Without accountability to anyone but myself, it didn't really seem to matter if what I resolved to do oozed away after a month or two (if I even made it that long!). And the "pay back" or reward for keeping my resolutions seemed hard to measure. Sure, I might have resolved to save more energy or use less water, but without actually measuring what I used or what I saved, there wasn't much incentive to use less or save more.
This year is going to be different. I'm not making resolutions, I'm setting goals – specific goals that will have real environmental benefits and that I can measure with real "before" and "after" statistics.
Though I hope I'll reduce my environmental footprint in all sorts of ways this year, I'm only setting three specific goals in the hopes that a narrower focus will lead to broader achievements.
GOAL #1 – MAKE MY OWN YOGURT
I eat two cups of yogurt every single day – plain, non-fat, usually Greek-style yogurt that serves as the delicious base for whatever fresh fruit happens to be in season. It's a healthy and mostly eco-friendly breakfast – marred only by the fact that I buy the yogurt in big plastic throwaway tubs. When I was in college, I had an electric yogurt maker and made my own yogurt every week. I also made yogurt by mixing milk and yogurt starter in a bowl, then keeping it in a warm oven for several hours until the whole mixture became yogurt-like. Over the years as I was busy raising kids, running a business and writing books, I've gotten away from making my own yogurt. But I'm appalled at how many plastic yogurt tubs I throw away every week. If I made my own yogurt using milk I can buy in glass bottles from my local food coop, I would go from three or four plastic tubs a week to zero. So one goal for 2013 is to start making my own yogurt.
Do you make your own yogurt? If you have a recipe you love, please share it!
GOAL #2 – USE NO MORE THAN THREE PRODUCTS BOTTLED IN PLASTIC IN MY BATHROOM
In my bathroom right now, I have various cosmetics, body lotion, hand cream, face cream, make-up remover, shampoo, conditioner, body soap, shaving gel, toothpaste, curl definer, hair straightener, nail polish remover, and hair color – and they're all in plastic bottles or jars. My kids use different products, so they have almost the same number of products that I have in their own bottles! Beth Terry at My Plastic Free Life has written a great book about ways to reduce the amount of plastic we use in our day-to-day lives. Her personal example has inspired me to figure out how to cut down the number of plastic bottles I use in my bathroom to no more than three. Right away, I can replace the shaving gel and body soap with bar soaps that come wrapped in paper or with no wrapping paper at all. I can buy much larger sizes of products so that I'm using fewer bottles overall. But I'd like to set an even more ambitious goal and figure out how to make my own body lotion, shampoo, hair conditioner, and face cream, for starters. Do you make your own? What do you make, and how do you make it? I can really use your advice!
GOAL #3 – IMPROVE MY COMPOST
My compost is not the best. I use a composting barrel, and ten months out of the year (March – December), I just collect my kitchen scraps and throw them in the barrel. Then I flip the barrel around a few times and hope the stuff decomposes. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. I've never been very scientific about adding the right proportions of dry and wet material to it so that the compost heats up the way it is supposed to and turns all that food waste into the black organic gold that would make my garden thrive. Right now, the kitchen scraps from the last several months are all lying frozen in the bottom of my barrel. But as soon as the spring thaw hits, I'm going to empty out that barrel and start from scratch. Do you compost? Do you use a barrel? Please let me know what works best for you. I can easily compost 100% of my kitchen scraps, apart from the occasional fish or chicken remains I have. But what I'd really like to aim for is somewhere between two and three big barrels full of rich organic compost to add to my garden by the end of 2013.
So there you have it: use less plastic by making my own yogurt and personal care products, and enrich my garden by creating better compost. Please share your own goals and resolutions for 2013, and come back often to help me overcome the obstacles I find as I pursue my own.