Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions

12.15.2017

0500

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Towards the end of each year, I like to think about what goals I’d like to set out for myself for the following year. Each year lends itself to different points in my life so my goals change as I change and get older. I tend to break down my goals into three categories: daily goals, weekly goals and yearly goals. This is what I came up with…

 

Daily Goals:

  • Spend more time outdoors. Learn to enjoy nature again. Make a habit of taking a weekly walk outside. We have become so used to live in our houses and in our cars, many people have no idea what nature looks like anymore.
  • Take Care of yourself by scheduling time for yourself. Even reading a book for an hour a day counts!
  • Exercise your body for a happy mind, or maybe a quick morning meditation.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Read a book or a magazine, take a break from technology.
  • Get enough sleep.

Weekly Goals:

  • Make your home efficient. By now, I assume most of you have switched to CFL lightbulbs – so it’s time to take home efficiency to the next level. Check your house for heat loss (there are companies specialised in this if you don’t feel expert enough) and make it your DIY project to fix them. If you haven’t yet, lower the thermostat during the night. The ideal temperature to sleep is around 16 degrees Celsius or 60 degree Fahrenheit. If that’s too cold for you, do it in steps – half a degree less each month. You might realise you even sleep better – and you will see it on your heating bill!
  • Pick seasonal and local fruits and vegetables. While it can be tempting to eat strawberries in winter, when they have been imported from halfway across the planet or grown in energy-hungry greenhouses, they’re hardly sustainable. Do some research into what is naturally grown in your area in the season, and prefer these. This way, you’ll also rediscover the pleasure of meals changing with the seasons!
  • Take your bicycle out of the shed. People who re-start cycling to work and/ or the supermarket often say that it’s lovely to rediscover their neighborhood that way. In fact, unless you live in a very mountainous area, this could be the most relaxing resolution you take!
  • Use public transport more. Granted, in the middle of the mountains or when there is half metre of snow outside your door, cycling sounds less appealing. If that’s the case where you live, start using public transport to go to work and the supermarket. If public transport connections are poor in your area, then it’s time to wake up the local campaigner in you and ask for it – make 2018 the year when your community stood up for sustainability.
  • Take recycling to the next level. You probably have two different bins in your kitchen, sorting your waste to have it recycled. It doesn’t end here though. In 2018, try to reduce the amount picked up by the garbage truck. If you have a garden, start your own compost. When you’re at the supermarket, prefer products that are not over packaged (you know the one: plastics wrapped in plastic, itself wrapped in cardboard…). If there are too many of these items in your local supermarket, time to start campaigning! Write to the store manager and express your concerns – and convince your neighbours to do so as well.

Yearly Goals:

  • Become a toxic-free household. This might take a while in research, so plan to do it over the whole year. From beauty products to clothes detergent and computer parts, we have become used to toxics products in our daily lives. Time to stop it. When buying new products, check what they are made of, and pick the one that will have the least toxic residues.
  • Keep your electronics for the year. New cellphone? Must absolutely have the latest iPad? How about the newly released gaming console? Our consumption of electronics is reaching records. Make a break, and promise not to buy new electronics this year, unless the one you already have breaks down (and when it does, ensure it is recycled properly!).

I usually push my daily goals because those goals are habit forming. When it comes to the monthly goals, I’ll set time aside on the weekends to work on them. The yearly goals are scheduled where I’ll tackle them by picking a day of the week and focusing on one yearly goal. The good thing about the way the goals are organized, is that the daily goals are the hardest to tackle, but you get to continuously work on them throughout the year. The daily goals are more focused on personal reflections, so it’s a nice reminder to not forget about taking care of yourself on a day to day basis. These are my goals that I’ve come up with, What are some of your goals you’d like to reach in the upcoming year?

Check out some other Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions from some other fellow bloggers:

 

 

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How I Got Started

11.07.2017

0600

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San Francisco, it’s a beautiful city with so much history, it’s mesmerizing. This city made a significant impact on my life because my zero waste journey started with this city. I don’t share this story often, but I thought I’d finally give a background to how I started my zero waste journey seven years ago.

I had moved to San Francisco to attend graduate school. It was a big city with so many places, restaurants and activities to explore, I couldn’t even keep track of everything I wanted to do. At the time, I was working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for a large, and well know ambulance company.

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Fulton Avenue and Stanyan Avenue path into Golden Gate Park.

I had moved into a studio apartment in the Richmond District and it was on the third floor of a three story building. It was a beautiful studio. With hardwood floors and a cozy interior, I settled in. My building stood directly across the street from Golden Gate Park. It was an interesting location because on the weekends, the park was closed to cars on Saturdays, so the foot traffic was busy. I could also open up my windows on the weekends and I listen to the music performances from inside of the park. Since I was on the top floor, sunlight consistently illuminated my apartment all day and all year long.  I lucked out on that part because San Francisco can become very cold and foggy during certain seasons.

Golden Gate Park Entrance

One of the Golden Gate Park entrances off of Fulton Avenue. (at Fulton Avenue and Arguello Avenue)

I was raised and lived in the suburbs my entire life so living in a condensed large city was quite a new experience. All of my routines including grocery shopping, working out and even parking was new and took a bit of an adjustment. I parked on the street since my apartment didn’t have a parking lot. This is also how I learned to become a stealth car parking spotter. Understanding and knowing which streets you could park on in the city was a must in order to avoid parking tickets. San Francisco streets are each scheduled for street cleaning all week long on different days and at different hours, so you have to be careful of where you park, or you’ll get a ticket for blocking the street cleaner.

Living in San Francisco also introduced me to trash chutes. A trash chute is a smooth, open shaft in a multistory building, used to convey trash from upper floors to a collection room. My building’s trash chute could only be accessed from the exterior wooden staircase on the side of the building. From each floor, there was an door which allowed access to the staircase. The problem was that these doors were very heavy and never stayed open. It took quite a bit of effort to even open these doors and step out on the balcony in order to access the trash chute; it seemed that they were installed to slam shut. It could have been an issue with the spring on the door, but regardless, it took a lot of force to open the door and hold it open.

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San Francisco also separates their trash out into categories: trash, recyclables and compostables. Therefore, I had to separate my disposable items. This is where my problem lay. When I first moved into the apartment, I thought the trash chute was great. It was useful, accessible and being that I was located on the third floor, it seemed convenient for me. However, it only gave access to the trash bin, not the compost bin or the recyclables bin.

When I used the trash chute, my trash bag would bounce around the chute all the way down to the trash bin. It made quite a bit of noise and I thought that wasn’t appropriate since I didn’t know if my neighbors worked night shifts or slept during the day. So I would carry my trash all the way down the narrow exterior stairs. These stairs were very old and were designed to be very narrow. This meant I had to carry my three seperate bags directly in front of me. Some weeks this was not ideal since  my bags would be so full, so I had to take two trips. Taking two trips meant that I would carry two bags down together, let the stairwell door slam shut behind me, walk down the exterior stairs and throw my bags away, exit the side yard in order to enter my building from the front. I would then walk up the inside staircase to my apartment, and grab the last bag to repeat this routine. In order for me to throw away all three bags, I routinely had to exit my building twice and enter it twice; all the meanwhile walking up and down two sets of stairs. I didn’t like taking two trips just to throw out trash, so I decided that I had to eliminate one of the bags.

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This is where my zero waste journey began. In order to simplify my weekly “taking out the garbage routine,” I decided that getting rid of my trash bag would be the easiest solution. I had to first start swapping out all of my disposable items and figure out how to either replace the items with more sustainable solutions or eliminate them from my life completely. I decided to tackle all of my disposable items in the kitchen first. I started by swapping out my kitchen sponges for smaller washcloths, and then started buying food without packaging. That took a little bit more planning because I had to purchase glass tupperware and change my diet slightly. Changing my diet included giving up certain foods that came in packaging such as certain types of meat, candy, snacks and cereal. I switched those out for bulk snacks such as nuts, granola mixes, whole vegetables and fruit. I started eating whole grains for breakfast and really took solace in my progress towards a zero waste life.

Although swapping out disposable items meant that my laundry load would increase, it really didn’t increase by a lot. I went through my kitchen items and then moved over to my bathroom items. I paid attention to the materials of the items I was replacing my disposable with. I always tried to choose 100% cotton material, bamboo, stainless steel or glass. I then went through my clothes and started donating everything I didn’t need.

My journey to a zero waste life took about a year and half. It sounds like a significant amount of time, but if you think about auditing your entire life, there’s a lot of stuff to go through and get rid of. During my zero waste journey, I also started minimizing my life where I also implemented a minimalistic lifestyle.

I’m writing about this story of how I got started because truth be told, it started because I was lazy. That’s the honest truth. Each blogger has a story of how they got started and this is mine. A lot of bloggers tend to move towards this lifestyle based on their awareness of their own plastic use and it’s commendable that they started living with less plastic. I wanted to write my experience so that my audience may know that not all zero waste journeys need to start with fighting for the environment. Sometimes it happens on a fluke, a chance encounter, but that it’s very possible to live this way. I did notice the benefits of living a zero waste life as I dove deeper and deeper into it and the environmental impacts  became more evident as I continued on. But my story doesn’t start with an ethically conscious mindset. It started because the exterior stairs at my apartment building was too narrow to carry three bags down to the trash bin.

This is my story of how I got started to living a zero waste life. #truth

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Goals for 2017

02.21.2017

0700

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My 2017 Goals…

So each year, I try to set up attainable goals. Sometimes I achieve them, sometimes I won’t and sometimes I only achieve a few goals each year. Either way, the ones that were not achieved, will bleed into the upcoming year. I approach this goal setting a few different ways and this year I thought I’d share with you a format that I frequently use now. These goals have two concise categories and that’s personal goals versus professional goals.

My professional goals will be whatever and however I decide to navigate my professional life. That includes where I work, the length of my career, the job titles I want to move up towards and licenses that I need to attain those job titles. In a nutshell, the idea is to layout where you want to be and the steps it’s going to take to get there. This is a sample format that I tend to follow:

  1. Professional Goals:
    1. Job Position
      1. Profesional steps to move into the job position you desire and with desired pay
      2. Certificates and licenses needed to qualify for desired position
        1. Which certificates are needed
        2. How much does each certificate/license cost
        3. Frequency of the continuing education credits needed per year
    2. Professional community
      1. Steps to network more, and how to come in contact with more people on a more frequent basis
      2. How frequent will networking occur (ie quarterly, yearly, etc.)

You can use the above format, or elaborate on it however you choose. My personal goals has a different format that I use which includes daily goals, weekly goals, yearly goals and long term goals. With this format, it’s a fairly straight forward setup. However, there are a lot of templates floating around on the internet that will map out each week of each month in a play by play format, if that’s what you chose to use. I tend to not have that many goals that would need a more rigorous format, so I use this the style I use.

  1. Personal Goals:
    1. Daily Goals:
    2. Weekly Goals:
    3. Yearly Goals:
    4. Long term Goals:

I like to focus more on general time constraints than day to day time constraints. Also, with the general time goals, it allows for unexpected events to occur.  This list may change in the sense that new goals may be added to it or adjusted, but I’ve written it out and now it’s a personal contract. So let me show you what goals I’d like to achieve in 2017.

  1.  Professional Goals:
    1. Continue to work towards becoming a licensed architect.
    2. Continue to work towards my LEED AP certification
    3. Take scheduled breaks from blogging and the upkeep of my social media
    4. Continue to blog, but post once per week, and continue to push for better content
    5. Be more active on my social media accounts
  2. Personal Goals:
    1. Daily Goals:
      1. Stay healthy
      2. Buckle down on my workout routines
    2. Weekly Goals:
      1. Surf more
    3. Yearly Goals:
      1. Community Involvement: Get more involved with the non-profit environmental organizations that I currently support, perhaps add some more to that list.
      2. Grow specific vegetables and enough to sustain a household for weekly meals. (This is an ongoing experiment)

So this is a glimpse into what I plan to do. What are some of your goals? Do you like the daily/weekly/yearly/long term goals format? Do any of you have goals set up for 2017?

Goals For 2016

01.20.2016

0900

DSC_3541My goals for 2016 are… (let me get back to this)

I could sit here and write that I want to better myself in a specific way, but it would be meaningless. My life as it is right now… is pretty great. It’s weird to admit that at times because it sounds arrogant, but I have to admit that life is genuinely good and I’m happy. However, it also took years of analyzing and nit picking and changing routines to get to this point.

My first step in getting to my happy life was simplifying it, which meant trying to live a zero waste lifestyle. After that, the rest was laid out pretty easily. Running errands is easier, sleeping is easier, and waking up is easier. I don’t buy packaged foods anymore so I know I’m not putting certain chemicals into my body anymore. (I know that there is a chance that the bulk foods will also have chemicals, but not the same ones for sure.)

I tend to eat a lot of greens and I stopped eating meat five years ago. I just run around the bulk foods section, grab some vegetables and fruit and I’m done. Even buying soap, laundry detergent, lotion and my other bath and body care are a quick stop at the grocery store- and it’s just one store I go to too.

I think this year is a year of just pushing my blog to further investigate who I am and what I want to report/talk about. I’m a very private person so this is all very new to me. I started living a zero waste life almost 6 years ago and many people had asked me to document it or vlog it on my YouTube channel, only now am I comfortable enough to do so.

The word ‘goals’ sounds too standard. It sounds like you’re going to achieve the goal and then it’s over, it’s done, nada mas. So maybe they should just be changes, changes that will echo even after you reach a certain point. Changes that just become a part of you- they become you.

So my changes for 2016, is to push my blog, vlog more, continue to be healthy and happy but overall- continue to be a better version of ME. The ME version consists of being a sister, daughter, friend, designer, citizen… just BE BETTER.

What are your changes you plan to make this year?