1/3 the way there, and the ecojustice challenge

April is almost over and since we are nearly a third of the way through the year it seems like a good time to check in with my new year’s resolutions and see how Things are Going. When I created my resolutions this year I was determined to approach them differently and use them guiding principles for my year, instead of a set of promises I make and then break. So, let’s see…

To never again, no matter how badly I feel it, to say “I’m fat” – This one was surprisingly easy…I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve said this since the New Year. I’m still losing weight with weight watchers but now it’s those last few stubborn pounds…I haven’t felt fat in a very long time, and I refuse to fall into the trap of thinking myself that way any more. However, the second part of that resolution,

To never again say “I don’t eat that” or to discuss diets with others – has been a miserable failure. After years of unhealthy dieting (the coco puff, diet coke and cigarette diet, the South Beach diet, the no carbs after 6:00 pm diet) I am finally, finally a healthful eater, eating all food groups in moderation and attempting to eat a wide variety of foods. I really feel as though I’ve eliminated all my weird food issues but in making a resolution to no longer discuss diets I’ve realized just how many women have not done this. This subject is it’s own post in the making, but it seems to me what we eat, how we eat, when we eat, what we are planning on eating…well, it seems practically to be how women communicate with one another any more, at least in the earliest stages of friendship.  I do not exaggerate when I say it has been impossible to keep this resolution.

To stop voicing health-related fears when they cross my mind, at least to anyone beyond my physician – regular readers know I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. It’s a form of anxiety, and I can’t honestly say if I know how I’m doing with this. On the one hand, I generally am so much less anxious that I don’t tend to succumb to health-related fears the way I did in my twenties, and my job allows me a certain perspective, but when I had a headache last week I found myself mentioning it to coworkers, and when I felt tired a couple weeks ago I wondered aloud if I needed more vitamins. At any rate, I think I am improving in this category.

To no longer to any exercise I dislike – Easiest. Resolution.Ever.

To streamline my life in such a way as to concentrate on writing, reading, yoga and theater – I am focusing on writing and yoga – the reading and theater need some attention.

To have something planned every day that I enjoy and journal or blog about it- Oh, I have not done this at all. I started to in January but then the job interview came up, and then the move…I’ll turn my attention to this resolution in May. In fact, I will post a list at the end of May of all the things I enjoyed – this will hold me accountable.

To embrace my inner academic and approach my job and my personal work with bravery – to embrace complexity – Oh holy hell. I don’t even know how one measures that. Honestly, I don’t even really know how to achieve it.

To learn to live on less – to embrace frugality – Get back to you on this one in December – two apartments, two sets of bills, bar preparatory courses, a rash of weddings and birthdays this summer – this one ain’t happening anytime soon.

To finish a draft of my novel – While I am no longer on track for a summer completion, I am not worried at all about finishing it by the end of the year.

Then there are some other vague resolutions, some dealing with family that are a bit personal, some dealing with practicing presence that make me think I must have been drinking when I wrote some of them, but the biggest resolution and the one I’ve been most successful with, and the one I want to complete this post discussing, is the following:

To make one positive change for the environment each month –

So, in January I decided to stop buying coffee and bottled water, and while after moving to PA I struggled with that one a bit I can honestly say I’m as good at this one as is possible for me. Once in a while I buy a coffee or pick up a bottle of water but MOSTLY I do not…I make a cup of tea in my mug and use a glass for water at work.  This has been a significant change for me and one I’m quite pleased with. In February I moved to Pittsburgh and essentially stopped driving. Consider this: In Detroit I drove approximately 80 miles a day. Since moving to Pittsburgh two months ago, I’ve put precisely 150 miles on my car. I put that many miles on my car in TWO DAYS in Detroit. Here I either walk or I take public transportation – I consider this a huge success because I COULD drive – I have parking at my job and Pittsburgh is a car culture. I choose instead to utilize the reliable transportation system. Financially, I have filled up my tank once since I moved here.  In March I decided to unplug as many electronic devices as I felt I could get away with easily, and I can say that this was by far the most annoying part of my resolution. Things I keep unplugged that I did not before: my cell phone charger, my coffee pot, my bean grinder, my stereo, my hair dryer. Things I keep plugged for otherwise I will go crazy: my laptop, the television. Honestly, I know this is a GREAT way to reduce our carbon footprints but I find it so irritating I gave myself April off to continue adjusting to it. I don’t know why I find it so annoying – I mean, it hardly takes much energy to plug in my cell phone charger or the coffee pot, but I do.

As noted above, I took April off to adjust to my new Way of Living because both one and three were struggles in terms of developing a habit. I am ready, now, to make another resolution, and wouldn’t you know my long-lost sister Emily comes along with the fabulous Ecojustice challenge! I was sort of waffling on what I wanted to do next, and along comes this amazing challenge.  Here is an excerpt:

Before I get started on the actual challenge, I want to explain why this is an ecojustice challenge and not an environmental one. The term “ecojustice” encompasses justice for all of creation (plant, other animal, and human alike). It does not assume any one species (i.e. human) is better than any other species. It assumes that within the human race, those who are most negatively affected by the rape of the earth are the poor (e.g. N.I.M.B.Y. campaigns are very successful in middle and upper-middle class neighborhoods, not so much in poor, inner-city neighborhoods) and that by making this planet a safer and better place to live, all will benefit. It assumes that every living being on this planet deserves its rightful, ecological place (whether certain species want others here or not). It also assumes that we humans are the ones doing the most damage with the most means to stop what we are doing.

So, here is how this challenge will work. The first step is for anyone who wants to participate to pass the link onto at least five other people (or even if you don’t plan to participate, if you like the idea, please pass it on). If you have a blog of your own, this can easily be accomplished merely by linking to this site in a post on your own blog. Below is a list of things you can choose to do. Once every quarter between now and April 21, 2009, I will add to this list. Your challenge is to choose something from this list, to experiment with it, and to post about it here. Or, if you’d rather not post, that’s fine. You can just choose what you want and leave comments on this blog. You can choose to implement as many or as few from the list as you would like. You can choose to stick with one (or more) for an entire quarter, or you can mix and match (one — or more — this month, a different one next month, etc.). My hope is that by the end of the year, at least one item from the whole list will have become a way of life for you and your family. And if you’re already doing some or all of these things, come up with others you want to do, share them with us, and post on them instead.

To join the blog as a posting member, please send an email to: ecojustice08 AT gmail DOT com with your user name and the email address you’d like to use for the purposes of this blog. I will add you to the list of users. Also, please post on your own blog, if you have one. That’s it. And now, here are your choices for this quarter:

1. Choose one day a week in which you will not use your car at all (barring a major emergency, like having to drive your spouse/child to the hospital for stitches). Before you immediately dismiss this one, because you have to drive to and from work every day, please think about it. Is there no one with whom you could carpool two days a week? If so, the day you’re not driving would be the perfect day not to use your car at all.

2. Choose one “black out night” per week. All lights and all electrical appliances are off by 7:30 p.m. and don’t go on again until the next morning. What will you do without lights, television, your computer? Well, the weather’s getting nice where many of us live. Sit out on the porch/deck and tell stories. Read by candle light. Write letters by candle light. Play games by candle light. You know, people did this sort of thing for thousands of years. My guess is that if you have kids, this will be an exciting and fun challenge for them.

3. Choose two days a week in which you are only going to eat organic and/or locally-grown food. Do you know that inorganic farming is one of the best examples of evolution that we’ve got going these days? All the pesticides that have been used to grow our food have helped to create “super bugs” who are becoming more and more resistant to our chemicals. We’re definitely losing this battle in more ways than one. Talk to the people at your local farmer’s markets. Many of them are growing their food organically anyway; they just aren’t certified, because it’s a difficult and expensive process to be so. Buying locally, of course, cuts down on the oil used to transport food long distances.

4. If you need to go anywhere that’s within a 2-mile round trip radius of your home, walk or bike. Where might this be? The first place that springs to mind for me is your children’s school bus stop. Perhaps the post office is close to your home. The library? For me, it’s both the post office and the bank. If you’re super lucky, maybe you have a farmer’s market that’s close by. Or maybe you don’t live close enough to anything, but you do work close by to that deli, say, where you always drive to pick up lunch.

5. Read that challenging book about the environment that you’ve been putting off reading, you know the one you don’t want to read, because it might make you a little uncomfortable (e.g. The World without Us, Diet for a Small Planet, Affluenza). Read it. Post about it. Maybe implement an idea or two based on what you’ve read.

6. Buy only those things sold in recyclable packaging and make sure you recycle that packaging.

I love these options! Emily has created an amazing challenge so please hop over and read her incredibly moving, intelligent post in full. In the mean time, since I rarely use my car, and I am not ready for a black out night, I am going to spend the next couple of months (until July) focusing on (1.) making 2 locally-grown meals a week and blogging about it (will start this in mid-May, when I return from my next business trip) and (2.) reading a challenging book about the environment (don’t know what one this will be, yet). I think these choices, in tandem with the choices I’ve already made, will work out nicely. I do suspect the second half of the year is going to be tougher…I am not the best recycler, and I think eventually I’m going to have to access the amount of groceries I buy in plastic wrapping, and I haven’t addressed the cleaning products I use, but as I move towards greener living I am going to need guidance, and I think this challenge is just the thing.

I am not going to link to five people because I never do, but I challenge everyone reading this to at least stop by Emily’s challenge and read what she has to say. And then, take her challenge. All the cool kids are doing it. And if you don’t have a blog, but would like to do the challenge and maybe write once or twice about it, I would be happy to offer up guest blogging spots here for readers attempting the challenge, wanting to write a little bit about it without creating a whole big blog.  So, go forth and go green!

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9 Responses to 1/3 the way there, and the ecojustice challenge

  1. Cam says:

    I get why you need to unplug the chargers, but why the coffee pot, bean grinder, hair dryer? I thought it was only those things that pulled energy constantly (for example, something with an ‘easy on’ type of setup like your tv), but not necessarily all items plugged into the electrical outlet. I read recently that if you plug things into a surge protector/outlet strip that you don’t need to unplug the chargers, etc. But I don’t get this either. Wouldn’t you still have power going to them? If you know the answers, I’d be interested.

    Do you think it would be easier for women who obsess about their diets to not talk about them if they adopted your first goal (“I’m not fat.”) since so much of our lives are wrapped up in our body image? I think this is a curious observation. I know that I talk about it alot. The 3 other women in my department do not — I don’t know if it’s because they are all thin, or it is because none of them are Americans. I’d bet money on the cultural issue rather than the size. I know that I can walk through the one predominantly female department (all US-born) in the office at lunch time & hear lots of talk about caleries and ‘points’. Ugh.

  2. Dorothy W. says:

    I talk about food a lot too — a LOT. I’ll have to pay attention to how often the conversations I have — with Hobgoblin as well as other women — are about food. I think about it a ton too. I do kind of define myself by my relationship to food — how interesting and how messed up this can be!

  3. Emily says:

    Thanks for helping spread the word about the ecojustice challenge.

    It’s very, very difficult to break that stupid “I’m fat” habit, so congratulations on that one. The question I always ask is “Fat compared to what?” I used to say it all the time, and I have never, ever been what anyone other than a modeling agent would consider “fat.” When my answer became “Fat compared to an anorexic and unhealthy model,” I was able to break the habit. I’ve got a long way to go, though, with the not voicing health-related fears. I think I’ll give it a try as a mid-year solution.

    And I’m so happy to hear your novel is well on its way to being a completed first draft.

  4. Litlove says:

    I think you are doing very well for a third of the way into the year, Courtney. And I am so behind with community blog work – I really want to get involved with Emily’s brilliant project but have been just too busy to put my mind to it. That’s a feeble excuse!

  5. It sounds like you are on track with your resolutions, Courtney. I never voice my “I’m fat” feelings, but that’s because I have two daughters and I don’t want them to inherit my weight madness. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have those feelings, because I do. That’s why being “fit” rather than being “thin” is one of my goals for this year, and beyond.

    Isn’t Emily’s EcoJustice challenge fabulous? I am looking forward to getting into gear with that.

  6. Cam, I have to look into your questions! It would be AMAZING if I don’t need to unplug those things but I was under the impression it was anything that could be plugged in? I will look up these answers and get back to you, I promise…
    Dorothy, I have to admit you surprise me with your comment – I never “pegged” you for someone who talks about food – or, rather – beyond using it as fuel for your workouts. Just goes to show the internet can reveal layers from people you never would have suspected.
    Emily, the health related fears is a hard one to break, and given your scare with MSG this year I would think it would be practically impossible. I was talking with my mom yesterday and she is always so relaxed about these kinds of things…she said “ailments come and ailments go, that’s just a part of living…” I am going to try and be more like her and less like my dad, who tends towards hypochondria as I do…
    Litlove – You are WRITING a BOOK. I think you are allowed to get behind in community blog work for a while. I don’t think this challenge is going to end – we’ll find you next year.
    Charlotte – I have felt a ton better about myself ever since I learned how to dress myself. I will NEVER look good in yoga clothes because I’m much too curvy, but that doesn’t mean I should practice yoga. It does, however, mean I need to dress more like a grown woman and not like the skinney college students running around pittsburgh…

  7. LK says:

    You KNOW I’m adopting several of your resolutions myself!

  8. Andi says:

    Tickled to hear that you’re onboard for the EcoJustice Challenge! What fun! I’m really enjoying it so far and just did my first post about vegetarian cooking at Unlikely Activist.

  9. Carl V. says:

    Hey, you’ve made a lot of great changes already this year. You should be very happy with the changes you’ve made and the recognition of the areas you still are wanting to do some work in. Kudos to you!!!

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