In October 2016, a professional assignment relocated me to India for a year, where I found myself stunned and frightened by waste, pollution, and water scarcity. It was here I began to realize how much we consume as modern humans, and how much we thoughtlessly throw away.
I began following zero waste and minimal living blogs in search of inspiration and support for a better way of life for myself. As I researched, I started to realize that paring down my possessions and seriously curtailing my waste was going to be a challenge that would require constant consciousness. I would need to slowly retrain my brain to think differently about what I buy and use every day, and how I dispose of it.
I decided to dedicate a year to making a small change every single day, whether it's an act of conservation, or of simply educating myself. This is exceptionally challenging living in India, where plastic packaging is ubiquitous (and often seen in abundance discarded on the side of the road).
I appointed my late great-grandmother Sudie Mae as my muse. Like many depression era survivors, she couldn't abide wastefulness. She lived in a tiny house which was beautifully kept and stocked with elegant essentials. She grew her own vegetables and never allowed food to go to waste. Her life was simple, elegant, and happy.
Thanks to , I know that living less wastefully doesn't have to mean living without style or comfort. It just means redefining what is necessary.
So I'm dedicating a year to studying and making a change, one step at a time, with Sudie Mae as my professor in absentia.
THE YEAR AT A GLANCE
The challenge is to work a little every day toward a more sustainable lifestyle for one year. Each day could include an act of education, a focus on awareness, a new effort at conservation, or a substitution of a habit or product. The curriculum may change as the year goes on, but to start, the focus will be on the below:
REDUCING WHAT WE CONSUME
This means cutting down on disposable, single use items. It means avoiding plastic and swapping disposable items for ones that are made to last or are biodegradable. It means watching water consumption and re-thinking our food choices. It may even mean making some of our own cleaning and health and beauty products.
How much does one really need to survive? To be happy? To live comfortably? What do we own that we rarely or never use? What could be re-purposed or given away? We'll also look at properly caring for and repairing items rather than replacing them. It's easier to care for the things we love if we own fewer things.
RE-THINKING ENERGY AND TRANSPORT
How can we reduce our carbon emissions? How can we burn less diesel? How can we reduce or offset air travel? We'll explore public transportation, cycling, and carbon offset schemes. We'll brainstorm ways to tap into alternative energy sources. And we'll look at ways of cutting down energy use at home.