Reflections for a New Year
Updated: Jul 22, 2020
I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. One reason is their all or nothing nature. They seem to be a set-up for failure. Being human, it’s inevitable that I’ll break my resolution at some point. New Year’s resolutions also seem to discount the new start I get each and every day of my life. A bad day doesn’t mean a failed resolution for the year; rather, it’s the opportunity to repent and start over with the grace of a new day. This perspective is rooted in my Lutheran theology of daily baptism.
Although resolutions aren’t my thing, I find value in thinking about New Year’s Day as a milestone, much like birthdays and anniversaries. Milestones are times for me to reflect on how I’m living, compared to how I want to be living. I think of the year that has been and the year that will be. It’s kind of like a personal check-up. I ask myself how I’m doing, with regards to my health, relationships, faith, budget, career, life goals, or some combination thereof. I celebrate things I like about myself and my life, and I name areas where I hope to grow. This year my reflection includes a look at how I’m living as part of creation and my responsibility to care for it.
One thing I’m celebrating is the recent start of my Living Connected project. For many years I’ve been making small changes to live sustainably. However, my efforts have been haphazard, and at times, spurred by a fad or something in it for me (e.g., saving money). With Living Connected, I’m now making intentional and measurable changes in the way I live. My new year’s reflection is setting the baseline for my journey to more a more sustainable lifestyle in 2020.
Here are some questions I’m asking as I reflect. Maybe some of them are relevant for you, too. I look forward to exploring their answers with you in the coming year.
Water: What am I doing to conserve water? Can I do more? How does the amount of water I use compare to the U.S. per person average of 88 gallons per day? What might I do to help all people have access to water? Am I doing anything to make sure ecosystems have the water needed to sustain them?
Food: What am I doing to eat sustainably? Can I do more to reduce food waste? Do I know where and how my food is grown/produced? How am I contributing to the well-being of agricultural workers, who provide my food? What might I do to help all people have the food they need?
Land: What am I doing to mitigate the changes in land use that support my lifestyle? How might I manage my yard to be more like the land’s original habitat? What percentage of plants in my yard are native, and how does it compare to the 70% needed to support songbirds? Can I change my habits to counter the spread of urbanization in my region? What am I doing to encourage regenerative agriculture? Am I doing anything to restore the planet’s ecosystems?
Energy: What am I doing to conserve energy? Can I do more to reduce household energy use? How can I change my transportation habits and the ways I travel to use less or cleaner fuel? What’s the biggest contributor to my carbon footprint? How am I advocating for a just transition in energy production?
Material Goods: What am I doing to reduce the amount of stuff I buy? What can I do to mitigate the negative effects of my consumerism? Can I focus more on well-being and quality of life, than on standard of living? How might I change my buying habits to come closer to using only my fair share of the planet’s resources? How can I use the money I save to heal some of the damage done by the extraction of resources for my material goods?
Waste: What am I doing to reduce the amount waste I send to the landfill? How does the amount of waste I generate compare to the U.S. average of 4.51 pounds per person per day? Can I do more to stop using disposable items? How might I reuse and re-
purpose more things, instead of relying on recycling? Am I working to help communities and ecosystems harmed by my waste?