Goals are important to us. But, over time I have found that selecting one word each year is also a helpful tool. It gives us a lens to look ahead at new opportunities and intentions.
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It begins with reflection.
Selecting a word for the year isn’t something that I take lightly. It’s not a new or radical idea, but it is something that is important to me. Having one word to use as a lens or filter for all of the opportunities that come up makes the decision process smoother. It gives us a base upon which we can set goals and intentions. But, before I can select a word, I need to reflect. I spend some time alone (which is hard to come by, but I make time for it.) and think about the last year.
Questions I ask myself:
- What was last year’s word?
- Did we reach our goals? Or did we come up short?
- Or sometimes, did I even set any goals?
- Do a family check in – What’s going well? What’s not going well?
- What is not going well and identify why.
- What is going well and identify why.
Usually I use the previous years’ planner to scratch all this out. But, any paper will do. I’ve found that the process of pen to paper usually unlocks my creativity and makes it easier for these thoughts to unscramble.
My one word for 2020: Sustainable.
Yes, you read that right. Sustainable. What in the world could that possibly mean as word for the year? It’s a word that can have a wide and varied application to our lives. As I was reflecting on the last year, there were some patterns that showed themselves to me that I wasn’t comfortable with. There were also some goals that surfaced that can be reached using more sustainable choices as a family. When I pick a word for our year I always look for one that can be applied to multiple facets of our lives. Otherwise, what good would it be as a filter for goal setting if it couldn’t be applied to every opportunity? As I laid out plans (in my new planner) for our year, I narrowed down our intentions to three main areas I want to apply the word sustainable. While my one word is meant to be an umbrella for many areas of our life, I’ve found that by being very intentional in at least two or three areas, the word is more likely to stick.
Photo by Three Moons Photography
Sustainable Focus #1: Homeschool.
The first area that we will be focusing on sustainability is our homeschooling. But, it’s probably not what you’re thinking. It hit me while I was reflecting that I have not been training my children for life, in some ways. There are many facets to homeschooling, and one area that I need to strengthen is instilling them with skills and habits that will sustain them for life. Whether it’s how to clean a bathroom, making savings plans, the proper way to do laundry, to vegetable peeling, to how to cook a simple breakfast. Because those skills are just as important, if not more important, than how to watch for snakes on a trail. But it’s more than that, it’s also shaping and building character. One way to do this is a character study by Beautiful Feet Books. In our family, books are our favorite way to learn and I am excited to be even more intentional about choosing books that will help sustain life long lessons.
Sustainable Focus #2: Product choices.
There is alot I could say here and it can be overwhelming to think about changing your entire life to be more sustainable. So, for us, I narrowed it down to a few areas where we are going to be intentional about utilizing sustainable choices.
The first is reusable food and drinkware. The last few months I have made an effort to brink a bottle or mug of some kind with me wherever we go, even on roadtrips. So that wherever we eat or drink, we all have a reusable cup to use. So far, no one has said anything. We all have a stainless steel cup and straw. They are fairly inexpensive and can be used for hot or for cold, plus they are easy to wash. We picked ours up on clearance at Target. I’ve found that it’s not necessary to spend alot of money on reusbale drinkware. It’s certainly worth the investment for higher quality materials, but anything that you can and will regularly use is sufficient. I also really like this ceramic travel mug and use it often when I’m headed to a coffee shop. We also always use our Klean Kanteen or HydroFlask bottles for water, wherever we go.
Sustainable Focus #2: Product choices.
The second is a very mild effort to use less plastic. Emphasis on mild. It can be really easy to go all out in an attempt to eliminate plastic completely, only to find yourself burnt out in one month. My word is sustainable, right? So, I’m making sure that my efforts toward these choices can also be sustained. For our family, we’ve decided on no single use plastic bags, bamboo toothbrushes and my new favorite thing: Bite toothpaste bits. They’re little tablets that you bite and brush with. They come in a glass bottle, then refills are shipped in biodegradable materials! I can toss them in my compost bin for my keyhole garden. Another huge perk: no more toothpaste slime or excess squeezed toothpaste gel in my kids’ sink.
One other way we are reducing plastic usage is single use plastic food bags. I discovered Stasher bags a few months ago and have been obsessed ever since. Don’t buy the knock offs. Investing in the real deal is worth it. These BPA free and food safe silicone bags can go in the dishwasher. Yes, friends, dishwasher. You can also boil them, freeze them, or put them in the oven. They come in fun colors and I have a sandwhich bag and snack bag for each member of our family. When we travel, I use the tiny ones for toothpaste bits and toothbrush. I’m working on building our collection in all sizes to replace our single use plastic Ziploc bags. They are phenomenal for hiking and camping and so much lighter than the stainless steel bento boxes I used to use.
Sustainable Focus #3: Nutrition.
Several years ago I developed a red meat allergy. We still aren’t entirely certain where it came from, but I feel like we are on the right track for sorting it out. The move to a plant based diet was somewhat forced on me due to the food sensitivities and allergies I developed. Because of those I have been vegetarian for five years. Six months ago, after extensive research to figure out my own health issues as well as improving our families’ health – we made the switch to an entirely whole food, plant based diet. I hesitate to throw the word “vegan” out there because all kinds of assumptions might be made. We don’t do it perfectly. Because attempting to be perfect with any diet choice will leave you grumpy and take the fun out of eating. It’s the same thing with making any eco-conscious choices, whether about food or reducing plastic, perfect isn’t sustainable.
Our shift to a whole food vegan diet has been a very positive one for our family. It may not be the right thing for your family, and guess what? That’s entirely ok! Because this is the sustainable choice that works for us.
Our “why” began with health reasons, for myself and for my husband. An attempt to reverse any potential heart disease for him, and an attempt at managing my chronic Epstein-Barr and autoimmune difficulties. The more time we invested in researching our choice, the more we were convinced that the choice was the right one for all of us. It’s possible to raise a family on a vegan diet, and still feel like we are able to enjoy and indulge when we want to. Without getting into too much depth here, our move to a plant based diet is also a small effort by us to be ecologically aware of our global impact. It fits well into the lens of sustainability for our year but has enough flexibility for us to adjust as we need to.
Photo by Three Moons Photography
What will your word be?
Do you pick a word for the year?
Or do you set an intention?
A note about sustainability and living an eco-conscious lifestyle: you don’t need to be perfect. Perfection is a myth and that shouldn’t be stumbling block to stop you from trying. Imagine if each and every family chose just ONE thing to focus on this year, to go along with their ONE word. I want to challenge you to bring a reusable piece of drinkware with you when you travel, but also for the day to day. You can fill up your water bottle anywhere, and coffee shops offer discounts for using your own mug.
So, are you ready?
Here are some resources for focusing on sustainability this year:
- REI Opt to Act Plan for 2020
- Outdoor Advocacy Project
- Eco-Friendly Gift Ideas and Tips
- Coleyraeh’s List – Eco Friendly Adventure Gear
- Game Changers – Documentary on Amazon Video
- Forks Over Knives