It's the time of year when many people are thinking about New Year's resolutions. Often our goals at this time of year focus on things we would like to change about ourselves and our lives - lose a few pounds, pay off that credit card, or maybe actually getting to those books you've been meaning to read.
But what happens when we take the focus off ourselves and make resolutions that help create a healthy planet? We believe when you resolve to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle it will actually help you achieve those other goals!
We asked some great local non-profit organizations to help us come up with New Year's resolutions that encourage us to consider a healthy planet, healthy people, and healthy communities. Here are six great ideas to get you started:
The organization: NATURE MANITOBA
The resolution: PICK ONE LOCAL CAUSE OR PLACE TO CHAMPION. We’re all busy. It’s hard to find time to volunteer or keep up on every issue. And let’s face it, no one can fight every fight. This year why not choose just one place/cause that’s close to your heart, educate yourself about it, challenge misinformation about it, become an expert on that one subject and share your knowledge with friends and family. Do what you can for that one place/cause and don’t feel guilty about the things you aren’t doing.
How it might help you: This could reduce stress, have a positive impact on mental health, and help you have more meaningful conversations.
Where to start: Volunteering is a great way to help out a cause! We are currently looking for volunteers and it's easy to apply online. For other great local options you can check out the member pages of Manitoba EcoNetwork and the Canadian CED Network.
The organization: GREEN ACTION CENTRE
The resolution: CHOOSE "SLOW FASHION". A lot of our clothes are made in an unsustainable way and with poor working conditions for the labourers. Then clothes are shipped long distances only to be worn a handful of times before ending up in the landfill. Resolve to put a temporary freeze on buying new clothes, or choose to buy only clothing that is used, locally-made, or made from sustainable fibres. Or kick it up a notch and resolve to taken on a challenge like Project 333, where you wear only 33 items of clothing for 3 months.
How it might help you: Limiting your wardrobe (or spending a bit more for sustainable fashions) means you will likely only own clothes that make you look and feel good.
Where to start: Green Action Centre has some great info about the Project 333 challege here. You can also hit up a second-hand store, and try to avoid stores that sell "fast fashion".
The organization: A ROCHA
The resolution: VISIT AND EXPLORE A LOCAL GREEN SPACE OR PARK IN EACH OF THE FOUR SEASONS, then be curious about what you see. Notice the wildlife activity. What sorts of plants are present? Look at the shape of the land. How does the space change from season to season? How does it stay the same? What do you love about each season?
How it might help you: Taking time to notice things in nature means you must slow down. It can also help you feel more connected to the natural world.
Where to start: Take a minute to think about one of your favourite spots from your childhood, or just go out and explore. The Pembina Valley Interpretive Centre run by A Rocha is open year-round.
The organization: FOOD MATTERS MANITOBA
The resolution: START A NEW TRADITION – cook and share a homemade meal together with others. We all have hectic schedules, so it’s important to set aside some time to prepare our meals and spend time with loved ones! Invite friends and family to get involved and cook a healthful meal from scratch every week. Get adventurous: try out new recipes, learn new food skills, and build community this year.
How it might help you: Making food a regular time to socialize means more planning. This can help you be more mindful about what (and how) you're eating, which can have a positive impact on your mental and physical health, as well as the environment.
Where to start: Simply pick a day to cook with your family or friends! You can also look for local cooking classes or community kitchen events near you. Food Matters Manitoba has an amazing cooking class for young people in the North End.
The organization: MB IMPORTANT BIRD AND BIODIVERSITY AREAS (IBA)
The resolution: FIND A LOCAL BIRDING SPOT. It can be an IBA, but it can also be anywhere that you can enjoy visiting. Take note of the different birds you see. Try recording the birds you encounter, write them down in a notebook or enter them into an online record website such as eBird. Do this as much or as little as you can manage throughout the year. Try identifying new types of birds that you never encountered before, or maybe learn the songs or calls of birds you know by sight but not by sound. At the end of the year see how many different types of birds you saw in your patch and appreciate the richness and diversity of the birds and wildlife in your chosen area.
How it might help you: This can give you all the health benefits of a great walking workout, plus many hours of fresh air and sunshine. It's also something you can do at any age.
Where to start: If you want to explore a local IBA you can find one near you here. You can also participate in bird counts or join Nature Manitoba on one of our great birding outings.
The organization: FORT WHYTE ALIVE
The resolution: SPEND TIME OUTDOORS IN NATURE EVERY DAY. Whether it's by walking an extra block from the bus stop, a leisurely neighbourhood stroll with a treasured friend (furry or otherwise), or a brisk ski in the freshly fallen snow, getting outdoors is key to reducing stress, connecting with nature and increasing physical activity.
How it might help you: Spending time outdoors every day is just what the doctor ordered to maintain and improve mental and physical health.
Where to start: Membership with an organization that provides outdoor activities gives you incentive to get out often. You can explore the trails at Fort Whyte with or without membership, and Nature Manitoba offers free trial membership to get you started.
Thanks to all the wonderful organizations that sent us a New Year's Resolution! Even if you don't choose one of these six ideas, we hope this inspires you to come up with your own ideas to make 2017 a little more sustainable.
photos: sunrise in the boreal: Brian Hydesmith; four seasons at PVIC: A Rocha; Snowy Owl: Dennis Swayze