30-day Eco Habits Challenge

Woman with a power drill

Join me in challenging yourself to make real change become a new habit in 30 days. We all aspire to live more eco-friendly lives, so let’s inspire one another with our changes.

I love New Year as a time of reflection on the closing year and optimism about the coming year. You probably already know that resolutions are difficult to keep. Generally, people choose actions that are difficult for them to take, wishes for their changed future. Then, people gradually, naturally resist change, and the resolutions fall by the wayside.

This past year, I did a decent job of making some big changes. I did a rotten job (again) of taking specific actions, though. This tells me what I should already know: I’ll only do what I want to do, and what I want to do changes over the course of a year.

So, as I’m thinking about the coming year, I’m asking myself what worked well last year—not to congratulate myself but to see if I can learn from that pattern. I kept making changes and adjusting what changes I made to build core strength and health, and I made those changes because I felt great. The better I felt, the easier it was to make more changes and to make those changes habits that I don’t resist. My conclusion is that only the underlying WHY kept me moving toward change.

So, this year I want to ask myself WHY I want to make changes before I create a list of resistible actions. I want to focus on one area where I seem to have had some trouble in the past. I’m looking at what is blocking my way from making change, and I want to propose a similar challenge for you.

At bynature.ca we carry information and products to inspire natural families. Here on our blog, EcoBabySteps, we want to help you get where you are going in your own time. That is exactly what I want us to do in this challenge: that one small step after another toward the natural life we (you and I) aspire to.

Our 30-day Eco Habits Challenge

Today, take one baby step to nudge yourself toward eco change. Just one tiny step. Then, tomorrow take another. Make it small enough every day that it doesn’t hurt—or only hurts a little. Make your daily step irresistible.

So it won’t be overwhelming, I’m going to start with a 30-day challenge. If I can make it through my first 30 days, I will add a new 30-day challenge for myself next month. If you want to stop after 30 days, that’s OK. We’re all choosing our own challenges.

Also, to keep me on track and accountable, I will check in with you in a month.

Your Steps:

  1. Your Area. Choose an area where you want to make change
  2. Name It. Get out a piece of paper and write “My 30-day Eco Challenge” along with the name you are giving your area
  3. List Steps. List 50 baby steps you could take in that area
  4. Stay Accountable. Tell someone else or a group of people about your challenge
  5. Remind Yourself. Put your list where you and others can see it
  6. Start. Take one step. Start with a hard one or an easy one—doesn’t matter. Just take one step.

Potential Areas for Your Eco Challenge

If you already know what area you are ready to face for your challenge, stop reading and start now.

If you need ideas, I’ve added a few areas with ideas under each just to get you thinking. Take what works and add to the items on the list until you have at least 50 ideas.

Why 50 ideas? By the end of the month, you really won’t want to do some of the items on your list. If you don’t want to, you won’t. So, give yourself enough choice that unrealistic, overly ambitious, or just odious items don’t become your roadblocks.

Stuff

  • Don’t buy new stuff
  • Repair stuff that is broken or worn
  • Clean, paint, or otherwise renew old stuff
  • If you’ve been hanging on to old stuff you don’t use anymore, let go of it. Send it somewhere it can become someone else’s useful stuff.

Knowledge

  • Research a topic that you’ve been wondering about, like GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or natural remedies for common ailments
  • Set up a Google alert for your topic, so you get a daily reminder
  • Join a discussion group on your topic, so you can share knowledge with others
  • Go to the library and get a children’s book on your topic. Read it with your kids

Health

  • Remove barriers to sleep (tough for parents of babies)
  • Drink more water. Add a squirt of lemon or organic apple cider vinegar to your first glass of the day.
  • Build muscle tone in your idle moments
  • Switch to a doctor who will listen to your concerns about conventional medicine

Transportation

  • Take public transportation to work
  • Teach your children to use public transportation
  • Service your bicycle
  • Take your kids and dog for a walk
  • Buy new socks or repair old ones so you don’t have an excuse not to walk

House

  • Replace toxic cleaning chemicals with natural alternatives
  • Add an air-cleaning house plant in one room, then in another
  • Clean out an old cabinet full of junk and fill it with something sitting around waiting for a place to go
  • Open your kitchen cabinets and see where the plastic is. How could you replace that plastic with glass, metal, wood, or another material? Make a plan.

Energy

  • Teach your children to turn off the lights when they leave a room
  • Open the blinds rather than turning on the lights
  • Turn the heat down and put on a sweater
  • Look around the edges of all of your doors. Do you see light? If so, replace the weatherstripping.

Food & Drink

  • Look at your coffee package. Is it fair trade, shade grown, and organic? If not, research a new brand
  • Clear out your refrigerator and re-organize to put the healthiest foods where you will notice them first
  • Look in your freezer. Is there anything you reach for often that you could make from scratch, from whole foods instead?
  • Do you have a local CSA? It’s time to sign up. Find out how much it will cost and get on the list now.

Clothing

  • Clear out clothes that don’t feel great on you and give them to someone else
  • Repair clothes that you’ve been avoiding because of wear
  • Look at your tags. Where are your clothes made? If not where you think, consider researching clothing made locally
  • Give away kids clothes that are too small
  • Move your summer clothes out of the way until you need them so you really know what winter clothes you have

My Eco Habits Challenge

I wrote above that I’m looking at what is blocking me from making change, and it has become apparent to me that the blocks are actual piles of stuff blocking my way. Does that happen to you? You make a pile of stuff that is very important then you set it aside to deal with it later—and later doesn’t quite come. My other issue is that I moved into my mother’s house when she died, so I’ve been living around her stuff for a long time. I’m ready to clear out what I can’t or don’t use and share it with others. I am going to deal with the stuff in my way and help others as I go.

I’ve already started this over the past week. I got rid of 8-year old magazines that I’ve been stepping over. I kept them because I hadn’t read them yet. I didn’t read them. I just put them into the recycling. I also asked my husband to take a pile of boxes from my sewing room to recycling. He filled our car completely full and opened up a big space for me. We always recycle, but we don’t have curbside pickup. We have to save everything, fill our car, and take it to our city recycling center. We don’t question that; it’s a well established habit. But, getting rid of big items is sometimes more difficult for us to face because we only have a small car.

Nevertheless, I’m ready to meet the challenge. I’m ready to let go of stuff and open up my space. I figure that by the time I make it to the end of one month of moving all of this stuff out of my way, I will not want to fill up the space with more stuff. I hope that the habit will be one of maintaining clean and open space.

I won’t bore you with my list of 50 items (actually 70 and growing), but I’ll share a few. For bigger items, I created sub-items that I can count as a daily baby step. My list is big and scary already. I can feel my resistance welling up, but I find it comforting that I only need to do one little thing a day. I know I can do that.

30 Days: Jan 1-30
My area: Make Space & Recycle Stuff

  • Give away old kid clothes
  •      /Go through 1 box of kid clothes (anything to wash, repair, or save?)
  • Give away old adult clothes
  •      /Go through 1 shelf or drawer of adult clothes (anything to wash, repair, or save?)
  • Give away my mom’s quilting books
  •      /Put quilting books in a box
  •      /Call library to see if they want books for their sale
  • Put baby books in storage
  • Get rid of old furniture
  •      /Empty a drawer of photos and set aside for new storage
  •      /List furniture for giveaway on Craig’s List or local paper
  • Get new storage that uses space better
  •      /Measure one space and check available cabinets
  •      /Move stuff in the way into new cabinet

If you make a list, drop us a note or leave a comment. I want to know what you are ready to tackle—and I know it will help you if you tell someone.

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com

Set Your New Year’s Focus

Goal setting with children

The possibilities are endless when you focus!

Don’t try to psyche yourself into anything. Just write out three specific goals, review them every day, and make them happen. Even tiny steps will get you there.

I’m not saying don’t set a big goal, but I am saying I want you to have a guaranteed success. If you want to lose 50 pounds, how about setting your goal for 5lbs then coming back next month to set the goal for 5 more. If you want to make a quilt for your daughter’s bed, how about starting out with the goal of three squares then coming back next week with the goal for three more.

Don’t convince yourself that this is your goal setting for the entire year. New Year is just a good opportunity to check in and see where you’ve been and where you are going. This is just a milestone.


Basic Goal Setting with Children

I’ve been trying to teach my children how to make things happen for themselves, how to get past lists of wishes to lists of intentions to plans and to-do lists. An hour before midnight last night, we stopped their wild idea of what celebration should be to review the past year and talk about our new year.

You may know that I love sticky notes, so I will admit that there were a lot of sticky notes involved in multiple colors. You can see the results of our goals check in above.

How was this year? We started with one giant post-it note, but just a section of wall will do. Each of us chose a different color of notes then we wrote significant events for ourselves, our family, and the world on our notes and stuck them on the old year. A few had frowny faces, but most of our events were good. I was pleased to see that my children came up with “Had fun this year” and “I felt happy.”

How will this coming year be? I asked them to look at the things they did or things that happened in the past year and picture what they want to write in a year’s time. What do they want to do this year? We started a new giant post-it note, and we kept writing out ideas until they became silly (“Get abs” for my son).

What will you do? I told them that wasn’t the end because “Become a better musician” and “Learn to drive” weren’t specific enough. We each turned three of our wishes into goals on a final giant post-it note. We put the wishes along the left-hand side then asked what steps we can take to make them happen. “Become a better musician” becomes “Call my cousin about piano tuning” and “Go to the library for piano music books.” And, “Learn to drive” (yes, very scary) becomes “Go to DMV for driver’s handbook” and “Look up dates for drivers’ ed class registration.” After we came up with 3-4 steps that we could take for each goal, we added columns for “Next” and “Done.” We moved one note into the next column for each of our goals. My son wanted to move several notes into the next column, but I told him that only one step could be next. That seemed to help him understand what “Next” really means.

They were excited to get back to celebrations, but they told me that when they wake up today they plan to get to work on their goals and move notes into the done column.

Setting goals and checking in on progress can be easy. I want my children to understand how to move from vague ideas toward specific plans they control. Our 30 minutes with sticky notes was a good lesson. Now, the rest is in their hands.

Happy New Year! I hope you get everything you wish for, plan for, and work for.

A New Year’s Index of Wellbeing

Young woman doing yoga on the beach

Before setting goals for the New Year, have you considered taking an index of your own and your family’s wellbeing? I find the broad outline of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) a helpful place to start because it takes into account the complexity and interconnectedness of human society. It offers a deeper understanding of what constitutes social and individual good. It speaks about relationships, social interaction, and general enjoyment of life. It gives me a place to start as I set out to design my own ideal life with my own measurements of wellbeing.


Assess your own wellbeing.
While you are thinking of how to improve your life, consider the 64 indicators from eight broad domains of the CIW: living standards, community vitality, democratic engagement, education, healthy populations, environment, time use, leisure and culture. Some of the indicators are really only relevant on the national level. “Representation of Women in Parliament” under Democratic Engagement, for example, is probably 0% in your household, but you could create your own list of indicators for yourself, such as: know who your representatives are, know what laws are under consideration and voice your opinions to your representatives, and vote at every level from national elections right down to your city or town. If you make a list with just a few indicators under each of the eight domain areas, you can easily assess how well you are doing and mark the areas you would like to improve.

Then, keep your assessment and check back in with it one a month or once a quarter to keep yourself aware and accountable to your New Year’s check in.


What is under your control already and what needs some focused attention?
This year, a schedule has become my anchor. My own work is under control. I do it without fail, so I don’t need to pay too much attention to it. I know my children’s schooling needs some intense focus, though, so we are more scheduled than we have been before. I know I will never just happen to have time for yoga or my husband for tai chi, so we’ve added those to the schedule. If it’s on the schedule, we are sure to show up. I suppose that means that I’m approaching balance through the domain of Time Use.


Choose one thing, and embrace it.
If it seems too overwhelming to look at the broad view, just pick one thing you want to do. It’s easy to focus that way. For me, it’s yoga. I’ve told two friends who are yoga teachers that I’m going to do this, so I will feel accountable to them, and I’ve just told you, so now I’m accountable to you as well. Once you feel like you have one thing under control, choose another. You don’t need to wait for New Year’s Day or some other special occasion to set a firm goal for yourself, but don’t wait until you are ready. You might not ever feel quite ready. Stretch yourself at least a little to reach one specific goal. Do you want to redo your bathroom to accommodate your growing family? Do you want to learn to knit a sweater? Do you want to become involved in a local charity? Do you want to be certified as a doula? Figure out the first step, and take it—then take another.


Do it!
Dream big or plan tight, but choose one thing you can make your own this year. When it becomes a part of your life, choose another thing and do that with gusto.


Happy New Year from bynature.ca!

Image © Devy | Dreamstime.com

5 New Year’s Resolutions Worth Making

Woman writing in notebook

I like making New Year’s resolutions. This isn’t my only check in on goals during the year, but I like the scheduled reminder to look at my progress.

I also love the tools of goal setting. ‘Tis the season of new moleskine notebooks.


Simple Tracking

Despite my love of online goal trackers, I found over this past year that my most effective method of keeping on track was pencil and paper—colorful paper (that’s my motivator!). Simpler has been better.

Spreadsheets play a big part in my tracking as well. For any routine tasks, I use spreadsheets for check lists, time tracking, and dashboard measurements. I’m spreadsheet addicted. My favorite awesome spreadsheet guy has gifted a bunch of new spreadsheets to his readers this week. I noticed that my husband has been using a spreadsheet to keep track of his ambitious vacation to-do list, so I put the New Year’s Resolution Tracker in front of him and told him it is his. He’s a spreadsheet geek, too, so he’s actually excited to use it.

Simple is better. Use the simplest tracker that works for you, and get on to making your resolutions.


Goal-setting Cheerleaders

For those of us who relish goal setting, this is one of the best weeks of the year. I not only get to check in with myself and understand what I want, but I have a lot of great advice to read from others because everyone seems to be asking, “What worked in 2010? What are you going to do differently in 2011?”

One short post that stayed with me warned of the danger of setting big goals when we aren’t prepared. The solution? Think big, act small, and start today.

My plan to focus on just one thing worked very well for the holidays, and I’m going to stick with this approach in the coming year.


5 Resolutions

Make your resolutions a mix. I remind myself to improve my connections with the people I love, upgrade the things I choose to live with, and build my own happiness. Look around to see what you are motivated to start today.

If you need a nudge, here are five goals worth setting this year.


1. Spend Alone Time with Children

Schedule time when you can sit with one child, face to face just to talk, laugh, ask how things are, and enjoy being together.

You’ve heard that it goes fast. Especially if your children are still very small, let me tell you again that I think you’ll be as shocked as I am to find that your time with your children is almost over sooner than you think. Write it on the calendar so you won’t forget. Your child will learn to anticipate your time together.


2. Use Non-plastic Food Storage Containers

By now, you probably have a decent understanding of the problems with plastic. In particular, chemical toxins in some plastics can leach into food.

It seemed like a daunting task, but over the past two years I’ve switched all of the old, round plastic containers inherited from my mother (and from another era) to glass food storage containers with snap-on lids a lot like our popular wean cubes for storing baby food. I took a while to make the complete switch because I just bought a container here and there to keep the financial impact low and to be sure that I had sizes that we most needed. It’s a bonus that the new containers are square and stack well, so there is a lot less wasted space in my refrigerator.

Start with one cupboard or one starter pack of containers and improvise the rest of the transition one step at a time.


3. Schedule Date Night

It can be difficult to tear yourself away from your babies, but you need to. You need adult time to ground yourself and give your parenting time a positive context. Whether it’s a dinner date with your spouse, a night out with the girls, or even a night in when the children go to friend’s house while you stay home, your adult time can be rejuvenating.

When my children were young enough that they had only ever stayed with family or friends away from us, my husband and I traded time with friends. They got one night a week alone while we added their children to our herd then we got one night when they added our children to theirs. Sometimes 6-8 women from our play group left all of the men at one house with babies while we went out. To make this work, you need a circle of trusted friends or willing family. Start by making an offer to watch someone else’s children while they go out.


4. Use Reusable Cloths & Napkins

Go through your kitchen and your bathroom and replace any paper towels or napkins. Everyone in my family now carries reusable tissues in their pockets. I can hear my grandfather saying, “Handkerchiefs! They are called ‘handkerchiefs.’” Whatever they are called, runny noses do not have to mean full trash baskets.

Using reusable napkins and cloth tissues is an easy habit to make for the whole family. It is also a step toward bigger changes when everyone sees how easy it is.


5. Schedule Alone Time with Yourself

Checking in with yourself regularly is essential to making any kind of changes work for you. Schedule time for yourself and don’t break your dates. Don’t put everyone ahead of yourself then wonder where the time went. You could take 15 minutes before your children wake up to walk or shower or write, or you may need to make your Me Time part of your date night deal.

If you already have scheduled alone time, how can you improve it?

Whatever way it works for you, make sure your check in time includes reminding yourself to take several deep breaths then asking, “How am I?” and “What do I want from today?”


Start now!
Write down what you are going to do then take even one small step to move you closer to a goal. Your steps don’t have to be the same size every day, but don’t make your plans so ambitious that it’s just easier to forget it. Take a small step then take another if you feel like it.

Image © Jochen Schönfeld | Dreamstime.com

Fall Feels Like a New Year

Fall changes

Fall feels like a new year. It’s getting harder to leave the windows open at night. I don’t mind a cold night under a down comforter. I love that feeling, but it’s more difficult to convince my children that a cool night is a good thing. I have no flowers left in the garden, just tomatoes, peppers, and pumpkins. It’s harvest. It’s the beginning of the school year with new clothes and new activities. There is no denying change in the air.

Fall feels like a better time for making life changes than in the middle of the holiday (and inventory!) season on January 1st.

If your children have or even just one of your children has gone to school, this could be a great time for you to assess your own routine and make adjustments that will work better for you. Do you need more time alone? (Who doesn’t?) Do you want to work out? Does the dog need more walks every day? Do you need to clean out the children’s clothing drawers of summer clothes or clothes that no longer fit?

Make a list of everything you have been tolerating. Don’t judge the list, just write and write until you can come up with nothing more.

Then, take care of one item. Just one. Do whatever it takes to remove this so you no longer have to tolerate it.

Then, take care of one more.

The rest, come back to them later, but let this time of changes all around you sweep you into action so you no longer have to tolerate stuff and habits that have become habitual. Let Fall be a time to create the life and surroundings you need.

Image © Daveallenphoto | Dreamstime.com