A new year often brings inspiration to form ambitious resolutions for a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life. Come January 5th, many of these lofty goals feel simply overwhelming and are likely to fall to the wayside by February.
That’s why this year, we’re all about setting intentions rooted in balance and flow (which just so happen to be my two “words of the year”).
The intentions on this list may look a little different than your typical sustainable living tips and resolutions, but that’s for good reason. These goals are less about forcing yourself to make changes and more about finding balance in your life for sustainable wellness and discovering a flow that feels right for making long-lasting changes.
This guide is categorized into:
- Self-Care Intentions (finding balance within so you can make the long-lasting changes in the world you are capable of)
- Community and Collective Advocacy Intentions (balancing individualism with collectivism so that we can bring about larger change)
- Ecological Connection and Balance Intentions (restoring the balance between yourself and the planet)
- Growth and (Un)Learning Intentions (commit to the unlearning journey to gain a more holistic view of sustainability and justice)
Ready? Let’s dive in!
Caring for your holistic wellbeing is an essential foundational block for ensuring your long-term ability to advocate for and drive change. Neglecting your own health is a shortcut to burnout so be sure to set up routines and boundaries that ensure you can bring your best self to your community and the world.
1. Set Up a Morning Routine
Mornings are powerful. They set the tone for how we will embark on the day — they can be the difference between spending the next 16 hours of the day in a state of overwhelm and stress or in balance and flow.
The concept of “habit stacking” tends to work quite well for morning routines. This means that you stack multiple habits you’d like to make back-to-back into one single routine.
For example, maybe you have goals to journal regularly, develop a meditation practice, exercise every day, and not look at your email first thing in the morning.
You could develop a morning routine that consists of 1) meditation for at least 5 minutes right after awaking, 2) journaling for 10 minutes, 3) directly putting on your athletic clothing and starting whatever your preferred form of movement is.
For one week, you could just do the meditation. Once that’s set, start stacking the second habit of journaling. Then perhaps after a month of that, you start adding in the 30 minutes of exercise.
If you’re truly interested in developing lifelong habits, they should not feel difficult or forced. Setting up routines are marathons, not sprints so remember to be easy on yourself and stay patient.
2. Set Boundaries for Digital Use
Our phones and other technological devices are powerful tools — but ones that can be powerful in both negative and positive ways. [Check out the book Digital Minimalism if you’re curious to learn more about this topic.] And while you may not want to — or be able to — totally quit social media or stop looking at email, setting boundaries with device use will support you on your journey towards balance and health.
Determine what boundaries you’d like to set and write them out. This can be no phone use before 8am or after 8pm, no more than 1 hour of social media per day, or no digital devices except for phone calls on weekends. Keep these boundaries visible. If you have an iPhone, check out the “Screen Time” option in your settings to set time limits for certain apps and a time range for “downtime”.
3. Rediscover Hobbies You Enjoy
With the ever-present emphasis on productivity and success in our culture, it’s easy to let go of hobbies or activities you love that don’t feel “useful”. This year, center joy in your hobbies! For me, this will be rediscovering my love of dance — a passion I have not made time for since I left my pursuit of a career in professional dance.
Individualism is often prioritized in the United States and elsewhere, but collectivism is how we will make long-lasting, sustainable change — so this year, let’s make a commitment to community.
4. Join a Movement You Believe In
If you have some spare time or money this year, consider donating it to a movement pushing for broad change rather than making that next low-waste swap. While swaps can make a difference, over-focusing on these changes can lead to forgetting about the big picture, which is why I’m a believer in finding balance between impactful individual changes and community-cented ones!
The good news is that no matter what cause you’re passionate about, there’s sure to be a community-based movement out there you can join. A simple online search will pull up plenty of results. From there, do some research and join introductory meetings if possible to see what group will be a good fit for you.
Some ideas: Sunrise Movement is a youth-led revolutionary climate activism group and Remake is a community advocating for a more responsible fashion industry.
5. Join the Divestment Movement
Divesting from fossil fuels is one of the most crucial steps in averting the worst of the climate crisis.
While the concept might sound overwhelming, there are some simple steps you can take to join the movement.
If you’re familiar with conscious consumerism, think of divesting as an arm or as an extention of this concept. Divesting from fossil fuels and investing in socially and environmentally responsible funds ensures that the money you’re investing for retirement or the nearer-term future is aligned with your values.
Here is a guide to socially responsible investing with online platforms making it easy to get started with more sustainable and ethical investing.
And here is a guide to sustainable banking to make sure you’re not saving your money with a bank still funding fossil fuel projects.
If you’d like to go a step further, check out how you can join divestment movements like Fossil Free.
6. Support Community Farming
Community-supported agriculture is a way for citizens to connect more closely to those producing their foods. Essentially, individuals or families can subscribe or purchase a share of the harvest of a local farm and in exchange, these farms will provide the subscribers with a box of fresh produce (and sometimes other food items such as eggs or honey as well).
CSAs are an incredible way to support a more sustainable, localized food system. Check out LocalHarvest to see what CSAs are available near you! If you can’t commit to a subscription, you can also look into farmer’s markets offering locally-grown or made foods on LocalHarvest as well.
7. Start a Regenerative Garden
For an activity that restores the earth while also restoring your mind and body, consider regenerative gardening. Farmer Rishi is an educator offering courses, workshops, YouTube videos, and consulting services centered on regenerative and restorative gardening.
The Green Dreamer podcast is another wonderful resource for learning more about regenerative and healing farming and gardening practices!
8. Notice Nature
Sounds simple enough, but restoring our connection with Mother Earth involves actually getting out to explore it.
More than just walking in nature while our mind wanders elsewhere or looking at beautiful landscapes as static pictures, there’s much to be learned by taking a concerted effort to notice our surroundings. The more we listen, the more we’ll hear.
The Hidden Life of Trees and Braiding Sweetgrass are two books that offer invaluable perspectives on how we can better understand and connect with the natural world.
9. Commit to Conscious Fashion
Fashion has an outsized impact on our environment in terms of biodiversity, land degradation, pollution, and climate change. In 2015, greenhouse gas emissions from textile production totaled 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, which the Ellen MacArthur Foundation points out is more than the emissions from all international flights and maritime and shipping combined.
While plenty of brands are joining the sustainable fashion bandwagon and trying to convince us that we can shop our way to sustainability, the most important changes we can make are to buy less and wear what we have more.
So, maybe this is the year you commit to quiting fast fashion or go on a complete break from shopping for a set amount of time. I went on a clothing “fast” for a few months last year, and not only did it help me save money, but the time I saved by not shopping freed up more hours for other leisure activities.
Or perhaps, you start tracking the number of times you wear each garment and see if you can beat your own records — I’ve worn some of my favorite pieces upward of 150+ times!
When you do want a garment or accessory to add to your wardrobe, shop secondhand first or try swapping/borrowing with a loved one. If those methods fail, then look for a piece from a conscious brand and ask yourself pre-buy questions like: Do I need this? Is it high quality? Does it match my values for caring for the environment and social justice? Is it high quality? How many times will I really wear this piece? [Check out a downloadable checklist for pre-buy questions here.]
Growth: Learning Intentions
2020 was the unofficial year of unlearning and growth. Let’s continue this momentum by listening to and learning from historically marginalized voices.
10. Read Environmental Justice Books
The environmental movement has a lot of growth to do when it comes to centering environmental justice in its work. I recognize that I personally have work to do in this area as well.
So, one of my intentions for the new year is to read books on environmental racism and BIPOC-led climate and environmental movements.
If you’re looking for somewhere to plan out your books for the year, I suggest Storygraph as a Black-owned alternative to Goodreads (which is owned by Amazon).
11. Commit to the Unlearning Journey
Another way to continue our journeys of growth is to subscribe to content that pushes us to continue to unlearn and relearn. Where possible, donate to the creators providing this educational content.
- Subscribe to Anti-Racism Daily (a newsletter arriving in your inbox each morning with a different topic relating to anti-racism)
- Join The Great Unlearn Patreon with anti-racism educator Rachel Cargle (a course and community offering education and resources for taking action)
- Join Aja Barber’s Patreon (ethical fashion and intersectional feminist thought-leader sharing her insights, must-read articles, favorite brands, and more)
- Listen to podcasts like YIKES Podcast, Conscious Chatter, Green Dreamer, and Brown Girl Green
- Follow and support BIPOC influencers and creators in the conscious fashion and environmentalism spaces