2018: A (Not Quite) Sustainable Year in Review

Sustainability and I have been battling it out during 2018. To draw the year to a close, I offer a merciful review of my not quite green efforts. And to ring in 2019 on a hopeful note, I am including my favorite positive climate-related stories from the past 12 months.

I know I am not the only one with sustainability on their mind. Sustainability and climate change have gained a lot of attention following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report in October. This report showed the immediate need for a cut in carbon emissions worldwide. It says we have 12 years to cut emissions by 50 percent and we need to be carbon neutral by 2050 to prevent irreversible damage. Without this cut, human health, food security, water supply, and economic growth are all at risk.

This kind of news is hard to digest. In school, my professor calls the undergirding feeling of climate-related dread “eco-anxiety.” To face this anxiety, I worked against my pessimistic tendencies to do what I could within my sphere. First, I did what I could in my own home to reduce our carbon footprint. Second, I surrounded myself with positive communities working hard to mitigate climate change and contributed as I could.

While it was not always easy, I learned a lot this year and wanted to share my sustainability trials, tribulations, and victories. Therefore, as a last hurrah for 2018, please enjoy this review of my (not quite) sustainable year. Hopefully, it will encourage you and offer helpful ideas for living more gently in 2019.

Okay, first: true confessions on some of this year’s utter eco-fails.

  • Air drying my clothes has been one hilarious misstep after another. First, I tried to build an indoor clothesline, which proceeded to fall down, taking part of our door paint with it. Then, I attempted to neatly hang clothes on a drying rack only to find them wet three days later. Therefore, I still resort to the dryer for most of my laundry needs.

  • I tried to switch to zero waste, eco-conscious makeup brands this year. To this, my sensitive skin decided to throw a 6-month allergic fit. Now, my face is proudly the home of rosacea.

  • VERY recently, I learned that milk and butter have a larger carbon footprint than chicken and turkey. This resulted in me now feeling the need to step off my vegetarian soapbox and boldly overcome my absolutely horrified attitude about vegan cheese.

  • After gleefully signing up for a CSA box this winter, I received TINY expensive boxes of produce every two weeks. Despite being a minimalist, I don’t like to apply that to my veggie consumption and cry every time I stretch my tiny potato stash to last a week.

Now onto some things that went right on a personal front:

Big Impact Successes

  • First, I signed up for environmental action alerts so I can quickly write my elected officials about climate issues. You can easily do this too through the NRDC’s website.

  • Second, my car got little use this year. By walking almost everywhere, I reduced stress, got the blood flowing and reduced my carbon footprint.

  • When we needed new clothes or household items, I tried to buy them second hand or source them from sustainably minded companies. I was successful about 2/3 the time.

  • I said no to several flying opportunities over the year. This probably made the biggest cut in my carbon footprint due to the significant amount of emissions associated with each flight.

At- Home Successes

  • I bought almost all of our produce over the summer at our farmer’s market. This meant I had about 5 months of local, packageless fruits and veggies.

  • After many shopping fails, I found out which stores in Chicago let people shop bulk with their own jars. This let me cut down on packaging waste from food. (For you Chicagoans, the stores are Fresh Thyme and the Dill Pickle Co-op).

  • By switching to making beeswax wraps for food storage, I eliminated plastic wrap from our kitchen.

  • We switched to Who Gives a Crap toilet paper (100% recycled). This not only made my FedEx delivery man’s day (the box is covered in TP related puns), but one box has lasted us for 4 months for 3 adults (a long life, made possible in part by my fabulous birthday gift — the Tushy bidet).

  • I switched to sourcing most of our household and body products from The Good Fill.  They let you refill the bottles you already have with all natural products. This means we have less waste for our house and body cleaning routines.

  • I found, adapted to and now really love using shampoo bars, which are fantastic for travel and package free. The ones I have used are from The Unwrapped Life. (Not a recommended swap for naturally curly or coarse hair).

And here are my favorite non-personal climate-related victories from the year:

  1. My home state of Illinois is working to increase its solar capacity by 1898% between 2018 and 2023! Despite the fact that this lofty goal may not come to fruition, it is a big step in the right direction.

  2. Costa Rica (my fond home for one summer) is aiming to be the world’s first decarbonized country. They are trying to end the use of fossil fuels by 2021.

  3. Finally, midterms in the U.S. led to the election of many officials that believe in fighting climate change. From state action to actually speaking about it in Congress, this is a critical step forward.

That draws my conclusions to a close. For me, 2018 was a year of sustainable trials, full of missteps and mini successes. I would love to hear how 2018 treated you in the world of sustainability.

♡ Elena