Green Goal Setting for the New Year
The New Year is an excellent time to make a fresh start. In some ways, this is my favorite time of year. The cold winter days beckon me indoors and into a luscious state of self-examination. It is in this state of contemplation I like to write out my yearly, green goals. These are my plans I hope to establish in the New Year and a space to manifest the dreams I hold for my family, my community and the planet.
I use the word goals rather than resolutions because it is more affirming of the purpose to me. When I have a goal in mind, I am more likely to achieve it than a hope or a resolution. At Under The Canopy, my nature explorers program, we do reflection exercises in the winter to help us think about what we want to do and how we want to be in the New Year. Below is a list of questions I ask my students and myself when considering what my green New Years goals are. Please use this list as a starting off point for your reflections, hopes and dreams in the New Year.
1. How can you live more seasonally?
I strive to live a life that is shaped by the seasonal changes occurring in nature. Winter is the season telling us to sit back and relax and eat the food we have saved up over the heavy production times of the summer and spring. The fall harvest has come and gone, and now we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Like Fredrick the mouse in Leo Lionni’s book “Fredrick”, we get to use this time for dreaming, scheming, contemplating and manifesting what we want in the New Year.
Even if you have a nine-to-five job, it is still possible to let the changing of the seasons affect you. From enjoying a hot cup of tea and sitting outside to listen to the birds in the morning before work, to putting on an extra layer and going for a walk in the winter woods on the weekend, your soul will be happier if you let your body and mind be in touch with the rhythms of nature. This will also help you to think well about the planet. In this seasonal journey you can begin to decide how you want your year to unfold.
2. What do you want to do for the planet this year?
As the Director and Lead Teacher at Under The Canopy (UTC), it is easier to think seasonally because my whole job is exploring all the natural wonders of the season with children by my side. We use this question to get us all thinking greater about the world and our place in it.
I often marvel at the sweet responses the children come up with when I ask them this. From trash pickups, to planting flowers to just being kind and smiling at people when they are having a hard day. The young people are ready to share the spark they have with the world. It is inspiring as a parent and educator to help make these dreams come true. And we often do.
Last year before the pandemic started, we gathered UTC families to clean up trash from an epic flood that went through Oxley Nature Center. The children wanted to do a trash pick-up to help the planet, and my first thought was Oxley. It was eye opening for all participants to see all the plastic and junk wrapped up in the roots of trees. We carried out fifteen bags of trash and could have done much more if we had more time. Most of the trash came from a buried landfill next to the creek; the plastic was from the 1950s and still almost as good as new.
It was a powerful message to us to think about how much plastic we use and just how long it stays in the earth and along our watersheds. It was helpful to see our plan in action and directly take part in a project that was helping the earth.
3. How can you make the world more beautiful?
When I think of having a green new year, I like to think about the larger societal goals I have, but also the day-to-day goals that would make up my little corner of the universe more beautiful. My daughters and I live near a shopping center that is old and ugly. My kids love going there because it has stores where they can affordably purchase things for themselves with their allowances. Every time we go I can feel the sadness of the unkempt nature around the shopping center.
One of my goals in 2021 is to clean up this little spot with the help of the surrounding neighborhood associations. I would like to clear the little dirt patch in front of the stores of debris and litter and fill it with wild flowers. Wild flowers do not need a lot of water to produce; they bring beauty and pollinators to a space that would otherwise be a dead zone. I will let you know if I am able to manifest this goal, but setting the intention is the first step.
4. How much time do you want your family and you to spend outside?
When setting goals I also like to think about how much time I want to be spending in nature. My family, thankfully, is good at spending time outdoors. We prioritize nature time and hiking most weekends. But it can be hard to motivate even my nature-loving family when the weather is less than ideal. That’s when goal setting helps.
The organization 1000 hours outside is a fun way to track how many hours you are spending outside. When you sign up there are motivators to help you and your family prioritize being in nature. Check out their website to learn more and sign up: 1000hoursoutside.com/
5. What lifestyle choices and habits do you want to change to help the planet in the New Year?
There are many ways we can change the way we leave our carbon footprint on this planet that can make a big difference. Here are a few suggestions for ways to live a more eco lifestyle on the daily.
A. Bring your own water bottle:
Did you know that, every year, the oil used to produce plastic water bottles in the U.S. alone is enough to fuel about 1,000,000 cars? Anything we can do to quickly and permanently phase out disposable plastic bottles will help our planet. Take a trip to the store and check out the many great reusable water bottles on the market. We don’t go ANYWHERE without our reusable water bottles. These ones made by LifeFactory water bottles are a good option.
B. Bring your own shopping bags:
Shopping with reusable bags everywhere you go is a simple way to reduce ocean, air and water pollution. It also helps you reduce consumption, prevent deforestation, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Plastic bags are the second most prevalent form of litter after cigarette butts, and over 4 billion bags get caught by the wind and end up clogging storm drains and littering our forests, rivers and lakes. As I mentioned above at the Oxley trash clean up, plastic waste lasts for a very long time. The bags made by Baggu are some of our favorites. Also check out these reusable produce bags and make your shopping trip a zero plastic experience.
C: Replace plastic dishwasher pods:
A friend inspired me this year by having a goal to find permanent replacements for one plastic product in her life each month. She switched to dropps diswasher pods this month. They send you pods in cardboard which will replace the giant plastic tub your old dishwasher pods came in. You can also use dropps for laundry detergent. Check out this website for more inspiration for ways to get plastic out of your life. lifewithoutplastic.com/
D: Cook from scratch and meal plan:
This is a hard goal to stick to, but once you get into the habit of cooking from home your wallet, the environment and your health will thank you. Batch cooking on weekends, using cookbooks and meal planning with apps can make this goal much more achievable. If you’re interested in free meal planning apps, check out this list. Having something home-cooked in the freezer is invaluable for those nights when you are too tired to cook.
How do you want to make the world a better place this year? Now is the time to dream big. For more inspiration on how to set goals, check out this Tap The Root Blog post. Please also share what you have figured out about living a more green inspired life and your green goals for 2021.
About Margaritte Arthrell-Knezek
Margaritte Arthrell-Knezek is a naturalist, writer and community educator committed to teaching the skills of sustainability and instructing children and adults on how to connect with the natural world that surrounds them daily. Arthrell-Knezek hails from New Haven, Connecticut where she began her work in the arts and environmental activism in 1997.
She graduated from The Evergreen State College In Olympia WA, 2010, with a bachelor’s degree in multi-media art and sustainability studies. She has traveled the world and landed in Tulsa, OK, where she is the Executive Director and Lead Educator of Under The Canopy LLC. Margaritte is a parent to two awesome children and wife to Mykey Arthrell-Knezek.
You can learn more about the programs she teaches at www.underthecanopy.org She is a regular contributor to TulsaKids.com and also keeps a personal blog about nature connection, gardening, parenting and life as a creative entrepreneur, Tap the Root. She was also published in Hilary Frank’s 2019 book, “Weird Parenting Wins.” She is currently working on a novel about nature connection and her Czech American heritage.