Here we are at the end of a year and a decade. It seems like just yesterday the world was worried about all the computers going haywire when the year turned to 2000. People were genuinely freaked out. And now 20 years later we have more to worry about than how computers will handle a date.

There is a lot wrong in the world. Still. But in the midst of the horrors and tragedies, there is also joy to be found. It is not easy, that’s for sure. And some days after hearing the latest climate crisis stories, mass shootings, children in cages, rapes, car bombs, and white supremacist anti-semitic racial slurs from the president of my own country, I want to throw in the towel and not give a shit about anything anymore.

But I can’t ignore it. I can’t pretend.

I spent time this year thinking about what I can do. I thought I should be out on the streets marching, should be out there being all the things an activist is supposed to be. But all the protests happened during the week while I was at work or on the weekends when I needed mental health me time. I felt guilty frequently. Then I began to realize there are other ways to be an activist, other ways to resist, other ways to advocate for change without using all my vacation time at work to go to rallies that, while inspiring, often leave me feeling exhausted. As an introvert and someone who finds crowds and events overstimulating, I needed to work out a quieter way to be. I am still working on it, but I am finding ways.

Even though I have a big garden it isn’t enough to meet all my produce needs. I found a CSA, Sin Fronteras Farm. My farmer, Eduardo, is Lantinx and is active in organizations that support farmers of color. His produce also has a Latin flavor, different than the standard csa fare, which we loved even though there were herbs we had no idea what to do with. We signed up for another season.

Quite a few years ago, a group of gardeners in my neighborhood were given a small piece of city property next to the light rail station upon which to make a native plant and monarch garden. They designed the garden in the shape of a butterfly wing. Most of the gardeners have reached an age they are finding it difficult to keep up the garden. They gifted the garden to the neighborhood association who put out a call for volunteers. James and I were the only ones who showed up at the meeting. If the garden could not be maintained, the city was going to take the plot back and mow it all down. So, under the direction of Fernando, the volunteer who organized the meeting and who works as a landscape designer, James and I and a few of the original gardeners, kept the garden going. I wasn’t able to spend as much time there as I would have liked. In this coming year I hope to do more work there.

In January James and I took on a zero waste grocery shopping challenge. Yes, we had to make adjustments that weren’t always easy and there are items we can no longer buy because of their packaging, but it has been amazing! And it has crept into other areas of our life. The amount of trash we produce in a week doesn’t even fill a one gallon trash can. And the amount of recycling we produce is also significantly less and composed mainly of glass, metal, and paper.

In the bulk section of my food co-op they have bins of dried fruit like raisins, apples, cranberries, cherries, etc, that the co-op buys in bulk and then puts in weighted and barcoded plastic bags. We asked them early on why they put the fruit in bags because they didn’t do that with all of it, only some of it. They had a reason but it didn’t seem like something that couldn’t be solved somehow.

We asked a couple times and explained why, and then we began asking about how big the bulk packaging was because we did not want to buy the stuff in plastic bags. We decided to buy a big box of raisins. We thought it was going to be ten pounds, big, but reasonable since we eat a lot of raisins as my house. Well, it turned out the box is 20 pounds! We laughed out asses off and we have thus far managed to work our way through half the box.

But a curious thing has happened. About a month ago, some of the dried fruit was bagged in compostable bags! We were practically giddy and mentioned how excited we are about the new bags. I am hoping they continue using the compostable bags and eventually use them for all their bagged dried fruit. When I finally need to buy raisins again next September, it will be nice to not have to buy a twenty pound box! I don’t know whether James and I had anything to do with the change, but I like to think we at least helped push it along.

Bulk bin bags from a pillowcase

After coming across a post at Zero Waste Chef about repurposing old pillow cases into bulk bin and produce bags, I have been itching to try it myself. I’ve had a little time off from work for the holidays so I dusted off my sewing machine, found an old pillow case, and now have four bags. I added ribbon drawstrings to my bags because I need to be able to close them up so beans or apples don’t spill out all over the place while shopping or during transport home. Really pleased and excited to take them with me when James and I go shopping later in the week.

Here is something else that is super exciting. A year or two ago Minneapolis banned plastic grocery bags. Now, starting January 1, if you do not bring your own bag to the store, any store, grocery or otherwise, and use a bag provided by that store instead, you will be charged five cents for each bag you use. Single-use takeout plastics from food places (restaurants, bakeries, food trucks, cafes) have also been banned. I personally had nothing to do with these things directly, but I did vote for the city council person who has been a big driver in getting these new ordinances passed.

I might not be out on the streets shouting for change, but I am, in my own quiet way, changing myself and, I hope, encouraging others to make changes too. One of the things I have learned from my cycling team composed of women of different ages and abilities is we all have something to contribute. We don’t need to be pro or semi-pro racers, we don’t have to be the fasted or strongest, we don’t even need to be the one who stands on the podium at the end of the race. But we do need to work hard. We do need to show up. We do need be positive and welcoming and encouraging and supportive to everyone, including the competition. When we bring our best selves, no matter the outcome, we all make a difference because we are stronger together.

So for 2020, I am going to bring my best self. Will you bring your best self too? I will help you, and you will help me. Together we will make amazing things happen.

Life moves in circles, goes through cycles, regenerates, starts over. Every 24 hours the sky goes dark and night comes and we sleep and the next morning sunshine pours in and we are given another chance to begin anew.

—Taylor Plimpton, “Starting Over, Again”

Happy New Year Everyone!