It’s that time of the year again. This year my primary goals are less focused on my own immediate needs. They’re about the environment and the open web instead.
The year 2020 brings us into in many ways a defining decade in our climate, clean air and clean water challenge. I plan to continue making more environmentally conscious decisions.
I also plan to continue cutting my ties with surveillance capitalism and use, support and help improve the open, personal and independent web instead.
These are my goals for 2020.
Buy the minimum necessary amount of clothes, technology and other “stuff” in general
I plan to make no new purchases at all unless absolutely necessary. No new clothes, no new technology, no “stuff” in general. As it looks right now, I have enough clothes and other things to get me through the year.
I’ll do my best not to get tempted by all the advertising messages that try to get me to buy stuff I don’t really need. I’ll drastically reduce the amount of time I spend on social media in order to do that so I don’t have to rely on my willpower alone.
Reuse things I already own as much as possible
As I plan to put a freeze on new purchases, I plan to put to use things I already have. This includes everything from bringing my own bag to shopping, carrying my own cup or water bottle when out and so on.
Whatever I have right now will get the priority compared to going out there and buying something new for a particular use case or single-use. I might need to get creative too in the way I use the things I already own to do things I want to do.
Choose local, seasonal, organic and less-packaged products when buying groceries
Groceries are the things that I do plan to keep buying as I do not grow anything myself. Whenever possible, I’ll try to get seasonal and locally grown vegetables and fruit.
I’ll focus my shopping on stores that allow me to buy non-packaged ingredients. These stores also allow me to return things like glass bottles directly to producers. This should reduce the amount of waste I create.
I’ll also buy directly from or shop in stores that give a bigger part of their profits to the farmers and actual producers. They are the people doing the actual work and should get more for the value they’re producing.
I may need to pay a premium price for some of this. Unfortunately, we live in a world where buying prepackaged items shipped from the other side of the world is in some cases cheaper than buying products made by local independent farmers.
Cook more from scratch instead of ordering in or buying prepackaged meals
A few years ago I didn’t know how to prepare anything in the kitchen. Even something as simple as making a pasta dish. I’m a bit better now.
I plan to cook and prepare meals from scratch for the majority of my meals. In some cases, this means preparing for multiple meals at once such as making dinner that also serves as lunch the following day.
I plan also to expand my repertoire of types of dishes and the different regional cuisines I am able to cook in order to keep it creative and interesting.
This should reduce the plastic and waste I create compared to getting meals delivered or by buying prepackaged or prepared meals. It should be healthier too.
Choose smaller, independent and environmentally conscious producers over large multinationals
This includes everything from groceries to toiletries. Rather than making the autopilot choice, I’ll do some additional research for each and every purchase I plan to make.
Many companies these days communicate that they care about the environment in one way or another. Some of that is just marketing. The same companies then destroy perfectly fine and usable products and goods in order to maintain their brand image and their margins.
Doing research before making a purchase includes looking at the ingredients list, looking at the people and the story behind the company, looking at the way they source the raw materials and the way they treat the people that work for and with them.
Doing research before making a purchasing decision will take more time. Our lifestyles are all about convenience and the need for everything convenient has brought us some of the issues we face. I’m happy to compromise on convenience in these cases.
Drink tea and make my own drinks rather than buy prepackaged
This means no to soft drinks, juices and other canned or packaged-in-plastic drinks. Tea and homemade drinks will replace them.
I’ll brew loose leaf teas, I’ll mix my own drinks with fruit, spices and different flavors. This should dramatically reduce the amount of waste that I create.
Drink tap water rather than water from plastic bottles
I will stop buying bottled water and will drink from the tap wherever possible.
This is not possible in many areas of the world due to the way we treat our fresh water sources. I ended up in a hospital in Peru earlier this year due to the contaminated water used in a restaurant (Salmonella and Endolimax nana in my case).
In many countries, drinking from the tap is not safe and recommended, they buy bottled water instead. In some countries I’ve been in, buying soda in plastic bottles is cheaper than drinking water.
But if you turn that plastic water bottle and look at the fine print on who owns it, you may find the names of big brands such as Coca-Cola and Nestle.
I’ve become very aware of the value of clean tap water since my Peruvian experience and I’m completely against companies trying to privatize water or trying to make fresh water sources less accessible.
I do appreciate that I live in an area where tap water is safe to drink and I plan to drink and support that. It’s optional but I will use a charcoal filter to enhance the taste.
Consume less animal-based products such as meat, fish, milk, eggs and cheese
I will not consume any meat, fish, milk and eggs at all. I will reduce my consumption of cheese and yogurt to the minimum too. I will replace these with more grains, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit.
I’ll also add additional food sources to the mix to cover some of the nutrients I may be getting less of. Things such as chia seeds and flax seeds for omega-3, tofu for calcium and nutritional yeast for vitamin B12.
Sort and recycle all the waste I create
I’ve recently watched a BBC show which exposed that some of the waste we sort and recycle in the West still ends up incinerated or in landfills in the East.
Things like that should never happen but I still plan to do my best to sort and recycle the waste I do create according to the local guidelines.
I’m currently living in a place where I can recycle glass on its own. I recycle paper and cardboard individually too. Same for organic waste. I can even separate between “soft” and “hard” plastics.
I hope that these detailed guidelines and the fact that households do a lot of the sorting work help so at least a substantial percentage of this trash actually ends up being recycled in one shape or another.
I’d love to see the whole recycling process become much more open and transparent about what actually happens to the trash we create. No matter how ugly it is. It will help us make better choices.
Walk and run as much as possible
I will use my legs to get around wherever I can. This should keep me healthy too. Depending on the routes I take, this may help me spend more time in parks and nature and less time looking at a screen.
Take buses and trains instead of cabs and planes
I will prioritize trains and public transport when it’s possible and will reduce the trips in cabs and planes.
I will remove the Uber app from my phone as it is my automatic and convenient choice. This will help me make better decisions as it wouldn’t be that simple to order a cab if the app is not there and ready.
Use an electric vehicle when public transport or walking won’t do
I purchased my first ever car in 2017 as it was needed due to the limited public transport in the place I was living at the time. It was a fully electric car.
It’s been an adventure driving in that car hopping from a charging station to a charging station trying not to run out of battery juice. Really gets you to explore areas you never would have known existed otherwise.
I still have that car and it is the vehicle of choice for trips that are too long for walking and too difficult to make using trains.
Switch to a sustainable energy provider
In many countries, there are now greener alternatives to traditional electricity providers. It’s a simple switch in many cases (cheaper too) and each and every “vote” in this more environmentally friendly direction means something for the direction the whole market takes.
Shave with a traditional safety razor
This is an example of the way I want to be thinking in the future. How can I change my habits, even improve the results I’m seeing while reducing my carbon footprint (even a tiny bit) at the same time?
When I started shaving the most popular razor had the three razor blades system. More recently that somehow went up to five while I didn’t really feel any actual difference in the experience nor the results.
I’ve now switched to one of those traditional safety razors that only uses one single double-edge blade and no plastic at all. They even seem to last much longer and shave much better. More blood on occasion too.
Support the open and independent web
Over the last couple of years, I’ve started paying for web services that I used to get for “free” including things such as email and notes. I’ve also purchased more products from independent publishers.
This is all due to my need to disconnect a bit from the surveillance capitalism. The web is controlled by a few advertising companies such as Google running the whole show and I’d like to do my part to keep the independent and open web healthy and thriving.
Use Firefox as my main browser
Surfing on Firefox that blocks all the worst ads by default is a good first step in getting less tempted by advertising messages that follow me around the web. This helps reduce the temptations of buying things I don’t really need without using my willpower.
At the same time, I get a faster and distraction-free web experience, and I also support the only truly independent browser left on the market.
Use Linux as my main operating system
I recently switched to Linux after using Apple MacBooks for about fifteen years. Linux has opened a new world of independent and open-source software to me.
My move from Mac to Linux has also made me less likely to feel the need to regularly buy new devices as Linux needs less power in general and can even run well on machines that are many years old.
Let my site be personal again
Somehow sometime over the last few years, the web got too formal, commercial and professional. Even my own website lost some of that personal touch along the way. I’ll let it become more personal once again.
I will create less content that’s optimized using the different marketing tools and more content about stuff that I think about, care about and work on. No matter what the best practices might say.
My site is my personal space on the internet, a corner that I own. I believe more people should have a personal site that they own and control, rather than being dependent on a social media platform that works for someone else.
Reduce the number of third-party scripts and tracking on my site
Over the last few months, I’ve removed all the web fonts and majority of the other third-party calls from my site (only one tiny web stats script of less than 1 KB is left). It was surprisingly easy to let go of things I thought of as must-haves.
Not only does my site now load faster, but it is also more human-friendly due to the lack of tracking and profiling and it uses less electricity for each visitor as it loads pure content only.
Host my site on a sustainable energy powered server
I recently switched my site to a hosting provider that does a little bit more in terms of being environmentally conscious compared to my previous host that didn’t really have any green policies at all.
This was another simple thing for me to do (the new host even provided a free migration) and it’s a “vote” a site owner can place to help move the market towards more environmentally friendly solutions.
This is my plan and these are my goals for 2020. Some of them I’ve already experimented with, some of them I’m working on. I may not be able to implement it all perfectly or without fault but I will give it my best.
The essential thing would be to make fewer decisions on autopilot and be more mindful about each and every action I take considering its effect on the environment and the open web. That would lead me in the right direction.