Resolve to Have a Happier, Healthier, More Sustainable 2015
The end of an old year and start of a new is traditionally a time for reflections on the past and planning for the future. With that in mind, many of us make resolutions with the intention of improving our own lives and the lives of those around us. There are a lot of classic resolutions that people make year after year – to eat better, to be more earth-friendly and sustainable, to exercise more, to spend more time with our families. The problem is that those very broad, very big resolutions can be difficult to keep. Making a major lifestyle change is overwhelming, and it’s hard to know where to start. Here are some simple steps you can take to help you keep your resolutions this year.
If you want to eat better AND live more sustainably…
Accokeek Foundation member and market supporter shops organic produce at the Ecosystem Farm Market.
Shop at your local farmers market or join a CSA. There are so many reasons to buy your produce locally – fresh seasonal vegetables taste better and are more nutritious. You can talk to the farmers that grew your food – find out how they grew it, where they grew it, what methods were involved in the production. Your money goes to support a local business, your reducing your carbon footprint, and you might be able to get some great cooking tips, directly from the farmer, as a bonus! Use Local Harvest to find a market or CSA near you. (Don’t forget our On-Farm Market, where we sell produce from our organic, sustainable on-site Ecosystem Farm!)
Young chickens will spend the winter in the greenhouses at the Ecosystem Farm.
Switch to local, pastured eggs. Did you know there’s a huge difference in nutrition between pastured eggs and traditional grocery store eggs? And did you know that just because an egg carton says “cage-free,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that the hens are even able to go outside?
Luckily, it’s easy to make a change in your egg-buying habits. For those who don’t have the option to or interest in raising their own hens, many local farmers offer eggs from their own chickens at a price is only marginally more than grocery store eggs. Ask about how they raise their hens – ideally, you’re looking for pasture-raised, as then the birds have access to grass and fresh air. Buying from a local farmer means you’re likely getting fresher, healthier eggs; you can see how humanely the chickens are raised; and you’re supporting a local business. Looking for local eggs? Come to the On-Farm Market when it opens back up next season, because we’ve added a flock of chickens to the Ecosystem Farm and will be offering their pastured, certified organic eggs at the market.
Composting. At face value, composting might not seem to help you eat better. But if you have even a very small home garden, using compost can reduce your need for pesticides and fertilizers, and boost your garden’s output. (And if you don’t have your own small garden, why not? There’s another small step you can take!) Beyond the benefits to your home garden, the value to the environment is huge. Americans are producing hundreds of millions of tons of waste every year, and 20-30% of what we throw away at home is compostable yard and food waste. When put into a landfill, that waste is turning into methane, which is 23 times more efficient at trapping heat (and contributing to climate change) than carbon dioxide. Composting your waste at home keeps that out of the landfills and puts it to work. And if you don’t have your own garden where you can use the compost, check with a neighbor.
The EPA has a nice guide on setting up a simple home compost. Or, want to compost but don’t have a lot of space? Want a cool science project for your kids? Consider a worm bin! They are cheap, easy to make, and can be kept in an apartment or on a balcony. If you want to spend more time with your family AND get more exercise…
Volunteers help to remove debris from the Potomac shoreline at Piscataway Park during the annual Potomac River Clean-up.
Volunteer. Why volunteer? You can learn new skills, provide a valuable service to your community, and meet like-minded individuals. Studies show that older Americans who volunteer frequently actually live longer! Bring your kids along with you and let them share in the benefits – kids who are engaged in their communities succeed more in school and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, and are more likely to graduate from college.
Need some volunteering ideas? Find a local park and do some clean-up. The great thing about cleaning up a park is you can do it as part of a major event (like the annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup) or on your own. Or check the National Park Service’s website for more volunteering opportunities. (Do 250 hours of volunteering for federal agencies and get a National Park volunteer pass, which will help you with the next resolution!)
Go outside. Get your kids away from the screens and encourage them to play outside. Exposing kids to environmental education improves their performance in school and increases their critical thinking skills, but even just unstructured outdoor play has health benefits – including increased levels of vitamin D, boosts to their immune systems, improved vision, and reduced levels of stress hormones. And while your kids are outside? Join them! Make a commitment to getting outside regularly with your kids (or your dog, or your friends, or just by yourself!). Sure, you could join a gym and run on a treadmill, but studies have shown that you get a better work out by running or biking outside, and being outside just makes you feel better mentally.
Need some more help with your New Year’s Resolutions?
We’ve got you covered. Our Modern Homesteading workshops teach skills like food preservation and gardening techniques to help you live more sustainably. Come to a Volunteer Happy Hour at the Ecosystem Farm during the growing season and get some exercise while getting hands-on with the produce we grow. Just enjoy the great outdoors by exploring our nearly-four miles of hiking and walking trails.
Finally, make a resolution to keep an eye on our website – including this blog, our events calendar, and our volunteer page – for more information on these and other ways you can be involved here at the Foundation while living a healthier, happier life.
Happy New Year from all of us at the Accokeek Foundation!