Not, “the Year of Happiness”: Looking Outward Instead.

The new year is coming. If ever one was welcome, it’s this one. Time then for resolutions. Except, I don’t make them. I prefer to set an annual theme instead. That’s not to say my brain doesn’t nag me about behaviours I need to change. But themes allow me flexibility; the rigidity of lists can cause problems if you struggle with obsessive and compulsive thoughts.

At least there will be no nagging about quitting smoking. I finally managed it one-hundred and forty-five days and counting ago.

I thought about making the theme for the coming year “The Year of Happiness”. 2020 has been hard for various reasons, not all of them plague-related, and there won’t be a magic difference come midnight, December 31st. Perhaps making myself happy is the best choice for uncertain and dark times? I like to be happy and I didn’t have a lot of it this year. Maybe I should put myself first?

That’d be different.

The great thing about choosing happiness as a theme is its measurability. Forms and questionnaires abound; their completion provides numerical rankings which we can compare with follow-ups. Happiness is no longer up to subjectivity or opinion.

The less-great thing about choosing happiness is doing so is once again focusing on the self and I’m getting pretty sick of doing that. I think a theme with less navel-gazing would be preferable.


2021: the Year of Zero Waste

It’s an ambitious goal and I’m going to fail. I know that going in. Zero waste is not something I can realistically achieve. That being said, I’m going to try very hard. Especially when it comes to food waste.

The amount of food my household wastes is grotesque. That it’s composted or tossed in the forest for an animal bonanza doesn’t make me feel better. It also doesn’t make the food-waste guilt from the decades of bulimia better. I have to do better. My grandmother lived through the depression and borderline starvation. She’d be ashamed.

Statistics say that as a Canadian, I waste one-hundred and seventy kilograms of food a year. Three-hundred and seventy-five pounds. We obsess about dieting in the developed world but we target the wrong areas. There are worse things than chubby thighs. Chubby landfills are a national shame. [i]

We’re throwing away slightly more than four Quarter Pounders for each one of us every day. Which is revoltingly high. I’ll check my math: we have to be better than that. I have to better than that.

I’m not better than that.

One-hundred and seventy kilograms a year is a little over three kilograms a week. About half a kilogram a day. Slightly more than a pound on the Imperial scale. We toss the equivalent of four hamburgers every day. Or twelve slices of bread: Essentially, I’m incinerating a loaf. Without getting to see cool pyrotechnics.

I feel bad about the food I waste. It bothers me regularly. That’s almost like taking action.

There are more than one-hundred and fifty homeless people in my town. I think about them when I run leftovers down the garburator. I bet they’re hungry most of the time, soup kitchens notwithstanding. Scant comfort to know they aren’t alone. Eight-hundred and twenty-one million people are food insecure and undernourished to a degree that affects their ability to function. That’s one in nine. [ii]

It’s a complicated problem. We know it’s a complicated problem because politicians tell us it’s a complicated problem. Captive economists tell us it’s complicated too. I wonder if they believe the things they say? I think probably. I think they don’t understand they’re wrong, that their operating systems have blinded them to the obvious and effective solution.

You fix the hunger problem the same way you fix the homelessness problem. You provide the missing ingredient. Problem solved. Unfortunately, this solution requires cooperation and collective action and most of us are conditioned to believe these things are evil when applied beyond the personal. Additionally, the people making money with the status quo have a vested interest in making sure nothing changes.

“Zero waste” is similar to “The Year of Happiness” in one respect: there are forms and questionnaires aplenty. Change will not require me to reinvent the wheel or even crack the spine of a book. Whatever plans you want already exist. The web is bursting with plans: I feel quite late to the party.

I like The Global Citizen’s offering: “Thirty-two Easy and Practical Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste.” [iii] I’m inclined choose them as my source. Their plan to eliminate world hunger by 2030 seems like a good one. Besides, I like the look of their site. I remain attracted to sparkly, shiny things. When there’s also content, so much the better.

I like how easy their plan is to fit into my life. I’m lazy and slow to change so simple and easy is best. First, they separate our behaviours into different categories like shopping, consumption, and disposal. Next, they offer specific advice for each to reduce the amount of food waste you generate. For instance, under shopping you might pay attention to: don’t buy what you don’t need; shop and eat from your pantry; and buy the ugly produce to keep it from the dump (Charlie Brown will be happy about the last one).

Included under consumption were: bring leftovers home when you eat out and bring your friends’ leftovers if they leave them behind. I am totally down with scooping other people’s food. I’m cheap. Free is my favourite price. There is also: eat in more often; cook in batches and store meals in serving-sized portions. I sense perhaps that these changes might benefit my bank balance.

In the disposal category, keep a list of things you regularly waste and stop buying them was the winner. I already feel relief. No more guilt-buying food I think I should eat but know I won’t. Watching the broccoli wilt in the crisper before it’s condemned to the compost has been making me regularly sad.

Reducing my waste might make this, “The Year of Happiness” after all.  


What are your plans, themes, or resolutions for 2021?


[i] How Bad Is Canada’s Food Waste Problem?

[ii] UN Global Issues: Food.

[iii] ”32 Easy and Practical Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste Every Day.”


(I lost some things with edits: this was one of them. It no longer suits the article and the footnote information disappeared when I deleted the text but I’m still including the graphic as a post-script. I get ridiculously proud of myself for putting these images together. Plus, I’m avoiding waste. Photo credit: Ducks, Unlimited.)

By Em

I like writing. Words help me unpack my thoughts so things can start to make sense. Once I have both myself and the universe figured out, I plan to take up macrame. "Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing, and learn as you go." E. L. Doctorow

9 comments

    1. A hard read. A sad one. I liked the conclusion of Coates about the reasons for jumping – the previous paragraphs were making me a bit angry – the efficacy. He was so sad. I hurt for him, even though he’s long dead.

      Like

  1. One thing that makes a big difference for me is throwing things like bread in the freezer right away when I get home from the grocery store, and then only taking out as much as I need when I need it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Food waste bothers me, too. It’s also something I plan on being better about next year.
    I would always bring back food from the restaurant (instead of leaving it to get thrown out). However, I noticed that those left-overs aren’t always consumed. Hence, new thing – order only what you KNOW you will finish. You can always order more, but you can’t order less.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One thing that has frustrated me for years is portion sizes. At restaurants, it’s very hard to get them to give you less. Even when you tell them you will still pay the full price (when half orders aren’t an option). They look confused when I explain I don’t want to waste food.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I hear ya. I remember going to lunch with a co-worker who asked if she could have something from the kid’s meal (for the very same reason; it was basically a smaller portion of an adult menu item). They got a weird look, but were assured that it was a possibility. The plate arrived as adult size.

        Liked by 1 person

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