Year for the Planet Week 47: How I Have a Planet-Friendly Holiday

Year for a Planet is a personal challenge to be a better human for the planet for a whole year. This year, 2017, is where I deal with my food choices.

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One of the best things about a sustainable lifestyle is that I stopped caring about Black Friday and everything else that required mindless spending and eating.

It’s easy to get excited and caught up in all the sales that’s going on. Then I realized, pfft, I actually don’t care. Hurray! Shopping used to hold such a spell on me; I would collect handbags, shoes, stationery, and other things I thought I would need “in the future” or “just in case”—only to have them be ruined in storage. I realized that hoarding things held me down and kept me from pursuing my dreams. I now see things like Black Friday as events that threaten the newfound mental clarity I have, so I avoid this shit at all costs.

So in the spirit of re-imagining all the systems imposed on us, I have redefined what I do on Black Fridays and even Christmas. While this is a project on food, I find that this philosophy extends to related aspects. If I feel like doing something just to make it feel like it’s a holiday, these are some mindful ways I’ve done it this week:

1. Stock up on ingredients until the New Year’s.

This may seem like a chore, but nowadays I suffer from twice the anxiety when I have to go into a mall because the crowds are doubly insane. To keep me from having to go into this infernal hell again, I got ingredients that will last me until the first week of 2018. By this time, some items are already running out anyway, so it’s best to stock up.

2. Make gifts in bulk.

Because people I care about are in different countries, my ritual each year is to design a card, print a hundred pieces of it, send the cards with a handwritten note, and pay for carbon offsets. This is my fourth year doing this and I’ve found that people look forward to seeing what I come up with and I don’t have to worry about who will receive a “better” gift—friends and colleagues, be it a VIP advocate of my work or a friend I just met this year, all get the same card. I like how these people, who likely don’t know each other, are connected by this multi-year-long project. It’s nice to have a roll call of the important people in my life—and illuminating to see who are the ones who remain on the list.

3. Have a holiday cleaning session.

Instead of making it a day or a week of buying things, I like doing a second round of spring cleaning for the year and get rid of things I don’t need. Things of it as pre-New Year feng shui. Plus since my family likes to buy things, this practice helps restore balance and keeps me from going nuts. One thing I like to do is to check the expiration dates of ingredients in the back of cupboards because they are usually the things people forget about and end up throwing out, and so I scramble for ways to use them.

4. Try new vegan recipes.

I’m really happy with the food I’ve been eating, but I know there are many other dishes out there I can eat. I just recently discovered a world of recipes of dessert hummus, so this will keep me busy (and safely in the house) for weeks.

5. Archive online media.

This is the time of the year when I finally get to read and unsave all my saved social media links, e-books, music people have recommended to me in my travels, and other things on backlog. Creative consumption and mental clutter can go hand-in-hand; I’m always eager to learn but there’s just too much out there. Taking time to read, listen, and peruse through all of these makes me breathe a little easier. Instead of mentally lining things up in a to-do list, I can finally let go of things.

6. Let go of people.

You know what used to make me overeat or eat crap? Being in relationships with the wrong people. And so in recent years I have been absolutely ruthless at removing people from my life whom I realized were toxic to me. I urge you all to let go of the people who take you for granted, are frenemies in disguise, or are those who don’t help you grow as a human being. I was sad in the beginning but afterwards I realized it was for the best. I think I’m doing both of us (me and the other person) a favor, plus no more stress-eating processed junk because they upset me for the hundredth time. Bonus: I have more time and space in my life for new friends.

7. Strategize for 2018.

While people are busy maxing out their credit cards, I work on what I’m going to do for next year. I usually begin my next-year strategic plan in September, and over the next few months it’s a nice unhurried process of adding, subtracting, rescheduling, and even going ahead and checking some things off the list. Having set goals for the next year makes me feel like, “World, I got this,” and also makes me feel less overwhelmed.

8. Buy one thing you really need.

To note, I appreciate sales once in a while and I know they are tempting. Occasionally, I go and buy one thing I’ve been eyeing on for a long time, instead of purchasing something on impulse. Friday wasn’t a Buy-Nothing-Day for me—I got an e-book that’s been on my wish list for months because it was 80% off.

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I think that one day, the dam of capitalism will completely break and make us aim for alternatives that will let us lead truly meaningful lives. What are your ways to spend a planet-friendly holiday?

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