Month long challenges

A Month of Sunrises


According to the UN 54% of the world's population live in cities, a figure that is only expected to increase.  Man made dominates in the city, a concrete jungle of traffic, wifi, and pollution in all it's forms are ever present. Nature doesn't get much of a look in except in our small backyards, parks, or tree lined roads. Which means that an increasing number of the world's population are not getting a daily connection to nature. I am one of them. With this realisation I wanted to see if there was a way to connect with nature on a daily basis while remaining very much in the city and in my regular routine. I decided I would watch the sunrise every day for a month. It wouldn't be a big connection, it would undoubtedly be better if I could go off and climb a mountain every day, but it would be a closer connection than if I did nothing which was a step int he right direction. Now I should make one thing clear, I have never been a morning person. I have very strongly been in the 'snooze until it is almost impossible to get where you need to go in time' category. I always wanted to be a morning person, it's just the evening version of myself with all the good intentions to get up early differed from the morning version of myself who had control of the snooze button. The same "morning me" definitely put up a strong case as to why I should stay in bed at 5:20am when the alarm went off on the first day of July. But as I climbed up onto my roof with the all important cup of tea carefully balanced in one hand and sat watching the sun lazily creep up over the horizon,  I wondered why I didn't do this every morning. The city is a very different place at that time of day. A blanket of peacefulness drapes over an otherwise hectic scene. People create a lot of noise when they are awake, it is amazing how many other things you can hear when most of us are asleep, especially the birds. I guess every time I had been up at that time of day I was in a rush to go somewhere, I had never simply sat and observed. But the birds of the city put on an impressive daily performance to a sleeping audience.

As the month went by I started to notice other changes in the environment that I would have otherwise missed. A foggy day had far more consequences on my morning than before as it made for a dull view. For a few days in a row the city even had smoke from a nearby forest fire block the view entirely. I had to, rather happily, adjust my alarm clock each morning to account for the slightly later sunrise and noticed the sun start to edge her way south as the days grew marginally shorter. All of these are things I knew happened but I had never sat to experience the subtle changes myself.

As for all the negatives of getting up early none really manifested. I wasn't constantly exhausted, if anything I felt refreshed. I was able to establish a morning routine with far less distractions and achieve things before my day had usually started. The biggest lesson from all this however was that you don't have to make big changes to change. You don't need to quit your job and live in a cabin in the woods to be connected to nature. The smallest actions can be enough to put you a step closer to where you want to go. If you take lots of small steps soon enough you'll have run a marathon.


Connect with nature and take some time out to watch the sunrise

If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem


It seems we are all in agreement, Planet Earth could do with some improvements. A quick scan on anyone's social media feed will show that everyone has some opinion on it, global warming, deforestation, genetically modified food, famine, obesity, war, poverty, or even the shooting of a lion called Cecil. At least one of those ingredients is enough to bring out a passionate post from the calmest of souls. Yet what are we doing with this passion and these opinions, sharing a post on Facebook, signing an online petition, or maybe videoing ourselves with a bucket of ice? While all of these things are done with the best of intentions and can create change, they all have one common problem, they rely on someone else doing the work for us. Don't get me wrong, social media has become a powerful tool for bringing attention to atrocities happening across the world, petitions can create a change in policies and seemingly people dropping a bucket of ice on their head can raise a lot of money for charity. But what happens after we complete that quick, easy, convenient, online action? Most of us go back to living our lives the way we always had. We've done our bit, it's someone else's responsibility to sort that out now. I've donated, signed, shared, I'm contributing to change...That's all well and good except I'm not seeing change. All of those problems listed at the start of this post are still problems. Some are becoming worse. Our post sharing, petition signing attack on the things we disagree with doesn't seem to be working fast enough.

Now imagine a world where people saw a post on Facebook that showed how using plastic bottles is damaging the planet and instead of just liking it, maybe even sharing it, they actually decided then and there to never use a plastic water bottle again. I'm not talking about avoiding them until you forget to bring a refillable bottle, I'm talking NEVER AGAIN. And imagine that every post shared on social media that people liked or shared resulted in the same action, people changing their ways to match their beliefs. We can't rely on someone else to sort out our problems any longer as it's just not working. The attitude that "what's the point in me changing if no-one else will" isn't serving anyone. Even if you are the single sole person standing up for what you believe in isn't it still worth doing?

We need to wake up to the fact, if we aren't part of the solution we are part of the problem. If, for example, we disagree with the deforestation of the rainforest in Borneo and Sumatra that is putting Orangutans and many other animals, including us humans soon enough, on the endangered species list but still consume products that include palm oil sourced from that deforestation then we need to realise we are part of the problem. Just because we aren't the one cutting down the tree doesn't make us guilt free. The person responsible for cutting down the tree probably doesn't think he or she is to blame for the problem either, they are being paid by someone making the decision above them, they are just a logger. The person in the marketing department of the company selling the product probably doesn't think they are to blame either, they just promote the products the company makes. Even the owner of the company probably looks at the sales of the product and thinks that people still clearly want a product made in this way so they should still provide it. We are all partly responsible. If the product was made and we disagreed with it and never purchased it imagine how long that product would remain on sale for. 

It really isn't a big shift to change our habits. We don't need to all run off into the wilderness and set up self sufficient communes to make a change. We won't completely change our habits straight away but if we all start to make a conscious decision to not just go into auto pilot and simply ask ourselves "is this action I am about to take in line with the change I want to see?" I believe we could make a big change.

With this in mind I am taking on a series of month long challenges to try to shift my life to be more inline with the changes I want to see in the world. They aren't massive changes, but they are changes. Slowly but surely I aim to make small steps towards this goal and make these changes part of my everyday routine.

One thing I've learnt on this short journey I've been on is that committing to something in your head is one thing, if only you know about it it's easy to go back on it. However, voicing your intention to friends, family and even strangers brings with it peer pressure to see it through...

Instead of just liking and sharing things on social media Im trying to make a commitment to change my habits to fit in with my beliefs.

So here's my commitment: This month I am going to try to make all of my plastic waste for the month fit into a small glass jar. Both "recyclable" and single use plastic. Why a jar? Funnily enough a friend shared a post on Facebook about this lady who has fit all of her waste from 2 years into a small jar. I liked the post but then realised I needed to do more than just like the post. While I am not sure I currently have the ability to do exactly what she is doing I felt a good first step would be to try it for a month. I also like the fact that it is a glass jar so that each time I look at it I will be able to see the waste I have created. One big problem I see with our current waste system is we put our trash in a place that is usually hidden out of the way, under the sink, in the corner of the room, etc, then it gets dropped off at the dump that is also hidden away. Everything is kept out of sight, out of mind and leads us to a false sense of security to how much we are actually wasting. This will be a constant reminder.

For sometime I have disagreed and been angered by the damage our plastic obsession causes to our environment and our health yet I often still turn a blind eye and buy products wrapped in it? I can hardly complain about it if I am still reliant on it. It's quite a daunting challenge for me as recycled plastic packaging is unfortunately part of so many products that I use on a regular basis. It will take quite a bit of forward planning with shopping etc too which isn't my strong point.

If you agree with what I've said why not make a stand and commit to being part of the solution in one small way yourself. It doesn't need to be a month long thing, that format just appeals and works for me. It could be a small change or a big one, perhaps one day a week without using your car or a year of eating locally sourced food. Whatever it is post it in the comments below and/or on social media and announce it to the world. Sure, people may think it different to your regular updates and your post may not get as many likes as that nice picture of a sunset you just posted but at least you will be able to say you are being part of the solution and not the problem and you may even inspire someone you know to do the same.

The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine


"The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine" 

Like most good quotes you hear them and realise they are so obvious you kick yourself for not thinking of them first. Despite my lifelong fear of the word routine this was no different. Up until hearing this quote I have always thought of routine as a thing people who wore suits to work did and something I would try to avoid in my life at all costs. However when you actually think about it maybe a routine isn't so bad.  Obviously if I have a daily routine whereby I wake up whenever I want, sit on the sofa all day and eat ice cream the future is probably not quite going to pan out how I envisage it. However if my routine was to wake up on my own piece of land, go for a surf with friends, tend to my animals, harvest some fresh fruit and veg before having a nice organic, homegrown brunch with the family I think I would be pretty content. So maybe there's something to this routine business after all.

With that in mind I'm going to start changing my daily routine to see if I can make progress towards being the change I want to see. I'm going to challenge myself to take on a new routine every month that will push me in the right direction. Why a month?  I can't exactly set it at a random number of days! I'm a sucker for a neat bundle of time. So it's either a week, a month or a year.  A week seems a bit too easy and a year seems a bit extreme to get me started. I figure a month will give me enough time to get through the honeymoon faze, into the stage where I wish I hadn't decided to do it and then hopefully at the end will either leave me with a new routine or at the very least with a new lesson learnt.

I was thinking for a while what my first challenge would be, I wanted it to be something that would be a big step towards where I want to go. I have decided to try to watch the sunrise every morning for the month of July.

Watch the sunrise everyday for a month

There were quite a few reasons for choosing this but the main ones are:

  1. Waking and working by the sun is what the majority of the world does. In modern society, especially in cities we have become so used to relying on unnatural light to get by, we go to bed at the same time throughout the year regardless of what the sun is doing. For me this has always seemed strange and is a perfect example of our disconnection from nature. This challenge will be a good reminder and way to spend a little time each day observing mother nature doing her thing. It will hopefully also reduce my electricity usage too as I won't need lights for as many hours during the day.
  2. I have always wanted to get up and do more in the mornings, I'm way more productive in the morning than at the end of the day. I am interested in establishing a morning routine of work, exercise and meditation so this will give me lots more time to do this.
  3. Sunrise is a beautiful time of the day. It seems a shame to miss it for so much of the year.

I'll post a blog at the end of the month to let you know how it goes.