Welcome 2017, it was time we kicked 2016 to the curb and welcomed you with open arms, a plate of cookies, and some tea.

Every person I’ve met – expat, native, you name it – is in agreement that 2016 was a year marked by tragedy and shock, whereby it was difficult to find positives amidst the refugee crises, the humanitarian crises, the Brexit crisis, the President-elect crisis, the untimely celebrity death crisis, and the climate crisis.

2016 morphed into an easy scapegoat for a year in which I had a personal vendetta against. While I’m glad 2016 packed its bags, we can’t place too much pressure on 2017 or else it’ll rebel against our constant expectations and too many cookies.

And while I persist in my berating of 2016, I’ll give credit where credit is due. This year, I not only began dating my best friend, but I also saw a change in people that gave me hope for 2017– more local initiatives and standing up for injustices. 2016 lit a fire inside many people that I don’t think will easily be extinguished.

In light of the New Year, I’d like to offer some international resolutions (from a Dutchish perspective) on how we can feel a little less helpless, a little more kind, and a lot more inspired in the upcoming year.

Shop local

Everyone loves a great discount on clothes, shoes, accessories – you name it! The more discounted the better. But…

Before you tear down the shelves, clamoring for the best prices, stop and consider the alternative.

Shop local. What you might not be aware of is that if you went to a local store where goods were made locally (or if they were imported, imported based on fair wages and working conditions), you’re directly helping local communities – including your own – to economically prosper.

In Netherlands, we have an app called Talking Dress that shows which local stores offer options for sustainable consumption. If the app isn’t available to you, here’s a complementary list of accessible on-line stores and app options:

Find an organization and donate yearly

This “resolution” has been going around the Internet quite a lot lately. With the proliferated use of social media, our awareness about societal upheaval teeters from skewed to over-whelmed. We either know too much or too little about disease, homelessness, adversity and war, but the outcome of the knowledge we do have is the same: we feel powerless.

But if there is anything we learned from our unwanted houseguest, 2016, there is something we can do to help our friends and neighbors.

Find an organization and donate yearly. Keep up with the organization. Pressure the organization and if possible, volunteer with the organization.

Here is a list of a few websites that can help you decide which organizations best align your passions with the needs of others.

 And if you know other websites, please share them in the comments!

Author’s addendum: A friend of mine started a website platform to give people another path to help the non-profit organizations that support access to basic human rights (education, finance, healthcare, etc). 

The website connects volunteers (you or I) to non-profit organizations that are in need of knowledge and expertise, whether it be legal, software  marketing, or financial assistance (to name a few). There are a number of non-profits looking for necessary back-end help. You can find out more by going to the website: http://www.project501.com 

 

Change eating habits

I can already feel some people beginning to squirm. Food is an incredibly contentious issue and it’s difficult to not come across as a nagging mother or worse, a nagging partner. But food is incredibly important for our wellbeing and for the future.

Changing our eating habits is one of the easiest ways to help the environment. Trying out new alternatives to our diets such as buying from the local butcher, removing beef from the menu, or going vegetarian just on Tuesdays can make a world of difference. The negative impact that factory farming has is a real contributor towards climate change, which means the droughts that are causing famine, disease, and war that are occurring all over Africa can be mitigated if everyone makes a small change.

Most importantly, if we make changes to our diet, we have to do what’s best for our schedule and our lifestyle. Living in Rotterdam, I’m lucky and have access to an organic outdoor market every weekend or Ekoplaza (a Dutch organic supermarket chain), where I can buy healthy and sustainably.  This year I’ll be trying out Falafel Friday – a fun marketing name for going vegan on Fridays.

Get to know the local government

My next resolution is a bit more skewed towards Americans, but it can apply to other cultures with important elections coming up (looking at you, France, Germany and Netherlands!). I don’t live in America and my view on the post-election aftermath is tilted towards a more global perspective. But from what my friends tell me, there is a lot of movement on the ground to ensure that the checks and balances system remains in place.

Local community members are becoming more active in the political system by picking up the phone or emailing their representatives. It’s good to remember that just because you or I aren’t political leaders, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a voice and it doesn’t mean that real, progressive change can’t happen on a local level.

Let’s start by getting to know our local government.

“Hello, local government, I’m Lauren. Nice to meet you. Say, I hear you want to remove tax subsidies for solar…let’s talk about that.”

Remember by sharing with friends and family

Whether you lost someone close to you or consider Carrie Fisher to be your role model, 2016 was an epically bad year for the passing of some truly magnificent people. Untimely deaths shook the headlines and across the Internet, I kept reading “Nooooooooo” and “Not again! Another one…” and “Screw you 2016!”

Some of us didn’t know these people personally, but our reactions of astonishment and sadness didn’t dissipate when we shrugged our shoulders and thought, “well I didn’t know them anyway…” The sadness will continue to bubble to the surface whenever we watch a Star Wars film or Die Hard, or listen to the Top 2000 and hear David Bowie’s uniquely chiseled voice.

Instead of wallowing every time nostalgia rears its head, throw a party with friends and listen to 100 hours of Prince or have a pretentious science party where everyone discusses dark matter and honors the life of Vera Rubin. Either way, famous or not famous, every person leaves a mark. It’s important to embrace that mark and pass it on. If I have a little girl, there’s no doubt in my mind she’ll be donning Princess Leia buns while singing “Space Oddity” and quoting Alan Rickman in any movie ever, and somehow incorporating it into a lecture about dark matter to her stuffed animals.

Anyway…

To conclude, goodbye 2016 Thanks for showing us that this is not the world in which we want to live. We are happy to replace you with a better version that lets us mould and shape it into something we can be proud of. Happy New Year.

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