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A Year of UnNew: Month Three

Forced to reckon with senseless acts of violence, what can we learn from living the UnNew life? A lot, if you think about it.

This month I write with a heavy heart. Five days ago, the grocery store just a ten-minute bike ride from my apartment in Boulder, Colorado joined the long and growing list of mass shooting sites in the United States. I’m not here to write about the atrocity, but of course it’s on my mind. It’s devastating, and many of our questions remain unanswered, yet I ask myself how gun violence, how bullying, how mental health, how an uber-militarized response reflect back on us as a country, as a society—and moreover, what do the terrible events on Monday have to do with sustainability, the environment, the outdoors? I think there’s a connection there, however peripheral.

When I started this Year of UnNew and pledged to buy nothing new for twelve months, it was in large part an effort to get better acquainted with my habits. Removing a go-to action from my daily life (the purchase of new things) has required introspection, and has had me questioning all sorts of things from the effects of American capitalism, to my role as an individual on planet Earth, to the psychological impacts of consumerism. Sustainability, as it’s not yet mainstream, requires deeper thinking.

Contemplation, as I’ve learned from years of studying various meditation and yoga practices, is one key to wellbeing. By embracing and committing to a sustainable lifestyle—where you’re making decisions after weighing and considering the environmental and social impacts of your actions and choices—you’re practicing contemplation. You’re exercising the muscle.

I’m my experience, more contemplation leads to more compassion. For oneself, for one’s community, and the planet at large. There exists no moral hierarchy, but there is moral indifference. We can be kind to our neighbors like we are kind to our gardens and our gear. We can diversify our social circles like we diversify our recreation vacations. We can vote with our dollars just like we vote on ballots. We can make our voices heard. We can invite new people into outdoor spaces, welcoming them to nature’s balm. We could all use more of the ocean’s calming rhythms, the prairie’s peaceful breezes, the mountain’s perspective-shifting heights, the river’s reminder that this, too, shall pass.

So, this month, I invite you to think a little wider and breathe a little deeper. Use the practice of sustainability to strengthen your empathy muscles beyond the environment, enveloping all humans in your wake. We are stronger together, and together we are as naturally diverse as the plains and mountains and rivers and oceans on this planet. Invite people into the journey with you, it’s much more fun with friends new and old anyway.

To read more about my Year of UnNew, see the February and January installments.

Have any questions about my Year of Unnew? Ask away in the comments below, or email us hello@geartrade.com  I’d love to hear what you’d like to know about embarking on this journey.

Emma Athena is an award-winning journalist and fresh-air lover. She writes about adventure and the environment, where humans and nature intersect at their most impactful moments. When she’s not glued to her keyboard or curled up with a book, she’s running in the mountains with her dog or camping with people she loves. To read more of her work and get in contact, visit emmaathena.com.