As many of you know, last year was a bit rough for our family. We had some financial hardships, we lost family members, and I had a miscarriage, among other things. We were ready for a fresh start, and sitting down to write my New Year resolutions sounded like the perfect way to kick things off. Clean slate for 2017, let’s do this.

Normally, I’d turn into a resolution machine. I’d fill entire pages with ideas, then break each of them down into smaller goals and then list them in order of priority. I’d rewrite my list on a new piece of paper to ensure it ‘looked pretty’. Maybe I’d take a photo of it. Maybe I’d laminate it. You guys are fully aware of how much I love making New Year resolutions. For Christ’s sake I take just as much time blogging about them as I do making them.

But this year was different. I was different. I didn’t want to make some pretty, laminated list. I felt stagnant and a little empty. Last year was a bit of a wake up call, and I wanted to do something bigger and more significant this year. I wanted to be of use.

See, whenever my daughter and I are home alone all day together, I put a documentary on Netflix to play in the background. I figure I might as well learn something while we’re reading books, reorganizing the kitchen cabinets and shoving dolls in floor vents (see the photos below from my Snapchat [@jennamtphoto]).

We watch about 3-4 documentaries a day, which means we go through a lot of documentaries. Some of them are funny, some are interesting, some keep you awake at night (looking at you, ‘Imposter’), but most of them are downright eye-opening and infuriating.

Now I know myself pretty well. I know if I see a post about a dog in Brazil that needs surgery on it’s back legs, or a kid in Virginia that needs a heart transplant, or any other person/animal/cause that needs money, of course I’m going to donate. So when it comes to gut-wrenching documentaries, I tend to avoid them. Not because I don’t care, but because I just don’t have the money or time to donate to every single cause they highlight, which I find incredibly depressing.

But this year I figured I owed it to myself to watch. I figured I wasn’t helping but I wasn’t causing any harm either, and just because I’m unable to help doesn’t mean these stories shouldn’t be told. The very least I could do was be aware. And slowly, as I’ve learned about the world of animal entertainment, the effect of plastic on our oceans, the true cost of eating certain foods or purchasing clothes from fast-fashion designers, I’ve come to the realization that my happy, comfortable, easy bubble of a life, the one filled with clean water and warm blankets, peanut butter cookies and BluRay DVDs, may actually be causing a devastating amount of suffering or harm somewhere else in the world. It turns out I was wrong – not only am I able to help, but by not being aware, I actually am causing harm.

Every decision I make has an effect somewhere else in the world, and it’s not okay to ignore that effect out of the sheer inconvenience that I won’t get to have exactly what I want, when I want it. Someone else is living and working in unimaginable conditions, all to make me some name-brand toaster I don’t even need, and my justification for buying it is “it’s the only one in town that’s the right color.” Fuck me.

It’s not okay to live like this, in my comfortable little bubble without questioning any of my behaviors. It’s time I took a little responsibility for my own existence.

So I’m making some changes. I’m calling this “Project Zero”. It’s a personal challenge to live my life in a way that causes no suffering or harm. That means no more mindless, compulsive decisions without thinking of the consequences they may have.

Lucky for you, I’ll be documenting it all, in as blatantly honest fashion as I know how. I’ll be sharing my frustrations and triumphs (with a heavy amount of profanity, I’m sure), and posting as much useful information as possible for those who would like to try this out for themselves. I know it’s a far reach to ever hit zero harm, suffering or waste, but I can sure as hell get as close as possible. I also know I’m going to have to get pretty damn creative. After all, I can’t afford to just trade in my gasoline-powered car for an electric version tomorrow, and I certainly can’t bike, walk or skateboard my ass through the foot of snow and -26 degree weather outside my Montana door. Many of these changes will take years. I know this.

If anyone would like to join me I’d love to have you along; you can follow me here on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & YouTube. And to any friends and family that might be reading this, don’t worry, I’m not going to force this project on any of you. That rules out any trick parties where I invite everyone over for beer and pizza, then instead feed you all dry tofu balls and force you to watch ‘Blackfish’. My husband already told me he’ll be as supportive as possible, but that I also need to realize that he can’t wear a paper bag to work nor can he make his own clothes. I think that’s pretty reasonable.

This is an enormous project, but I also think it’s a necessary one. Let’d do a little good in the world, shall we?