Mini Challenges


Time-limited personal challenges are very popular. Undertaking a “challenge” puts extra energy and excitement behind a desired behavior change. And in a world that can overwhelm us with information and activity, it allows time to really focus on the one habit we are trying to change.


For two years, Transition Longfellow conducted monthly mini-challenges in different areas of sustainability. One month we would present the challenge and the following month we would share what we did, get ideas for resources, and encouragement for doing more.


Our mini-challenges were intentionally broad in order to accommodate people wherever they were on their journey toward sustainability and whatever their resources (for instance, home owners vs renters, low income or higher income). The point was not to reach a particular goal, but for each person to stretch him or herself.


Below is a list of the mini-challenges we did in 2011-2012. Feel free to give it a try!


  • January 2011 “The laundry room” — What can we do to reduce energy and water use, and production of pollutants, while doing laundry.

  • February 2011 “How low can you go, Part 1?” — How extreme can you be in attempting to reduce your gas bill? Try turning your thermostat WAY down and see what personal heating actions you can take to be comfortable. Is a cup of tea, a hot water bottle on your feet, and a cap sufficient?

  • March 2011 “How low can you go, Part 2?” — Reduce your electricity bill by identifying energy drains from appliances. What electronics do you really need? What can you replace with non-electric items?

  • April 2011 “Taming the paper dragon”— Do you spend hours every week sorting, filing, tossing or shredding paper? Take time this month to reduce the amount of paper that enters your house.

  • May 2011 “Garbage in, garbage out” — How much garbage is your household actually producing? Measure it and set a goal for garbage reduction. If you want to really challenge yourself, reduce your recycling as well.

  • June 2011:”Local Food” — Start a garden, shop the farmers market, commit to cooking more of your own food at home, take the Eat Local challenge. Happy eating!

  • July 2011 “Sustainable landscaping” How do our yards and urban spaces contribute to or detract from a healthy environment?

  • August 2011 “Transportation”— How can we meet our transportation needs while putting less stress on the environment?

  • September 2011 mini-challenge: “Our Stuff” — Is all our stuff an asset or is some of it a weight we carry around. What can we give away, what can we share?

  • October 2011 “Water Use” — Just as we have reached peak oil, we are reaching peak water. What can we do to reduce water waste. We’ll talk about water use in the home but also what is happening to our watershed and river.

  • November 2011 “Supporting the Local Economy” — How can our holiday spending build our community.

  • December 2011 “Reskilling” — With more labor-saving devices, more people working outside the home, and more specialization, most of us have forgotten a good many of the skills our grandparents knew. What skills will be important for us to regain and how can we do that?


  • January 2012 “What Stands in the Way of Change” — What thoughts, habits and addictions prevent us from reaching our goals?

  • March 2012 “Resilience” — Resilience is strongly associated with better mental and physical health. How do we define resilience? How do we become more resilient?

  • April 2012 “Where will your food come from this year?” — I recently learned that the City of Paris could produce enough food within its city boundaries to feed all of its inhabitants until its population exceeded 300,000 people. According to the 2010 census, the population of Minneapolis is 382,578. How close are we to being able to feed our population from hyper-local food?

  • May 2012 “Water” — This winter was one of the least snowiest winters on record. And January 2012 was the 19th warmest, not just in Minnesota history but across the planet. Climate change will have a huge impact on water availability. What can you do to prepare for droughts or storm water on

  • June 2012 “Social Capital – wealth you can count on” — People need social connections for their emotional health, but modern life makes it difficult to establish  and maintain connections with friends, family and neighbors. This month we’ll look at what stands in our way of being better neighbors.

  • July 2012 “Foraging/Finding/Gleaning Food” — Food foraging can take many forms: asking your neighbor if you can harvest unused apples from their tree, learning to identify and eat edible “weeds,” picking  black walnuts off public streets, and even dumpster diving for still-edible food that has been thrown away. Challenge yourself to do some foraging this month.

  • August 2012 “Food Preservation/Eating Local” — Let’s get our hands dirty and do some canning, drying, pickling and eating!

  • September 2012 “Happiness” — The challenges ahead of us in the Long Emergency can seem daunting, especially when there is no clear vision of what the world will look like when we come out the other side. Our first instinct is to fear change, but the truth could just as easily be a happier way of life. How do you envision a happier future?

  • October 2012 “Energy Use” — As we move into the season of cold and dark, let’s think about how we use electricity and natural gas. Pull out your energy bills and see how you’ve done this year versus last year. Make a plan to tighten up the house this month.

  • November 2012 “Local Economy” — As we prepare for the holidays, how can we use our dollars to build our local community. Come prepared to share info on your favorite local businesses.

  • December 2012 “Holiday Alternatives” — Are you happy with the impact you have on the planet every December? What would you change in order to decrease stress, busyness, and debt? What can you do to increase feelings of delight, contentment and sacredness?