So I have had these feelings for a long time, but I keep ignoring them. In a nutshell, I want to live better. By ‘better’, I mean I want to feel good about my place in the world; that I’m giving back as much as I have taken from it. I’m a very average consumer; I don’t live hugely unethically (I try to buy organic or free-range meat where possible, I recycle on a very basic level and I try to occasionally shop locally), but neither do I feel I am particularly ethical as a consumer either – every choice isn’t scrutinised with a “where does this come from? or is this sustainable?” question. And yet I can afford to be more mindful in what I eat, wear, give and buy, compared to many. I want to be more aware, more considerate of this planet and the people and animals we share it with. It’s a big job, I know – and I am am aware that I sound like a crap Miss World contestant, but this is something that really is on my mind more than ever.
So in practise what does all this actually mean???!
There are a few things in particular I need to tackle. I know I should be shopping far less from big supermarkets and should manage more than the odd visit to my local butcher and green grocer. I know I should be using mainly eco friendly products (and not just when I get them sent for free) at home. I know that I should stop buying plastic water bottles so much – my husband is terrible offender for this. I know I should buy less from Amazon and more from independent retailers and local shops – tricky, especially at Christmas. I know I should help other people more than I do now (I give monthly donations in direct debits and respond to TV ads and annual campaigns like Children in Need but I do feel a bit like this is the lazy person’s way to feel better about themselves…)
I know all these things. But I don’t act on them; something stops me from making real changes to be a more ethical, local, greener, community minded person. Well, I finally feel like I need to take action. So I am drawing up a physical list that I can actually print out, stick on my fridge, look at and go “yes, well done me, I am DOING that!” Or “Get your arse into gear and just do it!” – it’ll probably be a bit of both.
Anyway… here is my list of ways to live a more ethical, less selfish, more helpful life:
1. Shop locally
I am going to reduce my supermarket shopping so that I only pop to, say, Aldi once a month when I need toilet roll, tins of beans, etc. I have found a new local service called Sauced Here which I will try this week to test out – in a nutshell they offer online convenience with local producers. How good does that sound? However, the only drawback being that this may well overlook actual local producers in the village (I am lucky enough to live near a farm shop who sell amazing meat they produce on the hills around us, a greengrocer who sells everything from fresh herbs to celeriac, and a deli who make lovely artisan bread and sell local cheese, for example). My solution is to buy what I can in the village and get the rest from Sauced Here – I shall report back on how I get on. Also – this gives a perfect excuse to get my bike fixed and buy a basket for the front. It’s either than or buying a granny trolley! Living the rural dream, me!
2. Recycle better
So here’s what happens. We very occasionally miss the bin days (there is nothing like the sinking heart upon realisation that you’ve committed this tiny act of domestic failure, is there?!) and then this has a knock on effect. The recycling that I have put aside then doesn’t fit into the right bin, so it ALL goes in the black one. Crap, eh? I now promise, from this day forward to not miss bin days. *Sets 4 alarms on bin days*
I am in contact with a local volunteering group (I don’t want to say who until it comes off) who work with disadvantaged kids on a nearby farm. They grow veg, rear animals and help the kids get back in touch with nature. I am lucky enough to be mainly a stay at home mum (who also blogs) so I have some time. I am thinking one day a week. In the process of arranging as we speak… (as they also grow their own veg I am hoping that this could tie in with number 6…)
I have started up my Headspace practise once again. (Headspace is a meditation app with loads of free ones on and then you can pay or more if you want). It really helps quieten my often crazy-ass mind – can’t recommend it enough. By doing this, I make space for the new stuff. It gives me time to set my intention, to be more focussed, more healthy – to actually get this shit done! So yes it’s a selfish thing, but for me this one is where the other stuff comes from.
5. Get educated
I’m not naturally ‘into’ all this stuff, so I feel like I need to learn. So, I have just subscribed to a lovely magazine called The Green Parent. It’s £2 a month which is cheap really. My friend passed a copy on and I really liked it. It definitely feels more in tune with me right now than Red magazine, which I bought recently and felt like chucking in the bin it made me so cross. It was packed with smug articles that seemed to scream “You must buy this jumper for £1000!” It was so out of touch and grotesquely consumerist I genuinely felt a bit sick. And to think, Red is one of the better ones!
6. Grown my own
One thing I am wanting to start soon – but scared to death of doing – is setting up a veg patch where I can grow my own. Also in the plan is chickens (we have a coop but not made a run yet) and maybe even pigs (TBD – Arthur is very freaked by the prospect of eating potential piggy pets, and to be honest I’m not sure I could handle it either). I know deep down that growing veg is totally something I can achieve, but it’s one of the scariest things for me. I just need to read a book and start. Beginning a project is the hardest bit if you don’t feel skilled in that area, isn’t it? Adam is great at this stuff, but it’s me who has the time…
7. Reduce car journeys
There are quite a few things we go to where mums could group up and car share. I intend to spearhead a few of these. Also it saves hassle for the mum who isn’t driving that week.
8. More UK holidays
It’s important to see the world. I totally am not saying we will never go on a plane again, because we definitely will: long haul travel is in the life plan, big time as its important for kids to understand other cultures by being there rather than looking in a book. However I also think there is so much to see locally and in the UK – using trains and so on to get there too. I also want to chose my holidays more carefully – go eco more often, buy local when we do – and just be more aware of the ‘holiday footprint’.
9. Use eco products
I have featured eco products (Seventh Generation from the States) on here recently, but I’d like to also try UK made ones, ideally from a small company. Anyone got any recommendations? I’d love to know!
10. Buy second hand
I genuinely love a good charity shop rummage. So more second hand toys, more second hand clothes and household things too. And when I pick something new up, I will also take some of our stuff to get recycled, as our own drawers and cupboards are bursting with unused and outgrown things. One in, one out.
11. Support independent artisans (and businesses, generally)
I have friends who run artisan businesses, making jewelry, bridal accessories and so on, so I know first hand how hard it is for them. Their stuff is always so beautiful and unique, yet I don’t find myself buying artisan crafts as gifts (mainly down to my lack of organisation – this is where my Headspace practise comes in!). From now on, I will. Also when it comes to mundane household purchases like blinds – I will choose local companies rather than go to a well-known retailer.
12. Stop buying plastic bags and bottles
Again, this comes down to being more organised, slowing down and not racing around on the hop all the time. Going to the shops? Always have a cloth bag in your handbag. Going out in the car or on a train journey? Take a pre-filled bottle of water from a reusable at home.
I *think* that’s it…
Is this because I am approaching 40 and feel like I am increasingly morbidly aware of our own personal footprint on the planet? Maybe. Is it because my kids are getting older and I think ‘shit’ they now are taking note and I want to set a good example? Yes. Is it because I have had my own personal issues going on and I have looked inside myself and thought “FFS! Just get grateful already, stop moping and do something useful! If you aren’t happy with the way you live then change!” Well, yeah, to be honest! Whatever the reason, and all of the above are true: the time is now.
Will you take on any of these challenges with me? Have I left any out? What would you want to change about your life to make it more meaningful and less impactful on the planet?