Earth Hour, Earth Day, Plastic Free July, Earth Overshoot Day; they all make me stop and focus on my efforts with sustainable living and making better environmental choices. Each a gentle nudge towards better choices or a bit more effort! Still, I often get stuck in the ‘we have such a long way to go’ mentality. It is exhausting, depressing, will I ever get to a point where I feel I’m doing well?
In one of these moments of dispair, I was reminded of the wise words reading Charlie Mackesy’s book ‘The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse’. I needed to hear the horse’s words.
“We have such a long way to go” said the boy.
“But look how far we have come” said the horse.The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charlie Mackesy
But, like every journey, it is the adventures along the way and remembering to stop and admire the view that is just as important as the direction of travel. Changing habits is difficult, this journey is a long one – a lifetime.
My journey thus far has been marked by tiny shifts, swaps and avoidances. This is my little bit of admiring the view.
- Not buying plastic food wrap any more and looking for packaging alternatives to plastic.
- Putting the children’s packed lunch in tubs and reusable bags, this allows me to buy a sharing bag of somethings rather than individually wrapped items and decanting a portion into a tub, works well for crisps, crackers and has encouraged me to home bake snack bars.
- Reducing our use of paper kitchen towel and tissues and choosing recycled paper products.
- Buying items from the local zero waste shop to avoid plastic packaging – pasta, sugar, loose tea, oats and rice, chocolate buttons and dried fruit. Refilling the washing up liquid bottle bottle rather than buying a new one.
- Using a shampoo bar for my hair. Swapping liquid hand soap for solid soap bars.
- Swapping our energy provider for one with a renewable electricity tariff and a green tariff for gas that off sets the carbon. Getting a smart meter installed.
- Choosing a plug in hybrid car and the car charger and battery that will eventually be teamed with solar panels. The app for the battery programming shows us how much electricity we use each day and when the peak times are which allows me to adjust what is switched on during our peak use. This means we charge the battery overnight and use the electricity during the day, if we manage the house demand (not the car too) I have proved we get through the day on just the battery. Bit geeky but interesting!
- Avoiding peat based composts as much as possible. Seeking out British grown plants rather than imported stock at the garden centre. I sent flowers by post this year from flower growers in Cornwall rather than using conventional high street florist for the orders. My Mum exclaimed ‘the flowers actually smell of flowers!’ (who’d have thought?).
- Looking for recipes to reduce our consumption of meat. Being more diligent with portion sizes and meal choices to reduce our food waste
- In the garden, encouraging wildlife by creating better habitat: long grass areas, pollinator friendly plant choices, log piles and maintaining the pond to avoid algae and pond weed taking over the world!
- Growing veg at home – this year we have had crops of leafy salad, cherry tomatoes, new potatoes, parsnips, carrots, peas, fine beans and courgette – to benefit from low food miles and being able to pick them when we need them to avoid food waste and packaging. We are a long way from self sufficient but each year is more productive than the one before.
- Using the library and second hand bookshops more. Looking for ‘new to me clothes’ online and in charity shops rather than automatically buying new.
- Walking into town rather than driving – I have removed most journeys into town in the car other than those where to carry an item home would be impossible – like the time I bought a bookcase from the second hand shop without considering how I could get it home!
- Using my cotton bags for shopping, taking my refillable water bottle and rejoicing when I can refill it when out and about.
- Joining in with Plastic Free July and trying to adopt a habit to keep going with at the end of the month.
- Using a footprint calculator to review my actions and find the best things I can change for the best impact on my footprint. This helps me focus and prioritise – I can’t do it all.
- Taking the time with my children to celebrate when we eat a meat-free meal or buy food grown/ produced locally. We are all learning a new way of feeding ourselves – the children will have to do it all their lives.
- Washing laundry at 30°C, ditching the conditioner (one less bottle), line drying and trying to repair clothes where my skills allow! like sewing on buttons and repairing hems.
In the grand scheme of things these are baby steps. But my baby steps are growing into better habits and I know my children will be able to make better informed choices themselves as they grow up because they can see and understand the changes we are making now.
Remember to stop and admire the view on your own journey. You’ll be surprised how far you’ve travelled already.