I’m sure those of you in the UK have been watching or are aware of the group Extinction rebellion who for the last couple of weeks were trying to get the government to DO SOMETHING in response to the climate. It ended peacefully last week I think but not without lots of chaos and over 1100 arrests. Of course, that was the aim and I know they didn’t always rub people up the right way with their approach, even other eco campaigners.
Be that as it may, we were talking over lunch on Easter Sunday about this and my sister mentioned that actually they would be of more use if they actually told Joe Public what we could do to play our part. I couldn’t quite understand that she didn’t know, but then it dawned on me that I know some of this stuff to an extent because it interests me and therefore follow blogs and instagrammers who repeat this stuff over and over. She doesn’t and she’s right! How the heck are the regular public going to know how to do this. It’s a HUGE thing and all I can say is start small. Do what YOU can do for you and your family, make small changes initially and then build on them.
My list would look something like this:
- Start by reducing your waste out and about, use reusable bottles and cups, take your own lunch to work in a reusable pot, it doesn’t have to be a posh stainless steel one, hell, reuse a plastic ice cream tub. The emphasis here is on reducing waste so if you’re not throwing away your ice cream tub but reusing it, then great.
- No plastic straws, if you can’t bear the thought of a metal one or bamboo, do you REALLY need one at all? I also take a small bag with my own metal cutlery. It sits at the bottom of my handbag on the off chance I may need it. I have on occasions.
- Take your own bags to the supermarket. I think this is becoming common place now, but extend it to taking smaller cotton bags to buy loose produce. Morrisons and Waitrose allow you to get meat, fish and deli stuff in your own containers. This may mean a change of habit either shopping at a market if you’re lucky enough to have one, or not buying granny smiths if they’re in a plastic bag, but cox apples instead if they’re loose. The supermarkets need more pressure from the public, so you will be silently making a stand.
- Buy local wherever you can, it might be your next door neighbour who has chickens or the local butcher on the high street.
- Eat less meat. Sorry! This is one of the highest problems with carbon emissions. I’ve not written ‘become vegan’, just reduce your family’s consumption. Have a meat free day or two.
- Make your own wherever possible. It’s not easy when you are a busy family, but if you can make up large pots of food and freeze you’ll use less single use plastic (and probably improve your health). If you’re crafty, make your own clothes too or swap talents with a pal. We frequently barter stuff with friends. We used a friend’s rotavator recently in exchange for some bread and honey, we had a patio laid for our greenhouse base in exchange for smoked cheese, cider and honey.
- Walk or cycle whenever you can. Clearly this is one of the best ways to reduce carbon emissions, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a martyr to the cause, you may have to drive to work or be off on a long haul flight on holiday, that’s cool, but then offset; perhaps take a couple of extra walk days or cycle days when you can, rather than jumping in the car to pop round the corner.
- Compost stuff. All your food waste that isn’t cooked can go in a simple composting bin, or if you’re feeling up to it (mine was my 40th birthday pressie from my hubby…not sure what that says about me or our relationship ha ha!), get down with a wormery and make those tomatoes grown even bigger!
- Mend things. Don’t buy unnecessarily. A few simple stitches can give another year of life to an item of clothing. If you have to buy stuff (and let’s be real, we all do), can you buy second hand or exchange with a friend? I bought a shirt and skirt this week in our local charity shop for £4 for the two items, one was White Stuff! Don’t chuck your old stuff either, recycle it into floor cloths if it’s badly damaged or if not, give it to a charity store.
- Use soap not shower gels. This to me is an easy exchange. Using soap reduces the throw away. Obviously if you’re lucky enough to have a refill shop near you, then that’s great, but if not, I’ve found using soap rather than shower gel has made no difference to me at all.
- Leading to deodorant, I use one in a cardboard tube, but you can get them in tins or glass.
- Turn off lights! Easy peasy! Take fewer baths, shower for less than 4 minutes.
These are a few simple starters, you can then progress onto larger things such as:
Look at your heating, is it always on high? Is it on more than you need? Socks and a sweater is my mantra! Can you afford solar panels, wind turbine, air source heat pumps etc? Obviously this is FAR more of a commitment, but if you are really serious.
When you upgrade your car, could you look at a hybrid, do you actually need 2 or 3 cars? Most families do, so again, this is all without judgement, but could you look at the emissions of the car you are thinking of buying and decide if it is really the best for the environment.
How about growing your own? You don’t have to have lots of land, a window box will grow tomatoes, herbs, a large tub will give you potatoes.
If you have a local milkman, use him! I agree it’s a little more expensive than the shops, but it comes in glass and you give it back to the dairy to reuse. The thing is, the more people do this, the lower the prices will go as there will be less competition.
Birthday gifts: rather than giving plastic or stuff that people maybe don’t always need, make memories instead. Go and see a play, concert, go out for the day. Be creative (oh and recycle any wrapping or wrap in material!)
Grey water! Use your bath water to water your plants, collect rainwater for your outside plants.
Organise a village/community/beach/river litter pick. It’s not going to reduce the waste as it’s already there, but it may mean it doesn’t end up killing wildlife or leaching into drinking water.
There are many, many other ideas. I follow some blogs and instagrammers and find that they often have some great ideas. If they get a bit too preachy for the state of mind I’m in that day, I jog on by, but often they have great thoughts. Here are a few of my fave on Instagram:
I hope this helps. I know there are thousands of other things that can/should be done, but this is my ‘new beginnings’ post for those who don’t know where to start. Most of this is changing old habits. As a world, we are naturally caught up in the conveniences of life thinking that we can’t survive without them. But we can, we did before and we can again, we just need to be inventive and mindful of what we are actually doing. If we slip up from time to time, we don’t need to flog ourselves with a cat-o-nine tails, we just need to readjust and try again. The biggest changes in my mind, will come from consumers applying pressure to the manufacturers and this will be in the form of silent protests, not buying the latest gadgets or new wardrobes each season, not buying the cucumbers wrapped in plastic (Morrisons do them loose!). It’s a supply and demand culture we live in. If we don’t demand this, there is no need for the supply.
Oh, and finally, TALK about what you’re doing. Educate your work colleagues, your kids, your parents…Yes, you’ll meet opposition, but that’s only because people feel that their choices are being judged. If you approach it through your actions and answering questions rather than preaching or gluing yourself to a bank or supermarket, I think the grass roots level will grow.
If you have any thoughts or comments or tips, please leave them in the comments below.