Doing something is better than doing nothing.

This is the mantra I use when I am hauling my pissed off ‘running’ self along a dreary country lane twice a week in order to try to stay fit, healthy and somewhat able to fit into the majority of my wardrobe. I’m not a runner, I don’t exactly enjoy that much time alone with myself doing something I’m not mahoosively enjoying, however, I know deep down, the benefits of it will outweigh the half hour to hour I give up to do it.

So the same needs to be said of everything we choose to do in life right?

It’s easy to fall into the zero waste trap of going out a buying reusable stuff in order to eliminate all plastic from our lives in the mindset that our straws are destroying the planet. However, in doing so, we’re buying more, that brings with it more production, more carbon miles and more STUFF. If you read the internet (especially those dreaded black holes called forums) you’ll be jumped on if you mention this, but in another forum, jumped on if you don’t. There’s always one side that seems determined to belittle those doing things a different way with everything and, to me, that is just so sad.

Yes, I buy my loo roll all wrapped in paper, delivered in a cardboard box to my home with no plastic. Yes, I pay more for it, yes they plant several trees in order to off set this delivery and paper usage. Yes, I can see how using a delivery service, nay, using paper, is cutting trees down so I can wipe my arse and how having it delivered in bulk 3 x per year to my home is creating x kg of excess carbon. However, if I went to the supermarket weekly to stock up bi weekly for a family of 4 or 5 (depending who’s home) and drove there and back as well as included the plastic it was wrapped in, I don’t expect that my kgs would be much less and there would still be trees cut down but none planted in replacement from the supermarket brand.

Surely, the point in all this is that we (ALL OF US!) as humans, have created so much destruction through just being inventive humans on the planet that we are destroying?

It is a ridiculously hard dilemma made harder by the linear GDP dominated economy that the world feels we need to live by, this is also driven by demand, however, our demand, which in turn is driven by the fact things are made poorly, break easily, cost peanuts because they’re produced in bulk by cheap labour and parts rather than the cost being put against the quality of the work and product.

To put this in perspective, a lady makes wool blankets, she sells them for around £500 – seems excessive when you think you can buy a polyester or acrylic one for less than £20 in Primark, however:

The wool costs around £8 per ball, she needs over 20 balls = £160 for materials. The blanket takes around 200 hours to knit up, at minimum wage that comes to £1,744. Yet we baulk to pay £500 (HALF!) for a handmade knitted blanket that someone spent 200 hours on UK minimum wage knitting up.

This is not saying we need to go out and buy the most expensive form of anything or boycott the cheap stores, but it is saying that maybe we need to stop and think before we buy to see where we buy, from whom we buy, what is actually included in the price of something handmade when someone is selling.

I’m actually digressing a little here: not many of us can or will spend £500 on a handknitted blanket in order to keep their hard earned away from sweatshops or unethical conglomerates BUT we can all do our little bit that costs nothing:

Firstly:

  • Buy less and reuse more
  • If it breaks, fix it, if you can’t do you have a friend who can? If not, there are places that do, we have a repair place in Banbury for electricals and there is a repair clinic in Bicester
  • If you have to replace it, can you afford to find a more ethical version of what you want – The Ethical Consumer is a great resource for this, but there are also apps and online places you can find this information out as companies are being made to be more transparent now.
  • Do you actually NEED it? Can you hire it instead or borrow from a friend? Can you swap with a friend – clothing swaps are fun ways to get a new wardrobe.
  • Some cities are now setting up ‘Lending libraries’ for things such as lawnmowers, power tools, bike seats etc
  • Trade and barter with mates. My patio ‘cost’ me three bottles of homemade cider, smoked cheese, a jar of honey and a dozen eggs – the best patio I’ve ever bought. There are even facebook groups where you can trade things. I love trading!
  • Recycle what you DO need to get rid of. At the bottom of this I’ll put a few links in of places you can send or dispose of trickier items if you’re local to Banbury.
  • Repurpose – we use an old chest of drawers as a place to sell our eggs and farm-gate veg from. It keeps most of the rain off stuff as I’ve put a layer of roof felting over it and people can just access it, take what they want and leave their money in a pot.
  • Learn a new skill – I’m planning on sending the hubster to a mechanic class and a woodworking class when he retires. My dad is an amazing self taught builder/woodworker all of which he learned through evening classes and reading books. He’s saved my family tens of thousands over the years with his ability to DIY properly (note the ‘properly’ bit – it all remains standing and in good order years later!)

Doing this will gradually change things, we create a much more circular economy, rather than throwing and buying, which creates waste and more production, it goes back into circulation as something else or it’s broken into parts which are reused etc.

So some companies local to Banbury or that I know of that will do this:

  • Crisp packets can now be recycled by terracycle – there are many schools, clubs and or shops that will collect. Nothing But Footprints in Banbury will take ours, but they need to be washed out and NOT anything other than crisp packets.
  • The Body Shop will now take ALL containers from beauty and hair products whether they are plastic or glass. Rinse them out and hand them to staff or put them in their boxes in the shops. Holland and Barrett will also take stuff from The Beauty Kitchen and give a 10% discount on further products from the range.
  • Most opticians will take old spectacles and recycle the frames and lenses or send them to be used abroad.

It’s all about do our own little bit. If we all do something, be it a gradual turning over to less plastic, a change in our recycling or buying habits, learning a new skill in order to rely less on outsourcing or buying stuff in, or setting up a trade and barter with friends it will all make a difference collectively.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the circular economic idea (it’s not a new idea, nature does it all the time!) you can access a good deal of info here

So, each time you are huffing and puffing over putting that next foot in front of the other, you’re not seeing the end results instantaneously, remember, it takes time, it takes collective effort, it takes times you’ll fall off the wagon because life and society don’t make it easy, but you will be making a difference.

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