When it comes to reducing our environmental impact and creating a sustainable society, I firmly believe that true change will only happen when we work together, en-masse, to slowly but surely alter the way we do things. The way we produce things, buy things, and dispose of things. The way business is run. The way we think about consumption, satisfaction, and achievement and their relationship to each other. Basically, we need a radical shift in social and economic ways of thinking.
Certain eco-peeps argue that the small choices we make individually (like not using plastic bags) aren’t really going to change anything, and that we need to ditch this ‘what can I do?’ rugged-individualism mindset and replace it with ‘what can we do?’. We need to think and work as a group – a community and an organisation and a country, even, to get this shift happening. I agree 100%. Yep. Great idea. Unfortunately, we’re kind of unlikely to reach this ideal state of unity overnight – which is why I still think it’s important to make your small choices positive ones as well. Maybe bringing your KeepCup to the cafe everyday isn’t going to immediately resolve the plastic wastage problem, but it’s not going to hurt, is it?
With that in mind, I’ve made a checklist of small actions that can make a small change and applied it to my own life. A little eco-audit, if you will. Feel free to use this list yourself to see how you’re travelling and where you can make changes. I’ve focused on physical waste around the use of disposable items here, but obviously there’s a lot more to consider.
Plastic bags: EXCELLENT. I avoid plastic bags at all costs. I’m pretty good at remembering to bring my fabric totes (and if I forget I just have to carry my shopping as penance). I get my fruit’n’veg loose and try to avoid products with plastic packaging in general.
Coffee cups: AVERAGE. I would say I remember my KeepCup about 50% of the time. Must try harder.
Tea: POOR. Ideally I’d like to make a permanent shift over to tea leaves to reduce my waste in this area – and don’t you think there’s something so nice and traditional about brewing a big pot of tea with tea leaves? Alternatively, I could use teabags from a brand like Madame Flavour, which are made from corn and break down in ‘a year to five, depending on heat and humidity’ (as opposed to the hundreds of years that nylon bags take).
Food waste: GOOD. We are avid composters. Need to work on not letting things go off in the fridge though.
Disposable food containers/utensils: AVERAGE. I’ve been trying to put a knife and fork in my bag in the morning, but eating at food courts or whatever isn’t something I actually plan to do. It just happens. Potential solutions: carry knife, fork, and plastic take away container with me at all times, or choose food that doesn’t require a container (like a wrap). (The simple solution here is to just PACK YA LUNCH! Why can’t I remember to do this? Oh, that’s right, it’s because I get up 5 minutes before I need to leave the house.)
Disposable beauty products (face wipes, cotton buds, etc): POOR. I’m still trying to think of a solution to this one. Small cloth or crocheted face wipes? I could make something like that (and it looks like there’s plenty on Etsy too).
Tissues: POOR. Are handkerchiefs really the answer? I don’t want to carry my snot around with me all day, thanks.
Period supplies: AVERAGE. I’ve recently got onto Thinx period-proof undies which I am LOVING (review/explanation here). They’re definitely an investment but they’re a wonder for a worry-free, forget-that-it’s-happening period (and the company itself is very socially-conscious as well). Still not brave enough to try a cup. One day.
Clothes: An update on my year of ethical fashion is a post for another day, but I’ll have you know I’m doing well at resisting the urge to shop.
So now that I know what I need to work on, I’ll see what I can do and check back in in a couple of months. What do you think you could change to reduce waste in your everyday life?
Don’t forget it’s Earth Hour today! Turn off those globes and light those scented candles at 8.30pm local time! (It’s a good excuse for a relaxing, candlelit bath, right? I think so!)