Buzzword…Sustainability! Say it with me, sussss-tainnnnn-aaaaa-bility. It fills us with shame, doesn’t it? It makes you feel like you did when you were watching television instead of doing your pesky math homework. You are not alone friend! I am there. It began when I was little and I realised I could bring my cereal boxes to school to be recycled. How amazing, they grind up the cardboard, the teacher told me, and use it again. This would save trees and as a great lover of trees (don’t laugh they provide our oxygen), this fascinated me. My parents smiled, supportive as always, and designated a special box in the garage for the recyclables.
Fast forward the tape (I’m a child of the 90’s and VHS is bae), I’m a fully grown woman and my concerns regarding the environment now extend to my career choices. I wrote my Master’s thesis on sustainable alternatives to food sources (I know I’m just great aren’t I?) My PhD studies evolved into farming networks and investigating topics such as propensity for farmers to adopt sustainable practices or adaptions to climate change. Yet still, I feel like a hypocrite, for a plethora of reasons. I drive a diesel car, my clothes are all sourced from ethically careless shops and I eat meat every day! It’s overwhelming in a busy, stressful world, in which we reward ourselves for getting through the week with television and vegetation on a couch. Let me tell you: that is perfectly ok.
So I’m going to take some advice from my sister-in-law from my spousal equivalent.[i] We learn to crawl first before we walk. Small changes are easy. Instead of a large expensive change, we promise to only use reusable cups for our coffee and tea instead of taking café take-away cups. If you’re looking for fun ones try this website, I just got mine there.[ii] Yes, they also have Star Wars themed ones for a limited time, so if you’re a nerd like me, get onto that!
I’ve made a pact with myself that in 2018, each month I will change one small thing. This is much more achievable than a big jump. When you add many small things together, you get something bigger. Isn’t that what chemistry teaches us? Scientific fact. (My brother, who is an ardent lover of chemistry and studying it right now, looks up, sensing something wrong). So I made a list, and part of me putting it up here is to make myself accountable. If other people have read this, then I have no choice to follow through, or else I’ll look like an idiot. That’s why we put stuff on the internet right?
I designated a separate bin in my bedroom/office. Before I threw all waste into one and it all ended up in our black bin. Which is general waste. As you can imagine most of my rubbish from my bedroom/office is recyclable. This is now just an ingrained practice for me, and I feel that bit better about it.
The goal was to have 2 meat-free days a week, and make this a practice for myself in general. This sounds tough, but to be honest, you forget many dishes you love that don’t need meat. Plus there is an amazing restaurant in my town called Bare Food which does amazing vegetarian and vegan options, so when we are treating ourselves, we pop in there.[iii]
Keep cup time. This is the one I ordered.[iv] It just arrived yesterday and I can’t wait to use it. This is a great website, all the plastic is safe as well. They are really into sustainability and look at their ‘About Us’ page: “Many small acts will make a phenomenal difference.”[v] My kind of people.
*Update: Me smiling like a loon with my new Keep Cup.
Now this is small but over a lifetime will add up. I am an avid reader of National Geographic and I have been subscribed since 2014. This is not like a YouTube subscription, they send actual magazines. Now in fairness when I get the magazines, they are in a simple packet of recycled paper. There is no thin plastic packaging which is notoriously hard to recycle. However, plan to find out more about their magazines and if they are printed sustainably. I will go even further to see if my subscription could be sent to me in softcopy instead of a hard copy. When I look at my piles of National Geographic magazines, gathering dusk, I just think, wouldn’t it be better if I could read my magazine on an e-reader?[vi]
This next part is going to be particularly difficult for me. I love clothes, and I enjoy shops that sell them cheap. However, not only is this bad for the environment, it’s ethically irresponsible. I won’t name any brands, you can find it out for yourself. By May of this year, will only buy:
- Clothes from brands that are sustainably sourced, pay their staff a fair wage, and give them safe working conditions.
- Buy second hand in charity and thrift shops.
- If I need to buy from certain brands, buy quality clothes that I expect to last a long time.
My partner is particularly good at this, he literally buys clothes that last him 10 years. If he likes a hoody he buys it in 3 colours. Which is not only adorable, but good for the environment. If you’re looking for a video to help you with this, Mariza on YouTube has a fantastic video called “Haulternative/ Marzia’s Style.”[vii]
Ok so this is an interesting one, and I have to admit I only realised this recently. That every toothbrush I’ve ever owned, still exists. This makes me sad because I may be only one person, but billions of people go through hundreds of toothbrushes in their lifetime. So my goal for April is to find a company in Ireland that sell wooden toothbrushes. This way, I can keep up my oral hygiene without hurting the planet. Here is just one example of an Irish website that sells bamboo toothbrushes.[viii]
Plastic. Plastic has been one of the most useful inventions of humankind, and it has opened up so many possibilities in various disciplines. Such as healthcare, automobiles, and foodways. The problem is, it’s too sturdy. It doesn’t disintegrate like cardboard or wood it takes 1000s of years to decompose. While it’s decomposing, it releases dangerous chemicals into the soil and food systems. My goal is to use less plastic. So much of our food comes in plastic now. Our household products. Even disposable straws are bad! Sadly huge amounts of this plastic is not recyclable and it just ends up in dumps. I will strive to be more conscious of every product I purchase. If it has plastic that isn’t recyclable, then I will try buy the product that isn’t wrapped in plastic. This will be tough, I know, and it often costs more, but the costs to the environment is greater. It’s hurting our friends in the ocean. Every time I see a picture of a sea animal that’s perished because if the amount of plastic it unknowingly ingested I feel ill.
“Take an hour or so to research some home-made options for natural cleaners. Vinegar and water can clean most surfaces, and the saponin from quinoa is a natural laundry detergent. By using natural cleaners you are reducing the amount of plastic packaging being made, and the amount of chemicals that are being introduced to the water system.”[ix] I have to admit this is always something I’ve always been fascinated with. You can make your own cleaning products at home. (If Monica from friends did it then it must be ok).
My hair. Your hair. All our hair. It’s beautiful, it’s an outlet for creativity, yet we rub chemicals all over it every time we wash and style it. This bit is daunting. Like in August, in which I research natural cleaning products, this month, I will do it for my hair. I do not wash my hair every day, both for water conservation and to avoid my hair drying out. So I feel this is achievable. It will end up being less costly in the end, better for my hair and the environment.
Make sure all the bulbs in our house are LED long life energy saving. This will not only reduce the cost on household electricity it will also reduce the use of fossil fuels. Continually unplugging appliances that are not in use. Keep the heating off and just put on a jumper when I can.
As a member of Amnesty International (Irish branch), the burden of our actions on others in poverty is glaring to me. This month my goal is to read the Amnesty International resource on sustainability and adopt as much as I can from it.[x]
We reach the end of the year. I would love to have less Christmas lights, (my parents love them, and I still live with them so I cannot change that). What I will do is only purchase presents which are sustainably sourced, locally produced, and necessary. I will not buy anything which is novelty or without purpose. I will then prepare for the next year, 2019 looms.
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[i] Joy Behar said this on The View and now I love her even more.