Remember last year in January, I wanted to make some small changes that would improve my life/make it slightly more sustainable? Then two months later, we went into lockdown and I sort of abandoned the whole enterprise..
While we are not back to normal and I’m not entirely convinced we’re out of the woods yet, the work from home life, hardly seeing any of my friends and only one of my family members is pretty normal so it’s time to think about this again.
Being at home practically all the time has lead to some changes in the flat and how I live in it. I bought an instant pot and that has been fabulous for making yoghurt as well as all it’s other uses.
Over the summer, I re-arranged the cupboard of doom to make it slightly more organised and to give me room to store the things I preserved this year. I completely rearranged the living room to accommodate having a desk and that meant some rearranging of the bedroom and new bedroom curtains (finally – it only took 11 and half years!).
Necessity meant I had to buy a new hoover and I bought a very cosy mattress protector but think that’s it for things in the flat.
None of that is particularly sustainable though, and there is an argument that the most sustainable thing you can do is stop buying things, which isn’t wrong but these things have helped how I live but I’m making best efforts.
On the plot, we set up a composting system, one of my Christmas presents was a bokashi bin system that means I can compost all of my food waste at home without exciting the foxes at the allotment. I also replaced the broken shredder at home with one that works and now all that paper waste goes into the compost too.
The elephant in the room here is peat, I’ve bought a lot of compost in the last five years and it’s not going to change this year. Wickes (my compost supplier of choice) has committed to reducing its use in their products to zero by 2025, but that’s a way off and I have about 4000 litres of compost to buy this year. Increasing the use of my own compost should help reduce and we will look at buying compost without peat in it next year. However, peat free compost is hard to get hold of in bulk and expensive so this year, I’m going to make the less environmentally friendly choice because I can’t afford to buy the amount I need in peat free compost (yes, it’s all wrong, products with peat should be cost more than those without but they don’t). It’s something I’m working on but I don’t have a solution for this year. Last year, we decided not to buy any more plastic pots and we haven’t so that’s all working ok.
Reducing waste at home is still a work in progress, my rubbish and recycling bins are collected every other week and they are never full but I’m still slightly horrified by the amount of recycling that I put out each week. Most of the cardboard goes to the plot to help improve soil and compost there, food and paper too, I’ve used less tins this year because all beans and tomatoes I preserved myself in jars, I do save some jars for other things but most of my recycling is glass and plastic.
I’m trying to think a bit more about plastic waste as I think that glass and metal are pretty easy recycling options (that may be wrong and it may be that I’ll learn differently). I’ve stopped using clingfilm and started using soap instead of shower gel and handwash (which has been much better for my skin). I’ve also stopped buying kitchen roll, when my face flannels get worn, I move them to housework so for cleaning, dusting and mopping up. I also stopped using baby wipes (it’s stupid but I didn’t realise that they have plastic in them and so don’t decompose), instead I have another set of flannels that I keep damp in a plastic box and use for the stuff I used to use baby wipes for. Finally, I haven’t replaced my body puff thing for washing with and have gone back to using a flannel. Everything gets washed on a hot wash and the whole system is working well with an added wash every week.
One of the things that didn’t entirely work for me, was the washable sanitary towels. (Look away now if you’re funny about this stuff). They were really comfortable but the leaking was insane and while I didn’t leave the house much this year, there is a hard limit on how many times I want to change my clothes each day and the bedding in the course of a week. So I’ve reached a comprise position, I use them towards the end of my period when things have slowed down and stick with my other ones for the beginning. (No I’m still not going to use a mooncup, I’m sure they are fantastic but I can’t make tampons work so I’m not the best person for a mooncup)
What else? This month, I’ve signed up for smol laundry detergent fabric conditioner and housecleaning sprays because that should reduce my plastic usage. I’ve also stopped buying washing up sponges because they have plastic in them, at the moment I’m using a silicone thingie, which I don’t love but will probably last for a while, so I’ll use them until I can’t and they go to recycling, then I’ll look at the compostable loofah ones. If I ever get around to a greenhouse on the plot, I’ll try growing a luffa plant and see if I can grow my own!
There’s still a lot of plastic in my life (handcream, shampoos and conditioners, lip balm, deodorant, toothpaste, toilet roll, face and make up collections to name a few) but I need to use the things I have and then I’ll look at things that use less plastic or are more recyclable it’s a work in progress.
Finally, this year I made a change to how I eat, there were lots of reasons for this, but this Lent, I gave up eating meat during the week. It wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting, so while I’ll never be vegan, I am eating less and better raised meat so that’s a change that I’m planning to continue.
None of this is perfection and I’m aware that all of it is a drop in the ocean of what needs to happen. If we are going to stop the damage that climate change and pollution is causing it’s going to take more than the tiny things I’m doing. It’s going to take governments and industry, a mindset change about what we are ‘entitled’ to and deep systemic change. It’s also really important to note that some of the things I’m doing are rooted in privilege, of living in the first world and being able to afford to do this. I’m not saying everyone can do it or that it’s easy or cheap, I’m just saying that I’m trying to do something about it in how I live.