There is so much advice out there about ways in which to curtail our impact on the planet – leave the car at home, stop buying bottled water, stop eating meat, don’t use plastic products…
But for me, none of that was sustainable.
The human mind is a funny thing. I know that all of the above is factually accurate – that these are all necessary things which I should be doing in order to combat the climate crisis – but when I’m told that I can’t do something, I feel a spark of rebellion.
“I don’t want to stop using my car, thank you very much.”
I suspect I’m not alone.
Doing the right thing became much, much easier when I started to rephrase what was being asked of me. Instead of looking at my life in relation to the environment in terms of deficit, I began looking at it in terms of abundance.
Instead of saying ‘use the car less’, I began to think of it as an opportunity to walk or cycle more.
Rather than ‘eat less imported food’, I started to tell myself that I should eat more local produce.
So to anyone who is just beginning to look at living more sustainably, I would say look for abundance.
- Plant more edibles – herbs, or even bean sprouts, on the window ledge are enough, though Project Diaries on YouTube have amazing tutorials about how to garden cheaply/for free
- Cook more – check out Madeleine Olivia on YouTube for seriously easy, quick, and delicious recipes, or Pick Up Limes for something more involved
- Plan more – the better the meal-plan, the less food waste there is and the less money lost – an all round win
- Walk or cycle more – it feels better than being stuck in a car, and could potentially save money on travel (or gym membership if you’re so inclined)
- Read more – it’s a free hobby if you use the library or Project Gutenberg, and it’s a sustainable choice
- Get more from your possessions – repair them so they last longer. There are so many tutorials online that the world really is your oyster.
- Take more picnics, have more adventures – if you have your lunch with you, there’s less of a limit to where and how far you can go in a day (and it’s cheaper than buying something while you’re out)
- Keep more money – I’ve saved so much money by finding joy in cooking new recipes, exploring the countryside, and reading books.
- Enjoy more time – fewer things means less to manage and more time for yourself
- Learn new hobbies – a few mending skills can see you on your way to sewing or knitting a whole garment – that’s a whole new creative outlet
- Enjoy the things you love – by buying what you adore rather than what’s trending, you end up filling your house with things which are truly unique to you. And if you love the things you have, you won’t want to replace them regularly with new equivalents. (I personally have a penchant for 70s melamine camping crockery and old enamel cookware – both in hideous orange and brown combinations – but find your own
My life feels so much fuller since I started looking at things in this way – it feels like I’m living a life of plenty, not of loss – despite the fact that I’m consuming less. I think that we need to start looking at environmentalism in terms of what we gain, rather than through the prism of what we stand to lose.
What advice would you give to someone who was new to sustainability? Or what aspects of low-waste living do you think aren’t spoken about enough/are spoken about in a way that perhaps doesn’t tell the whole story?
With much love.
3 Replies to “The one thing I wish I’d known sooner…”
Absolutely agree with focusing on what we gain. Great ideas for things to start with.
One of my greatest revelations was realising if I went to the deli or green grocer I could buy just the number of something I wanted which in turn reduced the number of times I had leftovers. Not enough for another dish or which went mouldy before I needed it. Totally obvious but that one step reduced our food waste. My motivation to change where I shopped was to try and avoid plastic bags and packaged items. The second change was being conscious about portion sizes so that once I had cooked something I had enough to eat or freeze for another meal rather than half a portion that I didn’t know what to do with. As you said the better the meal plan the less you waste. But if you had told me to plan my meals I wouldn’t necessarily have worked out that would be an outcome!
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That’s a really good point – I wonder how much food waste comes about because people can only buy a certain amount of a food, rather than just what they need.. Like 400g of mince for a recipe but it only comes in 500g packs and that person might not have access to a butcher for the exact amount…
I never thought of that. 🙂
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Focusing on abundance is a great philosophical approach – most humans prefer pleasure to pain, after all, and so often the ‘green guidelines’ can seem to be more stick than carrot. I love your list of ideas, there is so much that is positive in them. I think I’m living my life backwards, I was a fairly boring teenager but I’m a total ninja rebel granny and I love the fact that there is a subversive element to this way of life. If I can grow, forage, cook and preserve my own food, fetch and store fuel, make and mend clothing, furnish and decorate my home with secondhand bits and pieces, get around on my feet and bike, make toiletries, cleaning products and simple medicines from plant materials, entertain myself (and others) without a television, smartphone, etc, etc, then the ugly monster that is our consumerist, wasteful society has very little hold over me. Fashion? Who cares? Shopping? No thanks. I’m becoming more and more independent and self-reliant and that feels like something very powerful, not to mention joyful. It’s an exciting journey! 😊
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