In this episode of the podcast I've got another 5(ish) minute guide for you - this time with some tips and ideas creating new, more sustainable(ish) habits. It's very easy to have all good intentions, and to WANT to do things differently, but when we're busy and frazzled, those good intentions can all too easily fall by the wayside. Whether you want to finally remember your reusable coffee cup when you race out of the house for work each morning, or you want to stop impulse shopping fast fashion, or whatever it might be, I've got some tips and ideas to help.
DID YOU KNOW?
We all have to eat. And the food we eat clearly has a massive impact on the planet (and the lives of the people who produce our food).
For this month's checklist I've put together some 'sustainable(ish)' ideas to help reduce the environmental impact of what we're putting on our plates. Feel free to download and share far and wide - lets start some conversations about easy steps to sustainable(ish) living! It's also available here as a pdf if you want to print it and tick things off as you go 🙂
Georgina Wilson-Powell is the founder and editor of Pebble - an online magazine and brand for 'stylish, sustainable living' that aims to empower people to make more ethical everyday decisions. In this episode I chat to her about all things sustainable (including finding a more exciting word for 'sustainable'!), hear about the projects that Pebble involved in, and about the personal sustainable(ish) steps that Georgina is taking.
This episode is packed full of ideas and inspiration and Georgina talks very openly and honestly about the challenges she faces, and some of the things that she's changed, which will hopefully inspire you to think about the changes YOU can make too.
Welcome back to the Sustainable(ish) podcast and to Season 2!
This season I've got some cracking guest lined up to inspire us all as well as some bite sized "5(ish) minute guides" where I'll try and to help you out with a sustainable(ish) problem in just 5(ish) minutes (the 'ish' is important here, as I'm discovering I'm not that good at not rambling and therefore keeping to time..!).
For the first episode of this new season, we're tackling overwhelm - I've been hearing a lot from members of my new FB group (this one is aimed at beginners and those just dipping their toes into all things sustainable(ish) ) that they often feel overwhelmed by all the things they feel like they should be doing, and then end up doing none of them. And I totally get that sometimes too - I think we all do.
So here's my 5(ish) minute guide to overcoming overwhelm when it comes to all things sustainable(ish):
At the start of a New Year many of us are reeling a little from the excesses of Christmas (perhaps despite our best efforts to tone it down a little or a lot) - our houses and cupboards are full, and our bank accounts might be empty. So it seems like the perfect time to take a step back from consumption and spend some time thinking about the power of our consumer choices to create a better world for ourselves and for others.
Here are some ideas/options/suggestions to get you started. Feel free to download and share far and wide - lets start some conversations about easy steps to sustainable(ish) living! It's also available here as a pdf if you want to print it and tick things off as you go 🙂
2018 bought with it some big changes - the Blue Planet II effect meant that plastic pollution had a high profile, with lots of people looking for ways to reduce their own plastic use, and pressure being put on the big retailers and manufacturers to make changes too. Fast fashion and all things rubbish got prime TV time as well with brilliant documentaries on the BBC (Fashions Dirty Secrets and The Secret Life of Landfill). Even accounting for the 'echo chamber' of my social media bubble, it feels like things are shifting. Like more and more people are waking up to the disastrous impacts of our throwaway lifestyles and looking for ways that they can live more sustainably. Which is vital, as we also learned in 2018 from the IPCC report that we have just 12 years to take 'unprecedented action' if we are to mitigate the worse effects of climate change.
The scale of this 'unprecedented action' is overwhelming. It needs huge shifts in policy from governments and big business and it seems that at present there isn't the political will or momentum to make this happen. But that doesn't mean that we as individuals and as families can't take action. And it doesn't even have to be 'unprecedented'.
2019 is the year we grab hold of the momentum that is building around action on climate change, and we run with it.
It's the year we step up to take action, and the year we step into our power as individuals to create change and transform the world. All through our own small acts, our daily choices, our conversations.
Let's all make a #promisefortheplanet this year. Big or small. And share it far and wide. Share it on social media. Share with friends and family and work colleagues when they ask you if you're setting any New Year's Resolutions. Share it with your kids and encourage them to make their own.
Let's take action AND spread the word at the same time. Can we reach millions?
Share your promise for the planet using the #promisefortheplanet hashtag on social media and let's see how many people we can reach, and how many promises we can make. Let's transform the world in 2019 (and beyond).
Here are some ideas to get you started:
This list could go on and on. There are literally hundreds and hundred of actions, big and small, that we can take each and every day (one of the things I am planning for 2019 is a monthly calendar of suggested actions). What matters is that we make that shift from knowing what we should be doing, from thinking about making change, to taking that all important first step. Picking ONE thing, no matter how small, and taking action.
Are you with me?
Here's to a world changing 2019.
I love the New Year - all those possibilities and twelve shiny new months waiting for us.
And I'm guessing that if you're a regular reader here, then one of your goals or resolutions or aims for the New Year might well be to 'live more sustainably', which is awesome!
BUT one of the problems with big goals like this, or something like 'losing weight' or 'getting fit' is that they're just too big, too vague. And it can be all too easy to get overwhelmed by all the things we could be doing, or that we feel like we should be doing, and then we end up very quickly feeling demoralised and doing nothing. Which is very much NOT what we want. So here are some tips for setting goals that are not only sustainable in the planetary sense, but that are sustainable in the long-term for you.
Any of you who have been on one of my webinars will know that I'm a massive fan of 'why' - it really is key to achieving the things you want out of life, and getting motivated to make sustainable(ish) changes.
For me, and my big vision of living more sustainably, my ‘why’ boils down to the kids. I want them to grow up and have a safe and habitable planet to live on. The world is changing, and we learned in 2018 that we have just 12 short years to take 'unprecedented action' if we are to mitigate the very worse effects of climate change. Thinking about what future generations might be facing, what the world might look like in 50 years time, makes me feel overwhelmed at times, but it also helps to keep me motivated and helps to inform each of my decisions as I move forwards.
So get clear about your why. What is it for you about living more sustainably/going zero waste/mending your clothes that is important? How does it impact you, your family, the wider world? What are the benefits, for you and for others? Really take some time to think about this, and I would also encourage you to write it down – then it’s there to refer to when your motivation starts to dip and things start to feel hard (and they will).
You need to be as specific as you can about what it is you want to achieve. So for example for 'reducing plastic' are you going to try and halve the amount of plastic you're throwing away each week? Are you going to work on the 'Big 4'? Are you going to refuse single use coffee cups? (here are some great re-usable alternatives).
Once you've decided on a 'big goal' or resolution, break it down.
"Plastic free" or "zero waste" or "being a more conscious consumer" are BIG goals. Break it down into baby steps -eg. tackling one plastic item first. Or swapping out one specific item of unrecyclable rubbish from your bin. Or looking for more sustainable options for your clothes shopping. And then do that. One thing I find helpful is to focus on a different area of sustainable(ish) living each month - so energy, then shopping, then plastic etc etc.
Having some way to measure your progress is really important, otherwise how will you ever know when you are succeeding?! For something like plastic or waste, a brilliant thing to do is to start with a bin audit - simply keep all of your plastic waste (or dive into your bin if you're focussing on all your waste) for a week and make a note of what is in there. Pick one or two items to work on first and identify the first steps you need to take. Then review after a month of so -is there less in there now?
So once you’ve thought of your specific goal for the month, spend a few minutes thinking about how you are going to measure it, and what success will look and feel like.
Goals need to be achievable and realistic otherwise they are overwhelming.
Zero Waste for example is massive. People devote their lives to Zero Waste and it isn’t something that happens overnight, or even in a month. For me, the ultimate goal of Zero Waste still feels a very long way off, and feels un-acheivable and un-realistic for us at the moment. But I could set myself a goal of reducing food packaging waste, and work on that. That feels much less panic inducing and far more achievable. The ideal is to find the balance between something that stretches us out of our comfort zones, but doesn’t induce overwhelm (and therefore inaction!).
A deadline give us something to aim for. And for people like me who tend to procrastinate and put things off, there is nothing like the pressure of a deadline to ensure we get things done! Have a think about what kind of deadlines you want to impose – some might need to be shorter, some longer. Do you want to buy nothing new for a year (if you do you can read my years worth of blog posts from our own Make Do and Mend Year!)? Do you want to find an alternative to plastic milk bottles by the end of the month? Think about what deadlines would work for you and ideally write them down!
PS. If you're looking for some support working out where to get started and how to make the sustainable(ish) changes you want in 2019 I'm opening up some slots for "Sustainable(ish) Power Hours" (or Power Hours for the Planet).
Hook up with me for an hours Skype call and we'll get your Sustainable(ish) 2019 off to a flying start!
The Waste Hierarchy sounds like the dullest thing imaginable, but I have to confess that I kind of love it.
I've recorded a podcast episode on the subject, but I figured that with Christmas bearing down on us it was worth a reminder and a look at how it can be applied to all things festive!
I guess technically you could refuse to participate in Christmas all together but there's nothing very "ish" about that is there?!
However there are still some things that we can 'refuse' without coming across as the Grinch who wants to steal Christmas:
If you can't REFUSE some or any aspects of Christmas entirely, then at the very least try to reduce them:
Christmas has not only become a retail festival, it also seems to have become a celebration of both excess and single use. See how many things you can re-use this year, here are some suggestions:
If there's anything you no longer want or need, don't ditch it, re-home it!
Try out these different options for decorations, artificial trees, unwanted gifts and anything else to:
This isn't an obvious one for Christmas time - the most obvious thing I can think of is the fairy lights! Have a go at fixing them before ditching them - you might be pleasantly surprised.
Note that this is the last resort before 'rot' - if you've paid attention to all the other ideas in this post and the others on this blog, hopefully you won't have too much to recycle.
Hopefully your waste to landfill should now be pretty minimal, but do remember that 'rot' also includes composting.
Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:
My youngest has just moved into Key Stage 2 and in our school that signals the end of Nativity plays for us. I'm equal parts sad and relieved - it really does feel like the end of an era, but at the same time there's no more late night panics trying to throw together a Nativity costume at the last minute.
I'm proud to say that we managed to get through our Nativity Days without ever having to resort to an Amazon or supermarket special - which are kind of like the fast fashion of the Christmas Story - cheaply made, mass produced synthetic fabrics, and will only be worn a handful of times. However that doesn't mean that I spent October and November glued to a sewing machine - our costumes have I think epitomised all the things a Nativity costume should be: thrown together using stuff we had lying around; evidently homemade; and ultimately probably a little bit crap compared to some of the other shop bought wonders. But for me, that's what it's all about - after all, what's a Nativity without a tea towel head dress?
Here are some easy ideas to help you avoid having to resort to splashing the cash on a mass produced monstrosity made who knows where and for who knows what, that even if doesn't especially damage your bank balance will be damaging the planet.
We have class Facebook groups, and at Nativity time it's such an easy way to find out who has what outfit lurking at the back of their cupboards, and to all lend to each other.
- I just did a quick search on eBay for "Nativity Costumes" and after ticking the 'used' box in the search criteria, it still came up with over 400 results - everything from shepherds to stars and camels to Kings.
- Check out your local charity shops - many have dressing up sections, and this time of year will probably be dragging the nativity costumes out of storage to see what they can pass on.
- Put out a WANTED request in your local Freecycle or Freegle group - there's bound to be someone near you who has what you need and is prepared to gift it or loan it to you.
I've just spent a fruitless half hour searching the interweb for nativity costume rental. I was going to say that someone is missing a trick here and that there must be a gap in the market, but I'm guessing that sadly as they are so (relatively) cheap to buy new, it's just not viable to rent them out 🙁
Do let me know if you know of any rental places that will hire out nativity costumes, and I can amend this post.
Making a costume is really not as hard work as it might seem. If you hit lucky and get shepherd, inn keeper, Joseph or King, any version of a pillowcase tunic and a curtain cloak will work a treat 😉
If that's not cutting it, check out this post here from The School Run with 8 No Sew Nativity Costumes.
Whilst searching for rental options for nativity costumes I stumbled across While Shepherds Watched - a UK based company that use Fair-trade cotton to make their costumes. Some are made in India and support local craftspeople, and some have been made in the UK by a Workers' Co-operative.
Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:
Those of you who have been following for a while now are probably aware that my whole Sustainable(fish) journey began when I slightly randomly and naively decided that a year buying nothing new with my family would be a 'fun' thing to do.
And it was fun. On the whole. But it turned into so much more. It really forced me to confront the effects of our modern, disposable society on both people and planet. And when Christmas rolled around that year, I have to confess that it was probably the first time I'd ever really thought about the impact of all the extra 'stuff' and food on the environment, and started to question why we give presents.
It was a real eye opener - we were about four months into our year buying nothing new (it randomly started in the September!) and I was just starting to get my head around the fact that there might be another way. A way that involved LESS, rather than more. And here I was faced with the biggest consumer festival of the year. And my mum. Who would always go a bit bonkers on the present front.
I remember them coming over for the day and unloading the car, which was crammed with presents, and then seeing this massive pile start to accumulate under the tree, and for the first time ever instead of feeling excited, my heart sank and I started to feel a little bit sick.
Whilst I wasn't able to do anything about my mum's over-consumption that year, our buying nothing new challenge meant that I had to get a bit creative with the gifts that we gave, and I'm not going to lie, it was a challenge. Made more so by the fact that I try never to do anything Christmassy before the 1st December. Oh, and I decided that we would have to make all the decorations ourselves, including the tree...
But it really, really did force me to re-evaluate all things Christmas, especially the gifts. I decided I was going to make most of the presents we gave, and time was limited (both the kids were still pre-schoolers), so I figured that if I was going to spend my precious time making gifts, they needed to be really appreciated (this turned out to be a work in progress - see later). This meant we bit the bullet and pruned our gift list as a first step, putting an end to the slightly pointless Amazon voucher swap that had somehow evolved with hubby's brothers.
Buying nothing new is a brilliant strategy if you're looking for a quick way to re-dress your relationship with consumerism. If you've fallen into the trap of buying for the sake of buying (especially gifts). It really does make you stop and think about it, partly because it's harder to find the thing you want, so you have to really, really want it! And it's one of the easiest ways to reduce the impact of your consumption on both people and planet - you save things from landfill, new resources aren't needed to make those things, and you're stepping out of being part of the demand for fast fashion/fast electronics/cheap plastic tat.
Here are some of my learnings, and some top tips if you want to have a go too.
Don't do as I did and wait until the 1st December.
If you're looking for secondhand bits, start regularly whizzing around your local charity shops to see what you can find - I've managed to pick up some great stocking fillers in the past, as well as some perfect books for family members.
One year I was absolutely delighted to find a load of secondhand stocking fillers on my charity shop trawls, but it was only when the New Year cam round and I was faced with a load of plastic tat to find a home for/throw away that I realised that even if it's secondhand, it's still pretty much 'instant landfill'.
If you end up buying for Aunts and Uncles, and second cousins once removed, consider having 'that conversation'. Do any of them actually need anything? Could you all go out for a day out together in the New Year, and have a proper catch up rather than spending your hard-earned money on something they probably actually don't need or want, out of some sense of obligation to give 'something'.
If you're going to make some of your gifts, be realistic about your skills, and the time you have available. I made some pretty hideous gifts in hindsight, that I'm pretty sure have never seen the light of day since. And that's just as wasteful as buying something new to give that isn't used.
Since then I've come to terms with the fact that my skills with the sewing machine might need some work, and that actually baking is the way to go. I now batch bake biscuits, or things like fudge and macaroons. They all get packaged up in old jam jars, and are generally pretty well received.
Re-use what you already have. This applies to:
When I randomly decided that we would need to make a Christmas tree for our year buying nothing new (being unsure whether buying a real tree technically counted as buying something new) I took to Pinterest to search for some 'pinspiration' for upcycled trees.
And settled on one that used green egg boxes. Can you guess which one was the Pinterest beauty, and which was our attempt to emulate it...?
My childhood Christmas' were all about stacks of gifts, and somewhere along the way our society (and the retailers and advertisers) has persuaded us that more is better. That stuff = happiness. Logically, when we stop and think, we know that this isn't true, but so often when we shop (and it seems especially at Christmas) there is very little logic there - we buy 'because it's Christmas)
Earlier on in our year buying nothing new we had got the news that my mum had cancer. And as much as we all hoped against hope that it wouldn't be the last Christmas we would all get to spend together, sadly it was. I was aware that year that instead of all the gifts and the stuff that my parents had loaded up the car with, all I really wanted was some quality time with my mum - where she wasn't stressed about the gifts, and making sure it was all fair, and worrying about what to buy.
I still struggle with this one. My head knows that Christmas should be about family and friends, about people and experiences, not presents and stuff. That memories are made in the silly games, and snuggling up in front of the fire to watch a film, or dragging the kids out on a Christmas afternoon dog walk. Not in the gifts they're given that are so quickly forgotten. But it's not easy. Pushing back against a lifetime of somewhat excessive gifting. Knowing firsthand the joy and excitement as a child seeing a whole stack of presents. Resisting all the incessant messages from society and advertisers that buying the perfect gift will make for the perfect Christmas is HARD.
But take a minute to stop and think about what you want to Christmas to mean for you and your family, the messages you want to give to your kids about stuff, and the memories you want them to have.
And then start to think about what small changes you can make step by step to get there.
Buying nothing new at all for Christmas is possibly a little extreme. And unless you've already started will probably result in additional stress, and the odd tear or two.
Could you pledge to source a percentage of your gifts 'preloved' or homemade this year? What would feel do-able?
SHOPPING FOR A
Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home: