During a fantastic and long overdue catch-up with my friend Lucy recently (she of Lulastic fame) we started talking about how stuff you read actually changes how you live. And how so often it doesn’t. Why does some stuff inspire us but fail to make any kind of practical, lasting impact? (Or are you less flaky than me?).
My best answer, then and now, is: people who are changing with you. It’s really hard to stick at something on your own and find the energy to against the flow in any kind of sustained way without company. The pressure to default to the norm is just too great. We need company.
The stuff I (we) have changed and stuck to in our lives in the last few years – making space in our busy schedules to build relationships with our neighbours, cutting back on flights and meat consumption and wider consumerism, walking and cycling as much as pos, trying to parent in an economical, attachment-y kind of a way, even giving up shampoo – they’re things that we’ve done in community. In the company of others (some with bigger crowds, some with a tiny crew).
So that got me thinking about all the things we haven’t done. Things that I feel inspired, convicted even, to change, and yet have not managed. I’m a big fan of honest journeys, and being able to come clean about our limitations and failures. So here is my list of really worthwhile lifestyle changes to which I aspire (in relation to simplicity and green living) that we just don’t do right now. Confession time.
1. Produce only a modest amount of household rubbish.
We produce loads of rubbish, and I completely hate that it ends up somewhere on this planet damaging the environment. I just don’t know how to get better at this. We recycle loads, and I even tried something called a rubbish diet a while back, only nothing seemed to make much of a difference. It’s nearly all food packaging…and how do you buy food without packaging, short of spending a day a week traipsing on foot around food co-ops and greengrocers??
2. Have solar panels
Living in a flat where the council are responsible for all external walls/roofs etc limits our options here right not, but I wouldn’t even know where to start. And costs??
3. Compost our food waste
We did used to have worm bins, but then the worms died. And our local recycling services don’t extend to food waste. That is a fairly rubbish excuse though, given that we have a beautiful garden farm at the end of our road and they collect compost; but I’ve never actually managed to get on top of what type of food waste (it’s quite specific what they’ll take), get a good container, and make regular trips. I really want to get going with this when we move, especially if we have any outside space (because then we could fertilise our own plants with lovely organic compost!).
4. Go completely veggie/get closer to it
We try not to eat meat in the week, but we often fail. I default to what’s already in the freezer (which my kind mother often restocks), partly because it takes more imagination to cook veggie meals. Even though I have plenty of inspiration from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
5. Cycle everywhere
We live on a cycle super-highway (!), and the cycling gets pretty intense in our neighbourhood. I’m not hugely confident about cycling with a toddler in the inner-city (let alone on a super-highway), but I don’t exactly make a beeline for the bikes when I’m out and about alone. Work is a good ten miles away and I just can’t quite bring myself to face the ordeal. I do like cycling, I’ve just never managed to make it a habit. And now being preggers is another convenient excuse.
I should point out that Andy is (literally) miles ahead of me on this, and relies almost entirely on Boris bikes to get around London.
6. Never use toxic chemicals to clean the house
There was a time when I mainly used bicarbonate of soda to clean, and the occasional Method or Ecover product (cue eye roll from my mother). But then we got a cleaner who sent me out with a shopping list of hardcore chemicals she required. And I caved. And then she quit (was our house just too dirty?). So now I have a whole hodgepodge of things and feel conflicted.
7. De-clutter a la Marie Kondo
You may have read about our adventures with de-cluttering. I kind of really really want to read the book everyone is talking about and at the same time am a little bit scared and don’t want to spend money on it. I do always want some help with simplifying our living space (and was insanely grateful for the consultation I had earlier in the year from Sarah Bickers of Free Your Space). We recently massively de-cluttered in a temporary fashion as we put our flat on the market (full story coming soon) and wanted to persuade potential buyers that we lived in a beautiful elegant and minimalist fashion. And we really liked it. It seemed to help us eliminate unnecessary things in a way that made us feel calmer and happier. But I default to something less elegant and more chaotic which probably says something about my state of mind and confused sense of purpose!
8. Grow a reasonable portion of our veggie intake.
Tomatoes are really the only success I have had on our balcony. I just never seem to make plant care an actual regular habit.
9. Never go to Tesco
It’s not just Tesco, there’s a list of supermarkets which are fairly horrendous when it comes to their ethics and supply chain. But they all seem to be nearby and I’m always dipping in. We have some good habits (deliveries from better companies) but there always seems a reason to nip in on the way home. And everyone does it (is what I say to myself). Occasionally when I manage to do some meal planning I cut down on the regular top-up trips, but it’s a dirty habit I struggle to break.
10. The flying thing
I fly a LOT less than I did, but that’s more because of our stage of life than any radical decisions I’ve made. And we have family in Northern Ireland. We could obviously drive and take the ferry to get there, but I just can’t face it with a toddler. So at least once a year without fail we jump on a plane, and I just can’t imagine what would persuade me to make the epic road trip.
So that’s all my excuses. I’m hoping to push through some of them, if I can only find some company…by