It’s driving me crazy

In all honesty, I don’t really like driving anymore. There was a period of time in my life when I did enjoy it, but that was before I moved to London. It was quite pleasant cruising around the Devon countryside in the sunshine in my little Fiesta, listening to music and being free to come and go as I liked, stopping by at the beach on the way home from work. But I lived in the middle of nowhere, with very little public transport infrastructure – I think there was a bus through the village twice a week – so I hadn’t really got much option but to drive, if I ever wanted to go anywhere at all. On the other hand, I find driving around London really stressful and difficult, and try to avoid it wherever possible.

We’ve had a bit of a nail-biting time this week, waiting to find out if the replacement of some broken bit of complicated and staggeringly expensive engine part in our car is going to be covered by the warranty – it is, thankfully. But it did get me thinking about driving again. We use our car very little – the last annual mileage calculation for our insurance renewal was 4000 miles. Of course it’s not always been like this – I probably did 30,000 miles a year when I lived in Devon, with an hour long commute, and various friends to visit in Cornwall and Wales, and family nearer to London. My husband used to work for an auto company, so had a discounted car purchase option and drove to work from our part of London into Essex. Now he cycles to work and I use the bus or my feet for most daily outings with the small one. So the 4000 miles per year is made up of a trip to the supermarket maybe once a week, and the odd weekend day trip or visit to family, and infrequent UK holidays.

I kind of thought that everyone thought like me, that it’s basically completely bonkers to drive short journeys in London, where the traffic is so awful, the roads are so hideous and the public transport infrastructure is so good. But I had dinner with a friend recently in central London who drove into town – Rachelle, you’re a nutter. And I was gobsmacked to see the car park in Greenwich park completely full a couple of weekends ago – just why would you do that, when you can get there by bus/DLR/train? Unless there are mobility reasons to use a car, I just find it baffling.

I read this spoof piece a couple of weeks ago about middle-class mums saving the environment by driving to Waitrose to buy loose cereal – all very funny, but far-fetched, right? Anyone on a mission to reduce their plastic waste would realise that driving for short, frequent and/or unnecessary journeys in incompatible with saving the planet? Then I saw a post on the Facebook page of my local “zero waste” shop of someone saying how they love the shop so much, they don’t mind the 25 minute drive… *facepalm*. It’s on about 19 different bus routes. Sure, you’d need a rucksack if you were stocking up on bulky stuff, and again I’m probably being ablist here, but I think a lot of people could manage it.

I don’t understand all the science, as always, but I understand that 15% of global emissions are caused by transportation, and driving plays a huge part in that. Not to mention the issues driving causes with regard to air pollution. And yet, we have this ridiculous, money draining diesel estate car in our drive which we hardly ever use…. Is it time to do something different? We’ve had this conversation multiple times (usually when something expensive is broken), and always decide that we need to keep the car for holidays, trips to family and big shops. But I am consciously trying to change my way of thinking about it, and not feeling entitled to drive everywhere. We visited a nursery school for the small one yesterday – and very lovely it was too. But it is quite far away – 45 minute walk or 20 minutes on the bus. It would probably be quicker to drive, but I’m refusing to entertain this as an option. I absolutely refuse to become a London mum who drops their kid(s) off to places by car out of convenience – we have to say NO to this way of life, when there’s a very reasonable alternative.

There’s some useful thoughts here about how to manage without a car and how to reduce the carbon footprint of your car. Some other stuff I’ve thought about:

  • You use less petrol if you’re carrying a lighter load, so if you’ve got a ton of stuff in your boot that you don’t need to be driving around, take it out (I used to leave my winter survival kit, including a spade and all sorts of boy scout gear, in the boot all year round – I did eventually thin it out over the summer months).
  • I’m wondering if online shopping is a greener option in terms of economies of scale of delivery driving, but I’m not sure it’s the best option for us right now, as we rely quite heavily on the cheapness of Aldi and they don’t deliver. In less leaner times, I would love to get delivery boxes of fruit and veg and maybe meat… but not right now.
  • Planning ahead and combining journeys is a good strategy – multiple stops in one trip is better than going out several times. Maybe the “25 minutes drive from the zero waste shop” lady was doing that… hope so. But, judge not lest ye be judged and all that.

It’s easy to preach about this stuff, isn’t it? I would have laughed at anyone who told me to reduce my driving when I lived in the middle of Dartmoor on my own. Hmmm. We all have our own circumstances and our own battles. One of these days, we might even buy a hybrid or an electric. (But what’s the environmental impact of electric cars? Fossil fuel for the electricity? Rare minerals being mined to make the batteries? Oh my goodness it’s all so difficult…)

On a more positive note, and a final bit of exciting, cliff-hanger news – The Everyday Radical is going to be on TV on Tuesday! Eeeep. More tomorrow.

How to green your kitchen, part 1

Brilliant ideas often come while drinking wine with my friends, and this one is no exception. Thanks B, you know who you are and you’re a total legend.

Welcome to “Green your kitchen”. Not cleaning, but “greening”. The Organised Mum‘s method of cleaning involves starting in one corner of the room, and moving clockwise around it, to retain focus and make sure everything gets done. (I know, I’m namedropping this a lot at the moment but I honestly think it’s brilliant, and it gives you all a rest from me bashing on about my other hero, Jack Monroe.) So I thought, let’s do it with “greening” instead of cleaning. Over a series of posts (probably quite a lot), I’m going to work my way around my kitchen and assess what progress I’ve made in terms of becoming more eco-friendly, and what next steps there are to take. You may wish to join me on this method and think about your own kitchen… If it feels like a useful approach, we’ll follow this with greening your bathroom, bedroom, etc… The possibilities are endless.

Here’s a couple of photos of my kitchen (it does NOT always look like this, I just cleaned it while the small one is snoozing. We can have a chat about the copious amounts of plastic garden toys which I’ve edited out another time… under “greening your garden”, maybe).

My personal premise as always with this stuff is that it’s a gradual process to having a more sustainably eco-friendly home and lifestyle – some people have been working through this stuff for years, others are just getting started. I’m not sure where I “fit” on that continuum, but the one thing I firmly believe is that the “rid your house of all plastic, immediately” ideology is utter bollocks. I stand firmly by the principle that if you have it, you should use it up. There was a very suspicious element of the War on Plastic documentary where a couple had got rid of all the plastic in their bathroom very quickly and spent lots of money on Pinterest-worthy “zero waste” bathroom stuff. Did they just chuck it all away, unused? My view is that unless is’s obviously super evil stuff that shouldn’t be going down the drain – like cosmetics with microbeads in – it should be used up before disposing of the packaging as best we can. I think we should be respecting the virgin materials that this stuff is made from and make more eco-friendly decisions on an item-by-item basis, as things run out.

So here are some riveting pictures of my cleaning cupboards under the sink (big gap is where the compost caddy lives). These used to be be pretty full, but I’m making a conscious effort to use stuff up and replace with a reduced stock of more eco-friendly options.

There’s a few things I will absolutely not use up, that I’m in the process of giving away, via the Buy Nothing group and Olio. Fabric softener I no longer use – I don’t like the artificial smell and personally view it as unnecessary chemicals. I’ve given away some stainless steel cleaner which I bought when I lived somewhere with a stainless steel hob. Still going begging is some “fabric freshener” from Waitrose, I have no idea why I’ve got this, and some Febreze – anyone want them?

I’ve still got some super evil ant killer (I know, but they were in the cupboards… I couldn’t bear it!) and drain cleaner, and some weird stuff that’s supposed to neutralise the smell of cat poo and wee from when the Fluffbeast had some bladder problems and was peeing behind the TV. Some carpet cleaner which is necessary for cat and toddler puke. Plus mould and mildew remover. I’m sure there are alternative eco versions of all of these, but I haven’t looked into it yet. The small plastic water bottles have got distilled water in for my steam mop – I think if I just used our super-hard tap water, my steam mop would scale up and die. My amazing mum brings the water form their tumble-drier for me and we reuse the bottles. I’ve still got some evil plastic washing up sponges left, since swapping to Euroscrubbys we are using these up for fun jobs like scrubbing the barbecue and the highchair every now and again. They’re destined for incineration via our general waste anyway, so they might as well be used first (although they probably also leach microplastics when rinsed? It’s a minefield).

I’ve dumped my trusty Mr Sheen – this was a long-term relationship and I’m still grieving, but it was for the best. Replacing chemical spray from a hard-to-recycle can with damp dusting is a pretty easy switch really, and damp dusting is better for allergy sufferers too, as it traps all the dust into the cloth rather than wafting it around the room (thanks for this one, Gem).

I’m getting into the habit of keeping used dishcloths and tea towels separate, to add to hotter washes. In due course I’m going to look into getting a guppy bag to wash non-cotton stuff – to reduce microplastics leaching into the water course. I’m slightly on the fence about this, as I’m not sure what to do with the residue – so more research required.

Now the exciting bit… I’ve got a stash of empty spray bottles that I’ve saved up to take to my local zero waste shop and fill up with vegan, biodegradable, plastic free cleaning materials. (I will have a rant some time about the phrase “zero waste” and how misleading it is, but not now, as this is a good news story.)

Thus far, I’ve got window and glass cleaner and the multi-surface cleaner made by Sesi, the latter of which can be quite significantly diluted so will last a long time. It was nowhere near as expensive as I expected it to be, and it’s an easy bus ride form home, or about a mile walk away from somewhere I go every week, so I won’t be driving there and undoing my otherwise good work (maybe I’m going to rant about this some time too).

I’m also getting hold of a bulk-sized bottle of white vinegar soon (again via the Buy Nothing gang, it’s a quite remarkable project really), so I will have a crack at making my own cleaning stuff in due course.

I’m a fair bit away from a plastic and chemical-free cleaning arsenal, but I feel like progress has been made since I started really actively thinking about this stuff – around April, I think.

So, I hope that wasn’t too boring. This is the journey, folks. It’s not always glamorous or sexy but it can be radical to rethink every purchase decision you make, every item in your home, and choose to do it better.

Magic and Sparkles?

Anyone thinking about Christmas yet…? I realise that talking about Christmas in September may be almost as controversial as Brexit, but as far as I’m concerned, once the Quality Street tins are in the shops, all bets are off. Anyway, I’m following The Organised Christmas plan this year, in an attempt to get into good habits for future years, when there’s more child-related madness, and possibly more children. The idea is that you get everything done by December 1st, then just concentrate on having a nice time. Super Mum stuff, really. We’ll see…

But the problem I have here is that I sort of hate a lot of what Christmas has become. I love the eating and drinking, watching films, going for wintry walks and being with family (mostly!). I just bloody hate the consumerist crap and all the useless, pointless s**t that we are encouraged to buy that we don’t need. Back in the days when I was more spiritually invested in Christmas, it used to really upset me that all this consumption was a far cry from the “real” meaning of Christmas. Now I’m less attached to the religious aspect, but even more bothered by the environmental impact. All that extra food wrapped in plastic, all those plastic toys which might be played with for a few minutes and then discarded, destined for landfill or incineration. (Funnily enough I feel less guilt-ridden about the empty wine bottles, but we can talk about glass recycling another time. And please, God, can someone find me a plastic free cheeseboard selection? Because that’s one sacrifice too many for me right now).

So I’m searching for good news stories about what companies are doing to mitigate the impact of Christmas and I came across this – Marks and Spencer are banning glitter from their cards, crackers, wrapping paper and calendars this Christmas, in a bid to reduce the volume of microplastics ending up in the ocean. They’re following in the footsteps of Tesco, who’ve switched to plastic-free glitter for their Christmas range of plants, trees and flowers, and Aldi, who’ve banned glitter from their Halloween range this year. Hobbycraft have launched biodegradable glitter and promised to be totally plastic glitter free by 2021, and Waitrose have made a similar pledge to Mark and Spencer, but by 2020. Even Strictly Come Dancing have banned glitter. So it’s great that companies are paying attention to consumer pressure on the plastic issue and taking action.

So why can’t we just, well, ban it completely? It’s not like straws where there’s a credible need for some people to use them (interesting stuff on this here). Does anyone need plastic glitter? I don’t think so. There’s a petition here calling for a total ban – please consider signing it, cos we all know how much notice this Government takes of petitions…

I’m thinking that, like so many aspects of the Christmas consumption-fest, we’ve been conditioned to think that we need sparkly stuff to make it “Christmassy”. But we just don’t. We need family and community and love, and ideally a bit of feasting. I want to read some more stuff about the history of Christmas, how we got to where we are now and how far away now we are from the original mid-winter Saturnalia festival. One thing I’m sure of is that we need to radically think our ideas of “magic and sparkles” if we want to celebrate our festivals in a way that’s respectful to Mother Earth.

What’s Brexit got to do with it?

Sorry, I know everyone is sick to death of the B word. But I just can’t not write about it. I said the other day that the wider planetary climate crisis we are facing is more important than Brexit – I don’t think that’s in any doubt. But what’s happening at the moment – in Parliament today and over the weekend – is so unprecedented that if you have any interest whatsoever in current affairs or politics, you can’t help but be absorbed by it.

I’ve got to admit, I voted quite intuitively. I don’t have a degree in European politics (although Mr Everdayradical does), and there is a lot about the mechanics of the EU that I don’t understand. But I felt that the claims of unelected bureaucrats wielding too much power over us were not valid – not only are EU politicians elected in a more representative way than our own parliament (proportional representation rather than first past the post), but there’s also a ton of unelected people who have a lot of power in the UK – the House of Lords, the permanent staff in various ministries and government departments, and the civil service. So should we get rid of them too, in the name of “taking back control?” Also, I’ve got lots of European friends and I couldn’t ally myself with the frankly odious narrative of Farage and co. and the dodgy dealings of the Leave campaign.

Moreover, the world wars aren’t really that distant a memory – the “European project” has been successful in that we haven’t had another pan-European war, and I feel strongly that we are stronger together than we are apart. Anyway, I’m digressing from the point here and I’m sure some readers will feel I’m boring you with my own Remoaner views (actually, I’m a revoker, but it’s semantics really.)

I haven’t researched this super widely, but here’s my thoughts on the impact of Brexit on the environment and the climate crisis.

While our politicians are exclusively focussed on Brexit, they’re not doing anything about climate change, not tackling plastic pollution, not promoting renewable energy or alternative modes of transport. No deal planning is costing billions, which could be spent on much more useful issues. The UK has become the world’s biggest buyer of fridges, to stockpile medicines – this is according to the Health Minister, so it’s not Project Fear. And I’m pretty sure they’re not buying fridges on eBay or from car boot sales… Lorry queues from Dover could reach as far as Maidstone. All the traffic jams will increase air pollution – remember how much criticism Extinction Rebellion came under in London in the spring for their blockades causing congestion and increased pollution? (Sorry, it’s the Daily Express, don’t click it if you don’t want to read their particular brand of wisdom). This is going to be a whole different level.

There are some clearer-cut environmental reasons to be concerned about Brexit too. 80% of our environmental laws come from the EU – these could be lost, weakened or harder to enforce after Brexit. A no deal Brexit won’t allow time to update our environmental protection laws to function properly after exit day. Friends of the Earth outline on their Brexit campaign page the UK government’s poor track record on things like air pollution, and how the EU has intervened and enforced improvement. There’s also serious concerns about food safety and farming after Brexit. Chlorinated chicken aside, if EU migrant workers leave the UK in droves after Brexit, farmers will struggle to fill seasonal low-paid and insecure farming jobs, meaning that less produce can be grown and harvested in the UK. So more food will have to be imported, with an increased carbon footprint, whilst making a balanced and healthy diet more expensive and less accessible to all.

There’s another measured article from The Ecologist here. Personally, unlike Michael Gove, I quite like experts, and a lot of them are worried. The only silver lining I can see – and I’m scrabbling about here, really I am – is that a major economic crisis and recession, which many economists are predicting, might make us think twice about consumerism. What happens if loads of manufacturers go bust? Will we discover that we didn’t really need the stuff that they made anyway? I know it’s more complex than that, as people’s livelihoods are at stake, but I’m searching for a positive spin and this is the best I can manage.

So what can we do? Take to the streets to #StopTheCoup, if you’re braver than me. Sign this. Educate yourself on the potential environmental impact of Brexit. Think really deeply about who you’d vote for in a General Election. Stock up on beans. Watch BBC Parliament obsessively. Hope for the best.

(I’m going to try and write something slightly less depressing later in the week about businesses who are actually doing positive stuff to tackle plastic pollution. Hang on in there, kids.)

Autumn is coming! September resolutions, and a competition!

It’s nearly autumn…. aaaaahhhh… I love autumn.

And you don’t need to be going back to school with a shiny new pencil case to make some September resolutions.

This blog is all about making small, sustainable lifestyle changes to help the environment. Some of the switches I’ve made so far include:

  • ditching shower gel and going back to the bar with The Good Soap.
  • I’ve also switched to refillable Faith in Nature shampoo and conditioner from the Shop Without Packaging, which is an amazing shop that I feel very fortunate enough to live within a bus journey of.
  • I’ve ditched furniture polish and swapped to damp dusting, and started using refills of cleaning products.
  • I’ve ditched clingfilm and embraced my Tupperware collection.
  • I’m making much more effort towards plastic-free food shopping.
  • I’m having a serious stab at Buy Nothing as a lifestyle change – this is my September/”rest of year” resolution.

There’s SO much more I could be doing, so much more we could all be doing. The choices seem overwhelming, and there are opposing views on so many things – are paper bags really better than plastic? Are compostable bags actually compostable? Do you need a degree in biochemistry to understand this stuff? Should we all go vegan, or is it enough just to boycott South American meat and buy local and organic? Should we all stop flying and using petrol/diesel cars? The challenges and the decisions are huge.

Can we as individuals really do anything to turn the tide on plastic pollution and climate change? Personally, I believe that we must put the pressure on our governments and corporations to lead the change, through voting, petitions, protests, and withdrawing our custom from environmental offenders. And by joining XR protests and being prepared to get arrested? Maybe.

So after the hiatus over the summer, I’m refocusing my attention on these thoughts and decisions and relaunching the blog. I have an absolutely HUGE list of things to research and write about, and I hope I can help people to think these decisions through, maybe make some changes in their own lives, and contribute to the voices already calling out for change.

SO. Competition time. Like and share the newly launched Everyday Radical Facebook page, or like and retweet this post and follow @TheEverydayRad1 on Twitter, for a change to win a £25 gift voucher from The Good Soap – bonus prize draw for new followers of the blog via WordPress too. Help me spread the word, and tell my your September eco resolutions!

Peace and love

xx

Back to school – no shiny new pencil cases here #BuyNothing

I remember the back to school feeling SO well. I actually was a huge geek and loved school, so I never had that sense of dread some people talk about. I also love autumn and the air becoming nice and crisp and cool again (I am not a fan of heatwaves – so, y’know, let’s try and fix climate change, people). Even in the *many* years since leaving education, I get a bit of a “turning over a new leaf” feeling at the beginning of the new academic year, and September resolutions have been made (and broken) over several years.

Anyway… I’m basically reminiscing here about stationery and how much I love it (thanks to my old friend @momorgan for pointing out my mortifying series of spelling mistakes in this post, now edited). The new school year was ALL about stationery. We got new exercise books for each subject at school, even if last year’s weren’t full. I always used to have a new pencil case, and sometimes a new fountain pen. Also often a new rucksack at the start of each school year – mainly because the previous year’s one had been poor quality and the strap had broken under the groaning weight of library books, cookery ingredients and maths homework.

But I’ve still got my Miffy pencil case from 1993. Which makes me think… I probably didn’t need a new one every year, did I? But the consumer machine teaches us that we Need All The New Stuff Every Year. The kids deserve a treat, their friends will all have new stuff, they don’t like Paw Patrol anymore. And the Back to School concept can also be used to sell stuff to adults – there’s a whole marketing strategy here. Buy a gym membership or get a new hairdo to celebrate the kids having gone back to school, buy a new laptop to get that “shiny pencil case feeling”, even though you’re 48 and you don’t like Paw Patrol either.

I keep coming back, over and over again, to the realisation that one of the only ways to turn the tide on climate change and plastic pollution is to stop buying stuff, to stop generating demand for the production of new things and the carbon footprint generated by their manufacture, and the pollution caused by their eventual disposal. So I have launched, with a new local friend of mine, a South East London branch of the Buy Nothing Project (it’s originally an American concept – we do not use their acronym!) Have a read – it’s an interesting concept – a hyper-local gift economy enabling people to give, share and ask for things they need, where members of the community can get to know each other and commit “myriad random acts of kindness”. Sounds great, yes? It is. It’s also a bit of a mind shift for people used to a “first come first served” model like that used in Freecycle and most Facebook selling groups. We are building momentum though and it’s amazing seeing gifts being given, needs being met and friendships developing.

We’ve done a “Back to school” event over the weekend and seen people sharing uniform, stationery, rucksacks and of course pencil cases. All of this is preventing us from having to buy new, reducing our environmental impact and building relationships in our community.

So… to finish off. I’m feeling bloody depressed about Brexit right now, and the state of democracy in this country – it feels like all I see is division everywhere. I’m oscillating from feeling powerless and trying not to think about it, to wanting to go and chain myself to something and finding ways to rage against the machine. But actually the EU is less important than planet as a whole, and we mustn’t lose sight of that. And I think there are ways we can radically shift our mindset about consumption and possessions, while also increasing social cohesion and a sense of belonging in our communities, which we clearly sorely need at the moment.

If you are interested in setting up a Buy Nothing group, give me a shout and I will send you the info. At the very least, check out Freecyle and second hand sites before you hit the shops, next time you need to buy something. Even a pencil case. I’m not giving you my Miffy one though.

In which we have a little nap

You may have noticed a small hiatus in posts…

Life has slightly been getting in the way over the last week or so – including re-establishing the small one’s naps after camp, which is VERY important to me. I don’t care that much about routine, but he does – and I definitely care about getting some time during the day to do other things (mainly, this).

Also, I’ve got that shiny-new-pencil-case feeling about the beginning of September, I know we are not yet at the “back to school” phase but it always feels a bit like that to me. So I’m just clearing the boring to do list, and brewing some ideas for a bit of a relaunch of the blog.

I’ve got a ton of ideas of things to write about, but I’m also interested to know what people want to read about. Brexit, Trump, this bloody heatwave and the rainforest fires (not necessarily in that order) have made me feel kind of depressed and anxious of late, and I just want this blog to be my little protest in my little corner. Maybe it can become something bigger with a bit of support from you guys (and a bit of research about SEO – this is search engine optimisation, apparently, and you have to know about this stuff to get more people to read your blog), and maybe it can do some good out there in the world. Cos we sure as hell need it right now.

Meanwhile, until next week, let’s go nap naps. Then wake up for snack snacks… oh not, that’s not you… Well, you can have snack snacks if you want. We like rice cakes and peanut butter round here.

Peace and love x

#SaturdaySwitch – lists, and also some amazing bloggers

Aaaaaah. Stationery. Mmmmmmm. My heart rate increases a little bit when I go into a branch of Paperchase. My pupils dilate when I walk down the stationery aisle in Sainsbury’s. I want it ALL. All the notebooks, all the nice brightly-coloured rollerball pens. Want, want, want. All, all, all. Covet, covet, covet.

And I love lists. I love crossing jobs off to do lists. I love having an amazingly complete and perfect and colour-coded to do list of all the things I have to do, ever. I love categorising lists. I’ve also been known to have a list of all the lists (to be fair, I was turning my life upside down and moving to London with no job and nowhere to live, so I think you can forgive me a few lists in pink pen to give me an illusion of control).

But paper is of course made of trees. And trees are amazing and my instinctive feeling is that it’s pretty obviously better not to chop them down. There is of course a circular argument that many trees are grown specifically to make paper, so if there was less demand for paper then those trees would not exist, and their carbon absorption benefit would be lost. But equally, even sustainable growth of trees for paper-marking has an environmental impact. Of course paper can be recycled, and 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared to making it from raw materials. But of course, as always, it’s complicated, and there is a footprint to the recycling process. So the first steps, again as always, are to reduce and reuse.

So I’m working on the Buy Nothing project this week (more on this soon – it’s going to save the world, I tell you). There’s a ton of stuff to do, and my co-creator has shared the Wunderlist app with me – so I’m giving up my personal paper-based to do list… Can I also give up my shopping list, weekly meal plan and other random ramblings that I keep in my nice green notepad? We shall see…

Meanwhile, the totally incredible Gemma Bray at The Organised Mum has just released an app of her awesome system of organising household jobs. So if you’re into this sort of thing – and following her plan has been a sanity saver for me – then do check it out. It will save you the need to write any housework lists, ever again.

And just because I love to plug other awesome bloggers who’ve had a really positive impact on my life, and because I have an enormous girl crush on her, I want to tell you that Jack Monroe has just released a new book of vegan recipes, for pre-order to arrive on Boxing Day. Perfect for the post Christmas health kick and/or Veganuary. We’ll chat about the concept of Veganish again some time…

Second-hand September – or buy nothing, ever again?

I posted about No Buy July a while ago. We made a pretty good stab at it, and I was intending to carry it into August. But it’s amazing how quickly old habits return. When we got back from camping, I was feeling a bit down to be honest – I had found the trip pretty hard going, then been really ill when we got home with a stomach bug, which I thought at one point might be Lyme disease from a tick bite (dramatic, moi?), so I’d trooped off to the local Emergency Department on the advice of 111 to wait four hours to be given antibiotics (there’s a whole other blog to be written about the world views of an ex-NHS manager on the state of the public sector today, butI’m not going to be writing it any time soon).

Within a couple of days of getting home, I’d bought chocolate, which is not allowed in our house except in dire emergencies, otherwise we binge eat. I also bought two new tops from Asda, which were super cheap – I have done no direct research on this, but I expect Asda are pretty low down the list when it comes to disastrous fast fashion. And I bought some reallllly lush pyjamas from Marks and Spencer. I LOVE nice pyjamas. So I succumbed to this learned habit that all us good capitalist citizens have been trained to obey – when you feel blue, buy something new. And/or eat some sugar.

There were big posters all over Marks and Spencer about sustainably sourced cotton, and their corporate website says that they have achieved their target of 100% sustainably sourced cotton in March 2019, and are aiming to increase the proportion of Fairtrade, organic and recycled sources to 25% by 2025. I haven’t read all the information about what this actually means, but it’s gone a little way towards assuaging my guilt, particularly given the enormous amount of baby clothes I’ve bought from M&S over the past two years.

Anyway, sustainable or not, my view is still that it’s better to buy as little new as possible. I’ve got over my antipathy to eBay and started buying and selling stuff on there – the root of the antipathy is basically that I thought it was a huge load of hassle to upload items for sale, and that to buy stuff you had to invest huge amounts of time in watching bids, but actually it can be done much more simply, and you can buy pretty much anything. I’ve bought an OS map, some leggings for me (which I thought might be a bit ick but were totally fine), and some clothes for the ever-growing small one, plus some books and an amazing Melissa and Doug latch board, which he loves.

Oxfam are running a Second Hand September campaign, asking people to pledge to buy no new clothes in September and highlighting the environmental impact of fast fashion. 11 million items of clothing go to landfill every week, just in the UK. This terrifies me. I have a bunch of other interesting references and articles about fast fashion to share sometime when I’ve got the concentration span for a more analytical post, but for now, here’s some rambling reflections.

There must be enough clothes in the world for everyone, for a really long time. When you expand your brain and think about what would happen if we just stopped manufacturing clothes and bought or gifted second-hand only, it’s kind of mind-blowing. What would the economic impact be? What would happen to everyone whose jobs depend on making and selling new clothes? But what would happen within our communities if we shared, gifted, traded used clothing as a matter of course? What would happen if Saturday shopping centre trips to buy new clothes wasn’t a hobby anymore? What would people do instead? It’s mega.

Anyway, maybe take the Oxfam pledge for September and see how you feel. Maybe join the Extinction Rebellion fashion boycott. Check out eBay, Facebook marketplace and selling groups, car boot sales, or charity shops if you’re not dragging a toddler around with you. Weirdly, the small one likes markets and supermarkets but he HATES charity shops. I get three minutes browsing time, max.

I’m writing it here now to make it real – I’m not buying anything new for me or the small one, for the rest of the year. And I’m going to have a crack at second-hand Christmas too…

Meanwhile (and this is the reason for the posting hiatus, alongside a non-napping small person cutting some teeth), I’m working with a new local friend to launch a local Buy Nothing Project group. It’s ridiculously exciting but also a bit scary. More soon.

Belated #SaturdaySwitch and reflections on camping with a toddler

So we’ve been home for a few days now after our camping adventure at Rise Up Singing. I was expecting our first camp with a toddler to be hard work and I wasn’t wrong (sometimes it’s good to prepare for the worst, right?) Nappy changes in a tent with a wriggling, protesting, octopus-like toddler are a challenge and my post-pregnancy body definitely needs a better camping bed solution. It feels unfair to be more exhausted at the end of a “holiday” than at the start. Not to mention the fact that I managed approximately two thirds of one singing workshop, and a handful of fragmented conversations with friends. Some acceptance still needed as to how different this camp was, in comparison to all those years attending as a child-free person, learning five new songs a day and jamming with great singers until the small hours by the fire.

BUT the small one loved it – lots of free range rampaging, chucking 4987 stones into the stream and being allowed to eat Mini Cheddars and raisins for most meals (this is not a child who likes kale, yet). And we had some awesome walks in the woods, small one on the Daddy Donkey.

So anyway. Being in the amazingly beautiful Dartmoor countryside brings it all home in a really intense way (no camping puns here) what’s at stake, as we progress on our journey to protect Mother Earth from destruction. And I have to admit that amidst the mountain of washing, an intense post-camp stomach bug which at one point I thought might be Lyme disease from an infected tick bite (TBC by blood tests next week but I think unlikely as I’m now almost better), I almost felt like giving up.

It’s so hard. Aeroplanes fly over our house almost every minute in London and there’s next to nothing we can do about it. The supermarkets are full to the brim of plastic and it’s so much effort and expense to do plastic-free food shopping. The internet is still full of people arguing about how to save the world in the best way, while being quite rude to each other. We have a new PM and cabinet who don’t care about anything except hard Brexit. McDonalds paper straws aren’t recyclable. Or they are. Or it doesn’t matter. People leave litter in the park and put the wrong stuff in the plastic bag recycling at Sainsbury’s – which might not matter if it all ends up in an eastern European landfill or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

But – this, guys. This.

https://www.pinns.co.uk/devon/hemburywoods.html

And this.

http://holidayindartmoor.co.uk/buckfast/hembury-woods-circular-walk-36110.html

(The rest of my photos were rubbish so these are stolen images of Hembury woods, but this is where we were, and it’s magnificent).

So onwards with the changes, onwards with the small steps – and gathering courage and strength for the big ones.

While away I did chemical deodorant detox (thanks, hippy friends, for tolerating this) and I’ve started using the new plastic-free natural one this week (as per The Great Deodorant Experiment). I’ve also ditched shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in favour of this conditioning shampoo soap bar which can be used on hair and body. And, sort of without thinking about it I’ve ditched face wash for this really gorgeous tea tree and peppermint face soap. My skin is feeling great, I don’t think I smell too awful and my hair is… taking some getting used to… but I’m persevering. Everything from The Good Soap Company came packaged in paper and card too, absolutely no plastic, and very good service. Highly recommended.

This really useful article suggests how to go about making the switch to a shampoo bar if you’re considering it. My hair is still feeling a bit waxy so I’m researching other methods e.g. lathering the soap first rather than applying the bar straight to your hair, doing extra rinses etc. I will keep you posted. I think a plastic-free bathroom is likely to be achieved sooner in our house than a plastic-free kitchen.

So. August continues and I have a bunch of cat sitting jobs coming up (yes, I am a multi-talented beast indeed), plus you’re all on holiday anyway, so blog posts may be less frequent for a few weeks. I’ve got some ideas for a bit of a relaunch in September, so I will be nagging for likes and shares and all that stuff. Back soon. Ish.