Running out of thyme – and the end of #BuyNothing September

I ran out of thyme this week. Sorry folks, it’s just too good a pun not to write about.

I’ve got quite a respectable stash of these herb and spice jars. I think it’s loosely based on a list from one of Jack Monroe‘s books of essential ingredients to have in your store cupboard. As someone who’s always striving to cook from scratch more creatively, it’s handy to rarely have to buy extra herbs and spices to add to recipes I’m trying out. They’re all supermarket bought though – the glass jars are recyclable but the lids almost definitely not. The label says “check locally”, but even if they were the right kind of plastic to be recycled, I expect they would get lost in the sorting machines at recycling plants and end up in landfill (I promise I’m going to write some more in the Recycling 101 series soon about all these random recycling thoughts).

My plan has always been to replace things with zero/low waste options as and when they ran out. So off I trooped to SWOP with my empty thyme jar to see what could be done. Sure enough, there’s a herbs and spices section, so I refilled my little jar using one of their funnels from a big jar of dried organic Spanish thyme… and held my breath at the till, expecting to pay a major eco-premium (plus an organic premium).

A 17g jar of own brand dried thyme in Asda costs 69p. A Schwarz brand-named packet (now in cardboard, not glass jars anymore it seems) is £1.37 for 11g. My refilled jar (not completely full but probably close to 17g) was 35p. So the lesson, boys and girls, is that eco and low waste is NOT ALWAYS more expensive… it’s pretty hard to predict which products are going to be cheaper and which are going to shock you with their prices, but I guess it’s all a learning game. And learning takes thyme. Ahaaaa. (I’m here all week).

Meanwhile, it’s now October! (Hurray for autumn!) Which means that Oxfam’s #SecondHandSeptember campaign is over. I wrote about this here – essentially it was a campaign to encourage people not to buy new clothes for a month, to raise awareness of the environmental impact of fast fashion. It was quite interesting watching the social media chat around this. For huge amounts of people, not buying anything new for a month is not a challenge at all. Loads of people people very rarely or never buy new clothes, for financial reasons as well as environmental. But some people are really interested in fashion and really want to wear the latest trends. I find this hard to understand to be honest, but no doubt there are some people who would find my book collection weird and extreme, and see it as a waste of trees (this is another post I will write one day – but I am procrastinating on it in a BIG way…) Anyway, I think Oxfam got the promo slightly wrong and were mainly preaching to the converted, but I’m not sure what the alternative is, and anything which raises awareness of the harmful impact of fast fashion on the environment is of course a good thing.

We were aiming for Buy Nothing September, or ever again… so how is my pledge to buy nothing new for myself or the small one until the end of the year going?

Well, pretty good actually. I’ve bought groceries, toiletries, food and medicine for the cat. I’ve bought some more clothes on eBay for the small one – he’s moving into the next size bracket so everything is getting too small all at the same time. I also bought myself a second hand copy of the novel of Les Miserables to read in my copious spare time, after going to see the staged concert of the musical last weekend at the Gielgud theatre. And just as an aside – OMactualG – beg, borrow or steal a ticket to get the chance to see this if you can, it was amazing. And it got me thinking about revolution and rebellion and being more radical, hence my desire to sit quietly at home and read the book…

Anyway. It’s been Mr Everyday Radical’s birthday this month, and I did buy him a new book – The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace-Wells, which is about the impact climate change is going to have on our planet unless we take radical action. Uplifting stuff. I must confess I have a bad habit of buying him books as presents that I want to read myself. But that book is the sum total of new consumer goods that have entered our house in the month of September. (My mum also bought new shoes and some socks for the small one – does that count? Generous Grandma privilege remains sacred, I think).

Then on 1st October my son’s buggy broke on the bus, I had a huge meltdown and had to buy him a new travel buggy at Mothercare to use while we get it fixed. I also bought him a fluffy onesie for the winter in the sale. Because I buy new stuff when stressed. I also bought a Wispa to share with my mum, to help us recover from the bus trauma. The small one’s 2nd birthday was also 1st October, and he’s had some lovely presents (some new, and plastic – which is fine by me because they’re not single use, they will be passed on and I refuse to ban people from buying him stuff because that would make me mean and a rude twat, frankly). But I think on balance we are doing pretty well.

I’m working up to Christmas… I want to buy this for him SO much, because he would LOVE it, but it feels like it would be practically against my religion. Hmmm. I was going to do another installment of Motherhood, Consumption and Guilt one day wasn’t I? Watch this space.

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.