I was born in the 70’s, so not only were there less people to consume stuff, there also wasn’t a great deal of money around, in our neighbourhood at least. Packaging and marketing weren’t as much of a thing. We didn’t have the internet and hence far less access to imported goods. It feels to me like there was less of everything then, although industry pollution was pretty awful.
Nowadays though, the ability to acquire things almost instantly has become a habit driven by consumerism and profiteering. Import/export of goods, manufacturing and technology have literally exploded in size over the past 30 odd years. Economically this is good (for everyone but for some more than others). Environmentally, this is not so good.
I’ve always been fairly environmentally conscious but due to necessity, made visible by great people, projects and movements, this has become more of a priority than before.
So what kind of things do I do? I often think of new ways dispose of items in more environmentally friendly ways as necessity dictates. For example, I cut my child’s hair yesterday. My husband was quite disturbed that I put the cut hair into the compost bin. Why would I would dispose of this to landfill or to be burned when it’s 100% biodegradable and a great source of nutrition to the soil (as are nail clippings)?
We are culturally conditioned to throwing waste away without thinking where it’s going or what will happen to it… or what COULD happen to it if we give it some thought! A neighbour once told me that a farmer she knew burned sheared sheep’s wool as he didn’t want to bother of selling it or giving it away. I was totally incensed. Animal fibres are also biodegradable and compostable, so my dog’s and cat’s hair also goes in the compost in addition to my own when I clean the brush. Here is a link to a blog post (not mine) from 2009. Some items you will know are biodegradable and others may surprise you; https://www.momtastic.com/webecoist/2009/04/16/22-things-you-didnt-know-you-could-compost/
It’s good to start with making just one thing a habit. It’s not always convenient but as habits form, they are less inconvenient. I have separate bags for different items. One for cat food sachets (all recyclables washed out well with the dish water as I’m washing up. The key is to try not to create a bigger carbon footprint by using more energy than necessary). I also have a bag for bin recyclables, a bag for crisp packets and a council bag for paper. So I’m a bit of a pain to live with, but it’s for a good reason and I’m not returning to throwing these items away. Hopefully more services will be provided for these things in future.
I have replaced my dishwashing kit with biodegradables. Loofahs, coconut fibre and bamboo items are all good to use. Recently, I bought a bio plastic scrubber. Bio plastics are not the best, as many of them aren’t compostable by us mere mortals who don’t have industrial equipment to do the job. However, that said, it’s still one less drop of fossil fuel being used by me in regular plastic. It will possibly be repurposed after use too, in a way I’ve not yet thought of.
I buy stuff in bulk so that overall there is less packaging if I need to buy things in plastic. Here’s a large tub of Faith in Nature biodegradable washing detergent bought recently, along with a pump so I can decant it into smaller existing empty bottles, share around etc. I also buy large boxes of powder (it’s good for your machine to change the type of detergent occasionally, to reduce build up of scale and scum). Last time I finished a box, wiped off the residue and refused the cardboard as packaging. It’s good to know that cardboard is both reusable, recyclable AND biodegradable. I’d love to achieve these qualities for everything I buy as a long term challenge.
There are some pretty amazing local shops that sell sustainable products locally (Waste Not Want Not based at Chesterfield Market) and Steff’s Sustainable Stuff based in Inkersall, where you are warmly invited to bring bottles to fill with decant-able delights. There are also around twenty five environmentally conscious small businesses locally, who use eco friendly practices and have been awarded Chesterfield Plastic Free Championship.
I make my own soap and use basic olive oil as a moisturiser. Will also be developing a solid moisturising bar, plastic free. I did try many times, unsuccessfully (until recently) to ditch plastic shampoo bottles. I just couldn’t get on with soap based shampoo bars. My hair is coloured and I’m on the wrong side of 45, so it’s like barbed wire after using any product on it that it doesn’t like.
I did a ton of research into solid shampoo and happy to say that after a lot of experiments, I’ve made my own and I’m now using that solely, as is my youngest. Working on the other members of the family and gained good feedback from others who’ve used it. Good result. I make my own cleaning products (I will be clear, I follow chemical guidelines around ingredients and usage closely, including preservatives. It’s not worth using stuff I don’t fully understand, or have read from a blog. Some blogs are very good but many have massive holes in their processes and they often contradict each other. Always check the scientific facts!).
These are the main ways I do the bulk of my sustainability but there are many other small changes I make and I like to look for new ways to reduce waste and consumption every day. A good example of this is that I’ve always bought reconditioned laptops for myself (my current laptop was five years old when I bought it)
The amount of tech waste is really high and one thing I need to really do is to clear out my ancient mobile phones. You can take them to various locations, so google it and check with your local council waste disposal team to see if they will take them at your local refuse site.
This is almost a hobby with me, and it’s good to talk with other like minded people, swap ideas and discover new ways to consume, reduce, reuse and recycle. If you’re reading this, you may already have discovered the Plastic Free Chesterfield group. Joining the group has boosted my enthusiasm for this journey no end. It’s really disheartening when it feels you’re the only person who cares or puts effort in. But there is definitely a benefit to feeling that this is a growing community with a common purpose.
Maybe you could like and comment below me know your sustainability routines? I would be interested to hear of your ideas, plans and habits.
Have you already joined the Plastic Free Chesterfield Facebook Group? Check the group and page out here;