Monday, 24 January 2011

One month on: my living As Sustainable As Possible Pledge

Taking the ASAP pledge was a welcome start at just about the right time. The thing about making a pledge is that you take something seriously, make a commitment, and it's a start on a journey that may take you further than you initially thought. Not always, but if it comes at the point where it fits in with stuff that you've been trying to get your head around, it can be the start of quite a lot of things.

Of course I'm not pretending that I've turned my life around in a month. Far from it. It's just that it's a welcome start which could possibly lead to a bit more than just fulfilling my pledge.

So, what have I been up to in my quest to live more sustainably (or even finding out what living as sustainably as possible might mean in my humble world):
I've not bought any veg/fruit in plastic containers. It's quite easy to do that. It's sometimes the more expensive option, but on the whole I'm actually saving money, and this is how:

I've also tried to buy as locally as possible. We already get a vegetable bag delivery from an organic Scottish producer. There's so much in it that we'll have to reduce our order because I'm running out of freezer space for soup. I'm amazed how much of a difference having this weekly bag makes to my cooking and shopping habits. I've saved money on the weekly shopping, I almost never shop at any of the big supermarkets now although we used to do all our shopping there, and I've expanded my cooking skills. It's an all win situation. I've also effectively eliminated the weekly car trip to the supermarket, a sore thumb in our family time as I can't do it on my own with two kids, it was usually a family outing - time that could have been spent in a much nicer way.

How does it all work? Well, I try to use up all the delivery and because it's so much I cook from scratch and use much less of ready made items. I never thought this would actually save money, but it does. It also translates to less packaging, less plastic, less landfill.

Next, we got this leaflet from our local dairy through the door and found out that they do milk deliveries in plastic bottles. Perfect, milk delivered to our door at 5am and no more plastic milk bottles (which up to now were collected for the nursery's project to build a milk bottle green house, but they now have collected enough).

In the supermarket (that'll be the co-op rather than Tesco/Asda now because I can do my weekly shopping in the window between nursery drop off and rhyme time start, half an hour is all it takes) I've tried to stick to products with less packaging, fair trade, UK produce and, to reduce waste, in large packages. 240 teabags instead of 80. It's tricky because we haven't got much space, but with more fresh food we don't need as many tins anymore. Magically, there's now space in the cupboard. Space that can be used for large bags of rice and pasta, tea, etc.

Going shopping on a weekly basis also makes me realise the type of packaging that accumulates. Once again, the cartons are sore in my eye because our local council doesn't recycle cardboard and there are a lot of cardboard boxes in my shopping. Cardboard is better than plastic, but still. They could be avoided and I might consider this (different cereals, no more snack bars - that alone would at least reduce my cardboard waste by two thirds).

I'm considering taking up the rubbish diet challenge to learn a bit more about types of packaging and how to reduce my rubbish, although I'm not ambitious enough to manage a zero waste week (as much as I admire people who manage this!).

One other biggie for me is the ever present child's lunch bag in cafes. Cubling insist on it. Big cardboard box with a half sandwich (white bread), crisps (more packaging and not exactly healthy), an apple (which Cubling won't eat) and a juice in a carton (more packaging) - value about £1, cost between £3 and £4. I try to take a picnic lunch but sometimes I don't, and we end up with these lunch bags more often than not. Of course I'm in control of what my daughter can have, and maybe there will be a lunch bag ban (difficult if you're with other kids who are having them). There will be protest but maybe eventually she will understand why they are not a good idea.

So a few changes that seem realistic. And as with everything, once you've changed your habits, it'll become natural. And then I can tackle another few things on the list. And bit by bit, small steps make an increasingly bigger difference.

Time and time again I've read about how it's not about totally turning your lifestyle around, but about making those little changes, one step at a time, and before you know it you're on a journey that leads you to new and exciting places. Reducing your consumption and your waste by 1% is infinitely better than not doing anything. Because even starting the thinking process turns your habits around, and you sure won't stay at the 1% level. It's like running really. When I started running, I couldn't even run for a minute. 2 years later I ran a marathon. Once you start something, it can take you further into realms that you thought were more than beyond your reach.



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