The topic of the environmental damage is becoming hotter by the day, further elevating the sense of dread and nervousness experienced by adults and increasingly by children too. All the more the reason to look at our past practises and habits and see how we can improve things related to sustainability on a daily basis. One small step at a time, building and expanding the change. Sustainability shouldn’t be a popular hashtag, it should be the way we live & act every day. With genuine sense of purpose & intention to do better.
Below are just some of the things and ideas that my kids and I have been practising & implementing (some are recent, others are rooted in my own childhood) :
- Say “no” to plastic cups & single use plastic bottles when you can. “Easily done” you might think, but try getting a take-away drink at many of London’s cafes (and London is probably better equipped for faster change in that respect, being a capital city) and see how much ‘rubbish” you potentially accumulate in a week. There are more and more “free” water fountains around the city, including offices and gyms, so take advantage of them. And don’t forget to carry your re-usable water bottle. In addition to Swell for hot and cold drinks, I can recommend 24 Bottles (don’t keep drinks hot, so best suited for water or juice), Frank Green for coffee or tea (hot drinks cool down fairly quickly though) or Klean Kanteen for hot drinks, soups or smoothies.
- Use your own glass or steel straws! Plenty of places still give plastic straws away like popcorn at the cinema, while paper ones don’t work as well, turning to mush before you get a chance to finish your drink. Steel ones will last you for a long time, are easy to clean and are more reliable than glass, which is easily broken. I have unintentioanlly smashed quite a few of those ones at home in the past. When you buy a steel one, just make sure it comes in a pouch, so you can put it into your bag and carry it hygienically in your bag.
- Instead of throwing away papers after you’ve read them, use them to clean windows or as a gift wrap. Save ribbons from gift boxes and ‘recycle” them at home or when wrapping xmas or birthday gifts.
- Don’t throw away books that you don’t want to add to your home library or put them into paper recycling boxes. Instead donate them to Oxfam or other local charities that re-sell books or give them to local schools or public libraries. Exchange books with friends and neighbours, encouraging your children to swap books with their friends.
- Carry a foldable shopping bag with you, so you don’t accumulate unnecessary plastic or paper bags, while shopping. I love BAGGU bags that fold easily and take very little space, yet you can fit a lot of things of various proportions into them. There is also a lot to be said for wonderful baskets that you can buy at French markets that will last you for years and allow you to look chic while shopping. I also highly recommend MMAA bags, which you can buy online. Each bag that you purchase is made by female artisans in Africa and they are paid fairly for making them. Chic, practical, good for environment and help women who make them look after their families. Positives all around!
- Buy paper snack & sandwich bags to take to work or the gym and for kids school lunch boxes. You can find them now not only in the health or eco-living shops, but in a growing number of supermarkets, which are starting to take their customers desire to improve sustainability more seriously. Look for the ones that are FSC and Compostable certified, Unbleached, Totally Chlorine-Free, Not Chemically treated nor contain Paraffin Wax. Another plus is that you can easily use them several times, before they would go into a recycling bin.
- Encourage your kids NOT to purchase magazines that have plastic toys attached to them. It also seems that companies like McDonald’s are slowly but surely starting to phase plastic toys from children’s “happy meals”. In France kids now can get an adorable or amusing book or even a DVD with their meals at McD. I think the more we cordially, but firmly, use our voice to object to unnecessary plastic prevalence in packaging and toys, the more retailers and companies will take notice of customer discontent. Vote with the wallet for the things you believe in or the brands or companies that have good practises when it comes to the environment.
- I recently purchased a couple of STASHER bags from Content store in Marylebone for my children. They are plastic-free and made from pure platinum silicone, which in this moment in time is considered to be a better alternative to plastic. The bags come in several sizes and colours. They are reusable and versatile – you can put sandwiches, fruit, snacks and left-overs in them. You can wash them by hand or in the dishwasher. They aren’t easily scratched and are pleasant to the touch, as well as easy to fit into bags or into fridge or freezer. The packaging also says that you can microwave food in them or reheat leftovers in the oven in them. Personally I am not going to put those things to the test, as I prefer to abstain from cooking food or exposing hot food to plastics and silicone, giving preference to glass.
- My ultimate advice is to approach sustainability with deeper thought. We live in times of increased consumerism, with marketing departments working overtime to attract out attention in order to sell, sell, sell to us. Often consumers forget to question their genuine needs and many brands are taking advantage of such gullibility. Am I going to suggest you stop shopping? Of course not. But can I suggest you question your potential purchases first? Do you really need this or that? Is that going to make your life better?
- Is the quality of the product good enough to last for a while? Look at the materials. Examine the packaging. Assess your wardrobe to see if something can be donated, re-sold or altered. Take two or three items out before you buy something new. Can children’s old toys or clothes be given to family, friends, local charities or sold ?
- Drop your old magazines at GP surgeries or cafes where they might be welcome. Something no longer needed by you can be appreciated by someone else.
Sustainability is a practise, like yoga. What it shouldn’t be is a marketing hashtag that bears no substance and is used to elevate someone’s standing in their social media audience.
- Buy fruit and veg seasonally and from your local greengrocers, many of which don’t use plastic packaging and are only happy to give you cooking tips.
- Buy skincare and supplements from brands that engage with you and are transparent about their environmental impact, eco packaging credentials and ingredient provenance.
- Instil good wellbeing practises in your children, making sure they notice how they feel and look every day. Pay attention to ingredients in skin and body care, as well as house cleaning and laundry products.
Why not make “sustainability makes my life better” your weekly mantra ?
- Switch off the lights when you don’t need them. Make sure your taps don’t drip. Unplug chargers and electrical appliances when not using them or switch off the sockets.
- Read books and blogs on sustainability. Top of my reading pile at the moment are “Inconspicuous Consumption: the environmental impact you on’t know you have” by Tatiana Schlossberg and Dana Thomas “Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes”.
Each one of us can’t change everything, but resting idle hoping environmental crisis will pass by is not an option either. So by making changes to our ingrained habits that no longer serve us well and learning from credible resources, we all can make a difference cumulatively. And uncluttered home, where every item you own serves a purpose, allows for a calmer state of mind and plenty of room to breath and to expand our minds.
Note from the author: all of the items showcased here, apart from Frank Green cup that was sent to me for reviewing purposes, have been bought by me. None of the content or links in this post is sponsored.