This section is all about learning how to shop, home admin and other bits and pieces you can change to shape a happier future.
This is a biggie. Are you ready?
STOP. BUYING. SO. MUCH. STUFF.
Depending on your mindset, this could be a negative, like a craving that needs to be suppressed - or you could look at it with HUGE relief! The burden of Must-haves and To Much Choice has been lifted people! Frankly, who gives a toss if you’re not perfectly on-trend, if mass cotton farming is raping land somewhere in Eastern Europe and paying children a pittance to pick it in back-breaking conditions?
Ok, I know, it is so simple on paper, but the really hard part is convincing ourselves we don’t need certain things, when the clever physiology and marketing gurus have worked out EXACTLY how to get us hooked. I am still trying to perfect this myself. We are not perfect, but we can at least aim in that general direction!
So why is consumerism bad? Here are just a couple of horrifying stats to explain:
It has been calculated that to sustain the spending habits of the USA we would need 4 planet earths!
When it comes to fashion 1.5bn tonnes of carbon emissions were produced in 2015 manufacturing clothes for us to wear.
If you want to learn more, take a look at the brilliant Story of Stuff. https://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-stuff/
HOW TO BUY LESS STUFF
- Buy second hand.
- Be mindful when you’re around the shops. Question yourself. Do you REALLY need it?
- Try and think about the potential damage that the creation of an item may have caused (environmental or unfair trade) This may be enough to block the work of those clever marketeers…
- Set up a Swishing event or a nearly new sale in your area.
With most high-street banks it’s hard to be 100% certain your money is being invested in companies free of environmental damage and unfair labour. However, there are ethical banks out there you can trust. With things like Savings accounts, the financial return will be a little lower, but the quality-of-life gift to our children and grandchildren will be much greater.
Buy organic. It’s really simple. In 2017 the government tested a load of high street veg and found chemical pesticide residue present in almost half the food. Not only do pesticides harm wildlife and the environment (contaminating water, poisoning creatures, disrupting ecosystems), but Glysophate (of bee-killing fame) has also been marked as a probable carcinogen, with ‘no safe level’ by the World Health Organisation. It is readily used in farming and is particularly present in non-organic breads.
Organic farming also:
- Creates better taste and higher nutritional value foods
- Works to protect hedgerows and native plant and animal species
- Keeps the soil healthy for future farming (large-scale, chemical-led farming often destroys soil and land is left derelict)
- Keeps a low carbon footprint
- Often works to a seasonal calendar, which is better for us and the land.
There is plenty of information over at the wonderful Soil Association.
This is simple. In the UK 36.3 million m3 water is used doing laundry, which is too much. One way to keep this usage down is to wash our clothes less. Each time you get undressed, just look at each item of clothing; give it a sniff. Do you really need to wash it?
A great way to freshen up clothes between washes is spritz them with some homemade fabric spray. Add a dash of your favourite essential oil (we like lavender) to some water in a spray bottle (which you can reuse!). It lasts for ages.
To keep your environmental impact low, when you do a load of washing, make sure:
- It’s full
- You are washing at the lowest temperature possible
- You’re using non-polluting laundry liquid (some can be very toxic to wildlife in our waterways.)
UAL’s Emma Rigby has written this, about the environmental impact of washing our clothes.
This is an interesting piece of research created by Wrap. Scroll to p31 to find out more about environmental implications of laundering our clothes.
The stats behind this are insane. If no-one on Earth ate meat or drank dairy, the global farmland areas could reduce by more than 75%, which equates to an area the size of US, China, European Union and Australia combined - (HOLY SHIT!) - but the most amazing thing about this is that the remaining farmland would still be able to feed the whole world. In short, plant-based farming is hugely less demanding on the planet’s resources. Claiming back land as wild areas would reverse some of the mass wildlife extinctions we are currently experiencing, and a whole load more trees would help absorb some of the CO2 we’re pumping into the air. And environment aside, who doesn’t love a forest?
Now, I’m not suggesting you give up eating meat entirely, and if you can barely go without meat for a meal, start small. Try Meat-free Mondays. Just one day a week will make a small difference. And you never know, you might like it and try it more frequently.
HOW NOT TO MISS MEAT
- Anna Jones is, in my eyes, a wonder in the kitchen. I can’t rate her recipes enough.
- The excellent LEON has published a brilliant book about cooking quality veggie food, quickly: Fast Vegetarian
- More veggie and vegan cookbooks recommended by The Independent
Dairy cows are expected to have an unnaturally high milk supply, so vets often prescribe hormones and antibiotics to keep this supply up and the cow well enough to produce. Yuk.
There are serious animal welfare issues that go alongside milk production. Cows produce milk when they become pregnant, so they are forcefully impregnated. The calves are then taken away at birth, and if they are male, they are shot or sold for veal. The females enter into the dairy production cycle. The mother cows will often scream for their babies for days. All completely horrendous.
The Guardian published a good article on this a while back.
It’s hard to know exactly what is in certain funds, so to be sure your money is being invested in companies free of environmental damage and unfair labour, choose an ethical bank. Often the financial return is slightly lower, but the benefit to our children and grandchildren will be much greater.
Use a stainless steel kettle descaler to prevent limescale build-up and make your tea-machine last longer. You won’t need to spend as much on limescale removers, so there will be less harmful chemicals entering the water system.
(Oh, and only ever boil what you need! But you know that, right?)
I am sorry, but this is going to make buying clothes a little complicated. In short, you should really only be buying clothing made from wool, hemp, organic cotton or linen.
Cotton is hugely unsustainable as it requires an enormous amount of water and chemicals in its farming, which can often leave soil unusable after it has been intensively grown for a period of time. Plus, there are many awful reports of cancer and miscarriage in 3rd world cotton workers. Organic cotton is a much better option than conventional cotton.
Fabrics made from microfibres (Polyester, acrylic) are contributing to the build up of microfibres in our water. Not only is it harming fish in the sea, but it has recently been found in human faeces, meaning we are most likely drinking it. Gulp.
As with most consumerism problems, the answer is most certainly choose wisely, buy less, treasure more - and be prepared to pay a little extra for the privilege.
There is also a crazy amount of really decent second hand and vintage fashion to be found if you have a little forage in your local area or online. Vinted, eBay, Depop, Beyond Retro, Oxfam, Rebelle and Rokit are just some of our favourites.
The BBC made a brilliant programme about the environmental problems of fast fashion. You can read about it here.
This Mind Body Green article explains each fabric to help you make informed choices.
Petrol and diesel cars, as you know, are big polluters. Did you know that the school run ALONE is responsible for 2 million tons of CO2 emissions? This is really terrible in terms of both kids breathing in asthma-causing fumes, and also for Earth’s atmosphere. (More on that here)
In terms of which car to own, you’d automatically assume electric. However, there has been worrying findings about the environmental cost of creating electric cars (you didn’t think it would be straight forward, did you?! Read some in-depth stats on resource usage to make electric cars here. )
In short, we all need to drive less. Cycle! Car share! Take the bus or the train. Every time you possibly can.
So with this is mind the BEST car you can buy is a secondhand electric car. There are not many of them around yet, and if your budget doesn’t stretch that far then try a second hand hybrid. Chat to your local car dealer too - they need to feel the pressure to be supplying cleaner cars…