My word for 2020 is less. I want to stress less, waste less time, worry less, work less (but achieve more), eat less (and use that exercise bike more) and have less impact on the environment.
Its this last one that I’ve been thinking about in the first few days of the year. Several events over the last year have raised awareness of the impact we are having on our environment, none more than the utterly devastating bush fires currently happening in Australia. One phrase I’ve seen has really stuck in my mind:
As an individual and a one-woman business its difficult to know what I can do to make any difference but its always better to do something instead of doing nothing. And maybe if I write and chat about what I find out in 2020 during my year of trying to make LESS impact on the planet, maybe I can inspire a few others to do something too.
Small changes made by one person might not amount to much, but small changes made by a hundred people, or a thousand, or a million…
What is my impact on the planet?
I haven’t done any sort of questionnaire to determine this (although I think there are such things online) but I assume I impact on it quite a lot. I live in a developed, industrialised country, drive a car, use gas for heating and electricity and live in a house with quite a few rooms.
But I am probably not among the very worst… I rarely use air travel and my mileage in the car doesn’t exceed 10,000 miles annually. Having a home-based business and being a home loving crafter helps with that one! I do upcycle, reuse, recycle and compost waste and I eat a diet that is about 95% vegetarian.
Starting on a journey to change things up
So what more can I do? I think the answer is “A lot more…” just by being more aware of what I’m using and how I live.
The changes that I want to make are going to take a while to work out and I see this as a project for the whole of 2020. It will be interesting to document what I do, what sticks and what doesn’t and whether I have managed to make lasting changes by this time in 2021.
So each week and each month I will do some research, look at what I’m using and try to make improvements.
Trying to escape from a plastic world
This week and this month, I’m tackling my use of plastics. All plastics, but particularly single use plastics. Its a big deal for reducing pollution but its going to take effort, work and ingenuity. Once you start looking out for plastic, you realise its everywhere…
I’m starting in one small area – food packaging. My first goal for the year is to reduce, and eliminate as far as possible, my purchases of food that are wrapped in single use plastic.
This month, I’m focusing on bread, milk, yoghurt, eggs, vegetables, drinks and buying groceries with a keen eye on the type of packaging used in different shops.
Plastic free eggs and milk
My big win for the first week is that I’ve found a local milk delivery company that does milk in glass bottles, which they wash and reuse. They do orange juice too, so I’ve signed up for milk on a Monday and milk and orange juice on a Friday.
Good things about this:
- The glass bottles are reused, which is better than the recycling that happens with the plastic milk bottles I have been getting my white stuff in.
- I am supporting a local business.
- I remember getting milk in bottles when I was growing up, so its very nostalgic. Although I would usually put some milk in a jug for the table, not just the bottle…
- Milk in plastic free packaging.
- Per pint, the milk is twice the price. £0.74 per pint instead of £3.20 for 8 pints at the supermarket. BUT I am making savings in other areas, as I go into below.
- Its ‘shelf life’ is a bit less and there is more risk that the milk will be tainted by other, ‘fragrant’, things in the fridge, like cheese or onions. BUT I have ordered some silicone tops for the bottles as I think this will really help.
Eggs without plastic is easy for me
I’m lucky that there’s a small holding about four doors away down the road that have their own hens and they sell eggs, packaged in the old-style paper cartons, just in their front garden. They even sometimes have duck eggs.
The local markets also sell free range eggs and many use the same paper boxes, which can be returned for reuse. And their price is very similar to free range eggs in the supermarkets.
Fruit and vegetables
I already go to the local markets reasonably often but to reduce the plastic that comes in with fruit and veg, I am going to have to source ALL of it from markets in 2020. UK supermarkets ALL use lashings of plastic to wrap up even things that don’t need it – apples, potatoes and bananas. Even onions are encased in plastic netting.
On Friday last week I called in at the veggie stall in Pontefract and asked for everything in brown paper bags (not the plastic carriers they also have for the heavy stuff) and took my own canvas bag to transport them home. Some things were in plastic trays but I asked for them to be removed before the fruit was put into a brown paper bag.
I guess more people are asking for the same thing, because they certainly weren’t phased by all this and I came away with a week’s supply with absolutely no plastic packaging. I avoided the cucumbers though. Even on markets, cucumbers are shrink wrapped…
I love bread but could probably do to eat less of it. I’m not really a fan of plastic wrapped sliced bread from supermarkets because it barely resembles real bread. I prefer whole loaves from the bakery section, which is usually wrapped in paper. However, its very pricey and as I’m already spending more on milk in bottles, I’m trying a different solution.
I’ve bought my own yeast and bread flour and I’m going to attempt to either bake my own bread, or go without. Or, to verge on being on the same page as Marie Antoinette, make scones, but only in an emergency!
I’m doing OK with the bread baking after the success I had during vlogmas. Remember the rice pudding and the bread I baked in the ‘big beastie’?
I can use my big wood fired cooker and batch bake on the days its on and then freeze loaves cut into two. One downside is time but if I get into a routine, I think this will be doable. Another is freezing bread without using plastic… will have to think on that one.
Baking my own bread will certainly go a long way to offset the cost of the milk in bottles as I can make 6 full size loaves for the same price as one artisan loaf from a bakery.
I love yoghurt but I tend to buy the cheaper types in plastic pots that are already flavoured. I would like to eat live yoghurt but find natural yoghurt quite sour and not very pleasant.
I am also guilty of having a yoghurt maker that I bought about 8 years ago and that has been taking up space in the cupboard without being used ONCE. Oh the shame…
But this less business has motivated me to get it out and, this weekend, I made my first batch of yoghurt. I bought a small pot of live yoghurt to use as the starter in a litre of whole milk (UHT in a recyclable cardboard container) and it turned out beautifully. Much better than shop bought actually. It was lovely a creamy but not at all sour, even if it was more like pouring yoghurt that Greek style. And not very much trouble either; far less effort than baking bread!
This all came together on Tuesday morning when I sat down to eat my own yoghurt, out-of-a-box granola, plastic free pineapple (but maybe a little airmile disaster there), milk and orange juice from glass bottles.
And a few ends on my blanket to sew in. Less procrastination in 2020 might not go amiss either…
Baby steps but at least I’ve begun
In addition to being more careful when shopping, I’m also being meticulous about sorting my waste for bins. We have a recycling collection, a compost waste collection, and a general waste collection on different days over a two week cycle, and I have been making use of them.
But this week I’ve really been watching myself like a hawk to make sure that everything goes in the compost that can – including tea bags – and everything that can be recycled is separated out meticulously.
My plan for week 2
- To continue to cut down the plastics in the food groceries and to work on the bread and yoghurt making routines.
- To start researching more about more eco-friendly cleaning products, both for house cleaning and for self cleaning – shampoo, conditioner and shower gel.
- To start researching alternatives for packaging my yarn in the Etsy shop. I still have supplies of plastic mailing bags but when these run out, I am going to switch to biodegradable or recyclable.
- To keep asking the question: “But do I really need this” when I am tempted to buy something, particularly online and particularly if its likely to be packaged in plastic.
Finally, although I’m having a more-or-less dry January, I am cheered by the fact that at least wine comes in glass bottles! But isn’t it a pity that there is no way to return drinks bottles for reuse? As far as I know we don’t do that in the UK? We used to with ‘pop bottles’ – but as I’m really showing my age there, I’ll say bye for now.
xxx Kathryn xxx
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