If we are going to stop short of breaking the planetary boundaries that we need to live within, then it will require some self restraint and some self examination of how we currently live. Whether we do this of our own accord in a cool calm and reasoned fashion, or whether we have it foisted on us by external prompts, the sooner we get on with it the better. This book: The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide: Everything you need to know to make small changes that make a big difference, by Jen Gale. 2020, makes for a good start. Written from experience, without being preachy, Jen Gale gets down to tin-tacks and deals with all the issues we tend to skirt around. Here’s a few extracts that caught our attention. Best get hold of the book from a local library or buy one with a friend and share around. It would be very much within the spirit of what Jen Gale is on about. Here we go …
We merrily set about buying nothing new, discovering a multitude of alternative retail outlets, and sharing our journey in a blog I called My Make Do and Mend Year, writes Jen Gale.
Tara Button, founder of the website Buy Me Once and an advocate of buying to last, has some great advice to help us shop more consciously. She recommends doing some detective work around what drives our buying, our purchase lists for ‘imp(ulse) trails” – anything that might have been an impulse buy, be it coffee, clothes, candles or a car. Here’s the list …
The treater imp – this imp thinks any occasion needs to be celebrated or condoled with our wallet or purse. Put a 24 hour rule on all online purchases. Add it to a wish list, but not our buy cart. Then come back to it with a cooler head later.
The insecurity imp – if we discover that much of our spending was about cheering me up and making me feel better, then we aren’t alone. Sixty-two per cent of us have used shopping as a way to elevate our mood. This imp needs some firm handling. Look it in the eye and tell it daily: ‘No material object can make me a better person, I am enough.’
The FOMO imp – Fear Of Missing Out – this is a super excitable imp and is terrified of missing out on a bargain or experience. Make a list of true priorities and the stuff that’s really going to make us happy: more free time, a creative project, write a list.
The guilt imp – close friend of FOMO, this imp tells us we are a bad friend/father/wife unless we’re constantly supplying the people around us with material possessions. Gift these people your time, love and thoughts, not something that will end up stuffed in their cupboard.
The curiosity imp – this imp is excited by anything new; any excuse to change it up or ’freshen’ our look or buying something new is going to get this imp tapping on the inside of our heads, telling us we ‘neeeeds you to redecorate’ or ‘neeeeeds the latest phone.’ Turn the imp’s attention to more positive and productive areas of our lives. What new thing could we learn about? What new place could we go to? What new people could we meet? What new goal could we aim for?
The faddy imp – this one is pals with the curiosity imp but is also a massive flake. It gets excited about stuff, gets us to buy all the latest equipment and then promptly loses interest. The way to subdue this little imp is to give her the benefit of the doubt, but always, always borrow rather than buy the equipment as a starter. This way, if we discover a true need we can always upgrade to the new you-beaut one later.
The mythical land of ‘away’ – Since this is true, the buyarchy becomes an important pyramid on the road to sustainable(ish) living …
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rehome, Repair, Recycle, Rot.
To help bed down these principles we need good resources to keep us motivated and excited about living well by doing what’s right for Mother Earth. Here are a few to get us started …
- Love our clothes. Lots of good tutorials for mending clothes.
- ifixit is a wonderful site with fantastic ideas for all kinds of repairs, including videos of ‘teardowns’ (where someone strips a product down and puts it back together again), and toolkits for all kinds of fixes.
- YouTube – Some good ideas here but be careful. Not as good as the dedicated organisations devoted to doing things well such as ifixit.
- Sugru is one of those products to include in a mending toolkit, suggests Jen Gale. The sugru site has lots of step-by-step guides to show you how.
- Repair Café. See if there’s one near you.
- Recycle Near You. A PlanetArk service worth checking out.
It’s time to become au fait.
It’s a word we don’t hear much these days, but we ought to bring it back, especially when it comes to plastic. We need to be very au fait with the idea that we need to take reusable bags with us as a matter of habit. Into the car, with a couple of reusable bags. Off for a picnic, with a couple of reusable bags. Whether or not we think we need them, they are great to have on hand just in case. So often, we get somewhere and wish we had remembered a reusable bag. Stuff a crunchy light weight bamboo fabric one in the back pocket or the purse and we’re never caught on the hop. Let’s be okay with au fait. It has a nice ring about it.
The way to get rid of bin liners is to compost all food scraps. In other words, take out of the bin items that are wet and that mess it up. Once we compost or take out the wet stuff, it’s only dry stuff that goes in the bin. If we must, place a newspaper page on the bottom, so once it’s full simply tip it into the red lid bin, and give it a wipe around. Done. One more petrochemical plastic that doesn’t get sent to landfill. Over the course of a year, a lifetime, that’s an awful lot of bags. And some extra dollars for a Bush Heritage or Wombat Hospital donation, for example.
Swap, don’t shop
Extending the use of clothes by just nine months of active use could reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by around 20-30 per cent, notes Jen Gale in The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide.
:: Swapping or ‘swishing’ is a way to extend the use of clothes we no longer wear on a regular basis.
:: Swishing keeps clothes out of landfill and in use for longer.
:: It prevents us swamping the already bulging charity shops with our unwanted clothes.
:: We get to refresh our wardrobe for free or for very little.
:: It’s a great way to start conversations around fast fashion without being ‘that person who is always on about the planet.’
Quick guide to spending less and being satisfied more with clothes as our prompt …
- Shop your wardrobe. Check out what’s in the bottom draw, what’s in the spare bedroom wardrobe. Think about new combinations, giving the illusion of new outfits. Be creative to end up with a ‘new wardrobe’ without the expense to our bank balance or the planet.
- Never, ever, ever throw clothes in the landfill bin – period.
- Wash less. Only wash clothes when they really need it – helps clothes last longer and reduces environmental impact of all the suds and microfibers.
- Get off the mailing lists that tempt new us with the latest newest range, dreamt up by some designer in some foreign land who doesn’t give a hoot about whether or not we NEED that new piece or not. We need to do shopping on our terms, when we need to, not just because a catalogue has arrived in the post box or the email in box.
- A challenge if you choose to accept it, asks Jen Gale: Could we go a month, three months or longer without buying new? Only secondhand if at all.
Celebrations have become synonymous with consumerism. Any ‘special day’ ends becoming an excuse for extravagance, to jump on the bandwagon of excess. Easter is a prime example of this with eggs by the dozen and chocolate dripping off our fingers. And this is not to mention the wrapping and foil and cellophane and ribbon. Give them all the flick for the sake of Mother Earth for just one year. Apart from Easter, for general gifting, try these ideas …
- Cull down on the giving to the essentials, and then cull down again.
- Give secondhand, give refurbished, give upcycled, give hand made.
- Make it from scratch, or from the garden.
- Buy local, buy fair trade.
There are heaps more ideas in this practical book. It’s more than a book about sustainability, it’s a helpful book to remind us there is more to life than stuff. If the stuff doesn’t last and serve useful purposes in keeping with being earth friendly then we ought to question whether or not they are really necessary. What is essential today, our ancestors didn’t even consider, and their lives were none the poorer for not having had them. Clutter has become the common persons burden. The things we yearn for and must have today, would be abandoned if push came to shove and we had to decide what we’d grab if we had to jump house tomorrow because of fire, flood, fighting a foreign invader. Food for thought. Ideas we often don’t talk about in company because of treading on toes. Planetary boundaries. Let’s learn to live within them.