“(…) but we must cultivate our garden” – Voltaire
“Year 0” was the year where new habits were implemented, relevant questions asked and a lot of action taken. The year we put our money where our mouth was and started living more meaningfully in line with our proclaimed values and priorities.
“Year 0” was the year we deliberately chose to start living a simpler life. It stills amazes me where we got by getting rid of the excess.
All in all, it was a great year and the lessons learnt (which need to be revisited regularly) have been priceless in pursuing the life we once only dreamed of.
Having said that, Year 0 is gone and Year 1 is here, so this is the one we need to focus on. We decided that this year is to be synonymous of green change. We wish to implement new habits that will allow us to start living an ever more sustainable lifestyle and help reduce our carbon footprint.
Besides this family objective, I also have the personal one to deepen my meditation practice.
For many years I lived in denial with regards to my environmental impact. I didn’t go out of my way to do the right thing. I never felt the need to: separate my rubbish; stop consuming ‘use once and toss it’ containers; question what I was bringing into my life, where it came from or the impact it would have on our planet once I didn’t need it anymore.
I was living with a “out of sight, out of mind” attitude. Everyone else was doing it, so it wouldn’t be my actions that would bring any significant change either way.
No more. The choices I make have an impact on the home I share with 7 billion other people and my actions need to be considerate of them all.
Here’s some of the habits we’ve already started implementing:
– Recycling: after years of doing it wrong (or not at all), we’ve finally nailed down which rubbish goes where and we now have 3 bins: recycling; general waste: and uncooked organic waste that I use for composting and feeding my veggie garden;
– No more plastic bags: going to the supermarket is a whole new experience where all the fruit and veggies loosely tumble around the shopping cart and the person at the checkout struggles to hold still all the plums on the scale. We are being about 90-95% successful in this endeavour. We now use reusable bags and have made a few out of old t-shirts. We’ve missed plastic bags the most when looking for a way to line our general waste bin, but paper bags and biodegradable compostable bags do the trick. We pay for these now as they’re not handed out at the register of supermarkets, but it’s literally a small cost to pay in the grand scheme of things;
– Eliminate processed foods: we have significantly changed our diet in order to include more whole and plant based foods. I now attentively read the labels on the packaging to know what I am putting into my body;
– Food packaging: the way the produce is packaged has also a big influence on whether we choose it or not. We no longer buy products that come in plastic, wrapped in a tougher kind of foil, in a box which in turn is wrapped in more plastic. It is also important to give feedback to whoever produces these. It’s more likely they change their packaging solutions if they know people aren’t buying their produce because of it;
– Coffee habits: I really enjoy coffee and I drink it daily. I make most of the coffee I drink (I buy organic from a local roaster), but I occasionally buy a flat-white and instead of using a cup I’ll discard afterwards, I have asked Santa Claus for a reusable cup. Christmas came early and I got a nice green bamboo coffee cup;
– Re-use re-sealable bags: we used these once and then toss them out. Now we wash them and use them again, and again, and yet again;
– 2nd hand clothing: I no longer buy new clothes. If I do need an item, I’ll go to a second hand shop and peruse there. I had been doing this for a while now, mainly motivated by reusability and budgetary motives. Now, after watching the documentary True Cost, I do it for humanitarian and environmental reasons. Next time I am to buy something new, I’ll make sure to put my money where my mouth is and will consciously pay significantly more for a product I know to have been produced in environmentally and humanly safe conditions. As consumers (costumers), we all have the obligation to vote with our wallet;
– Cloth napkins: Catarina, using cloth left overs, sewn around 50-60 cloth napkins that we now use daily and wash every 2-3 weeks. Before raising arguments regarding water usage, be reminded that domestic water consumption is insignificant when compared to the water used, contaminated and wasted by animal farming and natural resources extraction industries. Being conscious of the water use at home is important but mainly for budgetary reasons, not environmental ones;
– Diet: I’ve stopped eating fish and meat. We still buy meat (organic only) and fish (locally caught) for the girls, but we’re consuming ever less. Meat production is the most environmentally unfriendly industry on the planet. Don’t take my word for it, do your research;
– Grow our own: for a few months now, I have diligently been learning how to grow vegetables and take care of an edible garden. Whilst I am still far away from sustainable, my girls have eaten a lot of our backyard produce – cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, lettuce. We no longer buy herbs and still have a fresh supply of parsley, thyme, basil and coriander;
– Do your own: Catarina has been producing soap and cleaning products all from natural products. I have begged her to write about all of this but been unsuccessful. She doesn’t have a twitter account, but a CatComeBack hashtag might work;
– Buy seasonal and local produce: the least km my dinner has to travel, the better for both my health and the environment. While it’s pretty nice to sit by the fireplace, eating a juicy mango, on a cold winter night, the price paid for that little pleasure is appalling. I don’t mean the mango’s price tag, but the amount of fuel burnt so it could have travelled halfway across the planet.
At the end of the day, it’s simple and healthier to go greener. It requires some effort and is also slightly more costly to make more conscious and ethical choices on how we consume, but this is the only way to make a stand for what we all know to be right. We can all do this by voting with our wallets.
Even while many economic interests try to prove science wrong, Climate Change is real and it’s here – 97% of peer reviewed science papers on the matter agree. We can’t run nor hide, so we might as well take care of our common backyard.
What have you been doing for our beautiful garden? What other habits would you suggest we implement? Your feedback is most welcome.