I’m breaking from tradition with this post. I mean, I’m allowed, right? This blog isn’t just about writing; at it’s heart, it’s about me. My thoughts, my actions, my knowledge. The strapline for my personal website is “writer, nature enthusiast, and lover of the unusual”. So I figure that enables me to be able to talk about plants sometimes, document my failing to grow things from seed (update on the bonsai seeds: they did not grow more than a few cm. RIP bonsai </3). I can extrapolate from talking about plants that I’m allowed to sometimes talk about the environment.

If you’ve ever visited West Yorkshire (or anywhere in Yorkshire, to be frank), you’ll know it’s absolutely teeming with natural beauty. Honestly there are some of my favourite places in the world here. My hometown and the village I grew up in are both nestled in the middle of the Peak park. There are huge dams, hidden beaches, plenty of public nature trails and even forests still harbouring burial mounds and ancient monuments. If you can’t already tell, I love it to pieces.

I often talk about my youthful years spent playing outside in the fields during summer months. I used to love walking my dog in the snow. We had a big garden where I’d love to help my mum with the allotment. We raised chickens, bred cats, and the house was always full of the chunterings from our African Grey parrot (you’d be surprised how much you miss that kind of background noise when it’s not there) .

I grew up surrounded by nature, animals, plants. My mum is one of those people who is inherently connected to nature and she’s got a very wild traveller’s spirit, I believe (more on this in a future post). My junior school was surrounded by wild fields and open moorland. We’d go on afternoon walks with the RSPB searching for curlews, little owls, wading birds. We’d play magpies and foxes amongst the reeds. Science projects on biology consisted of growing cress, making ginger beer, using yeast for bread and baking the loaves into hedgehog shapes.

Holidays for me were trips to soggy Wales, or the golden fields of Norfolk. When you think about the types of holidays a lot of us love, we want something with great weather and great views – ocean, sun, sand. We want to get away from the busyness of everyday life and connect with something at a basic level.

My point with all this is twofold: that I personally have a very inherent connection to nature, and that everyone else does too.

I think as we grow, change, and discover new things about the world around us, we can become disconnected from our natural environment. I also believe there’s an element of convenience which removes us from the connection. Isn’t it easier, sometimes, to put on a film and snuggle beneath blankets than go for a walk outside? Blankets which were easier to buy from a shop, rather than knit one yourself. And you might eat some biscuits, biscuits from a packet – not baked by yourself, because we simply don’t have the time.

I’m not being judgemental here – I’ve just eaten a packet of crisps. Afterwards, I inspected the crisp bag. I’m disgusted to find out that crisp packets aren’t and can’t be recycled.

“What’s your point?” I hear you asking that. Sure, I’m going on a bit here. Essentially, this is not the first time I’ve looked at something after using it and wondered what happens to it once I’ve consumed it. Because we are all consumers. But how many of us think about about how and what we consume? Do we need to be more aware? Is it too much effort? Is it inconvenient?

When you’re growing up, part of that process is realising the world is a lot bigger than your room, your house, your hometown, your country. And then you have to position yourself in this big wide world. It makes us feel small, insignificant. Like we have no significant impact as individuals. Well, um, we do. We do have an impact. Every time you eat a packet of crisps, etc.

In a very long-winded and roundabout way this is all an introduction to my personal journey and realisation that I need to be more aware of what I’m using and how I’m using it. It’s a whole wormhole, I’ll be honest, and at first I was overwhelmed with it. But bear with me.

I even already blogged about this – over six months ago, back in November, where I discussed a video I’d recently seen online called “the story of stuff”. This increased my awareness tenfold, and since I moved out on my own for the second time I’ve continually been making an effort to reduce the amount of waste I produce as an individual.

But, baby steps, friends. I can’t change everything in a day, and these things take a lot  of research. This is just the beginning of a long process for me, one which I think will take a few years. Luckily, in January of 2018, plastic pollution awareness blew up in the news and finally larger corporations and companies are becoming more pro-active towards reducing the waste and providing alternatives for us as consumers. So, I think things will become easier. But we don’t have to wait for the future – we can also look to the past and see how people got by BP – ‘before plastic’.

But, you know, I’m also a modern gal. We live in the 21st century. I’m lazy sometimes and want things to be as convenient as they can be. So in terms of where I’m already at and steps I’ve already taken –

  • I use Lush and Body Shop shower products. I know there are various issues with both of these companies (Lush uses SLS in their products, Body Shop is owned by L’Oréal who still test on animals in various countries such as China) but for now these alternatives are serving me well e.g. I use Body Shop soaps. I am aware they contain palm oil derivatives, so in the future I’ll be looking at alternatives such as independent soap makers producing cold pressed soaps. However, as these types of soaps are more expensive, it’s currently not an option for me!
  • I no longer buy cleaning products from supermarkets. I avoid bleach where I can (my workplace is a different matter altogether). I’m currently using Splosh products which are beneficial in two ways. One: they use plastic bottles which are made from recycled plastics. Two: the bottles are refillable with their specially formulated chemical cleaners which do not harm marine life once diluted with water as the chemicals are not harmful unless in concentrated doses. I find their products smell really good, the fragrances are all natural and very gentle. I’m using their hand wash, general all purpose cleaner, washing up liquid, and laundry detergent. I’m not allergic to a lot but I am allergic to a lot of branded washing powders so having something which is not harsh for my skin to wash my clothes with is a huge plus. I’ve also never been a massive fan of washing powders which leave a heavy fragrance on materials, so now my clothes smell clean but neutral (heavy perfumes and fragrances often trigger migraines).
  • I’m currently using an electric toothbrush, and have done so for a few years. This means I don’t buy plastic toothbrushes at all. Once I’ve used this past it’s lifespan, I’ll either look into getting it fixed or I’ll move onto bamboo toothbrushes. My current issues with bamboo toothbrushes is that it’s hard to find ones which are 100% made from plant-derived materials, not just using bamboo for the handle whilst still using plastic bristles.
  • I’m looking into buying coconut bristle scrubbing pads for my kitchen rather than using the standard green and yellow sponges (which by logical conclusion I realised must be made from some sort of plastic).
  • I use a hemp cloth exfoliation pad in the shower instead of a plasticky body loofah.
  • I’m trying to always buy my clothes from charity shops. This is working twofold as whenever I’m finished with something I’m passing it onto a friend (books) or donating my unwanted items to a charity shop.
  • I’m currently living in a student shared house, but once I’ve moved onto greener pastures I’ll be sourcing my appliances through freecycle websites rather than buying brand new.
  • I drive a second hand car. She costs a grand total of £20 a year in road tax so she’s very fuel efficient and I’ve started walking to work, so I really don’t drive much at all anymore! I’m keeping her for convenience though. I am considering learning how to ride a bike, though, but it might not be practical right now.
  • I’ve taken a grand total of eight flights in the past ten years (that includes there and back for each trip I’ve made abroad). None of these flights were long-haul.
  • I was brought up pescatarian due to the prevalence of mad cow disease during the early 1990’s. At the beginning of this year I slowly began to make the transition back to pescatarianism, and am now venturing into vegetarianism as of June 2018.
  • Although I try to be as conscious as I can about my waste (recycling and reusing where I can), I currently feel as though it isn’t always practical to practice this amongst various living arrangements. I’m sure that I’ll be able to be more pro-active with things once I’m living on my own terms, but for now the composting bin will have to remain a distant dream (and perhaps for the better as I’ve read recently that compost heaps tend to harbour a great deal of fungal spores… eek!).
  • I’ve got my own reusable coffee cup! Eco-cups unite!
  • I don’t use makeup wipes anymore (I rarely used them before, but got into the terrible habit then realised they’re gross). Instead, I’m using cotton flannels and miscellar water (after a slough of advice from female friends on the best methods for makeup removal) followed by a face-washing with normal water. Seems to be working great for me!

So those are the lifestyle changes I’ve managed to make so far. I’ve got a long way to go – such as adjusting the makeup products I’m using and whittling it down to certain brands and products, amongst other lifestyle changes. I’d love any discussion related to this, any suggestions for what I can do better, further steps I can take, and other lifestyle changes I might consider. What’s worked for you? What do you feel you could improve on? I’m taking my tinfoil hat off now and going to pursue some other writing-related adventures for the day. Stay Green!