So I set myself a new years resolution. I’ve never done one before for the precise reasons that they are so cringey. Because most of the time you know they will never be seen fully through. So instead i have labelled this a challenge, to hopefully avoid said cringiness, that just happens to run over the course of this year, because, well, a year is a nice set period that suites my A-type organising mind.
And this is the challenge:
- Avoid disposable plastics and plastics in general
- Buy nothing new (so everything second-hand)
- Maintain my veggie garden
You see these points are things I had always talked about doing after I had moved out, when I had my own place, because I thought them too hard to implement whilst still living at home with my family. So it was always “once I move out i’ll do all these things.” And I loved to plan it all too, how I would use reusable bags for everything, furnish my house with op-shop goods etc etc
But then I had one of those lovely brain wave ‘Aha!’ moment that made me realise WHY DON’T I JUST START NOW?!
What’s holding me back?
And so I have ventured on this challenge to start being more sustainable.
Now sustainability has a very convoluted and oft contested meaning. It can mean different things to different people, depending on what angle you are coming at it from. Typically the most referenced meaning is that from the UN:
“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”
I agree with this as an overarching principle of sustainability, and will now delve into each point and explain the why of each, as they actually all address different aspects of sustainability.
1- Avoid disposable plastics and plastics in general
Many people inherently know that plastic really isn’t that great for a number of reasons. It can be harmful to not only animals and the environment, but also to people too. For starters plastic is made out of crude oil, a finite and unsustainable resource, with production of plastics damaging, pollutive and resource intensive. Plastic is then used in a multitude of products, from packaging to toys, bags, homewares, toothbrushes and medical equipment. A large majority of these plastic items will also be single-use items, disposables, intended to be used only once as it is more convenient for us the consumer. Plastic bags for example are a proliferate disposable item used by many. They are also collected by many on Clean up Australia day, with an average half a million plastic bags being collected on the ONE DAY every year! Plastic bags in our oceans are also being mistakenly eaten by sea creatures, along with other small bits of plastic, often fatal to the poor unsuspecting creature. Plastics are also toxic for us too, with BPA-free everything now pretty common after the revelation it could cause brain and reproductive development problems amongst a range of other ill-health effects. Many other plastic compounds are currently being investigated into their effects on human health as the leach and exude a range of possibly toxic substances.
2- Buy nothing new (so everything second-hand)
We are a materialistic and consumer-based society. Every where we look we are being encouraged to have more ‘stuff’, not only because it makes us feel nice or in-fashion, but also because products aren’t just built to last (termed planned obsolescence) so we are forced to keep updating. Initially this goal was mainly focused on clothes, but after having read ‘The Story of Stuff’ by Annie Leonard (highly recommend you go read it pronto!) I was compelled to extend it further to…everything. Of course though excluding things which you simply do not want to get second-hand, as in medical/health related items. To make stuff takes resources, and for some items in particular, a whole lot of toxic and pollutive resources, not to mention a labour force which more often or not nowadays is probably underpaid impoverished workers in a developing nation. These often unethical practises though pale in comparison, at least in my opinion anyway, to the extent in which we- consumers in industrialised nations- wallow in and waste mountains of stuff that accumulates in our wardrobes, our houses and in our garbage dumps. And all to often most of these items are still in perfect usable and working order. We’ve just grown tired of them that’s all, and they are so easy to replace anyway, what with shops offering thousands of items to appease our materialist appetite. I could write on and on about this, but actually Annie Leonard does it better than I in ‘The Story of Stuff’ (it really is that good) so if you do want to read more, read that. ‘To die for: Is fashion wearing out the world?’ by Lucy Siegle is another great read, more focused on the story behind fast-fashion.
That asterisk is there for a very important reason because i’m still figuring out where i stand in terms of vegetarianism. There are pro’s and con’s to it, but here is my stance currently. So far i have been totally vegetarian, that is no meat products, since the beginning of the year. So 2016 so far has been meat-free. But the thing is for quite some time before that, actually probably most of last year, i had been hardly eating any meat anyway. On average I would probably have had meat around 3 times a week, and often in quite small portions. I had begun transitioning this way for a couple of reasons, with my main reason being because i love vegetables so much (true story) and then because i was still debating the sustainability of meat. First and foremost we Australians eat way to much meat. Period. This is a fact backed up by health research, because in fact too much meat can cause health issues, particularly processed meat. I think most Aussies had a possibly meat-induced heart attack when the World Health Organisation last year proclaimed processed meats, such as the beloved snag, a carcinogen to be avoided. Also its hard to avoid the other research backed facts that meat production is also not the healthiest for the environment either. Resource intensive to produce, livestock also emit a large amount of greenhouse gases and if not properly farmed can also cause environmental damage. But this is not to say all meat production is bad, because it is just not that black and white. Many farmers utilise agricultural land for livestock production that cannot be used to produce crops. A number of farmers, in fact quite a few, farm using many sustainable practises to ensure their impact on the environment is minimal, employing a range of techniques such as poly-farm integrated system as an example. Meat is also an undeniable source of protein and other macro and micro nutrients, so from a health point of view it has significant nutritional value to be included in a balanced diet. A major point that i have purposely skirted is animal welfare, not because i don’t care about it, but rather because it is so fraught with emotions. conflict and very strong opinions. I just don’t want to get into that. But what i will say is that the majority of meat production currently is not what i would deem ethical. So for the time being, considering all these points, i will continue being vegetarian. But watch this space.
4- Maintaining my veggie garden
This is kind of an add on, and more a new-years resolution than any of the others, because it’s an area where i got lazy and ‘let go’ that I am now determined to turn around. We have a fairly large veggie garden, after i enthusiastically convinced my parents to allow a part backyard take-over of our humble patch. It has extended even beyond that now, with an extra raised veggie bed and possibly another on the way too! But our large one had got a bit neglected towards the end of last year and as a result unproductive. So i’m trying to dedicate 2 hours every Sunday to maintaining the garden, because according to many it’s the consistent work that makes all the difference. Plus there are so many rewarding benefits to growing your own food! Fresh and tasty food for one thing, organic too in my case, but also just getting out in nature, being beneficial to both mental and physical health. Love it.
So there you have it, my four goals/challenges/not-new-years-resolutions resolutions. I’m challenging myself by also having this blog as a way to keep me accountable to these points, so i’ll try and keep you updated on my progress- the successes and failures. Any tips in regards to the goals would be very much appreciated!