When I was asked whether I would write an article on the steps I'm taking to lead a more environmentally friendly life I was quite excited. But then, when I sat in front of my computer to write, I felt like a fraud. I questioned myself, have I really done enough? What makes me think anyone would want to read about the changes I'm making? What if the changes I'm making aren't going to help the environment? How could my experiences help others?
My answers to these questions are that I'm not doing enough - yet. But I have made changes already, and I am reading more about further changes I, and my family, can make to reduce our impact on the environment. I'm a middle-aged woman, way behind the green initiative curve, and change takes time. But every step towards a more sustainable life is progress. If I can encourage just one other person to take their first steps to a greener life, then it's worth writing about.
As a family we have been recycling for many years. Sorting cardboard, plastics, tins, glass, etc. and ensuring it is put in the recycling bin is a habit we have all become accustomed to. Additionally, we make fairly regular trips to the Civic Recycling Centre to ensure our coffee pods, batteries and light bulbs are disposed of responsibly. Well-worn clothes and shoes are bagged up and deposited in the bins in the hope charities will be able to make use of them.
Making the move away from buying single use plastic water bottles, a few years ago, took some time, but after buying some eco-friendly water bottles, we soon got used to carrying a bottle with us when going out and about.
A move to the countryside, a couple of years ago, involved downsizing from a large family home to a much smaller home. Reducing our belongings and getting rid of 'stuff' we had accumulated over many years was a thought-provoking task. Holding every object in our hands, remembering where it had come from, and deciding whether we still needed it, took time and a determination to live a simpler, uncluttered life. We sold, or gave away to charity, many items of furniture, electronics, and chinaware. We haven't yet fully decluttered. There are still items lurking at the back of kitchen cupboards that I haven't used since moving, but we have made progress.
We invested in some good quality canvas bags for our food shopping and ensure they are kept in the boot of the car before every trip to the supermarket. I haven't had to purchase a plastic bag for several years. We live in the Worcestershire countryside, quite a few miles away from shops, GPs and other frequently visited facilities, so at the moment we rely on our petrol car. We have been discussing making the move to a hybrid or electric-only car in the future, but no decision has been made yet.
Last year we grew our own vegetables and made large quantities of different varieties of soup for the freezer when we harvested more than we could use. We are not quite ready to be completely self-sufficient, but we have certainly enjoyed the move to a healthy way of living.
This Christmas I took the decision not to buy any gift wrap and wrapped gifts in brown paper which could be re-used. I've been buying charity Christmas cards for a few years and am now mulling over whether to stop exchanging cards. I've cut down the cards we received this year and will use them as gift cards for next Christmas.
Recently we have reduced the number of meat-based meals we are eating and have starting using alternatives to dairy products. This has been quite a challenge and at the moment this transition is taking a bit of getting used to!
I've also been looking to make the move to eco-friendly toilet paper and clothes washing products. I've noticed it takes me a long time to make changes. I spend a lot of time mulling it over, deciding what the benefits are, and researching products before I make a firm decision. There's still so much more I could be doing. I have dabbled with more eco-friendly cleaning products but have not fully committed yet. Again, it might take a little more research before I ditch the products I've been using for years.
Instead of focussing only on recycling, we are now looking to reduce the plastics we are buying, re-use cardboard and glass jars and minimise our waste production. Shredded office paper has been used as packaging materials and old envelopes are recycled where possible.
Are my efforts enough? I'm not sure. I hope they are, and I hope the changes I continue to make will add up to living a more sustainable, simpler way of life, minimising the impact my family and I are having on the environment. If each of us learns how our life choices are affecting the planet, and commits to making small changes, who knows, perhaps it might just be enough!