I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. It seems like such a harsh and unforgiving line in the sand: I WILL give up chocolate! I WILL start going to the gym three days each week! Then there is the office morning tea, or the birthday, or the long night out…. life gets in the way and without forming a new habit and the best intentions of change, we slip slide back into those ways we know don’t serve us. We feel deflated, flakey, and pissed off with ourselves. But if it’s the same for everyone, then we can at least joke about how we failed together!
The new year is a perfect time to take stock of our lives. We’re catching up with the people we love, taking a break, and getting that perspective back.
I tend to think that the resolution is a little harsh and prefer a gentler type of goal setting. Something that is less ‘line in the sand’, a bit more forgiving, but requires you to take small and consistent steps which result in a change of lifestyle. A bit of a journey for the year ahead.
My journey this year, as it has been for the past few, is to live more lightly. To live more lightly on the Earth, to live more lightly within myself, and to live more lightly with others.
Take greater responsibility in your role as consumer
Oooooh. Responsibility. That thing your parents threatened you with as a teenager. But when governments continue to fail us (I could go on and on!) our greatest powers are speaking out and putting our money where our heart is.
I’ve got quite good at the getting stuff in bit, and you likely have as well: weighing the pros and cons of its performance, longevity, construction, environmental/social impact, appearance, and cost.
We do a lot of acquisition in the silly season, either by shopping at the sales or by receiving gifts. The result is often a push of our current belongings out of the house. We should never let our stuff rule our lives: I personally love a good chuck out and declutter! I regularly go through those items we don’t wear and question their continued retention in our home. Breaking the binds of attachment, as any Buddhist will tell you, is freeing for the soul.
You and I know however, that despite the most rigorous decision making we still have no say over the life span of what we buy. Particularly the smart phone. Particularly when your helpful service provider calls you to tell you how they can save you money on a new plan when you upgrade your phone, which you don’t really need but everyone else has one… Damn you, social pressures. Damn you, brain chemistry. Damn you, ‘helpful’ sales people. But most of all its damning our environment.
I read a quote the other day from Vance Packard who said in The Waste Makers:
“the systematic attempt of business to make us wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals”
That was in 1960. Sigh.
So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, adieu!
And so my focus this year for my consumer journey is taking responsibility for seeing things out of my life in the lightest way possible. Irrespective of whether we get to choose when our belongings leave us, or when we discharge them in the course of their duties, we do have a choice in where they go and what effect they might have.
Most of us realise that simply throwing things away means they end up in fill or worse, in our oceans in the five giant gyres which continue to grow and kills so much ocean life.
It’s very likely that your belongings still have a useful life beyond your home. Rather than simply piffing your belongings, bring on the ever evolving sharing economy. *da da daaaaaaahh!!*
Yep, get into it.
Don’t confuse being an eco warrior by extending the life of a product through charity donations and being an arsehole.
Dumping unsaleable goods outside charity stores is definitely being an arsehole. If the charity can’t sell whatever-it-is because it has been ruined by weather, it is too old or manky, then chances are no one else wants it either. In fact, up to 40% of goods left with charities cannot be sold. The charity now needs to take your things to the tip, wasting the time of volunteers and costing an extraordinary amount of money. In 2012, St Vincent De Paul spent $5 MILLION on tip fees. Most councils do not offer a reprieve on tip fees. And our most affluent suburbs are the worst offenders!
Be nice. Don’t dump your crap. If it is crap, dispose of it correctly. Check to see if it is recyclable at your local resource centre. If it is electronics, there may be a special depot or you could try recyclingnearyou.com.au to check where your belongings can be recycled. If recycling isn’t an option, ONLY then it can go to landfill.
What about using your belongings responsibly?
So much of what we have as part of our every day lives goes into the world as we use it. Chemicals and personal products are the best examples.
This is an area which I am really going to have in the front of my mind this year, because of the sad death of our head chook Isla the Isa Brown.
She ate some rat bait, which had been dragged through the coop by a dying rat. Our other three girls also ate the bait but not enough to kill them. The had been poisoned however and did get sick. Their eggs are now poisoned for a few months, and we have not bee able to eat any for months. It’s a sad waste of life and wonderful produce.
Rats are vermin, and should not be encouraged in any circumstances. But warfarin based poisons (like the one involved here) are a cruel way to deal with that problem. It takes hours and even days for the rat to painfully bleed to death. The poison is persistent, climbing the food chain if the rat is eaten, and in our case, if the eggs of the chickens are eaten. I’ve been really worried for our daddy goshawk, but I’ve seen him flying around since.
And this is all when the poison is used correctly for its intended purpose. Just set a trap, break their spine and keep the potential for collateral to a minimum.
There are so many less extreme examples in our everyday life and if you take this journey with me this year, simply ask yourself the question: where will this go, and who will it potentially touch? Just asking that question often will keep it in the front of your mind and start to change your perspective each time. Just a little.
And how is this all good for me?
The number one benefit I have had so far on this journey is empowerment. I have never said to myself: right bitches! Today is the day where I become all earth saving mumma, only buying all the green things and having a zero waste home!
Nope. I just try to take one more step on the journey when I make a decision and try to see if there is a better one I can make. I don’t let myself succumb to overwhelm or analysis paralysis. I just try to be a little bit better. And those little bits, I hope, have added up to a lot over time. And hopefully more and more in the years to come.
We don’t waste as much, and so save the money associated with that waste.
And that makes me happy. It makes my heart lighter, and my environmental footprint lighter.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey!
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