How sustainably do I live?
With World Environment Day on 5 June, I got thinking about how sustainably I live my life. My husband is always talking about waste, particularly about the Colombian beaches he’s seen that are covered in plastic for miles on end. I think I paid less attention to the issue in the past because I had not seen the consequences first hand. But the more I learn about the topic of sustainability, the more I’m thinking about what I do and don’t do for the environment and society myself.
Here’s what I do do:
- I do recycle. I’d be embarrassed if I didn’t. I thought we’d have made some good progress on the recycling front on a global basis in recent years. It turns out I was quite wrong: apparently only 9% of the world’s plastic waste has ever been recycled, according to research. This means a staggering 91% has never been recycled - it’s been incinerated, is piling up in landfills and polluting the natural environment.
- I don’t use wrapping paper (unless it’s for a child that I know will take great pleasure in ripping through it) or cards for gifts (really, these just get thrown away which is a waste of my money and my time coming up with something sentimental to say). Instead, I use gift bags which I hope the recipient also re-uses.
- I always opt for the electronic version of my statement and invoices.
- I check the labels of my cosmetic products to make sure nothing I use has been tested on animals.
- The default setting on my bi-weekly online grocery order is delivery without plastic bags.
- I’m pretty good at not wasting food. I plan meals for the week and this means I generally have the right amount of food to feed my family. Of course it’s helpful that as the parents of a small child, we don’t often spontaneously change dinner plans. We’re pretty much at home every night of the week. If there are leftovers, they’re eaten for lunch the next day.
Here’s what I don’t do:
- I’m not great at saving water. I’m the heavily pregnant, work-from-home mother of a very active toddler. A long hot shower is a welcome respite from what is pretty much always a chaotic day. I also always seem to land up at the end of the day covered in food from said toddler’s sticky paws, so there’s not much re-wearing of outfits going on. I love a dishwasher too – one of the many best friends a working mother can have.
- My husband tells me I run the house like a cruise ship and leave all the lights on in rooms that I’m not occupying. What he doesn’t have is an appreciation for hygge (the Danish term for creating a warm and cosy atmosphere) but I concede that he has a point about reducing energy consumption.
- My favourite grocery shop, despite its proclamations of sustainable practices, is pretty bad at overusing plastic. They make wonderful buttery croissants but a bag of eight will comprise individually wrapped morsels of deliciousness. Great for when you want to freeze individual croissants, but not so great for the environment.
- I also always forget to take my own re-useable shopping bags when I need to top up my weekly online order. It’s such a simple way to reduce my plastic use and I really have to get better at remembering to do this.
- I don’t check whether the clothing brands I buy are operating sustainably. I often buy relatively cheap clothing for my child as I can’t bear the thought of spending lots of money on outfits he’ll only fit into for a few months. Often cheap means dubious though so I am concerned about how these companies treat their labourers.
So, how sustainably do I live?
There’s clearly quite a bit of room for improvement. In my next piece, I’ll be sharing what I’m going to do about it AND how it’s going to save me money…