It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Wastemas

It’s the season of giving, and by giving I mean needlessly consuming and spending, which let’s be honest is what Christmas has become. I’m not trying to be a party pooper, and seriously whichever holidays you celebrate I hope you have a great time, but try and remember what is important this time of year (and all other times of the year). Supporting each other, being with loved ones and helping those less fortunate.

There are plenty of ways in which you can still enjoy the holidays and reduce waste/ not buy into the consumerism culture.

  1. Think honestly about what it is that you need/want this holiday season.

I had real trouble finding things to ask for this year when my family members wanted to know what I want as a present, and that’s because i’ve rewired my thinking. Practicing mindful living has made me take stock of what is important materialistically in my life, and the answer is not a lot honestly. I live very comfortably as I am now, I don’t need new clothes, I don’t care about the latest gadgets anymore, so what is there to ask for?

How about asking friends and family to donate the money that they would normally spend on you to a charity? If you still want something to open then many charities provide ‘gifts’ this time of year. For example Friends of the Earth are giving out ‘Christmas Bee Saver Kits’ with a minimum donation of £12.

2. Think about gifts beyond what you can buy

  • Many people show their love through well thought out gifts that they know their family and friends will enjoy, and i’m not saying that we should stop that, but there are more ways of providing gifts than spending money on fancy new items.
  • Provide experiences – things such as experience days, trips, lessons etc – one of my most memorable gifts was when my nan bought me a ‘walk with hawks’ which allowed me to spend the day learning about and watching various birds of prey with a group of other enthusiasts.
  • Provide your time – why not gift your loved one with the promise of your time, whether it be the promise of helping them move/decorate, going out to the cinema together, having lunch. If you have children then why not create a little coupon book with things such as ‘a day of play’, or ‘mum cooks with me’ etc (I don’t know what kids like).
  • Make your gift – Some of my most treasured possessions are gifts that were handmade, for example the quilt that one of my best friends made for me for my 18th birthday, or the story that the same friend wrote for me one year. Don’t worry if you are not super creative, just putting the thought and time into making your gift will make it all the more meaningful.
  • Re-gift or buy second hand – Re-gifting gets a bad wrap (unintentional pun), but as long as your not giving it back to the person who originally gave it to you then I don’t see what the problem is. If you think that someone else will get more enjoyment and use out of something than you, and as long as it’s in a decent condition why not re-gift it? Also, look in charity and thrift shops for your gifts before buying new, you could find something extraordinary and you’ll be helping a good cause while you’re at it.
  • If you buy, buy local – Finally, buying new gifts should be a last resort in my opinion, but if you’re going to buy new then patronise your local businesses before you give your money to giant multinational corporations. The quality of the gift will often be higher because they have more to lose from shoddy workmanship, and the conditions in which the product is created will often be better because things are normally locally sourced and not from sweatshops.

3. Use this time to think of others

Why not donate your time/money/unneeded items to those less fortunate this holiday season? If you can’t do all three that’s fine but look for things to help out with.

  • Time – volunteer at a soup kitchen, help hand out blankets and food to the homeless, invite a lonely older person to your house for Christmas dinner (there are charities that will put you in touch with people who want that, don’t just pick up a random pensioner off the street). There are plenty of foundations that you can join that really need the extra help (all year round but especially during the cold months).
  • Money – make a donation to a charity, give money to the next homeless person you see (or if you don’t want to give them money then buy them a hot meal). But be vigilant about which charities you support, the Salvation Army will be making the rounds again this holiday season however I will personally never donate to them due to their harmful, anti-LGBT rhetoric and archaic values.
  • Unneeded items – many charities offer donation boxes for the homeless and the poor all around the world, why not check your cupboards for unneeded canned goods, toiletries (seriously sanitary towels etc are a godsend for these things), and even children toys. This is a great time to teach your kids about giving to those less fortunate and about how fortunate they themselves are. My old school used to do a christmas shoebox exchange where each child filled a box with old toys etc which were sent off to children in the third world.

How you can help:

Here are some links to various charities with advice on how you can help out this holiday season.

Money:

  • Friends of the Earth and their ‘Bee Saver pack’ – giving you the tools to help save the bees
  • KidsOut and their ‘Giving Tree’ – helping children who have escaped domestic violence
  • Unicef and their ‘Inspired Gifts’ – providing lifesaving supplies to children and communities around the world
  • Savethechildren and their ‘Virtual gifts’ – life changing gifts for children in third world countries
  • Refuge and their ‘Christmas gifts’ – give a christmas present to a woman or child that has escaped domestic violence
  • WWF and their ‘adopt an animal’ – protect an endangered animal and get a cuddly toy
  • Centrepoints and their ‘More than a gift’ – buy a homeless person christmas dinner, a gift, or a bed for the night
  • Impact and their ‘gift tokens’ – help restore a persons health and improve their life through medical funding

Time:

  • Crisis at christmas – volunteer to help run one of Crisis’ homeless centres, from cooking to counselling there is plenty that you can do
  • Age UK’s ‘telephone befrienders’ – Age UK are looking for people to have a 30 minute chat with a lonely older person once a week. Seriously just 30 minutes a week.

Unneeded items:

  • Local foodbanks – you can find out what is needed at your local food bank and help take part in the ‘reverse advent calender’ where you donate an item of food everyday in the run up to christmas.

Are You Still Watching?

My Top 5 Sustainability and Low Waste Living Documentaries on Netflix

I’ve written before about various documentaries that I have found useful in my low waste journey. I regularly have weeks where the only things that I want to watch are documentaries and as such have been through my fair share of them. I’ve even been asked by my friends to provide them with recommendations multiple times, so I thought that i’d give these recommendations to you guys too. Here are my top 5 documentaries (in no particular order) related to sustainability, low waste living and thoughtful shopping.

Minimalism

I’ve spoken about this one multiple times in previous posts, in fact it’s this documentary that inspired me to start this blog in the first place. Minimalism follows the Minimalists as they travel around America to promote their new book and their lifestyle. It also contains interviews with other people who have decided to reduces their consumption and reject the capitalist lifestyle that we’ve all been taught to strive for. This documentary focuses more on minimalism as a lifestyle that values time and relationships over physical belongings as opposed to minimalism as an aesthetic. Whilst on the surface this may note seem overly related to low waste living, the minimalist lifestyle is in itself very low impact. By buying and owning fewer items you generate less waste.

The True Price

This one may not initially strike you as a low waste documentary but it definitely made me rethink the way that I shop for and use clothes. The True Price is a documentary about the impact that the fashion industry has on the environment and on the people in third world countries. People that have to make clothes in appalling conditions just so that we can spend £2 on a t-shirt that we’re only going to wear once. It forces you to think about your relationship with retail and about how capitalism and constant advertising is affecting the way we live our lives. This documentary was the catalyst for my ‘Impact of Fast Fashion’ post.

Fed Up

Fed Up is a low waste documentary in that it will hopefully make you think twice about what you are buying at the supermarket. Heavily processed foods are everywhere on our shelves and it should come as no surprise that they are one of the main causes of rampant obesity. What may be more surprising is how far companies are going to try and steer us in the wrong direction, so that they can continue to sell us these unhealthy diets. I myself try to go for the organic range, and have even made steps to try and grow most of my own food myself, but I know that that is not an option for everyone, so hopefully this documentary can give you a more solid footing for the next time you go grocery shopping.

Cowspiracy

Cowspiracy takes a similar tone to Blackfish, in that it tackles something that most of us are aware of but don’t really want to think about. The impact that widespread animal agriculture is having on our planet, and on us. From the amount of water it takes to raise a cow for slaughter, to the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted by ‘big dairy’ Cowspiracy focuses mostly on how we should cut back on our meat consumption if we want to save the planet. Much like Fed Up, Cowspiracy also looks into the impact that our current diet is having on our health, and on the efforts that food corporations are going to in order to hide this from us.

Sustainable

Last but not least on this list is Sustainable. Sustainable is much less of a downer about food and the fate of the planet than the last three documentaries on this list, in fact its tone is much closer to Minimalism. Sustainable follows the rising trend of sustainable farming, mostly in America but in other parts of the world as well. Much like my ‘Go Old School for Low Waste’ post, many of the practices in this documentary are taken from old style agriculture. The dismissal of mono-crops, rotating seasonal foods, focusing more on natural resistances than pesticides etc. It also poses the questions, can we farm sustainably and still provide enough food to feed everyone? The answer that this documentary gives us is that not only can sustainable farming produce enough food to feed everyone, but it can do it much better than current farming practices are.

I hope this list has given you a good starting block of extra material to help you on your low waste journey, or just help you to educate yourselves on alternative ways of living. If anyone has any further recommendations then please leave a comment or email at jade.musto@livinglightergoinggreener.co.uk and i’ll check them out and maybe make another post like this in the future.

The Vegan Hippy Market

So last week I went to a local festival called the Vegan Hippy Market. It was a great experience, especially as I knew that I could eat everything there, and there wasn’t just food, there were natural skin care products and up-cycled and recycled clothes. Meeting like-minded people and hearing good music whilst eating good food is in my opinion one of the best ways to spend a sunny day.

Food and drink

Some of my favourite stalls included the gourmet toast stall where I bought a lovely spinach, cashew and ‘cheese’ toastie. The Vegan burger stall Setain’s (pronounces satans) grill, that makes black bun burgers, unfortunately the stall was so popular that I couldn’t get a taste. There were also many vegan dessert stalls including Beau Monde that made amazing cupcakes, and Pip’s real hot chocolate co who make hot chocolate shots that you simply drop in hot milk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skincare

Many of the vegan skincare stalls provided their products in recyclable or refillable packaging. Like the Heavenly skin care organics stall where I bought some lovely deodorant powder, all of their products come in low waste packaging and they provide refills for their products if you send them your empty container.

Recycling

Finally there was a stall run by the followers of Master Cheng Yen, they work as Buddhist disaster relief workers and have also developed shopping bags made from recycled water bottles.

 

An Hour Off

Something I have always been well aware of and not liked is a feeling of addiction. One of the main reasons why i’ve never smoked, drank or tried drugs is not wanting to fall into a cycle of being reliant on something.

On the few times that i’ve found myself with an addiction, e.g. caffeine. I have made a concerted effort to cut the addiction off at the source, often going cold turkey until I no longer crave it. When I wanted to reduce my consumption of caffeinated and carbonated drinks (after realising I was literally having withdrawals after a day of not drinking it) I reduced my intake to one glass a day, until it got to the point where I could easily go a few days without drinking it. Now I very rarely drink carbonated drinks (to be honest, when you remove the addictive need for it most carbonated drinks don’t even taste that good).

One of the most common modern addictions is screens, queue groans from everyone. But it’s true, how many of you spend all day at work staring at a screen and then go home and watch TV, play on your phone or mindlessly scroll through social media? I’m betting quite a lot of you.

I’m not saying that we should all go back in time and completely denounce all technology. I myself have made friends all over the world through social media, I make and run this blog through a screen. What i’m saying is that we need a break from screens.

I realised that my screen was becoming a bit of an addiction when it got to the point that I couldn’t leave one room without taking my phone with me, I couldn’t even go to the toilet without scrolling through Facebook or watching a youtube video.

Studies have shown that this screen addiction can ruin sleep schedules, cause an increase in depression, stop us from connecting with family and friends in real life and stop us from completing even pleasant tasks. For me my screen stopped me from doing one of my favourite past times, reading.

If I manage to rip myself away from my phone or the TV and pick up a book then i’m still very aware of the fact that i’m not paying attention to the constant stream of information that my screens are trying to jam down my throat. My phone is still next to me, and any notification I get draws me out of my book. Even if I don’t look at it, that buzz is enough to break my immersion in my task.

How many of you have been in the middle of a non-screen related task and stopped it to check your phone because it buzzed?

Another negative impact of being absorbed in our screens is, as I stated previously, that we are constantly assaulted by, often mindless, information in the form of adverts and social media posts.

So why not try and break the control that your screen has over you? I have started by taking at least an hour a day to do something completely separate from a screen, I go for a walk, I read, I make things. This hour off includes leaving my phone in another room so that i’m not tempted by it or distracted by the buzzing of notifications.

Of course just one hour a day doesn’t break the habit of screen addiction but it does make it easier to go longer without your screen. Often my hour off bleeds into two hours because i’m absorbed into my task without distraction. It makes me less tired, helps my mind relax and allows me to actually complete tasks that i’ve wanted to do for a while. It also helps me to stop buying pointless things because i’m not scrolling through social media and being subtly bombarded by adverts. I have also made the decision to leave the screens at least half an hour before I go to sleep, to help my mind shut down and help prevent insomnia.

Keep it Low Waste in your Pants

I believe that I covered most of the bathroom in my last post about Lush products, but as someone with a uterus I just couldn’t leave out sanitary products. Now, being on your period is probably the time of the month when you are least worried about waste and more worried about keeping clean and tidy. But you have to admit that throwing away umpteen sanitary towels or tampons is not exactly eco-friendly. The question is what do you do about it? Now I don’t know about you but growing up tampons and sanitary towels were the only two options presented to me if I didn’t want to go bleeding all over my clothes.

However with a bit of research I have found some low waste alternatives that actually turn out both cheaper in the long run and healthier for your between-me-down-there.

1. Contraception

The main thing that i’ve used has been my contraception. There are certain types of contraception that will, if not stop, then severely reduce the amount that you bleed each month. I have a mirena coil, which other than only needing to be changed every 5 years (low waste and low hassle), has the added advantage of practically stopping my period. Now whilst it was uncomfortable when I first had it inserted, it was provided free by the NHS and family planning, and it doesn’t require me to remember to top up my contraceptive every day.

2. Menstrual cups

The Menstrual cup is a good alternative to tampons, it consists of a reusable silicone, is shaped like a bell and comes in a variety of sizes. It’s inserted the same as a tampon and removed every 4 or more hours (depending on flow), rinsed and reinserted. Due to its material it can be easily cleaned with boiling water or the same sterilising solutions used for baby bottles, and it can be reused for up to 5 years or until the silicone starts to degrade. Whilst Menstrual cups are initially more expensive than tampons, their long life makes them much cheaper in the long run. Menstrual cups also provide a safer alternative to tampons as studies have shown that whilst toxic shock syndrome can occur with tampons it is virtually non-existent with Menstrual cups.

There are a wide variety of sizes of menstrual cups from various sources.

3. Reusable pads

For those of you who suffer from vaginismus (vaginal tightness) or simply don’t want to use tampons or menstrual cups then reusable sanitary pads are another good, low waste, alternative. They usually come in packs of 3-5, are brightly coloured or patterned in order to help reduce staining, and can be washed in regular washing machines. A lot of them come with cloth cases to keep and carry them in and poppers to attach them to your underwear, which prevents the accidental and painful sticking of adhesive to skin and hair. Whilst they don’t have as long a life as Menstrual cups they are multiple use and are often made of biodegradable fibres such as bamboo. If you don’t fancy buying these pads then there are very simple pattens online for you to make your own out of scrap fabric.

A lot of reusable pads come with cute and bright patterns
You can buy multipacks of reusables just like regular sanitary pads.