Those of you who have been visiting this blog regularly may have noticed that our site notice and links have disappeared. That is because as of now the Living Lighter Store has its own website www.livinglighterstore.co.uk where you can pick up everything you need to start living low waste. Along with our Hydrophil toothbrushes and soap pouches we will soon be selling bees wax wraps! an eco-friendly alternative to cling-film. We will also be selling the none-sponge and re-usable makeup pads and nail pads. Why not check out our new site and then drop us a comment telling us what you think?
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
A few weeks ago I went to a christmas fair, mostly it was filled with stalls of handmade gifts, food and experience days. Overall it was a refreshing change from the commercialisation of modern day christmas.
Two stalls that I was particularly pleased to see were Bamboo Clothing and The Woodland Trust.
Bamboo Clothing do exactly as their names suggest, they create warm, outdoor and workout clothes out of bamboo. This includes socks, yoga clothes, shirts, trousers you name it. The great thing about bamboo is that it’s eco-friendly, easy to grow and durable. Bamboo clothing have their own blog page attached to their store which explains more fully the advantages of bamboo.
The Woodland Trust is a British charity that helps to protect our woodlands and has made tremendous bounds in getting ancient trees listed, which gives them the same rights as
listed buildings. In a nutshell it helps to prevent more of our forests from being cut down. The woodland trust also run a blog which is full of informative posts from facts about red squirrels to in depth descriptions of their current campaigns.
I signed up as a member of The Woodland Trust, and as such I was sent a welcome pack which included a leaf identification pack, a copy of their monthly magazine and a booklet containing all of the locations of current Woodland Trust protected areas. Every part of the welcome pack was recyclable and is a great way to inspire people to get back into nature.
A few of my recent posts, namely ‘‘Never Fear Failure’ and ‘We All Have a Part to Play’, have unintentionally softened the message that this blog is trying to send. Which is that we must all do our best and try our hardest to reduce our impact on the environment. I don’t want to put you off, or come across a bitter and angry (which I totally am so it might happen anyway) I only bring this up as I have been seeing a lot of posts on various social media platforms about how the framing of climate change as a personal failure is wrong because companies are the biggest polluters. But whilst it is true that big companies and multimillionaires are to blame for the vast majority of environmental degradation and climate change (around 70%) I fear that people are using this as an excuse to stop trying.
Just because others have a bigger impact doesn’t mean that you get to stop trying to reduce your own. We don’t live in a vacuum, that one plastic bottle that you bought because you couldn’t be bothered to fill up a reusable one and bring it with you isn’t really just one plastic bottle. It’s millions, because there are millions of others out there that are doing exactly what you are doing and we need to stop.
And conversely, those of you who are saying that your actions don’t matter because large companies are doing more damage than one person can repair, what are you doing to hold these people accountable? I haven’t seen petitions or marches for harsher restrictions on companies so much as i’ve seen people using these facts as a scape goat to stop looking at their own behaviours. You can bitch and moan that the fashion industry is ruining our water supply, or that animal agriculture is causing more greenhouse gas emissions than cars but as long as you keep buying and consuming their shit they’re going to keep doing it.
So yes, it’s true that eating the owner of one fortune 100 company would do more to help the environment that becoming a vegan ever could (and i’ll talk about some of the drawbacks of veganism on environmental protection another time) but I don’t see anyone killing Jeff Bezos anytime soon so until then do something to reduce your own damaging impact!
There will be things that you can’t give up, there will be mistakes that you make because hey! nobodies perfect. But you have to try. Refuse that plastic straw the next time you order a drink, so that someone who actually needs a straw can still use one. Take public transport, or ride a bike to work so that someone who can’t physically do those things and has to rely on cars to get places still can. Push yourself to do better, if you forget to take your reusable coffee cup out with you then you don’t get a coffee, don’t reward yourself for failing because then you won’t get better. And for those of you out there (once again mostly rich people) who think that your own personal enjoyment of something somehow negates the damage and is somehow more important the the protection of our planet then maybe take a hard look at yourself.
And if you are the owner of a multinational corporation or a fortune 100 company (although I doubt there are any of those reading this) stop fucking destroying our planet for your own profits and take some goddamn responsibility.
Whilst researching ideas for this blog I find myself coming up against the same blocks again and again. Mainly the ‘how is me making small changes going to help the environment’ and ‘how much of an impact am I really having on the environment in the first place’. How many of you have bought something wasteful and justified it to yourself with ‘oh it’s just this one time how bad could it be’. I know that i’ve done that on multiple occasions. Sometimes it’s the only way, for me at least because I am incredibly hard on myself, to temper the guilt. Even when i’ve had no other choice, for example if I can’t afford the eco-friendly, organic version of something that I need and therefore have to buy the cheaper, more wasteful version.
Now i’m not saying that you should take this as an out, yes you should go easy on yourself if you make a small slip up, but you should keep trying (I went into more detail in my ‘Never Fear Failure’ post). My main point in this is that sometimes there are things that we have to do that may be wasteful. For example there are many disabled people that have to use plastic straws, and they should not be made to feel guilty about that. What we as a community need to do is allow them to do this, and to help them by not using plastic straws ourselves.
The main point I’m trying to make is that there are some people out there who have a much bigger impact that others, these are also the people who have the ability to reduce that impact. A billionaire who has a private jet, multiple sports cars and a huge multinational corporation are the main causes of pollution, not that one coffee that you bought on a whim the other day. Unfortunately these are also the people who profit the most off of this pollution and waste, they are the ones who create these pointless products, who market what should be long lasting items (phones, clothes etc) as disposable junk that needs to be replaced on a regular basis.
So how can we make any meaningful impact if out actions are just a drop in the ocean? We try to influence others to add their drop too, and if enough of us work together then the people who can contribute more than a drop will have to start paying attention. Now if there’s one thing that I have learnt it’s that word alone won’t be enough, especially in this capitalist society that we currently find ourselves in. So if they won’t listen to our words then what will they listen to? Our wallets.
In today’s society buying power is what will change the consciousness. So use that buying power to support small local businesses, use it and refuse to support those massive polluting companies. Boycott, protest and petition. I myself have been boycotting both Coke and Amazon for a variety of reasons, and not only has it saved me money because it’s forced me to think about my purchases, but it has also helped me to find smaller businesses that I wouldn’t have found other whys.
So the take away of this post is: You alone cannot save the world but you need to do your part to improve it anyway.