Switch Off and Do Nothing

Earlier this week I was sent home from work with a severe migraine, an unfortunate side effect of spending 7+ hours a day staring at a computer screen. I initially welcomed the day off as it meant that I wouldn’t have to sit for hours on end inputing pointless data for companies that I really couldn’t care less about. But my mood quickly shifted when I realised that, due to the fact that my brain was currently trying to escape through my eyeballs, my day was going to be just as unproductive and boring as it would have been had I stayed at work.

Usually a sick day can be spent watching TV, reading or possibly catching up on researching/ writing for this blog. However I was forced to spend Wednesday curled up in a dark room, trying to find a position where I wouldn’t feel like my head was about to explode. And it occurred to me as I lay there, in pain and bored out of my mind, that I couldn’t really remember a recent time where I was voluntarily doing nothing. That’s because as a society we’ve been told that we have to be doing something productive 24/7 or else we’re lazy, wasting our lives etc. I felt like a failure, like I was cheating something because I was just lying around, even despite the fact that I couldn’t feel half of my face, of even see out of one of my eyes.

And what’s more we’re so bombarded with stimuli that any time away from that, where we’re just alone with our thoughts, feels totally alien. And this is where i’m going to talk about phones and social media again (cue groans). Because as I was lying there, knowing that any light, especially light from a screen would make my migraine much worse, I kept checking my phone. It was for no reason as well because, like I said before, as soon as I picked it up the light from the screen would send a sharp stab of pain to the back of my eyes and i’d have to put it back down again. You’d think that after the first couple of times of doing this i’d learn and leave the phone checking for another day, but I didn’t. It was like I was having withdrawal symptoms, my brain needed the short-term hit that it gets from checking social media, or playing mindless apps, it was no longer accustomed to just ‘being’.

I’m not going to act like phones or social media are inherently bad, and i’ve talked about this before. My phone allows me to do so many things, I can talk to my friends and family, I have apps that help me with learning new languages, and my social media is where I promote this blog (not very well but you know, I give it a go). But the problem with being able to do anything means that we’re constantly doing everything, and it’s burning us out. How many of you use your phone whilst watching TV? Most of you i’m sure. It’s changing how we interact, or don’t interact, with each other and the world around us. We no longer take in as much because we’re filling our time with other, much less meaningful things.

The take away from this, possibly meandering, post is this. Try doing just one thing. This is something that i’m trying to do better at from now on myself. If you sit down to watch a show or a movie with your family, leave your phone in another room and just focus on what’s happening. If you’re reading, writing, tidying up, don’t have a Youtube video playing in the background distracting you. If you’re having a conversation with friends, leave your phone in your pocket/bag. I can’t tell you how long it sometimes takes me to write one of these things because i’m constantly being distracted by the ‘background noise’ of some show or another that I’ve put on, but I can tell you that due to those distractions i’ve put out work that i’m not really very pleased with because I couldn’t get it any better with everything else that was going on around me.

And every once in a while, do nothing. Allow yourself that time to sit and just be, with no goals or deadlines or guilt. Because you won’t really be doing nothing, you’ll be relaxing, thinking, recharging, escaping.

In the end, my sick day wasn’t really a write off like I thought. I planned this post, I thought of ideas for future posts, I developed more ideas for the novel that i’m writing, and most importantly I got better. I finally listened to my body and gave it the rest of the day free of screens and stimuli, and the next day I woke up with a clear head, ready for the next few months before another tiny creature finds its way inside my brain with a pick-axe to teach me a lesson.

Supporting Those Supporting The Earth

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.

Don’t Use It As An Excuse

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.

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.

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.