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Monday, 23 May 2016

Making Changes - for the environment, for others, and for me!

Over the last five years or so, with a big push in the last year, I have tried to reduce my waste and use natural, non-harmful products whenever possible. There are three broad reasons for why I’ve done this: the environment, animal rights, and my own personal health.

Let me expand…

1) For the ENVIRONMENT: On a global scale, human beings produce 2.6 trillion pounds of trash every year. That amount is unfathomable to me.  Studies from the world bank suggest that most of the waste is produced by countries that are “wealthier” (the OECD countries (34 in total) include the US, Canada, many European countries, and a number of other countries Canada, US, many Western European countries) produce more waste than countries that are considered less wealthy. Within any given country, these trends are replicated at a local level: upper-class individuals generally produce more waste than lower-class individuals.

(Note: ‘waste’ is anything that will end up in a landfill rather than being recycled/composted. This includes a heck of a lot of food packaging (and, unfortunately for many households, a lot of perfectly-compostable food), all your old electronics that don’t get recycled, and a number of other items).

2) For ANIMALS and 'animal rights': I realise that not everyone is in agreement on the degree of ‘rights’ that non-human animals ought to have.  (There’s an overview of the debate here) but I personally think it is crucial that we show more intentional respect and love for non-human beings. For me, this is based primarily on the grounds of compassion, but I think a lot of religious traditions actually ‘call’ their adherents to this. (Don’t get me started on the biblical grounds for this within a Christian context..! I've written about that here.)

3) For my own PERSONAL HEALTH: I want to live long and be healthy while I’m alive. I don’t want to put harmful chemicals in my body or on my skin. My own biggest shift has been in the food I eat and the cosmetics I use. As a result of beginning to make almost all my own cosmetics (see below) my bathroom could now be confused as a kitchen pantry; and I love it! A huge help in this regard has been recipes and tips by Wellness Mama. You can see her blog here

With these three motivators, I’ve tried to find creative, cost-effective ways to use natural products and limit the number of things I put into a trash bin. I’ve also tried to be kinder and more compassionate to other beings (humans and non-humans. Yes, this includes the creepy crawlies which make me squeamish.) 

Things I’m proud of having changed:
Maybe something on this list will inspire you to change something in your own life. None of these were that difficult of changes to make, and all were done while on a modest student budget.

- vegetarian since 2008
- I now make almost all of my own cosmetics out of all-natural ingredients, thereby eliminating the purchase of the following plastic-wrapped items: shampoo and conditioner, lotion, deodorant, toner, lip-balm, leg-wax (feel free to ask me for my recipes!)
- I started a compost bin in my back yard (shhhhh, don’t tell my college!) so to not throw compostables into the garbage
- buying about 90% of my clothing from second hand stores
- I tried my hand at making beeswax candles (taper candles and glass-jar candles)
- I now buy a substantial amount of my vegetables from an organic local veg farm
- I grow some of my own vegetables (kale, for the most part)
- 5+ years ago I switched from pads/tampons to the Diva Cup. I absolutely love it.
- VERY RARELY do I kill bugs when found in my house. I use the trap-and-release method.  Because if I were in someone’s house, I wouldn’t want to be squished.
- trying to slow down and enjoy the natural world a bit more. It may be selfish but it's certainly true that when I enjoy it, I care more about protecting and improving it.

Our earth is pretty fabulous.
Enjoying Earth

This is Two Years of Trash.
Photo taken from Trash is for Tosser's blog. Click here
But I’m still far from where I want to be in terms of making positive changes. There are so many people who inspire me to make even more changes. A recent inspiration has been the blog Trash is for Tossers who, over a full two-year period, Lauren (the author of Trash is for Tossers) can fit ALL of the trash she has produced into a small mason jar. That is incredible and inspirational!

Here are some of the things I still want to change. This list is far from exhaustive..

Things I still want to change:
- eliminate/reduce dairy from my diet for environmental purposes (or at least ensure my current cheese consumption…and yes my dairy intake is essentially just cheese…comes from ‘happy cows’)
- eliminate/reduce all foods that come in pre-wrapped plastic (my biggest vices include: bags of frozen berries; nuts/pasta/rice/lentils in that plastic wrap; chocolate bars; buying bulk veg & fruits from Asda online which automatically means they put the veg in plastic bags in order to weigh it; “bulk bags” at produce stores [3 peppers in one pre-made bag cost proportionately less than buying 3 single peppers, etc.]
- I’m a sucker for candles, and I suspect that the thin metal of tea-light candles is not enviro-friendly. I want to change that.  Especially seeing as I know how to make beeswax candles……hmmmm.
- participate in reducing the inadvertent waste of public edibles (i.e. go foraging for food more often!)
- all Tupperware as glass or metal + cloth bags
- I love trying new arts and crafts and having different projects on the go. I would like to try to make these as sustainable as possibly by using enviro-friendly materials. (Natural paints? On wood? Rather than i.e. acrylic on canvas)
- I buy a lot of things online and the shipping packaging is usually quite bad
- reduce air travel
- solar energy


What are some things that you have changed that you are proud of?

What are some things that you still want to change?

What are some of your reasons for either of the above?

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