It is the first day of the New Year. And a new decade. It may also be the most crucial time in our human history. Our planet Earth, the Great Mother, is on the verge of disaster. And it is our fault. We have used and abused her.
I don’t believe it is too late. Humans have always had an ingenuity and a will to survive that have seen our species through so much.
But we must take up that gauntlet NOW. We cannot afford to keep going on as we have been, being led by our incessant need for conspicuous consumption and convenience. We must begin to put the future – ours, our children’s, our grandchildren’s, and this planet’s – above the present.
That means we need to make changes in how we live now. As Gandhi said:
There is enough on Earth for everybody’s need, but not enough for everybody’s greed.
That everybody includes not just humans but other species as well.
We need to begin now. This minute. This New Year. This new decade.
But most of us wonder how. Or we shift the blame to government and business.
Don’t get me wrong. Both government and business have their roles to play in this great clean-up. Just as they played such large roles in getting us into this mess. But the truth is that business, especially, responded to the needs and wants of consumers. And who are consumers? You and me.
The thing is that this is such a big task, we must all be involved in the solution. Each and every one of us. As individuals, families, consumers, and voters.
But where do we begin? What can I do? I am just one person.
So, I thought I’d share 20 environment-saving ideas for 2020…and beyond.
1) Don’t litter!
This one should not even need to be said. Yet, I know that I cannot leave my
house without seeing the streets, parks, beaches, our whole world strewn with
rubbish, garbage, our unused plastic wrappers, bottles, and papers. This is
perhaps the simplest thing there is. Take your shit with you. Put it in the
garbage, whether that is the closest public one you can find or one at home.
Better yet recycle it. Better still reuse as much as you can. Best of all, ask
yourself before you buy, ‘do I really need this?’
2) Walk! Yes, instead of getting in your car to drive to the store down the street, walk there. Not only is it better for the environment, but it is better for your health too. Too far to walk? Bike. Bus. Train. At @HomeCrazzyHome, we don’t own a car. We live in an area with easy access to everything we need. We walk most of the time. But have you ever considered how many cabs/taxis/ubers you could take before it equaled the cost of buying, maintaining, insuring, and fuelling a car? The answer is A LOT.
3) Forget the Kardashians! In my day, it was keeping up with the Joneses, but these days it has become the Kardashians or whatever reality mega-star is hip today. We have to live in bigger houses (admittedly guilty here, but we try to use @HomeCrazzyHome wisely), fancier cars, the latest gadgets, fashionable clothes, the list goes on. We don’t even use those things up or wait for them to break before we replace them with newer and flashier ones. Not because we need them, but because we want them. At the same time, we have witnessed ever-increasing rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Why? Because we are trying to use things to fill voids. They can’t.
4) Grow your own! Okay, almost none of us can grow everything we eat. But every last one of us can grow some of what we consume. Yes, even those living in tiny apartments. You can grow sweet-smelling herbs and lettuces in pots on window sills. And those with tiny front or back gardens would be surprised at how much they can grow in such limited space with simple techniques like lasagna gardening. I grew massive courgettes, pumpkins, and peppers in my first experimental one. It took me literally half an hour in the dark to prepare it one evening. Oh, and carrots grow beautifully in those 2-liter plastic soda bottles. Grab them out of the recycling, because reusing always trumps recycling. Besides, you can always recycle them in a couple of seasons, when the plastic becomes too brittle for planting.
5) Go wild! And while we’re talking about gardening, one of the worst things that most of us do to our environment is the perfectly manicured lawns. Those lawns do not sustain local wildlife, be that bees who rely upon early dandelion blooms or hedgehogs or birds. Alright, in our neighborhood admittedly even we can’t take this one all the way. While we keep the front garden sort of under control, we went wild with the back garden two years ago. We cut the grass in the early spring and late autumn, simply because we don’t have any grazing animals to do the job of keeping it healthy for us. We have a frog pond, an insect garden, and wildflowers that the bees flock to. One of the trees actually buzzes in late spring and early summer. Oh, and in winter, we supplement it all with bird feeders.
6) Charity shops! Even when we stop trying to keep up with the Kardashians/Joneses, there will still be things that we need to buy: clothes, toys, books, art, even furniture. But rather than buying those things new, it makes sense/cents to check out second-hand, thrift, and charity shops first. You can often find what you are looking for there, sometimes of a higher quality than you could have afforded new, with plenty of life left in it, and for a fraction of the cost. Half of the furniture, most of the art, and loads of my clothes were found in charity shops. Heck, mine and Alan’s weekly date is walking into town and exploring all the charity shops (oh, and lunch out).
7) Charity shops! No, that is not a typo. Just as you can find loads of wonderful things in them, conversely it makes sense to donate anything that still has life left in it to your favorite charity shop. That is much better than putting it in the garbage or recycling. Many of them even offer pick-up service for larger items or if you have loads of stuff to donate.
8) Replace disposable paper products with reuseable cloth ones!
Think about it for a moment, what did people do before the convenience of paper towels, napkins, and Kleenex? They used old cloths to clean up spills. They had lovely cloth napkins and handkerchiefs. By going back to these old-time solutions, we not only have an environmental impact but there is just something so much nicer about having a cloth napkin next to your plate. Yes, you have to wash them, but they don’t add that much to your laundry. And honestly, most times you don’t need fresh ones after a single-use. Oh, and how nice to have those embroidered handkerchiefs, what a lovely touch.
9) Take stay-cations! In my life, I lived some pretty amazing places. London. Los Angeles. Houston. Baltimore. Arizona. And now Wales. One of the largest expenses and least environmentally-friendly things we do each year is taking a vacation/holiday, especially if we fly. The truth is that most of us live very close, if not right next-door to some spectacular attractions. Besides how many of us have felt or commented that we need a vacation to get over our vacation. That is because of the stress of travel, staying in a strange place, and trying to cram all kinds of activities into a short time-frame, all things that can be avoided with stay-cations. So this year, why not try looking at your hometown or the areas close to it as a tourist would? I wish I had done that with some of the places I have lived. Oh, the things that I missed.
10) Make it yourself!
Have you ever thought, ‘I could make that myself.’ As a #creator, I often do. Whether it is a rug or quilt from old scraps, bath bombs, or candles. I am making almost everything for our wedding from our invitations to the crocheting the bride’s maids bouquets and my own, right down to sewing my own wedding dress and veil. The thing is that most people find making things whether it be sewing, crocheting, woodwork, gardening, or any type of crafting to be relaxing.
11) Reuse all those plastic tubs and glass jars! I remember Tupperware parties. I was about seven or eight when my aunt had the first one. All those pretty colors and coordinated containers. Tupperware was just another example of keeping up with the Joneses. Suddenly, all the old margarine tubs that we had been using were no longer good enough. No, we just had to have those fancy new Tupperware things. But did we? Do we? Plastics are one of the most lethal things we are doing to our environment. Yet, how many of us throw away or even recycle those takeaway containers? Then we turn around and purchase new, coordinating containers. Why? The only legitimate answer goes back to the Joneses and Kardashians. Why not save and reuse those takeaway containers, margarine tubs, and glass jars?
12) Use natural cleaners instead of chemical ones! Do you know what one of the best degreasers and anti-bacterial cleaners is? Steam. Yes, simple H2O in its gaseous form. You can purchase a multi-use steam cleaner that can be used for floors, bathrooms, and loads of other things for less than a hundred dollars/pounds (sometimes MUCH less). It will last for years. And replace almost every chemical under your cupboard. It will also be more child and pet-friendly. But even it that is out of your budget range, there are other cleaners which are as cheap or cheaper, and just as effective as those anti-bacterial and bleach products. Things like baking soda, lemon, and vinegar. And they smell nicer too.
13) Shop local market and ethnic food stores! Why? The first reason is often food miles. How far has your food traveled from the farm to your table? If it is not the background, then local farmers and co-ops are a good alternative. Another reason is that it is often easier to source ethically grown meat and meat products this way. You can have greater confidence in your free-range eggs, butter, and meats when you know and ask questions of the farmers themselves. Many will even welcome you to visit them…with your children. What a wonderful stay-cation activity that is! As for those ethnic food stores, they are more likely to have plastic-free produce than supermarkets. They are also great for purchasing herbs and other staples like rice, oil, and beans in bulk.
14) Refills! For those household products such as laundry detergent, washing-up liquid, shampoo, body and hand soap that you cannot easily replace with natural alternatives, there is an increasing number of options for refilling your existing plastic containers. Our local council sponsors such service at its environment center. But recently two additional private options have popped up…within walking distance of our @HomeCrazzyHome. One is at the university and the other is a private store, unfortunately its hours are limited. One of my ‘resolutions’ is to check them both out this first week of the new year. Maybe that will make a good blog next week?
15) Take your own bottle or cup with you! It is not just your cleaning products that you can refill either. More and more restaurants, coffee shops, and other public places are encouraging you to bring refillable containers. Both Costa and Starbucks have offered their own refillable cups for a decade. But now they are happy to refill ones that are not their own. As for water…ARGH! Disposable plastic water bottles are a nightmare. We try our best to avoid them. The only exception is when PanKwake goes out or one of her autistic friends with a germ-phobia. When I go on my walks, I have refillable plastic containers that I take with me.
16) Wear a sweater/jumper or thermal underwear! And turn down the heating. As menopause has taken hold, I am especially susceptible to changing body temperature. But going into this winter, I scoured the local charity shops for jumpers of various weights and flannel or fleece pajama pants. The jumpers especially are important. I can go from a t-shirt only to a light-weight jumper to a heavy one in the space of an hour sometimes. I keep a light-weight and heavier jumper or sweatshirt in all the rooms of the house that I use frequently. Of course, PanKwake is always cold. But we solved that issue by buying a small electric heater…at a charity shop, of course. It is much more environmentally-friendly to heat her small gaming room than this whole huge house.
17) Collect rainwater! Especially if you are gardening. Waterbutts are ideal. But even old pots, pans, garbage cans, or the frog pond. Just remember this water is fine for your plants, maybe even the birds and other wild creatures, it is NOT for drinking, cooking, or necessarily even bathing. Of course, with a more elaborate system of rainwater collection, some households can become self-sufficient or nearly so. But just small steps like collecting and storing enough for your plants can make a huge difference during droughts.
18) Turn off lights! When not in use, and use natural light by opening curtains whenever possible. Admittedly, at @HomeCrazzyHome we have to leave on the lights on the upstairs landing for PanKwake. She does not have good night vision. So, if she gets up in the night to go to the bathroom, she needs them. But otherwise, Alan and I both regularly go around the house turning them off.
19) Energy-saving bulbs! Of course, the amount of savings these days is not as much since we have energy-saving LED bulbs in almost every room and lamp in the house. These are wonderful, not simply because of lower energy usage, but also because they have a much longer life-span, making less waste that will end up in landfills or need to be recycled.
20) If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down! I saved this one until last, because, well if you have stuck through over two-thousand words of my environmental sermon, then maybe you won’t be all that offended by this one…
Okay, if you’re still with me after that and have not blocked all my accounts and reported me, then I want to wish you a Happy New Year, a new decade, and encourage you once more…
If each of us does our little bit, then we can make a huge difference in this world. Our planet needs each and every one of us. So, please do your part…and share this blog with as many friends, family, and even enemies (hmmm, considering #20 maybe especially enemies) as you can.
Goddess bless and keep us each and every one in 2020…and beyond.
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