Word of the year 2019: Sustainability

Oh hey there, 2019. How are you doing? Yes, it would appear that we’ve somehow left the wild plains of 2018 for the fresh, ‘grass is always greener’ lands of 2019. It’s time for a million and one Instagram posts about the inevitable ‘new year; new me’ mantras. Well, I don’t know about you, but I quite like the gin-swigging, cheese-munching, cake-devouring, sarcastic monster that I am. Anyway, if I’m going to have a ‘word of the year’, then it doesn’t work – ‘new me’ is two. Gutted.

For me, 2019 is going to be about sustainability. And I’m hoping you are going to join in too.

I’m already a pretty good human in most of these respects, but there’s always more that can be done. If you saw the 2018 in review post a couple of days ago, I made a quip about the global changes coming in 2019. But if we want changes on the macro level then surely we must start by looking at ourselves, no? 

So here I am, it’s the start of the year and my little kitchen and I are going to make a serious bid towards being significantly more sustainable. Want to join?

We’re starting small. There’s no overnight shift to the plastic-free, no air travel, vegan utopia – that just won’t work, those plans go to seed in about 17 days – this is taking steps to a better way of doing things for the long term. 

Let’s look at this in a few ways:

Single-use plastics

sustainability - life less plastic

Plastics we just use once – it’s really not necessary most of the time, so let’s reduce our dependance where we can. It’s not going to change the world over night, but in the long run less plastic is a good thing. Although let’s be careful not to use so much other stuff instead – simply subbing in tinfoil instead of clingfilm isn’t going to help anyone.

In January I’m going to start by ensuring I use the tupperware and glass dishes I have lids for instead of clingfilming a bowl. I’ll use what clingfilm I have when really needed (because simply throwing the roll away after zero uses is even worse), but then it’s gone.

Food shopping

sustainability - better food shopping

This one is about sensible choices – buying less meat and dairy (but better quality), meal planning more, seasonal eating, buying loose rather than pre-packed, and shopping less.

In January I’m going to get back into meal planning. I got a magnetic board that goes on the fridge (mine was from Tiger, but is like this Amazon one) – if you know what you need when you go shopping then you won’t over-buy and then waste half of it. It’s surprising how much it helps.

Similarly, if we plan it out, one less meat-based dinner a week is quite easy. Most of us reducing the meat we eat will do way more for the world than a few hard-core vegans (and is more a realistic habit change for most of us, although if you want to go full-vegan, good for you).

Also, I don’t need a plastic bag for my carrots, onions, apples, etc. Buy them loose, weigh them and pop them straight into your bag. Sometimes you can’t avoid it, but other times you can. If you buy something consistently, why not write to the producer and ask if they have considered packaging changes.

Recycling

Most of us recycle now, right? If not, get on that first. It’s pretty easy to do and is amazing how much less goes into landfill. 

From January I’m going to be better at recycling food waste (peelings, etc.) and with better meal planning my already minimal wasted food should be even less.

Decluttering

Sustainability - declutter

This one I’m particularly interested by – I have far too much ‘stuff’. A while back I read about a challenge that was to pick a theme each month and commit to taking a bag’s worth out of your house. Recycling or donating where you can, naturally.

In January I am going to start this and hopefully try it for six months. This month it’s about the general junk cluttering up my living room. Books, clothes, the ‘I might need it one day’ cupboard are all currently on my list.

Other things we buy

This is about being more conscious of what we’re purchasing. Is it a cheap, crap version we’re going to buy (and bin) five of? Do we need so many clothes in our wardrobes? Could something of a higher quality last a lot longer?

Do I really need some of the things I buy? No. definitely not. For ‘big’ things I buy, I’ve used the ‘cost per X’ method and it’s worked pretty well. If I look at how many miles I’ve cycled, my bike wasn’t that expensive, same for the number of times I’ve worn that winter coat. On a similar thought, a couple of pyrex food boxes for storing leftovers is better than plastic boxes from a pound shop.

From January, every time I want to buy something new, this is going to be the method I use. Or at least I will try a lot harder.

Wellbeing (and other buzzwords I sort of understand)

sustainability - more fresh air

OK, so that’s a somewhat flippant heading. But this sh*t is important. Yes, we need to look after ourselves physically, but mentally too. Now that, according to my charmer of a little brother, I am about to be ‘properly old’ (yes, 30 of all ages…) I know what happens if I eat a takeaway pizza, fast food or lots of booze. It sucks. I get fat. But actually it also makes me tired, grumpy and snappy. It makes me feel rubbish. 

I will try and drink less, exercise more and take the time to think about my mental health and happiness as well. I will get outside and get more fresh air.

In January I am going to start by re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. It’s a book about creativity, genius and your art (it’s £5.56 on Amazon just now). I would highly recommend you read it too. But if you don’t have time to read a book, take 10 minutes of your day to listen to her talk about the differences between hobbies, jobs, careers and vocations. This is a wonderful little aside to start you thinking in January.

In short

2019 is brought to you by the letter S. S for sustainability.

A life without cheese? I’m good thanks, mate. No more butter for cakes? Get to f***. No more chocolate? I don’t think so. (Is it obvious that I’m low-key terrified of becoming lactose intolerant?) But a life with less single-use plastic? One where we plan better and more vegetables? Less meat and cheese, but better qualities of both? It’s not that difficult when you look at it like that.

What does this look like longterm? Not a clue. Seriously. It’ll take research, experimentation and the occasional failure to make the notion into actual change.

It’s a lifestyle change. It’s a psychological challenge as much as a physics one. I’ll report back on progress each month (yup, there will be data tracking, this is my geeky scientist side) in the monthly update. My hope is that you’ll join me, and you too can feature in these updates

This is a journey, not a destination. Want to come along?

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