I have never been an ultimatum person when it comes to food, or most anything else really. My knee jerk reaction to even just considering a suggestion that involves abstaining from something completely, makes me want to rush out and buy/eat/do it – from online shopping to doughnuts to phone use. I am also a professional when it comes to beating myself up about breaking arbitrary (read: impossible to keep) rules or tasks I set for myself as standard. I am slowly, reluctantly, imperfectly attempting to continue returning to this mantra of ‘little and often’ , as a way of trying being kinder to myself whilst also attempting to make maintainable changes.
In this heightened age of extremism (rewarded by the likes of YouTube and other social media-meets-reality-tv platforms); headlines like ‘ Consumerist carnivores convert to waste-free veganism‘, or Netflix documentaries with subjects like ‘Tech addicts attend off-grid boot camps’, are the new norm, and therefore the ONLY way to make any sort of positive lifestyle improvement. If the Kon-Marie wave has flagged up nothing else (other than the need to visit those second hand shops now that everyone’s thanking and releasing all of their worldly possessions), it, like all the other versions of its kind, all say the same thing: whatever we think doing to improve ourselves, the world, our diet, our lives- doesn’t count, because it isn’t enough.
While watching these sorts of story lines might make for an interesting way to kill a few lazy hours at home, it’s often hard to draw actual inspiration from them (other than feeling like a piece of garbage), as they are far too extreme to actually achieve let alone maintain. In that vein, rather than something sensational, I wanted to share a few not-so-radical changes we’ve made over the last year, that have helped to make small but sustainable improvements to our overall consumerism. They won’t foster any budding YouTube stardom. They’re not very sexy or extreme, but they’ve had a hand in helping me avoid my can’t-have trigger buttons, whilst also slightly bolstering my sense of control over something actionable and maintainable. In a world where so much is head-spinningly, teeth-grindingly out of our hands, coupled with these unattainable standards for ‘perfect living’, autonomy + sustainability sometimes feels just as important as the overall environmental impact these actions will have.
- We no longer buy plastic jugs of milk, rather we have our milk delivered in glass bottles via an electric-powered truck. It adds up to a few pounds more each month (which we now save elsewhere to even it out), but the milk tastes significantly better and richer than what we used to buy. Each bottle is sealed by a small piece of foil on top as well as a 1cm thick layer of pure natural cream, serving as a reward for whomever is the first to break into a new bottle of milk. Because of its richness, we end up consuming less dairy on a weekly basis as a result, which is also good for environment impact (see number 3 below). We use Milk and More, for anyone UK based who is considering giving this a try. Can’t find a milk delivery service in your area? Just switch one weekly food item you normally buy in plastic to glass or another recyclable material. Small changes are still changes!
- We’ve recently started using the company Oddbox, whose mission is not only to reduce plastic packaging, but equally to help reduce food waste by supporting farmers; making use of their grocery store-rejected, oddly shaped but-still-delicious produce. Though we have young children and therefore are also in need of regularly guaranteed lunchbox staples like cucumbers and grapes that typically include a small bit of plastic packaging, I receive an Oddbox with fruit and veg every other week, which helps cut down on my overall plastic consumption, and encourages me to mindfully consider what I think we will consume in a week, rather than overbuying to be safe, only to have to then throw it away later.
- Unless it’s a special occasion (say, brisket for Hanukkah or ground meat for burgers to honour Dad’s birthday) I no longer buy beef for home consumption. Raising cattle is said to have some of the single largest environmental impacts, meaning a simple way to work towards reducing that impact is to simply purchase less beef and less dairy (less demand will eventually equal less supply…). There are plenty of other animals out there which require less land, food and less water to raise, and produce less toxic fumes- so when buying meat, I choose them instead. This doesn’t stop me from ordering a steak if I want to when out at a restaurant, but in truth, I don’t really miss it. And it makes those times when I do eat a steak or a burger that much more special.
Getting in the habit of thinking small has made such an enormous impact to my overall mindset when it comes to making changes in all areas of my life. To quote a friend, you don’t have to go from “zero to Opera” when it comes to goal setting. Small is beautiful. And better yet, achievable!
What little changes have you made that are working for you?