I’m passionate about zero waste and sustainable living, just don’t call me this…

There’s one word I try to use as little as possible when it comes to talking about zero waste, living plastic-free or anything sustainable living related. In fact, I try never to use it at all.

Could you guess what it is?

I’ll tell you, and you might be surprised. Because it’s a word we hear often. Sometimes it’s even prefaced with words like “responsible” or “ethical” or “conscious” – so how could it not be a good word to use, with such honourable descriptors?

The word is this: consumer.

Now, I consume. We all consume. From food and water, to energy, to the things we buy to use and wear and own, we are consuming.

But calling myself a consumer? That implies that the main thing of value I have to offer is my ability to use up resources.

Being first and foremost a consumer means declaring that our best and most valued traits are our shopping habits.

And that is not the case at all.

I just don’t… I just can’t… identify with being a consumer above all else.

When was it decided that we would be reduced simply to consumers, to cogs in the economy, our value judged by what and how and how much we buy?

I try to never label myself (or anyone else) a consumer, and I don’t want to be labelled a consumer. I don’t really want to be called a responsible consumer, an ethical consumer or a conscious consumer, for that matter.

Yes, I try to consume responsibly, ethically and consciously. But I don’t identify as someone who buys stuff. I feel that labelling someone a consumer takes away their power, and says – the only way that you have influence is by shopping.

We have power. To share ideas, to express our opinions, to call out companies, to make our voices heard, to apply pressure to businesses and governments, to vote, to demand change, and to ask for things to be different.

Our power extends far beyond the things we buy.

Let’s not give our power away.

So if we don’t call ourselves consumers, what do we call ourselves instead?

The way I see it: we are community members. We are citizens. We are people (both as individuals and groups) who care a great deal about the planet and our children’s future.

But somehow this label of ‘consumer’ has got pushed to the forefront and rather than saying “I’m a concerned and passionate citizen” we are reducing ourselves to just one part of the whole: a ‘conscious consumer’.

I am so much more than that, you are so much more than that; we are so much more than that.

Now I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying “money talks” and the idea that “we can vote with our dollars for the change we want to see”. And I do believe that this is true: we can vote with our dollars.

But voting with our dollars does not have to mean shopping, or buying, or even consuming.

It can mean choosing green energy, or opting for public transport, or donating money to charitable causes, or contributing to organizations whose work we admire.

In fact, sometimes we “vote with our dollars” when we don’t buy anything at all.

I vote with my dollars when I opt out of the formal economy and swap stuff, share stuff, and make do with what I have.

And yes, I vote with my dollars when I shop at the local bulk store, or buy something from the charity shop.

Very occasionally I’m voting with my dollars when I buy something brand-spanking-new from a store, or less frequently, that has to get shipped from interstate.

Because yes, I consume. I try to consume responsibly, and ethically, and consciously. (And minimally yes, but I do still consume.)

That does not reduce me to a consumer.

Did you see the Guardian article published earlier in May which stated that it had updated its style guide to reflect more accurately the environmental crises facing the world?

So “climate change” is now “climate emergency” or “climate breakdown”, and “global warming” is now “global heating”. The editor-in-chief of the Guardian was quoted as saying that they wanted to ensure that they are being scientifically precise, and communicating clearly.

“The phrase ‘climate change’”, she said, “sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

The words we use to describe things are important. Stronger language definitely invokes stronger reactions. Climate breakdown clearly has a sense of urgency that climate change does not.

And ‘concerned citizen’ has a power and gravitas to it that ‘responsible consumer’ does not.

Plus, it’s far more accurate.

We cannot make the world a better place simply by consuming better. We have a chance, we have a choice and we have, I think, a responsibility to do more than simply buy things to try to create positive change.

Let’s share ideas. Let’s share resources. Let’s champion those that do good, and hold those that do not to account. Let’s sign petitions, let’s add our voice to campaigns for change, lets write to our politicians and governments. Let’s get involved where we can, and put our energy into things that matter.

Let’s consume consciously. But let’s not give our power away and reduce ourselves to being consumers, first and foremost. That is not who we are, and that is not the limit of what we can do.

The truth is, we will never save the world by shopping.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you agree, disagree, did you learn something new, have you changed your mind or are you sticking with the status quo? Whatever your thoughts are I’d love to hear them so be sure to leave a comment below!



Zero-Waste, Minimalism… & Why I Won’t Talk about Money-Saving

I passionately believe that living a zero waste and minimalist lifestyle is something to strive for. It’s rewarding, fun and fulfilling. We live on a beautiful planet and must do what we can to protect it. These lifestyles provide challenges that encourage our creativity and build resilience; they teach us that as individuals, we can make a difference.

They reconnect us with the seasons, the local economy, with real food… and with each other. There are beautiful communities of people all over the world passionate about the idea of living with less. Simplifying and letting go of excess gives us time to spend doing the things that are truly important to us, and increases our happiness.

These are the reasons that I love this lifestyle; they are the reasons that I use to try to inspire others to join in. Money-saving is not among them. Here’s why.

When I stopped buying plastic in 2012 I never realised quite how life-changing it would be. For the first time, I began to question the choices I made unconsciously. I looked at my habits (such as the places I shopped, the stuff I bought and the reasons I bought it) and asked myself if they were in line with my values.

If I cared so much about the planet, why was I buying all this single-use packaging that created an enormous burden for the environment? If I believed in the local economy and the importance of supporting small independent businesses, why did I tend to shop at the supermarkets and department stores?

Somehow these behaviours had sneaked into my routine and become habits… and I was determined to un-learn them and create new ones that were aligned with the changes I want to see in the world.

The benefits that came were enormous. There’s a real satisfaction that comes with supporting businesses whose values align with your own. It feels good to care about something and know the choices you make (and the actions you take) are strengthening that cause, not weakening it.

I reconnected with my local community and met some amazing and inspiring people. I stopped buying junk and processed food; I stopped being such a sucker for marketing and buying the “special offers” or shiny new products with the tempting packaging.

I started buying real food that was nutritious and good for me. More whole foods, more fresh vegetables and lots of actual ingredients; less refined carbohydrates, less sugar and no synthetic preservatives. I cooked more from scratch and found I loved the creative process and journey of discovery: there are lots of things you can make at home quickly and simply.

My health and energy levels improved dramatically.

I also ditched the chemical-laden toiletries and cleaning products with unreadable ingredients, removing a lot of the clutter from my bathroom in the process. I sought out natural alternatives that came without all the packaging, or made my own (deodorant, toothpaste and cleaning products).

I reduced what I used down to a few products that have multiple uses.

Aside from cooking, and making personal care/cleaning products, I’ve learned a lot of other new skills. How to compost, grow veggies, how to sew (okay, I’m still on the very basics with that one). How to see beyond the greenwash and find answers rather than believing without question; how to get involved with local community groups, even how to use social media to share as I learn.

I’ve discovered a love of writing that motivates me every day to share my story and spread the message – you can live a happy, fun and fulfilling life in a way that doesn’t harm the planet.

As part of this journey, I learned to simplify. I figured out what was “enough” and let go of the excess. I found contentment with what I have, rather than chasing the next thing, or thinking “I’ll be happy when / if….”.

I no longer go to the shops when I’m feeling down to buy stuff I don’t need: I go for a walk outside, or chat to a friend, or cook up a storm in the kitchen (well, usually it looks like a storm has passed through when I’m done). That’s what makes me happy.

Rodion Kutsaev Treading My Own Path Zero Waste Minimalism Happiness

What it all comes down to is living a life in line with my values. I value nature and the environment; social justice and equality. I value being able to nurture my creativity, look after my health, and help others. Not only do I value these, but I find happiness and fulfilment in pursuing a life that is in harmony with them.

This is why I find this lifestyle so immensely rewarding.

I want to help others reconnect with their values too: figure out what they care about, and live a life that’s aligned to that. This is why I don’t talk about money-saving. I don’t think it fits. I don’t think it’s the reason that we pursue zero waste or minimalist lifestyles, and I don’t want to use it to try to encourage others.

Money-saving can be about making ends meet, stretching the budget, putting food on the table. It can be a necessity. But if we start to value money-saving beyond our needs, that’s valuing something different: it’s valuing wealth. Valuing wealth is at odds with the values behind zero waste and minimalism. It’s the pursuit of more [wealth] versus the pursuit of less (or enough). I could argue that money, wealth and profit-at-the-expense-of-the-environment are what got us into this mess in the first place…

Talking about money-saving makes me uncomfortable, because wealth is not a value I want to promote. I’ve made decisions in the past based solely on money, and I’m not proud. I know that they weren’t the right choices.

I’ve told myself that ethical is expensive, and allowed myself to put self-centred interest above standing up for and choosing what I believe in. (I’m happy and relieved to say that I don’t shop that way any more. I’m much more aligned with my values.)

Now, when I see wealth values acted out, it makes my heart sink. I’ve seen ugly commentaries regarding charity shops, with outrage at the fact that these shops are selling items for more than a couple of dollars. Where is the perspective? Charity shops don’t exist to provide bargains to thrifty shoppers. They raise funds for the poorest and most marginalised people in our society, relying on the kindness of donations and the manpower of volunteers to raise funds.

Money can bring out the worst in us, and I’d rather focus on things that bring out the best.

By living a zero waste minimalist lifestyle, I do spend less than I used to. It’s not the reason why I live this way: it is simply a by-product of changing my habits. I buy and consume far less. If it cost more, I’d still be living this way, because I’m not doing it for the money-saving benefits.

Telling people that living this way will save them money isn’t the whole story, and it does the movement a disservice. If they come in with the idea that they will save money without changing their habits, they’ll be sorely disappointed. Some parts of zero waste living do save money: stop buying bottled water, drink from the tap and save a fortune.

Others don’t: stainless steel is far more expensive than plastic. Overall, it may balance out… but only if you also change your lifestyle.

There are plenty of benefits to zero waste living and minimalism that are immensely rewarding, that make us better citizens and happier people. That’s where my focus lies.

I don’t want people to choose zero waste living or minimalism because they think they will save money. That’s not what it’s about. I want people to make these choices because they believe in their hearts that it is the right thing to do.

Now I’d love to hear from you! What are the benefits that you get out of pursuing a life with less? Were there any that you didn’t expect? What values resonate most strongly with you, and how does the way you live align with that? Have you ever put something ahead of your values, and how did it make you feel? What factors do you consider when you make choices? Do you disagree, and think that talking about money-saving has a valuable part to play, or do you agree that it’s best to stay clear on any mention of wealth and talk about other benefits? Anything else that you’d like to add? I really want to hear your thoughts so please leave me a comment!

My Intention for 2016: Stop Thinking, Start Doing

A couple of years ago, I did away with New Years Resolutions in favour of setting an intention for the year ahead. In 2014, it was “movement”. In 2015, it was “balance”. In 2016, my intention for the year is “do”.

I don’t generally think of myself as a procrastinator, but there are always plans and plots and schemes bubbling away in my mind, things I want to learn and see and do and create and get involved with. Far more than I have hours in the day! Often these things get pushed aside until I have the time.

2016, I have decided, is the time.

My intention in 2015 was “balance”. At the end of 2014 I re-entered full time employment in a field unrelated to sustainability. I’d spent 6 months unemployed, and I needed to pay the bills. With my experience in behaviour change, community education and waste I’d been sure I would be able to find work in the sustainability or waste education fields, but six months later I’d had no success, just plenty of rejection letters.

I felt frustrated and disappointed. I felt like I’d failed.

Working full-time was a bit of a shock to the system, and not just the hours it took up. It is a high-pressure, stressful job with no downtime, where unpaid overtime is an expectation…and even taking your 30 minute lunch break away from your desk raises eyebrows.

That said, I liked the work. I disliked that it was taking me away from the things I wanted to do.

After three months of working, sleeping and little else, I realised that I needed balance. I needed my job, but I wanted to write, to grow, to share my experiences and to inspire others. I had to continue working towards what I believed in. That is what 2015 was about, for me.

I haven’t written as much as I’d like. I haven’t volunteered as much as I’d like. I haven’t exercised as much as I’d like. I haven’t eaten as well as I’d like. I haven’t spent as much time with my friends as I’d like. I haven’t given back as much as I’d like. That said, I did find balance, and 2015 was a great year. I published my first book. I ran my first sustainable living course. I was invited to talk to several different groups of people about living without plastic.

I saw orca whales at the Bremer canyon. I learned how to ferment vegetables. I bought the sewing machine I’d been talking about getting for two years. I finally mastered the art of decluttering. I went to workshops, met and hung out with like-minded people, and got inspired all over again.

What I did realize in my year of seeking balance, is that doing all of these things is what fires me up, stirs my soul, nurtures my creativity and pushes me to be a better person and help create a better world. This is what I love to do.

This can’t be the thing that I do after I’ve spent most of my week at a job that does none of these things. I can’t be fighting for scraps of time amongst the chores and errands after I’ve expended most of my energy working to build someone else’s dream. I have my own dreams to act on.

Working part-time would be ideal (I still have bills to pay, after all) but my current workplace doesn’t support part-time hours. I knew this but I asked anyway. They said no. Maybe I’ve been reading too many motivational quotes on Instagram, but I feel like life is too short not to do more of what I love. I quit my job. My last day is this Thursday.

So what does that mean?! It means exciting times ahead! It means the chance to do all of those things that have been waiting in the sidelines. I’m already committed to running another sustainable living course in February, and I’m in talks to possibly host another after that. It’s only January and I’ve signed up to do three talks about plastic-free living for various Plastic Free July events.

I’ve joined our local community garden and have been allotted a veggie bed… plus soon I’ll have my own garden to plant. I’ve begun researching sewing classes. I’ve been looking into a few volunteering opportunities locally. I can’t wait to get back into the kitchen, either.

I’m really looking forward to sharing what I learn with you, too. I can’t wait to get back into writing more, and I have some big plans to create content this year that I’m hoping you’ll find really useful. After the success of my first book, I’m also thinking about writing another ; ) You can probably tell the cogs are whirring and my mind is working overtime right now, so I need to have a think about what I want to prioritise (I don’t want to be burned out by February, after all! – and I clearly can’t do everything I dream about) but stay tuned because exciting things should be coming this way!

I can’t say I’m not going to need to find another job at some point. Book sales are steady, and with the courses and other bits and pieces that bring in income, plus the savings I’ve made whilst working, it means I can commit to taking some time out. Longer term, who knows?! The time is now. I need to seize the opportunity I’ve taken and make the most of time I have; it may not last forever. Stop thinking, and start doing. Finding out where that takes me will be a great adventure!

Now I’d really love to hear from you! What are your intentions for 2016? What are your hopes and dreams? What will you do to get that little bit closer to them? Are you struggling to find balance between the things you want to do and the things you have to do? When you reflect back on last year, what stands out for you? Did you have any intentions for 2015, and how did they work out? What were your biggest achievements, best lessons and favourite moments? I’d really love to know your thought so please leave a comment below!

What I Really Should Have Said…

Last Saturday I was the speaker at Plastic Free July‘s event here in Perth, talking about my personal journey in living with less plastic, what I’d learned and offering tips for people trying their first Plastic Free July. There was a great turnout, with plenty of newbies underway in their first Plastic Free July year, but also people who took part last year and the year before.

I love being able to talk to people about plastic-free living. I love getting out into the community, getting to know people, make real life connections and also learn and be challenged – because that’s what makes life so interesting and enjoyable!

You’d think then, that if somebody asked me why I wanted to work in waste education I’d be able to reel off the reasons. I’d be able to articulate exactly why it makes my heart sing. I’d be able to express the passion that I have for sharing not only my story, but also what I’ve learned along the way. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? As it turns out  though, when asked this question earlier today, I was only able to mumble something rather vague about being passionate about waste.

The thing is, everyone’s passionate. It’s the thing to be. People are passionate about what coffee they order in the morning. Passionate about their football team colours. Type “passionate about” in Google and the drop-down field comes up with baking, the hospitality industry, teaching, education, travel… It’s a great word, it sounds far better than “interested in” or “really like”, but it doesn’t really tell the listener anything.

I am passionate about waste. But what does that really mean? What am I failing to express with that statement?

When I talk about passion, I mean the kind of passion that gets you fired up. When I talk about waste, I become really enthusiastic, I tend to talk far too quickly and flail my arms about the place in an excited manner. The kind of passion that burns even when you’re tired or feeling lazy. I never tire of talking about waste, thinking of ways to reduce waste, wanting to discuss the topic with others, and share ideas. When it comes to waste, I’m constantly re-inspired by the things I read or see or hear.

When I talk about waste, what I really mean is reducing waste. Whilst verge collections or people buying takeaway coffee when they intend to dine in might also stir my emotions (!), my passion lies with reducing my own waste, and inspiring others to do the same. Learning ways to reduce waste, and sharing what I’ve learned, be it through talks, or writing, or on social media. Providing support and encouragement to those just starting out, and helping others onto the next part of their journey.

It doesn’t end with learning and sharing, though. What really matters to me is inspiring others to make changes. Offering alternatives and sharing solutions is part of that, but the most important thing is connecting with others. Talking to people. Getting out there into the real world, having conversations, finding out what’s important to people and helping them find ways to reduce waste that fit with their lifestyles. I’ve talked about the ripple effect before and that’s the kind of change I love being a part of. Planting a seed, or an idea, and letting it grow with someone new. It’s so satisfying to see that happen, and it makes everything worthwhile.

That’s why I’d love to work in waste education. I want to connect with others, to inspire, encourage, share and learn. I want to help people make positive changes to their lives, and reduce their waste in the process. Full lives and empty bins.

That wasn’t what I said today. I do find it much easier to get my thoughts on paper before I need to express them! Now I’ve had the chance to think about it a little more, I’ve managed to articulate what I’d have liked to say.

When I say I’m passionate about waste, this isn’t what I said, but it’s what I meant. Just for the record ; )

Now I want to hear from you! What are you passionate about? What get’s you really fired up and why? How does this passion make you feel? How would you express this – not just in words, but also your actions? I’d love to know more so and hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below!

Reflections and Lessons from 2014

As we hurtle towards the New Year and 2015, it’s easy to get swept up in plans for the year ahead – all the things we’re going to do, all the habits we’re going to change and all the goals we’re going to accomplish. But what about the year that’s just been? The year might be (almost) over, but I don’t want to brush those lessons, achievements and experiences under the carpet in the excitement of planning the future. After all, this year (and all those lessons) will no doubt shape the coming year. Not only that, but in amongst the “could do better”s and “should try harder”s there’s a whole heap of other stuff – goals that I achieved and moments that I’m really proud of. I don’t want to forget about those in the excitement of what’s around the corner!

Rather than getting ahead of myself and blindly wrapping myself up in all my big dreams for 2015, I spent some time looking back at 2014. After all, this year was no doubt just as big a year as next year will be.

What Happened this Year?

Quite a lot, actually! The Less is More Festival happened again in February after many months of planning, and was really successful. My blog had its first anniversary; I was asked to write some guest blog posts; I was a finalist in the Waste Authority Infinity Awards; I spent time back in the UK, my family came to visit, I got married, started a new job and signed up to buy an apartment.

Phew!

It was by no means plain sailing. I spent a few months unemployed in the middle of the year, which led to a lot of soul-searching. I tried desperately hard to find a job in a field I’m truly passionate about, but alas, it was not to be. Life doesn’t always go the way you want it, does it?!

When we think about the year just gone, we always seem to start with the mistakes and plans that fell through, and proceed to beat ourselves up. I’m gonna turn this on its head and start with the things that went well; the things I’m proud of achieving this year.

My Highlights of the Year:

  • The Less is More Festival was awarded Community Event of the Year, and my second year as Festival Coordinator saw the event grow and attendees almost double to almost 1000! Not bad for an event with a total spend of $72! After achieving everything that I set out to with the 2014 event, I’m happy with my decision to step aside and let someone else take on the Festival and lead it down a new path.
  • My blog had its first anniversary and readership has steadily continued to grow. It’s so encouraging to know that I’m not the only one with a slight obsession with waste and a craving for a simpler way of living! Thanks guys : )
  • My wedding! Glen and I finally figured out a way to celebrate our marriage without generating too much waste, sticking with our values and not taking out a mortgage to pay for it : ) I’ll be writing about this in the New Year, so if you’re keen to know more, keep your eyes peeled!

What Fell by the Wayside?

Of course, it wasn’t all trophies and gold stars and roaring success. Here’s the not-so-good bits – the bits I hope to learn from and build on this coming year!

  • At the start of the year, Glen and I declared 2014 the Year of Exercise. It began well, with long walks and bicycle rides, and I got back into going to yoga regularly. And it felt good. However, the job, wedding and family visits meant exercise has completely fell by the wayside over the last few months. Definitely a priority for the coming months!
  • I still haven’t gotten myself a sewing machine, despite my many assurances to you all that it would happen :/
  • My plans to woo you all with awesome recipes on the blog this year fell apart when we moved to our new flat with an impossible gas oven. My last attempt at chocolate brownies required five hours of baking time. Five hours. And yes, they were still gooey in the middle after all that time.
  • The “no new* clothes” rule. No idea quite what happened there. What happened to my wardrobe minimalism pledge?! (*new meaning new for me)

What Lessons Did I Learn?

Quite a few! The main one being that we can’t do everything at once. Social media may make it seem like we can, but life is all about balance. Balancing health + exercise + working + chores + pursuing your passions + giving back + creating + learning new skills + relaxing + spending time with family and friends… that’s a lot to fit in! It turns out you can’t do all of it, all of the time. I definitely have a tendency to take on more and more until it’s too much, and then have to let go, and then start to build and build and build again… Compromise is something I’ve talked about on the blog a lot in the last year, and whilst things often feel like compromise, maybe there would be less compromise if there was more balance to begin. I’m not sure, but it’s something I’ll be working on in 2015!

What’s Next?!

My word for 2015 is… “b a l a n c e”. That’s the theme to guide how I’ll live my life in 2015. How I’d like to take care of my mind, body and spirit. Working on balancing my commitments with my desires, my needs with my wants, passion with practicality. What this means in real terms?! Doing all of the things some of the time. Choosing what’s important and building that around what’s necessary. With a good dose of what’s fun thrown in!

Now I’d love to hear from you! What were your best bits of 2014? Let’s focus on the good stuff – tell me what you achieved, what you’re proudest of, and what your favourite moments were in 2014! Were there any lessons you learned that you’ll be holding onto in the coming year? Any guiding themes or words to focus on? Please share them by leaving a comment below!

Life changes, Soul Searching and Time to Reflect

It’s been silent on the blog for a while, and if you’re not subscribed to my newsletter you probably won’t have any idea why. (If you don’t like missing out, why don’t you sign up? It’s free!) If you are subscribed, hopefully you found my excuse a good one! You’ll have to wait a little longer for the blog posts relating to that, but stay tuned – they are coming!

The last few weeks have been interesting. Most of the time I feel like life is unfolding before me and I’m just treading my path and taking things as they come. The last month has not been like that. Choices have needed to be made. There have been big, black-and-white decisions. This path or that. Choose one. There’s been some soul-searching, and plenty of reflection, but the decisions are made and this is the path I’m taking.

Firstly, there was the job. There’s no doubt I need a job to pay the bills. I’ve tried for so long to find a job that is a real extension of who I am, that allows me to follow my passions to the full, but alas, these jobs are few and far between. Eventually the need to find work won over the quest to find the perfect job. That doesn’t mean I’ve sold my soul and gone to work for a big corporation. I’m working for a family-owned event hire business (and the owners are two of the nicest, fairest and most generous-hearted people you could wish to meet) and there’s no compromise in ethics or morals. Plus I like the role!

The need for a job came from the decision we made to buy a flat. I’ll write a blog post on this sometime soon but it wasn’t a decision we made lightly. We’ve been discussing it for months. We love renting and we love the idea of tiny houses, but in the end the ‘conventional’ house-buying won. Property in Perth isn’t cheap, and it means we will need to get a big mortgage. We will also need a big deposit – which is where the job comes in. We plan to move this time next year. The job and the mortgage and taking the conventional path seem at odds with how we want to live our lives – which I suppose is why it took so long to make a decision, and why there’s still some soul-searching going on now. I really want to write more about this soon so keep your eyes peeled!

Then comes the lack of free time to pursue my passions that comes with working. It’s like adding insult to injury – I’m not working in the sustainability or waste field, and I have much less time to pursue these passions outside of work too! It’s easy to wish I’d done more with the free time I had, but I don’t want to lament the past. Nothing lasts forever, and I’m sure there will be time to pursue all these things again! No doubt the world will still need saving when I’m less busy : /

The lack of free time has also meant that I’ve decided not to organise the Less is More Festival next year. This was a big decision. It’s been such an important part of my life for the last two years, and I’m so proud of how it’s grown and how many people it reached, but I feel like I need time out. Fortunately the Earth Carers, who supported me for the last two years, have decided to take the helm and will take on the running next year, so the event will still be going ahead. They have some plans to take it in a slightly different direction and their ideas are really exciting. Whilst I’m sad to be stepping back, I know in my heart it is the right thing to do.

One decision we are still grappling with is whether to buy a car. Glen’s office is relocating and whilst it will be very close to our new house, it is a painfully long and awkward commute from where we live now. My new job is just a few minutes from our current flat – and we have just renewed our lease. Buying a car could solve the commuting problem – but what about our values? We debated buying an electric car (expensive, and another step down the conventional corporate road?). We thought about buying an old banger (much less embedded carbon but far more polluting). We also thought about what buying a car would mean to our identities and how it fits with our beliefs. We are still trying to make the decision. I could write a whole blog post on this too (and plan to).

All these changes have meant taking time out to adjust, but really, of course, I’m still the same. My values haven’t changed. My passion for zero waste and plastic-free remains. My quest to minimalise continues. My obsession with vegetables (particularly sneaking them into desserts in a quest to make them healthier – chocolate avocado mousse anyone?) goes on unabated. My desire to connect and share and grow my community still burns as strongly as before. So I’ve made the obvious decision.

Get back to blogging! There’s still so many things to talk about, people to connect with, and ideas to share. I’ve missed you guys, and I’m glad to be back : )

A new beginning…

Today I re-join the employed ranks of the world. I’m starting a new job. Not only that, but it’s a full-time job. It was never my intention to be unemployed for so long (since April this year). Way back then, I was feeling pretty optimistic about my future work plans. I had some exciting work and freelance opportunities I was hoping would come to fruition, but one by one, they fell by the wayside. I dreamed about setting up my own sustainability education business (something I’d still love to do), but these things take time, money…and, seemingly, a lot more confidence than I can muster.

It was time to find a job.

The last two weeks have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, if I’m honest. I find job applications stressful, interviews difficult and the waiting game frustrating. The job I applied for (and got) fits with my values and ethos (I’m not about to start working for the big-chain supermarkets!), but whilst I’m really pleased I found this job, at first I felt like I’d failed. I want so much to be more involved with the sustainability movement, not less. Full-time employment is going to be a bit of a culture shock, particularly with the reduced amount of free time I’ll have. I even wondered whether it was time to give up the blog, accept that I’d failed at what I wanted to do, and move on. And probably go shopping to make myself feel better. (About the shopping – just kidding! : p)

Fortunately I have friends who are able to talk sense. One pointed out that far more people want to work in the sustainability industry than there are jobs for; and that starting your own business is hard, plus it takes time. Another said “Who do you have to be in the sustainability industry to make a difference? You don’t!”

Oh yeah!

Isn’t that what I’m always talking about on the blog – how small everyday actions actually make a real difference, and lead to big changes?!

Another friend (goodness, I do keep the company of some wise people) reminded me of the saying “if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it”. I’m going to have a lot less free time, but hopefully I will be more motivated to use that free time far more wisely. When the days merge into one another and there’s no timelines or deadlines, it’s easy to put things off. There is always tomorrow.

So whilst it’s going to be a huge shift for me, I’m realising that it doesn’t mean I’ve failed, or that I’m going backwards. I’m still going in the direction I want to go in, just maybe more slowly than I’d imagined. But isn’t that often the way? The reality doesn’t always (if ever) match up to how we think things will be. Whilst I love the idea of not needing money and being self-sufficient, let’s be real here. I am not anywhere near that, and money is pretty useful for things like food and rent! Whilst I’m not quite sure what the next year will look like yet for me, the good news in the blog is staying. I hope you’re pleased! : )

To Anyone Who’s Ever Had To Compromise

I’ve been planning to write this since I wrote about buying an iPad. I received some criticism for it (which was to be expected, given the nature of this blog), and that got me thinking.

Did I make the wrong decision? Did I abandon my morals? Am I a bad person? Have I fallen off the wagon?

Trying to live in a sustainable, ethical way isn’t always easy. There always seems to be compromise. It isn’t so much about the right thing to do, but the least bad thing to do.

I remember when I first stopped thinking about doing more, wishing I could do more, and decided to do something about it. I started doing postgraduate studies in Environmental Decision-Making, and I secured an internship at a UK charity called Tree Aid. Whereas at my previous workplace I was sometimes referred to as a tree-hugger (getting an internship at a charity called Tree Aid in no way helped this!), now through study and work I was surrounded by people who cared as much about sustainability, ethical consumerism, social justice and the environment as I did. Maybe they even cared more.

As someone who was just beginning this journey, I was expecting the people I was now exposed to to be hardened “greenies” (although what I thought that meant, I’m not sure). Yes, everyone was passionate, enthusiastic and dedicated. What I found surprising though, was all of them did things that I didn’t consider to fit with this image I had created.

There were the vegans who didn’t use animal products for environmental reasons, yet drank soy (soy production contributes to rainforest destruction).

There were families that wanted to connect more with nature so lived in the country, but had multiple cars to make this possible, including a four-wheel drive for the many trips into town for supplies, school and social outings.

There were people who would not step foot inside a department or high street store, and only bought ethical clothing, yet would shop for groceries at the supermarket.

There were people who took regular flights to visit projects or attend courses or seminars, or to travel to remote places to reconnect with nature and feel re-inspired.

At first I felt a little indignant. How can these people call themselves environmentalists when they fly/shop at Tesco/drive a gas-guzzling car?! Then I realised…they weren’t calling themselves anything. I was the one labelling them. They were just trying to do the best they could with the resources they had available to them.

Another thing I’ve slowly come to realise, is that you can be passionate about many things, but often they are in conflict with one another.

  • Believing in Fair Trade, wanting farmers in poor countries to be paid a fair wage, and wanting to provide a market for these products…whilst also believing in supporting local producers and the local economy, and avoiding high food miles.
  • Wanting to support organic, sustainable farming practices with free-range, grass-fed animals, whilst recognising that a vegetarian/plant-based/vegan diet uses less energy and is considered more sustainable.
  • Flying uses huge amounts of fuel, has a huge carbon footprint and is a massive source of greenhouse gases…yet it enables people who do great work on sustainability to travel and reach wider audiences to spread their message. It also allows people to connect with nature and remote places, or see social injustice and poverty, and feel inspired to fight for them.
  • Electronic gadgets mean mining, manufacturing processes that use chemicals, questionable working conditions and end products with short shelf lives that contribute to landfill…yet they are the main means of communicating the in 21st Century; if people want to connect, to inspire, to teach and to learn, these gadgets are necessary.

When faced with conflicts like this, we have to choose. How we choose depends on our situation, our resources, our experiences at that moment. It doesn’t mean we’d make the same choice next time. It doesn’t even mean we made the right choice this time – after all, making mistakes is how we learn, and grow, and get better at what we do.

When I bought my iPad, I made a decision, and I was faced with a choice. I wanted to be able to connect with other people online, and be a part of the sustainability online community. I wanted to be able to work online outside of home, and the freedom this gives me. I wanted to be able to read books, magazines and articles electronically, to learn more and feel inspired. The decision was to invest in a tablet. My choice wasn’t about whether this was the most sustainable thing to want; it was whether I could achieve this in a more sustainable way. Looking at options, there was no ideal solution, just a “least bad” one. That’s how I made my choice.

You know what? Sometimes, that’s how it is. We have to compromise.

Having to compromise sometimes doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my principles (tweet this). It doesn’t mean I care less about living a sustainable lifestyle, Fair Trade, social justice, landfill waste or plastic pollution.

It means I’m not perfect. But I’m doing the best that I can.

As seen on Ethical Superstore and Plastic Free July…

If you don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter you may have missed some exciting news… I’m spreading my message and expanding my writing beyond this site! I’m currently writing a series of blog posts for the Ethical Superstore. So far three have been published, and there’s a few more in the pipeline.

If you want to read them, here are the links:

Treading My Own Path, Rethinking Waste and the Two New Kids

Not Just About the Chocolate…Can Electronics Be Fair Trade too?

Plastic Free July: Will You Accept the Challenge?

Whilst the messages are something you’ll probably recognise if you visit the site regularly, the content is completely new – no rehashing of old material from me!

In addition, I’m also writing a couple of posts for Plastic Free July’s 2014 campaign. They’re not ready for publishing yet, so keep your eye out!

Whilst I’m on the topic of Plastic Free July, I thought I’d mention the other exciting thing about this year’s 2014 campaign: the Bring One Get One Tree initiative which features my other half as poster boy extraordinaire! It is a local campaign to try to encourage more cafes to participate in reducing their packaging consumption.

You may remember I wrote a few weeks ago about him taking part in a photoshoot. Whilst I write away furiously about whatever hair-brained scheme I’ve concocted for the week ahead (zero-waste week anyone?), Glen is behind-the-scenes putting up with it all – and quietly taking his own bags, his own reusable coffee cup, his reusable cutlery set, and refusing straws and other plastic.

Plastic Free July asked him to feature as their “suited businessman” for the campaign, so now is his chance to shine! Bring1Get1tree posters-shopsI’m not sure he’ll thank me for sharing, but I am in a sharing mood this afternoon it seems!

If you get a chance to read any of my Ethical Superstore blog posts I’d love to hear what you think! You can comment on their site or comment here. Also, if you have any thoughts for future blog posts I could write for them I’d love to hear your ideas!

I’d like you to get to know me a little better…

When I started writing this blog, I didn’t want anyone to know it was written by me. I wanted to be anonymous. True story!

Why? Looking back now, I’m not quite sure either. But I was completely new to this online world of blogging. so I guess I wanted to dip my toes gingerly into the world; I didn’t want to get soaked and look stupid. I had no idea if anyone would want to read what I had to say, or even if I’d run out of things to say in two weeks. There was no plan. So nerves, combined with my English trait of shyness, and a hint of just plain daftness, led me to start my blog with no real mention of who I was – or what the blog was all about!

I’d like to say I realised early on that this wasn’t going to work, but I’m a slow learner it seems! It took an entire year for me to put a photo of myself on my site, to finally take ownership and say “hey, yes, this is me!” It is so much easier to connect with somebody when you know their name and what they look like, and whilst I realise that, because the people I connected with had names and faces, maybe I didn’t appreciate that it wasn’t reciprocal.

Adding my picture was the first step, but in the meantime, my hastily scribbled, vague paragraph that featured under the “About Me” tab remained. Did you know that the “About Me” is typically the second most viewed page on a website after the homepage? It’s really helpful then, if it has some clear information about the person, the organization, or the website. That’s the point, right?

However, if you read one of my posts, and wanted to know more, you could click on my “About Me” tab, and learn absolutely nothing about me or the blog.

Well not any more! I have finally updated my About Me page to reflect who I am and what this blog is all about. I’d love it if you could have a look and be sure to tell me what you think in the comments. It may not be perfect, but it’s a whole lot better than the old page!

LindsayMiles2a

It’s a hard thing, trying to get your personality on a page! So whilst I’m here, let’s share a virtual cup of tea together : ) In the spirit of you getting to know me a little better, here’s 15 other random facts about me that didn’t make the About Me page, but have helped make me who I am.

Here goes:

#1 I’m not scared of spiders or snakes. But I AM scared of frogs!

#2 I love board games (my absolute favourite is Agricola). I could play them for days at a time. The enthusiasm isn’t shared entirely by my boyfriend, but slowly I’m wearing him down!

Playing games

#3 When I moved out of home at 18 to go to university, I couldn’t cook at all. In fact, I had to get instructions from my mother on how to cook pasta. How things change!

#4 When I was 22, on a trip to Thailand, I bartered with a Hilltribe woman over the price of a cushion cover. I argued and argued until she agreed to my price. Afterwards, I realised I’d been arguing over 10p (7 cents) and I felt so ashamed. That was my fair trade awakening. I can still remember that lady’s face today.

#5 I love seeing things grow. Every time I see a seed germinate I am reminded of the wonder of nature, and I think trees are amazing.

trees

#6 As a kid I loved climbing trees, and I once climbed a tree wearing rollerblades. I then jumped out of the tree still wearing the rollerblades. Luckily I didn’t break my neck!

#7 I have a current obsession with sneaking vegetables into my baking. This chocolate mousse is the best, and I can’t wait to share my latest chocolate brownie recipe with you!

03_08brownies

#8 I love foreign language movies, and my favourite director is Pedro Almodovar.

#9 I once read that it takes 3 times the energy to make a paper bag compared to a plastic bag, so I always ensure I use any paper bags I’m given at least 3 times. Even if I have to turn them inside out!

bags

#10The last time I went back to the UK, I took my used Brita water cartridges with me for recycling (it’s not possible to recycle them in Australia). That’s dedication!

#11 I don’t have a favourite food: it’s all too delicious! But I don’t like celery, celeriac or barley. They are pretty much the only plant foods I don’t eat.

#12 I have naturally curly hair, which people find really intriguing. Sometimes when I’m out, people I don’t know grab my hair and pull it to see how far it unravels.

 

#13 I think Australian cockroaches are kinda cute.

#14 Despite being from England, I find the Australian winters freezing, and even in summer you’ll probably find me wearing a jumper. I think my core must be frozen.

#15 I can’t stand food waste, and if I’m in a restaurant with people who are too full to continue, I invariably finish off their food. About half the time it’s the food of people I’m with.*

Empty Dinner Bowl

(*Just kidding! For now at least, I stick to the plates of the people I know! Just wanted to see if you managed to make it to the end without snoozing!)

If you have the chance to pop over to my new About Me page, I’d love to hear what you think! Is there anything missing? Anything I should add? Did you ever read the old one? Please tell me your thought in the comments below!