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A Podcast about Plastic and Advice from the Military

Last week I had the pleasure of being interview by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin for his weekly podcast. I say “pleasure” because Gavin is the King of living sustainably and blogging about it, so the opportunity to have a chat with him was very welcome. (Yes, that’s a capital ‘K’.)

I found Gavin’s blog when I was just beginning my own journey. Whilst he writes about all the things that I don’t (urban homesteading, cheese-making and gardening – and I’m pretty sure he’s never taken part in Plastic Free July!) we actually have a very similar story.

We both had our “lightbulb moments” after watching movies (his was “An Inconvenient Truth; mine was “Bag It”), we were both so inspired by our own personal journeys that we had to start sharing our messages with the world and started blogging, public speaking and running workshops.

Gavin’s epiphany came a long time before mine though… he began blogging way back in 2008, when I still thought being an environmentally-conscious citizen stopped at recycling : /

In case you can’t tell, I’m a little in awe of Gavin. His blog is great, his passion is all-consuming and very infectious (remember I was talking about passion last week? You only need to read Gavin’s work to feel the fire…) and this passion translates into blog posts, podcasts, ebooks, workshops, a side blog in cheese-making, and more. All whilst working (almost) full-time.

Do you ever get that nagging feeling that you could be doing more? Gavin is the guy that proves it!

Here’s the podcast link – we’re talking about plastic-free living (of course!):

Once the interview was over I took the opportunity to ask my own questions. Or one in particular.

How do you get the time to do all this stuff?!

Gavin’s answer? I don’t have a TV.

Wrong answer! I don’t have a TV either, and I can’t  imagine getting a fraction of this done! I told Gavin I didn’t have a TV, and that he’d have to try again.

Maybe it’s because I was in the military? I’m very regimented.

Hmmm. I have no experience of the military, but this sounds plausible to me. Organisation. Planning. Things I know are important, but techniques that maybe I don’t always implement. I’m a dreamer and a schemer, but translating all of these into action? Not necessarily!

This isn’t the part where I tell you that I’ve decided to become more organised. (Of course I have decided that, but I make that decision weekly, and am yet to implement it fully!) This isn’t the part where I tell you to become more organised, either. But I do have some advice.

I left that call feeling really inspired, determined to learn more, share more, do more and connect more. In the way that negative people can make us feel demoralised and drain our energy, passionate people taking positive actions lift us up, inspire us to do more and make us feel more confident that we can achieve our goals.

If passion is a fire that burns within us, like-minded people doing inspiring things help to fan those flames. This is the part where I tell you to make those connections with people who inspire you. Reach out – by email, through commenting on a blog post, a phone call, via social media.

Don’t just stop there! Find out what local events are happening, what speakers are in your local area, and connect in person! Any way that works for you. Make those conversations happen. You’ll be glad that you did!

Right. Maybe I’ll begin getting organised after all… ; )
Now I want to hear from you! How have you connected with people that inspire you, and what did you learn? How did you feel? How has this impacted the way you do things in your own life? What ways do you find best to connect with like-minded and inspirational people? Do you have any tips? Or anything else to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share them in the comments below!

The Magic of Making Ripples

Even the smallest actions can have bigger impacts than we realise. It’s true. When I first came across the challenge of giving up plastic for a month back in 2012 (I’m talking about Plastic Free July) I had no idea just how much this decision would change my life. I had no idea that a world of new discoveries, challenges and opportunities was about to open up before me.

After all, at the time it seemed that all I was signing up for was refusing a few plastic bags and avoiding single-use plastic-packaged groceries!

Plastic Free July changed everything for me. It challenged many things that I’d just accepted to be true, and behaviours I’d simply accepted as the way that things were done. It changed the way I saw the world. It changed the way I saw the problems in the world. It made me realise that change began with me.

It made me act. I slowly cut plastic out of my life, and in doing so I discovered a thriving local community, made many new connections with like-minded people, improved my health, began supporting local businesses and really started living a life that was in line with my values – and felt much happier for it, too!

Plastic Free July ignited a passion in me that has never gone out. The first six months were very much a personal journey, but as new habits formed and the challenges of living plastic-free lessened, this energy and enthusiasm has transferred to something bigger. Now I’m trying to educate and inspire others to think about their own personal environmental impact, and live more sustainable lifestyles, through writing, public speaking and running workshops.

I’ve been running one of these workshops (focusing on sustainable living) over the last six weeks, and last week was the final session. It’s been a great few weeks with a group of inspiring and enthusiastic people, and so rewarding!

At the end of the course I asked the participants to share all the changes they’ve made so far, or are planning to change soon. Here’s what they wrote:

Living Smart Goals

This is the kind of response that makes it all worthwhile! People feeling inspired to make positive changes, and taking action!

In addition, just after the course ended one of my participants sent me an email… “just a quick email to let you know we really enjoyed the course and we have made some positive changes because of it. I have also attached a photo of a letter that got published by our local rag, the Midland Echo. Its not one of my best but l think it makes the point… If someone replies to it, we can keep the theme rolling for a few weeks and perhaps broaden the debate out.”

Here’s the letter:

Dave Knight Letter to Echo Plastic

When I signed up to Plastic Free July in 2012, I had no idea that as individuals, we really do have the power to make a difference. That is where my real inspiration has come. It’s so rewarding to work with people and support them in making changes to their lives, and to witness the satisfaction that comes with these achievements.

Reading these lists filled me with gratitude that I’ve been able to share a message that is important to me, and that the people I’ve shared it with have been inspired to take that message and make it their own.

I realised something else from looking at these lists. Thinking about it on a personal level, in some way, small or otherwise, I have influenced all of those behaviours. To have that kind of influence is a powerful thing.  But of course, we all have that kind of influence. We usually don’t get to see lists of all the things that we influenced, but nevertheless, everything we do has some kind of influence on someone else.  Everything we do has an impact beyond ourselves, even if we don’t always realise.

Our actions are like ripples, that extend out and reach others in ways we don’t always know or see.

Whether it’s the conversations we have with friends or at the checkout when asked if we need a plastic bag, whether it’s the blog posts or articles we write that others read, whether it’s the way we behave when we pick up litter or choose to use a reusable container in public… There are others around us who are observing, watching, listening, and thinking.

It may be the people we know, or it may be the people we simply have a chance encounter with. The things we choose to do, or say, will have an influence on others. Know that whatever you do, you have the power to make a difference.

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 : )

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!

Success Is Not A Number

The last post I published was my 100th post. I did not realise this until I actually published the post – and when I pressed that button I almost had a heart attack because I hadn’t actually meant to publish it at all. I’d meant to hit the preview button. I still felt that the post was a jumbled collection of thoughts that was littered with typos, it was far too long; plus I hadn’t actually decided if I even wanted to publish it.

That’s never happened to me before – the accidental publishing – and I found it quite ironic that just as WordPress sends me a notification that I’ve published 100 posts I’m scrambling to delete that 100th post, or at least block it so I have a chance to actually tidy it up.

I decided that these things happen for a reason (and it was definitely an interesting learning experience for me!), so I decided to leave it published – once I’d checked the spelling and straightened it out a bit.

But it got me thinking about creating milestones and targets for ourselves, and how they don’t always serve us.

Let me explain.

When I first started blogging, I had targets. Well, I thought they were targets. I wanted to reach 100 followers in the first three months. After that, I decided I wanted to reach a new  x number in the next x months. But then I began thinking – is that actually something I can actually decide?

I have no way to control who comes to my blog, and likes what they read and decides to sign up. The only thing that I have control over is my writing. I can control what I write about, how I write and how often I publish posts.

I can’t make people follow me, so why was I setting myself targets for followers? I also realised that I love it when every single new person follows the blog, because it feels great to know that I’ve connected with a previous stranger. I love making friends here! As I write this post, I have 497 followers. I’m getting really close to 500, but the number doesn’t matter.

I want readers who like what I write about, who want to engage with me, and feel inspired as a result of reading what I have to say. That is what success feels like to me; the numbers aren’t important. Of course I love getting more readers, and being able to interact with a wider audience, but the 500th reader will be no more exciting than the 498th, and 499th, or the 501st.

The same applies for post numbers. When I started blogging, I decided to commit to writing 3 posts a week. I was unemployed at the time and I felt this was useful to provide structure, keep my mind occupied and give me a creative outlet. Once I got a job I managed to keep this up for a time, but during the month when my parents came to stay I found it too hard.

The way I saw it, I had two options – either keep up the target and write shorter, less thought out posts; or reduce the number, but keep up the quality.

It was an easy decision. I want people to enjoy what I have to say. I don’t want to be writing posts telling my readers that I don’t have time to write posts. Or telling people that I’m having such a great time that I don’t have time to tell them about it.

People are busy, they have inboxes that get bombarded with all kinds of information (and often far too much) and the least I can do is have enough respect for my readers to only write when I have something worth saying. There is no point in publishing posts just for the sake of numbers.

So now I don’t have number targets.

Instead I focus on what I do have control over – which is the content. If I have lots to say, then I will publish three posts a week, maybe more. If I don’t have anything to say… then I don’t publish empty space. I wait until I have the time and content to actually write something worth reading. Which is why my 100th post wasn’t any more significant than the others.

So I thought it was fitting that I made a mess of my 100th post. It was as if the universe was testing me, saying well you said it didn’t matter – so let’s shake things up and see if it does matter!

And no, it didn’t.

But imagine if I had attached some kind of meaning to it? I would have been disappointed, or angry, or upset – over something that was actually quite trivial and insignificant.

We can’t measure our success by plucking numbers out of the air. By doing so we create unrealistic expectations of ourselves, and then we feel bad when things don’t pan out the way we’d hoped they might. Success is about doing the best that we can with the time we have and the knowledge we have. It’s about making connections. How many isn’t important, what matters is how good they are.

We’re all on different journeys

Last week I wrote a blog post about toilet paper. Eco-friendly, ethical toilet paper. Toilet paper that’s even more eco-friendly and ethical than the previous eco-friendly and ethical toilet paper I used to buy. It feels kind of absurd, really – writing blog posts about toilet paper. I pondered what friends I’ve not been in contact with recently might think if they stumbled across the post. I wonder what Lindsay’s up to these days? I’ll check her blog. Oh. She’s writing about toilet paper. Is that really how she spends her time these days? Does she have nothing bigger to worry about? Read more

Blogging, not blogging and holidays

You may remember that I wrote a post in September about how my life was going to be ridiculously busy over the coming three months? And how I was hoping that I’d be able to juggle everything successfully? Well, it hasn’t quite been the plain sailing that I’d hoped. I knew it was going to be a challenge, and whilst I was hopeful that I could manage everything, I knew it was a long shot. In fact it’s been super hectic and stressful, and of course some things have had to give. One of those things has been the blog. I haven’t been posting as frequently as usual because I’ve been so busy.

Fortunately, the end is in sight and we are due to go on a long (four week) holiday in just under two weeks. Bliss. Of course it would probably be a little less stressful if we’d actually done something in the way of preparations other than make sure our passports were valid and book flights, but no matter. Next Friday night we will be off, and leaving all this busy whirring spinning busy-ness behind us. Read more

Some Recommended Reading

Yesterday afternoon I dropped my parents off at Perth Airport for their flight back to the UK. They visited for just over four weeks, and it has been insanely busy. Partly because they have been staying in our flat, and my boyfriend and I stayed at his parents’ house, which means I have been making the hour-long commute (one way) between houses each day, and then taking them out to see the sights, before trekking back. This was compounded by us sleeping in a bed that was far too small for us (well mostly my boyfriend, whose ankles stick through the railings meaning it is impossible to move without waking us both up), meaning we have been running on minimal sleep. I had a lovely time, and it was great to be able to spend so much time with them, but now they’ve gone I’ve been hit by a tsunami of exhaustion. I’m tired, emotional and mentally frazzled… which wouldn’t matter so much if everything else in my life wasn’t still going full steam ahead.

This isn’t a blog post about woe is me, though. All I need is sleep, time to unwind, the chance to relax and to eat some nourishing meals and I’ll be ready to go again. I’ve had an awesome month; I’m blessed that my parents were able to come to visit, and for such a substantial amount of time. No complaints here : )

In order to get these things though, I need to prioritize my workload. I was really hoping that I’d be able to keep blogging whilst they visited, but unfortunately I didn’t have the time. Now that they’ve gone, I have a number of looming deadlines to address, and that doesn’t include blogging. I really want to write but I don’t have the time to do justice to the millions of thoughts that are whirring away in my mind. I have still had time to read the posts that others are writing, so I thought that rather than write a rushed, garbled post of my own, I’d share some posts I’ve read over the past month that I have enjoyed. I get so much enjoyment/knowledge/motivation/inspiration/etc from the bloggers that I follow and so I wanted to share in the hope that you might enjoy them too. Far better to share inspiration than write a blog post about not writing a blog post – who wants to read that?!

My recommended reading list

  • EcoGrrl wrote a great post about how conventional beauty and advertising sell women the message that they aren’t good enough in order to shift their chemical-containing products. She’s taken so much time to research this and all women should read it:  Tuesday Go Ponder: Redbook’s Bevy of False Claims, Misleading Ads, and Shaming Women. [NB This link has been removed as it now points to a wrinkle-busting scam, and I can’t find the updated link. If you find it let me know!]
  • Journey to Ithaca shared a great post entitled Thoughts on “Rants”. I probably don’t need to explain what this is about. It begins with the line “I used to be a ranter”, and is thoughtful, well written and definitely has a lesson or two in there!
  • Westywrites is starting preparation for Plastic Free July next year early – 8 months early! She has so much energy and passion for the subject – check out Plastic-Free Me: An Introduction if you’re interested in trying to be more plastic-free (or any of her subsequent posts). Her enthusiasm is infectious!
  • I’ve also been following blog posts by A Girl Called Jack, who blogs about feeding a family for less than £10 but is also a campaigner for Oxfam and Child Poverty Action Group. That description doesn’t actually do her any credit – she’s opened my eyes to all kinds of issues, like foodbanks, benefits, poverty in the UK, how completely immoral the Daily Mail is (and I thought I knew this, but no, turns out they are worse than I could ever have imagined). She’s made me question my own feelings and actions regarding food, poverty and sustainability – in a good way – and I’m still processing all my thoughts.
  • Lastly I wanted to share with you Make it Your Job, a blog post considering why we get resentful and angry. It is the most recent post by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, a minimalist who embraces simple living. I think every post he writes is super inspiring.

Of course there’s many more amazing blog posts and writers out there who I love, but I don’t want to overload you all! I hope you enjoy some (or all) of these posts. I’m off to get on with my to-do list!

Blogging, sustainability…and blogging about sustainability

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be about my sustainability journey. I wanted not only to be able to keep a record but also to share it with the wider world. I felt like I was at a significant turning-point in my life and I wanted to write to help guide my thoughts. So far, I’m really enjoying both writing and being able to connect with a whole online community that I never really knew existed before. Read more