Learning to give up mindless consumerism and embracing a green lifestyle has been a rewarding journey, step by step.
As I get older I am finding that as well as getting greyer, I am getting greener. The closer I get to the autumn of my life, the more alarmed I am at the prospect of leaving the planet in a dangerous state. I want my children and my grandchildren to be safe. To be able to live in a world where the temperatures aren’t so hot they make more and more parts of the earth uninhabitable. To be able to live with and appreciate nature in all her dramatic abundance without having to wade through rivers of plastic. To tread lightly so that we protect the very thing we most need to nurture and support us – our precious planet Earth.
At the moment is seems that for many of us the only species that matters is human kind. We recklessly consume and stick our heads in the sand at the notion our behaviour is causing an environmental disaster. There are climate change deniers everywhere, even, most dangerously, in the White House.
A green education
I have always been a bit of a natural eco-warrior. I had a great teacher at school, 40 odd years ago now, who taught me a radical new subject – environmental studies. We grew organic potatoes on the school veg plot and he told us to avoid coloured toilet roll and try to find unbleached versions.
There was no such thing as buying recycled in those days. However, my parents were children of the Blitz and had a Second World War ‘make do and mend’ mentality. We didn’t waste anything, particularly food. These influences marked the start of my journey towards a green lifestyle.
I became a vegetarian at 16, more for the teenage novelty of it than for environmental reasons. However, I did really care about animal welfare. I didn’t buy many cosmetics but when I did they were from a brand called Beauty Without Cruelty. I was delighted when the Body Shop came along, with its natural ingredients, eco-friendly credentials and firm stance against animal testing.
An obsessive recycler
In the eighties, when I purchased my first house, there were no kerbside recycling collections. However, recycling banks were appearing in supermarket and pub car parks. I would religiously collect our used glass bottles and newspapers in the yard and every now and again load the car up to visit the recycling bank.
Life got in the way, as it so often does. I had three kids, little money and a part time job. I didn’t have the time or energy to cook two meals, so my vegetarianism went by the wayside for a while. I did, however, continue to be an avid recycler and grew some of our own organic fruit and vegetables on the allotment plot.
I even had a job with the local council at one point as their recycling officer. Kerbside collections were still a few years off, so part of my job was to identify potential sites for recycling banks and to convince the population to use them. I also went into schools to help spread the word amongst the children, who were always the most enthusiastic potential guardians of the planet.
Family life meant my focus was generally elsewhere and I was definitely a very pale shade of green at this point. I did have a go with reusable nappies, but tiredness and lack of time meant I gradually used more and more disposables. We continued to grow some of our own food and kept chickens for our own free range eggs. They were wonderful until the third fox attack, at which point we gave up.
An eco blogger
I started a money saving blog in 2009, Shoestring Cottage, to share my journey towards frugality and what I learned along the way. In recent years Shoestring Cottage has become a deeper shade of green. Thrift and environmentalism are natural partners. You don’t waste food when you are trying to save money, you buy second hand, you don’t embrace mindless consumerism and you repair stuff rather than rushing to replace.
My readers seem to enjoy my eco-friendly posts. I am happy to say there is a lot of interest in a green lifestyle.
I am a long way from perfection in my journey towards a greener life. Progress rather then perfection is my aim. I am trying to avoid plastic as much as I can, to buy local, to use the car less. I am mostly vegetarian and cutting back on my dairy intake too. We fly occasionally, but our favourite holiday is a week in Wales, where we stay on a permaculture smallholding in an ancient caravan with a compost toilet. It is a green idyll!
I know there is a lot to do but every small step towards a greener lifestyle is a step in the right direction. I am perfectly imperfect!
Jane Berry blogs about her green lifestyle at www.shoestringcottage.com.