My Green Mission

In my life BSJ (before Suzanne James) I was already a bit of an environmental warrior – not as much as I would like to be, but certainly trying. I guess it isn’t that surprising, given I grew up on a small holding, with parents who were almost entirely self-sufficient; there was definitely an element of The Good Life to my childhood with a garden full of vegetables and goats & chickens in the field beyond that! We used to have groups of school children from the inner city come to visit us to get a taste of what the countryside was like, it made me very aware of how lucky I was, and how in touch with nature I was from a very young age (the photo below is of a newspaper article from 1978!).

When I had my first daughter Olivia in 2004 I switched over to using cloth nappies within 10 weeks of her birth and went on to use them again with my second daughter from day one! Being the kind of girl I am that wasn’t enough, I needed to share the knowledge, so by the time Olivia was 4 months old I had  become a cloth nappy advisor, giving weekly demonstrations and supporting other parents in making the switch. I worked closely with Southwark Council and helped hundreds of parents to make the switch over the following 6-7 years. Even now I am sometimes greeted as “the nappy lady”, despite having given up that role so long ago!

Since then I have eased my eco-conscious by growing my own veg at my allotment, giving up tea bags in favour of loose leaf tea (due to the plastic in many makes of tea bags), recycling waste at home and being a member of Friends of the Earth, signing petitions and going along to the odd beach clean event when I have time. It all helps and combined with my association with Suzanne James, where I also know we are also doing what we can for the environment (we recycle 100% of our waste and are partnered with The Tree Appeal planting native, broadleaf trees across the UK to offset each event’s carbon footprint amongst other things) I know that I am certainly not ‘sitting on my hands’ but there is always a nagging worry at the bag of my mind these days.

One thing I do know is that it isn’t easy to be ‘green’ and it is even harder to keep it up day after day, year after year. There are times when I feel so demoralised, but this past month or so I have started to feel as if a seismic change might be coming. I am hoping (praying) that the message is finally being taken seriously by a wider audience. With much publicity, this week over the latest Climate Change Report by the world’s leading panel of experts, and last week’s BBC “Drowning in Plastic” documentary I have been reminded – again – why I need to do more – in fact why we all need to do more.  There really isn’t any other choice. If you haven’t watched “Drowning in Plastic” please do – it’s available on BBC iPlayer and whilst it is at times hard viewing, there are no denying the facts of where we are currently headed if we don’t all change.

After the programme, I went to bed feeling heartbroken, but I woke up the next day with a new resolve to take on the battle against single use plastic. I can’t change the world on my own, but I can renew my efforts, and encourage others to do the same, and one day it really might make a difference.

Since then I have been sharing my own eco-tips with friends, and starting to gather new ideas from them on how I can improve my environmental footprint too. One great thing about social media (finally a good thing!) is that it’s easy to share this stuff to a wider audience. My wonderful friend Mel told me about how she has a plastic free bathroom (can you imagine!), but it isn’t actually as hard as it sounds – here are some of my top tip, with thanks to Mel and others for thier contribution!

Bathroom:

  • You can find plastic free deodorants on line (they come in carboard tubes that you push up)
  • Lush and also Baba Me (website) sell plastic free shampoo, conditioner and soap bars and there are lots of other options on line if you do a quick Google
  • Use a metal razor instead of a plastic one
  • Use a natural loofah
  • Switch to a bamboo toothbrush
  • You can buy plastic free toothpaste in glass pots
  • Make sure cotton buds have a paper stem
  • Ladies – switch to reusable period products such a Mooncup
  • Check out this Plastic-Free Bathroom Starter Kit I found on line

Household

  • Carry reusable shopping bags
  • More and more ‘refill’ shops are opening up (we have one coming in Nunhead any day now – I am so excited). These allow you to take your own containers and refill them as needed – they tend to offer loads of day to day items like washing detergents, soaps, shampoos and things like pasta and rice too!
  • Check if you can get your milk delivered in glass bottles to your door – milk floats are electric, and the glass bottles get washed and reused.
  • Try to buy your fruit and veg locally and without packaging – my sister has made re-useable drawstring bags out of old net curtains to use when buying veg at the supermarket!
  • Get a collapsible water bottle to keep in your bag – I’ve made a personal commitment to avoid buying bottled water whenever I can (never again if possible). If you really have to do it, choose glass bottles over plastic.
  • Coffee addict? Get yourself a reusable or collapsible coffee cup too!
  • Don’t use wet wipes or bathroom wipes, switch to cloth, wash and re-use!
  • Buy fresh bread that comes in paper bags, or bag free.
  • Take your own containers to your local butchers or farmers market – they should be able to weigh your purchases before putting them in and they just deduct the container weight when calculating the price.
  • Gardeners – plastic plant pots are really hard to avoid, but some garden centres now sell plants in coir plant pots, and for seeds, you can make pots from old newspapers or use toilet roll centres. The plant pots I have I re-use and I am really hoping the nurseries find an alternative to plastic pots very soon.

Honestly, I know not all of these are going to work for everyone, but a lot of it is just about a change of mindset and once you get into a routine it’s not as hard as it may seem. If we stop buying plastic goods the manufacturers will find another option!

I’m not plastic free yet, but I am on my way and I am going to keep trying! If you have any top tips please email them to me!

Amanda