Somehow January is almost over already, so I guess it’s high time I welcomed in the new year and thought about what 2013 will bring.
2012 was a big year for me. I moved house, I went travelling and I really started to think about how I wanted to live my life and what sustainability meant to me. I made a lot of changes for the better: I moved closer to town and started walking to work, I turned a wild backyard into a productive veggie patch, I changed my shopping habits and became a buyer of local, seasonal produce, supporting local, sustainable farmers and I really started to understand the difference between wants and needs. I ended the year happier in myself and the path I’ve been choosing to walk.
I wasn’t an angel though. For all my car-avoiding, energy-saving, re-using and non-buying I still had a large environmental impact last year because I went travelling. Between work and pleasure I had 6 domestic trips (14 flights) plus the big trip to Chile and Peru, which clocked up around 2.5 tonnes of CO2. Given my annual non-travel CO2 output is around 5 tonnes, that’s adding another half-me’s worth of greenhouse gas! I’d say I’ll do better this year, but truth is I won’t because I’m headed back to Peru again in a couple of months to do Spanish school and spend a bit more time getting to know a country I seem to have fallen in love with. That means another 2.5 tonnes of emissions, though this time I’m going to be doing some voluntary work helping maintain an educational organic garden of native Andean crops, so at least I’m doing something to offset my impacts a little. It’s not really enough though and I have no excuse: I don’t need to go back to Peru, I just really, really want to.
Yes, sometimes I’m a hypocrite. When we really do want something we find a way to justify it.
So, in an effort to counter my air miles I’m going to make a serious effort to further reduce my other environmental impacts. This year plastics are in the firing line: made from oil, not particularly recyclable, designed to be thrown away and with growing concerns about impacts on the environment and human health, plastics are not sustainable materials. I’m figuring out how to de-plastic my existence: from the kitchen[1,2,3] to my wardrobe[4,5], it’s time to figure out how to live with less of these ubiquitous materials.
Of course I’ll continue growing what food I can in my little garden, and I’ll keep supporting my local producers. I’ll keep up all the small changes of buying less and thinking about where what I’m purchasing came from, keeping track of what my purchases are supporting. I’ll keep reading and learning about sustainability and putting that knowledge to work in practical ways. Something else I’d like to do though, is learn how to better share that knowledge and spread the changes. Like a benevolent virus I want to infect others with the drive to live more sustainably, to motivate and empower people to make changes and help to build a better future.
Living “green” is seen as something of an upper / middle-class privilege, and while it’s true that many people can’t afford to shop at the Farmer’s Market or buy quality stuff that’s going to last longer, there are things that everyone can do to lighten their impacts on the planet a little at the same time as lessening the impacts on their bank balance. Sustainability is about making choices that are good for us all, including socially and financially. It doesn’t cost anything to get to know your neighbours, and it saves you money to share tools and car pool with them, and nobody is going to complain about lowering their power bills! I want to figure out how best to demonstrate that to the kinds of people who won’t ever read a blog about sustainability…
So that’s my focus for a sustainable 2013:
As a very simple start I’ve created a facebook community for sharing articles and inspiring stories: please come along and add your voice to the conversation. I’m always interested in collaborators too, so if you’d like to write something for the blog or share an idea, please get in touch!
What lies ahead in 2013 for you?
1. Maffini MV, Rubin BS, Sonnenschein C & Soto AM (2006); Endocrine disruptors and reproductive health: The case of bisphenol-A; Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, Vol 254–255, Pp 179–186.
2. Wikipedia entry on Bisphenol-A
3. Wagner M & Oehlmann J (2009): Endocrine disruptors in bottled mineral water: total estrogenic burden and migration from plastic bottles; Environmental Science & Pollution Research, Vol 16(3), Pp 278-86.
4. Browne MA, Crump P, Niven SJ, Teuten E, Tonkin A, Galloway T & Thompson R (2011); Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Woldwide: Sources and Sinks; Environmental Science & Technology, Vol 45(21), Pp 9175–9179.
5. ABC Australia (2012) “The World Today” story “Plastic pollution from a laundry near you“