Minimalist Journey: Conscious Conundrum
I love London! I love the pace, the people and opportunities. I love the unexpected beauty of this urban jungle. The feeling of being at the centre of everything. The buzz!
Having lived here for quite a while, I also know, it can feel like you are always playing catch up… that everyone is one step ahead of you. It can be stressful and fast paced. Early, dark, damp mornings and late, late nights. Long commutes. Feeling tired all the time and being overwhelmed by information, people, things. Choices.
This harried life makes us prime for take away coffees, breakfasts, lunches and microwave dinners. And we are catered for so well: restaurants, take aways and cafes are everywhere; online shopping is a thing of beauty; next day delivery a godsend. Time is precious and convenience key! We don’t question this ease, as we are just too comfortable. We definitely don’t question the waste, the plastic and the single use of EVERYTHING. We have become ingrained in this life. It’s what we do and how we live!
But then we stop. The reason doesn’t really matter. It could be anything…Documentaries and headlines on worker’s treatment, animal welfare, or the impact of plastic on our oceans and wildlife. The horrors of landfill (from our shopping, our fast fashion and single use) or seeing the dust and rubbish on our pavements, parks and canals. It could be personal experiences when traveling or an awareness that this is not sustainable. It could be one or all of the above!
For me that moment came a few years back when a headline shouted: 2.5 BILLION Disposable Coffee Cups End Up In Landfill Every Year (in the UK alone). It stopped me in my tracks. It got me thinking about my habits and how I was contributing to all of this. Yes, this was quite a random headline, but also not. I was one of those coffee drinkers. One, two, three cups a day…My coffee habit was contributing to this massive problem. I realised I was the problem.
Yes, I was recycling. Sometimes. I carried my own shopping bag, when I remembered. This headline, though, changed all of that. Within days I had my own coffee mug. I used it every day and slowly my recycling became more fixed. A priority. I carried my shopping bag, most of the time. I invested in my own water bottle. Small changes were forming and new habits put in place.
It felt great to make these changes, but also frustrating. These changes felt insignificant in comparison to the global crisis we face, and at times felt like an uphill battle (It still feels like this!). There was the moment I realised most of my food came in non-recyclable plastic. When I realised my ethical swaps were not so ethical. The food wasted and mindless consumption. Wanting to do everything right, but not knowing where to start. The frustration when I was trying SO hard and yet the big corporations and government were not interested (This feeling continues). Then there is flying and the fact that I eat meat and fish…And so I became despondent and almost stopped trying.
I became angry about the confusion around recycling. Angry at shops for wrapping everything in plastic and selling goods that can’t be recycled. The apathy I saw in others. I started seeing problems everywhere. It felt frustrating and confusing. I would do one thing right and make ten mistakes.
And so I started thinking about my power and what I could do. What would be sustainable, affordable and ethical in my everyday life. Simple things like: Shopping less. Buying second hand. Not wasting food. Buying loose vegetables and fruit. Supporting local, smaller businesses. I started walking and using public transport more. I switched off appliances and lights when they weren’t used. I simplified meals, decreased my meat consumption. None of this was costing extra money or took that much more time!
At the same time a few companies in my area started doing zero waste isles. I started carrying my own produce bags for veg and dry goods This trickled into other areas and I started doing the same for bread. I then plucked up the courage to take containers for fish and meat (this took months). I have just started growing my own herbs and get the biggest joy watering these plants and using them in my cooking.
Beauty products are next. It’s a very slow process. I am (trying) to simplify my routine. It’s harder. I tried going without. It was awful. I tried making my own. Disaster. I tried coconut oil, cocoa butter and hated the textures. I am now experimenting with more natural brands and looking at what is sustainable (long term). Easy swaps I have made: using a safety razor (LOVE) instead of disposable razors, soap-bars instead of liquid soap and reusable face cloths. These swaps were surprisingly easy, beneficial and cost effective.
This year I took the plunge and started a shopping ban for clothing, books and beauty products. I am only replacing what I need. I have started using products up and repurposing clothing. Instead of feeling ‘a lack‘, I am loving the challenge.
Next steps include getting involved with campaigns, that target industry and government, because nothing will change if we do not get our voices heard!
It is amazing that one headline lead to all this change, and horrifying that I needed it. Did change happen overnight. No. Do I constantly make mistakes. YES. I run out of time. I panic and choose convenience. It would be foolish and false to say this does not happen. But it now happens less and will continue to happen less.
3 Ways to become a conscious consumer:
1 Become aware of your habits (and change them)
The easiest way to start, is to become more conscious of ingrained habits. Some habits are so ingrained, they are never questioned. I used to buy all my fruit and vegetables in plastic, until I became aware of this and changed the habit. The same happened when I looked at my food waste. I would buy too much and then throw it all away. Becoming aware of this habit, made me question the waste, my shopping habits and how to change the situation.
2 Start slowly (but keep going)
Create one or two habits that you can sustain and then implement some more. Slowly these become ingrained. This leads to a confidence in making more and bolder changes. I have found, every change opens your eyes to more. Start by carrying your own shopping bag (and you become more aware of all the other plastic there is). Start walking more (and you become aware of all the traffic). Start focusing on food waste (you become aware of waste in other areas). Use this to fuel more changes.
3 Shop less. Buy better
This is so fundamental to all the choices we make. Fast food, fashion and commodities may be cheaper but is is killing our planet. By changing our shopping patterns and behaviours, we are voting for change!
*For more inspiration in buying better and less. Read this post on Minimalism:
**This pasta recipe is perfect for those nights when you have no energy but want something delicious: