We are now half way through our year of trying to become green, so has anything changed over the last 6 months? I think it is time for a stock take.
Recycling: We have always been pretty good on the recycling front, but I think we are even better now – hardly anything goes in the bin that could go somewhere else, we recycle, compost, reuse, donate, freecycle etc.
Waste: We are trying to minimise waste, but it is difficult. Everything seems to come wrapped in at least one layer of plastic. On the plus side our paper waste is definitely down, we get almost all bills online and are signed up to Mail Preference Service etc.(In fact a lot of the paper in the recycling bin is probably my children’s drawings – oops bad mum, should be keeping them, but there are sooo many)
Energy: We are definitely a lot more conscious of our energy use – we don’t leave stuff switched on (In fact my husband said the other day ‘what happened – we always seem to be stumbling around in the dark…)Last prognosis suggested that we might not have increased our energy use since moving, despite this house being double the size of the old one.
Water: We don’t get readings for water usage, so we don’t know for sure, but I am pretty certain we use less water now than a year ago. We are still to install a water butt for the garden, but the cold winter hasn’t really been a great incentive to do water installations outside.
Car: We use the car less, although there is still room for improvement here. In fact doing this stock take has made me realise that the mileage readings I wanted to take have kind of been forgotten, and I don’t know with certainty how many miles we drive on average in a month – so action required. At least when I do drive I try to follow the advice for greener driving.
Other transport: we do a lot of walking now which is good, on the other hand my bike hasn’t made it out of the garage many times, I struggle with public transport (thankfully my husband is doing better on that front) and we are booked on a flight next month – quickly next subject!
Food: We are still managing to have 2 vegetarian days a week, and red meat has also been decreased to just once a week. Likewise we seem to have limited the amount of food that ends up wasted.
Shopping:I now try to get our meat from the local butcher rather than the supermarket and I generally pay more attention to the stuff that goes in my shopping basket. Unfortunately we are not strictly buying organic, because it is just too expensive, but I try my best to avoid excessive amounts of food that has been flown half way across the planet or is packaged in ridiculous amounts of plastic. I still haven’t signed up for a veg box delivery and I rarely make it to any of the local farm shops, which is slightly pathetic – so another action to note.
Cleaning: the main products in the cleaning cupboard are now bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and microfibre cloths.
Gardening: I am learning the basics of growing our own vegetables. This is definitely not a skill I will have fully mastered within the year, but considering what I knew this time last year, there has been huge progress.
All the little things: I pay a lot more attention now in general. I try to think about what I do and what impact it might have, although that is a gigantic task – and sometimes too difficult to figure out. Changing your mindset is a very difficult thing to do (just think about how many failed diets, exercise programmes or other resolutions there are every year), but I believe we are getting somewhere.
And the big things: well we haven’t made any huge groundbreaking changes to our lives, that was never the plan from the outset. We have however probably changed some priorities, e.g. I am not sure we would have spent our limited money on insulation last year, but that was the choice we made this time round. Somehow the little things also push you towards the bigger ones. A year ago putting solar panels on the roof was the stuff of daydreams, now it is something I actually want to see happen. OK, it will still be a long time, they are expensive and our bank account is empty, but it has entered the priority list.
So what is the situation? Have we achieved anything? yes! Are we truly green? No, probably not. There are still lots of things we can do, some of them we will hopefully manage within the next 6 months, others will take longer – but at least we are doing something. In fact the other day I was reading more about the Transition Town movement (www.transitionnetwork.org). It is a very exciting set up based on the idea that many of the issues we are likely to face due to peak oil, climate change etc can be overcome by building sustainable and resilient communities that has a completely local basis. Transition here means the transition away from a completely oil dependent society and basically Transition Towns are trying to prepare themselves for what might come. We don’t live in a Transition Town (yet…), but it made me think that maybe we are trying to be a transition family. A time might come when we all need to change our priorities, and if so hopefully this project is good preparation. I sincerely hope that the future doesn’t look half as bleak as some of the predictions are suggesting, but if changes do come then hopefully they will be slightly less of a shock for us; and if life somehow by a miracle continues like this for the next 1000 years, well then we haven’t lost anything by learning new stuff and cutting down on waste and consumption.I think we are on track!