New Year, New Challenge

I hope 2018 had begun for all of you with health and happiness, and not much need for new years resolutions!
As long time readers will know I am a little worried (obsessed) with how our human habits are having major impacts on the world around us, and though I know it will take effort from us all to make long term changes, I want to be a part of making those changes for myself.
So this year,  Rev. Anna Alls and I decided we would try to ditch plastic... we have been joined by a rapidly growing cohort of others (who can be found on Facebook here if you would like to join us) and we are currently finding our feet and all the challenges we will need to figure out!
Most of us have already made some changes; remembering our reusable shopping bags, carrying refillable coffee cups etc. But we've already discovered how small changes we hadn't yet made can make a big impact. Several of us have started sending unused straws back, and while a few straws won't make an impact, messaging to retailers that we don't want them might. In some local communities groups of restaurants are collectively rejecting straws and stir sticks, and Whetherspoon pubs have banned straws in their 900 pubs. In the USA alone an estimated 500 million plastic straws are discarded EVERY DAY. They may be single use, but they don't biodegrade, and as they break down, tiny particles of plastic end up washing into our water systems. We are ultimately poisoning the seas, and ourselves as a result.
Many of us have already struggled to do our weekly shop as so many of the foods we rely on come wrapped in plastic. We will need to plan, cook more at home, but ultimately, we need to be pressurising our shops and retailers to do better on packaging. Biodegradable plastic bags cost 1p more per bag to produce. Of course this adds up, but if retailers accept slightly less profit, and consumers accept a tiny hike in prices, the cost to the earth and our future will be saving so much more than money.
So I will be reflecting here this year about what my challenges are, what is keeping me inspired, and I'd love to hear about the small changes you are able to make too!
One member of the Facebook group has calculated that by swapping from shower gel and shampoo to soap bars (they exist for body and for hair) and swapping from plastic to glass for her milk bottles, her family will be saving around 300 plastic bottles this year. So my task this week was to tackle milk and plastic wrapped veg.
The milk man is a thing of our childhood; slow electric milk floats, washable, returnable glass bottles, and all delivered to your door... but they are still around! I had been struggling to get a response from the firms I had contacted, so I asked in a local residents group and got lots of recommendations for the same company. The conversation that was started made me realise a number of other people were also looking, and allowed me to acknowledge that yes, this is going to cost me more than buying my milk in the supermarket, but that I am lucky enough to be in a position to prioritise packaging in this instance and make the right choice for the long term, not just for my purse. Not everyone has this privilege, but for me buying less stuff but better stuff is going to be important in this challenge, and it's a change in attitude that I still need to make in lots of areas, despite working on my consuming for years.
I also went looking for veg boxes today, as supermarket veggies are invariably wrapped in celophane and plastic boxes. I have reusable produce bags that I will take to the supermarket and greengrocers, but was also delighted to discover oddbox - a startup based in London that delivers wonky veg that wouldn't otherwise make it to market. I'm excited to see what it's produce is like, but I love the idea of not only reducing plastic waste but food waste.
Where I can't avoid packaging, I am tempted to try and keep it all in a bag for a month or a year and then start taking it back to the supermarkets to ask why it can't be in biodegradable packaging.
All these small actions take a little effort, but with the potential of what each household produces, could be a real reduction. Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers reminds us "It is not your duty to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it" (2:21) - I can't change everything, and I may only be able to do a little, but it's not my job to complete everything alone, I just have to do my bit!


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