New Traditions

This is not the blog post I was going to write. There was going to be a list of ways to make Christmas more eco-friendly and simple. But suddenly I didn’t want to write about that any more. There are many fantastic blogs and ideas online if you search, and of course, I think any way we can look at excess is a good thing.

I just don’t really want to write about extra “to-do’s” that potentially add to the overwhelm of Christmas. Is the present you picked for your loved one Ethically-Sourced-Locally-Crafted-Handmade-by-Pixies-Plastic-Free-Zero-Waste-Carbon-Neutral-Upcycled-Goodness? No? Why on earth not you planet destroyer you? Ah, is it because we live in a society that places consumerism above all else, combined with busyness, parent guilt and very easy clickable next day deliveries? How very dare you.

In some ways, Christmas is like a microcosm of the questionable human activity that has led to us to planetary climate crisis we are in (pop that on your Christmas jumper) .  We have been wound up into busy little mice running around with lists upon lists upon lists.

What drives us into brightly lit, badly soundtracked shopping centres at this time of year anyway? What makes us start to hoard crackers and chocolates from September to “spread the cost” of Christmas? Of course, there is a real push against a lot of this these days. We are suddenly all too aware of the effects of our excess consumption on the planet. But the push and pull of opposing messages can be stressful and guilt-inducing.  Naturally, the answers to why we behave like we do at Christmas are incredibly complex, based on things like how much we think we have/don’t have the rest of year, feelings of happiness and connection, feelings of scarcity, feelings based around family dynamics and so very much more. But the bit I am really interested in, are the feelings around tradition.

Tradition is such a loaded concept, and one that often gets us feeling prickly and protective along with feeling safe and connected. But I do think we often forget to look back very far to see where these “traditions” were first forged, and how quickly they become what we think we are supposed to do every year.

first xmas tree

Traditions are great, they anchor us to ourselves and each other. But traditions are also just stories, made up by people. The current Christmas festival is a tangled web of Pagan, Christian and Capitalist stories. Surely we can re-write them without uprooting ourselves and without re-writing the history they tie us to? We live in chaotic times, and in such times, traditions can provide us with an anchor. But lets make the stories ours, and not an ad companies. Put our own families happiness at the centre of them.

I started writing about this after chatting to various customers and friends, and seeing how differently everyone felt about Christmas celebrations. I loved some of things we chatted about so I asked a couple of them to write down their Christmas stories. So, instead of suggesting ways we an make christmas more eco-friendly, I just wanted to share these stories with you. We are all grown ups here and our situations are all different. Perhaps if we take a step back before rushing into the compulsions of christmas activities, we will realise that we do actually have control over what we buy/consume. And that will look different to everyone. So here are a couple of our customers stories, in their own words.

Sabrina

Several years ago, my family agreed not to purchase any presents for adults. Instead, we chose a charity and made a donation to it. A couple of years I’ve done the oxfam gift/donation thing. I REALLY want to pull back from the excesses of gifts to the kids too, but am finding that a lot harder. Mainly due to their expectations, though they are not particularly demanding, they just see the stuff that’s peddled to them via advertising etc. It’s a little bit easier with Jake now that he’s older. We can have more direct conversations with him and gift him more meaningfully. Molly, however, has a list for Santa as long as her arm. The list contains a lot of plastic/commercial tat that will hold her interest for maybe a couple of weeks! I would really like to know more about how others approach this issue.

I’m planning on hitting some local Christmas markets and craft fairs for some locally sourced gifts. For the first time EVER, I’m not sending Christmas cards and will encourage the kids to make their own if they want to send them to their friends at school. We have also opted away from food excesses too. I never buy into the masses of chocolates, treats and food for the sake of it, just “because it’s Christmas”. We have had several years of going for a curry at a local restaurant as our Christmas day meal, which means that I buy no more food than my weekly shop. We’ve also done a joacbos join approach before too, whereby everyone who is coming brings a bit of something for the table. Both of the above seem to reduce the amount of food waste.

 

Erin

The buybuybuy culture of capitalism and the waste that comes with Christmas has been increasingly difficult to stomach since we had kids, and we wanted to opt out! So, we have cancelled Christmas! We have made a family decision to shift our celebration away from Christmas to Yule and the Winter Solstice. As atheists, Christmas doesn’t hold any special meaning for us, whereas celebrating the natural world via the return of the sun and the cycle of the seasons really does resonate with us, the kids are excited about celebrating nature! We have talked about this with them quite a bit, and they love the idea.

We will decorate the house with greenery that we gather from walks locally, a yule tree, and lots of red and gold from mid December, but we will celebrate the Solstice on the 21st/22nd by waking up with the sunrise (lets hope for a clear day), giving a few presents and having a special meal (not turkey!). We will burn a decorated yule log and light some candles to represent the return of the light after the longest night on the solstice… we are hoping that this stuff will give us some new family traditions and make it feel special for the kids! There will be some gift-giving as part of yule is being thankful for the year that has passed and the people that have been part of that. We are going to be buying (quite a lot) less presents for the kids and for each other, and we are going to do as many handmade, hand-me-down and second hand presents as possible, and books of course – can’t go wrong with books!! We have asked our families to do the same for us/the kids, or to consider charity donations or funds towards experiences later in the year (for example, days out, theatre trips, towards holidays or for lessons for the kids e.g. swimming, music, dance). Another part of the Yule celebration is looking forward to the coming year and making plans, which would include days out/visits etc.

The one concession that we are making is that we are still going to put stockings out on the 24th Dec, as we understand that the Yule Fairy is working alongside Father Christmas to help him out. We have discussed the fact that Father Christmas used to be St Nicholas, and before than he was Odin and his 8 legged Reindeer (yes really)… they still subscribe to the magic of a gift giver who brings something to every child. I am hoping that the Yule Fairy will bring nature related things and treats to eat… we’ll see! So, there won’t be a huge difference in a lot of practical ways, and we won’t chuck anyone out for mentioning Christmas! But…. We won’t be sending Christmas cards or buying Christmas crackers! We are very lucky in that our families are very liberal and accepting, so they all love the idea so far, despite me worrying that it might be taken as a judgement of their traditions and approaches to Christmas! We will have to see what happens, but we are all very much looking forward to it, and to throwing out less food waste, single-use plastic packaging and un-recyclable wrapping materials (brown paper here I come!)

 

 

One of the main things I enjoyed talking to Erin about was the idea of “congruency”. Erin trained as a counsellor and we chatted about how the reason for her making some drastic changes to the way they celebrated the festive season was all to do with knowing how you want to live, but feeling forced to live differently. This was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me, because I think that a lack of “congruency” with how I felt we should live, against how we actually live, was the anxiety-inducing agency that led to the development of this business in the first place.

I love having these conversations and am lucky that our customers will often indulge me when Im freaking out about WHY DO WE BUY SO MUCH SHIT AND BEHAVE LIKE WE DO?? When all they really wanted was some bloody potatoes and to know which ones are best for mashing.

But for me, it’s important and it’s why we love having a shop where we can chat to people face to face. Since starting out on our business journey, It has become overwhelmingly clear how much our mindset is tangled up with how we interact with our environment. If we feel overwhelmed, pressured and stressed, then ultimately we make foggy choices about ourselves and what and how we consume. And the world is certainly noisy and overwhelming these days. It feels like we have no choices, when we actually do.

So I’ve made a few choices this Christmas, the main one being that we will also be getting up early to have a walk on the day of the solstice, because celebrating the tangible seasonal shifts feels good. I would absolutely love to hear your own traditions, and whether you have decided to change them at all.

But before I sign off, I’ll just leave you with this bit of writing I stumbled on from Harpers Bazaar in 1904

“Twenty-five years ago, Christmas was not the burden that it is now. There was less haggling and weighing, less quid pro quo, less fatigue of body, less wearing of soul; and, most of all, there was less loading up with trash.”

The feeling of overwhelm is not a new one folks.

 

Em

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

What does Organic actually mean?

org sept

It’s Organic September, and this week on Social Media we have been asking the question- What does organic mean?

And for me, another question is- how did it get mixed up with the word “Artisan?”

I find it really intriguing that somehow these two words often get tangled up in relation to food. Artisan chocolate? I get that. Artisan pottery, ceramics, textiles? I get that too. But I struggle to marry up the word “artisan” with the dirty spuds and carrots in our shop.

Perhaps it’s not even the word Artisan I have a problem with. After all, all it means in relation to food is that it is produced “by hand” in a traditional way, and there is an enormous amount of love and craft in what the farmers do. And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the work of Artisans. Perhaps it’s more the barrier I feel like it puts up for people. Calling fruit and veg artisan makes it a little less accessible and a little bit more full of bollocks.

I feel at this point, I should qualify this blog post with, well, my lack of qualification. I do not come from a long line of farmers, nor do I even come from a family of greengrocers. In fact, some may say my degree in Art History left me ill-equipped for the world of fruit and veg. Or anything else for that matter. But I am hugely interested in what I do. I am always learning and always happy to chat to people who know more than I do.

So what exactly does “organic” mean in relation to farming? This is how I understand what organic means…

 

  1. Organic Farming means looking after the soil. It’s easy to overlook the vast amounts of micro-organisms that live in the soil in which we grow the food that keeps us alive. Plants establish better roots in better soil, which makes them more resistant to floods/droughts and all the other shit that’s coming our way. It’s not glamorous, but it’s incredibly beautiful.

If you want to know more about this, there’s an excellent article by George Monbiot here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/25/treating-soil-like-dirt-fatal-mistake-human-life which discusses the idea that we only have 60 harvests left if we go on like we are.

  1. In line with looking after the soil, Organic farming uses no chemical pesticides or fertilizers. It goes without saying that this is better for the environment and our health. Don’t let that put you off eating your fruit and veg. Any fruit and veg is better than none, but if you can get organic, so much the better.

If you want to just try switching up some of your fruit and veg to organic, some is known to have more pesticide residue than others, known as the “dirty dozen”- more info on the specifics here: https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/2018-dirty-dozen-and-clean-fifteen-lists-rank-produce-items-by-pesticide-level/

  1. It means accepting the fact that we are not the only f#ckers on the planet. Everything on earth is interlinked, which is true regardless of whether or not you consider this to be a “hippy” notion.There is up to 50% more wildlife on organic farms than regular farms. You may also have heard of “permaculture” or “biodynamic farming”. Put simply, these are all just methods of farming that work with nature rather than against it. There’s a lovely example of this called the 3 Sisters Planting method, for growing corn, beans and squash. You plant the corn first, then the pole beans which support the corn, then the squash. The beans add nitrogen to the soil and the squash shades out the weeds.

When we plant up huge areas of monocrops (wheat, corn and soy being the larger examples), for the sake of progress and ease, we are wreaking havoc on natural systems that are not used to working in this way. They are naturally more unstable and less pest-resistant, meaning they need an ever increasing use of new pesticides to keep them growing.

 

This is a very reductionist list of the complexities of organic farming, but I hope it gives you a bit of an idea.

Because we live in a topsy turvy world where Trump is President and Boris Johnson is still alive, it’s the organic farmers who become accredited to prove they don’t use extra crap to make the food grow, rather than the people who use lots of chemicals.

To sell produce labelled as organic, farmers have to become accredited with a body such as the Soil Association. There is a cost inherent in this which is one of the reasons why organic fruit and veg is sometimes pricier. (Although at this abundant time of year, there’s not much in it. I price checked our stuff this week and it is comparable to both Morrisons and Tesco produce).

 

The very last thing Lisa and I want to do is price people our of coming to the shop. But we have to be realistic and we are constantly navigating a very thin line between a) not wanting to charge too much and b) needing to charge enough so that we can still be here in a few years time. The more shops there are selling organic produce, the more demand there is and the more incentive there will be for organic farming.

We are not daft though. We realise that no matter how much we adjust our pricing, there are some people who cannot afford organic at all, and some of our longer term aims as a company are to do with addressing this. If you can though, perhaps just incorporate an extra thing or two into your usual shop. Shop seasonally, and everything is cheaper anyway.

I’d love to know your thoughts on all this.

 

Em

 

 

 

p r o d u c e   t h i s   w e e k

This is a lovely time of year for produce, everything is really getting going now. Unfortunately we wave a tearful farewell to sweet potatoes for a bit, but there are lots of UK Summer squash making an appearance which will hopefully fill that void. Great in any stews/currys instead of sweet potato.

Lots of UK cauli and beetroot available this week, and our first fennel of the year is delivered on Thursday. As usual, plenty of recipe cards for dinner inspiration.

Full produce list here: availability-list-copy

 

Also this week, Kombucha! I sampled these and they are lush. Available in original flavour, ginger and raspberry & elderflower. Over the next few months we will continue adding new lines, always feel free to add your suggestions.

e v e n t s

Thursday 27th July // 11am-2pm // Children’s Book Swap- bob in and swap your old books for new ones. Hot soup and muffins available to buy!

Throughout the Summer Hols we are also a collection point for school uniform. Please drop off any unmarked uniform, in good nick, and we will pass it along.

 

Jostaberries and more!

I think my rain dance worked! As much as I love the sun, it was a huge relief to see some rain this week, not least because it may mean we FINALLY get a good supply of broccoli and cauli. No organic strawberries to be found at the moment, but we have got plenty of fruit alternatives for you this week.

p r o d u c e   t h i s   w e e k

availability-list-copy

Everything we have in is listed above. New in this week we have…

Jostaberries – A cross between a gooseberry and a blackcurrant in terms of taste. Can be eaten raw or cooked.

jostaberry

Beetroot- lovely bunches coming in this Thursday, lots of you have been asking for this

Plums- This weeks are from Spain, but the first of the UK ones should be with us by next week

Mini watermelons- Spanish beauties, as with a new lines of stock we have just bought a few to see how they sell, so get here Thursday or Friday to get your mitts on one.

e v e n t s

Children’s Book Swap // Thursday 26th July 11am-2pm // Come and get stocked up for the school hols! Bring your old books, swap for new ones, simple. No need to  book, just turn up.

Charity Shop Chic // Friday 27th July 7pm-9pm // £20 // Join our resident textile artist Coreen Cottam as she shows you how to bling up your charity shop finds. Snack and non-alcoholic refreshments included. BYOB if you fancy // To book email oursmallgoodthing@gmail.com , ring 07972 287108 or message on our Facebook page

Hopefully see you in the shop soon!

 

Em : )

 

 

Something to do with the World Cup

p r o d u c e   t h i s   w e e k

The Summer season is really getting going, which means lots of tasty fruit and veg with less food miles, hoorah!

We have Cauliflowers back on the list this week, they have struggled so far with the intense heat we have been having, but we are hoping to have them in by Thursday.

No strawberries available this week unfortunately, but we have plenty of UK grown cherries to replace them.

Lots of lovely produce coming in from Garstang now, including Cavolo Nero, green beans, cherry toms, aubergines and courgettes. Lots of salad stuff- mixed head lettuce, radish and spring onions from Poulton-le-Fylde

availability-list-copy

e v e n t s

Thursday 26th July 11am-2pm  // Children’s Book Swap // Bring your old books and stock up on new ones for the Summer hols! Drop in session.

Friday 27th July 7pm-9pm // Charity Shop Chic // Grab a shirt from the charity shop and join textile artist Coreen Cottam as she shows you how to bling it up with beautiful embroidery. £20 per head (£5 deposit). Please email oursmallgoodthing@gmail.com, message our Facebook page or ring 07972 287108 to book your place.

s c h o o l   v i s i t s

We are closing a little early on Wednesday this week as I will be going to Markland Hill Primary school visiting a few classes to talk about plastic waste. They have been doing some fab work to reduce their plastic and be more eco-friendly, they can probably teach me a thing or two!

We are looking at putting together an offer for schools soon, so if you are a teacher who would be interested in working with us, please do get in touch! We have lots of ideas, but want to make sure that the workshops are relevant for your curriculum before we go full steam ahead.

And that’s about it! You’re right, there was literally nothing about the World Cup here.

Plastic Free July

Today marks the start of #plasticfreejuly, an initiative that is growing each year as more people are pledging to give up single use plastic. I’ve signed us up again, and you can also register on the site here: http://www.plasticfreejuly.org
It’s full of helpful tips on how to clean, cook, store food, gift etc. without using single use plastic.
 
I’ve noticed that because I am quite tired and busy at the moment, my black bin is filling up with more and more crap as I’m not putting as much thought into what I’m bringing home. Takeaways are very tempting when you just want to lie down in the evening and watch back to back Netflix series. With wine.
So, I am thankful for an opportunity to reboot. I love this campaign as it’s a grassroots movement, all about the small changes we can all make that add up to one big ground-swell of discontent. Although changes really need to be made upstream by policy makers, we can still vote with our money and refuse to buy the things we don’t want or need.
I’ve said it before, but just to be clear, I certainly don’t think ALL plastics are the devil.
For me, looking at my plastic waste was a gateway to looking at how I lived generally and the effect it was having on the environment. I’ve seen a lot of celebration over places like Morrisons swapping all their plastic bags for paper ones. Which is a good step, and we use paper bags as well. BUT, paper comes from trees, and we kind of need trees too. Which is why bringing your own and re-using what you have will always be the best thing to do.
I’m sure by now, most of you know what sort of things we can do and swaps we can make as consumers. Here’s some that are easy:
1. Saying “no straw ta” when out for a drink. Many companies are phasing out their use of single use straws anyway, but there’s still a long way to go. Support the businesses with their no-straw policy. It’s highly unlikely you will die without a straw in your martini. If you are that arsed, buy a steel one and take it with you.
2. Water bottles. Take your own. Easy.
3. Get a re-usable coffee cup for all your smoothie, coffee, iced tea needs. Somewhere along the line in the last century we have been completely sold the idea that we must walk around and consume a beverage. Kudos to the person who sold that idea to us, because I actually find walking and drinking fairly inconvenient.
4. Write down all the crap that is heading into your black bin, and therefore to landfill. Pick one or two things, work out an alternative. Meat containers? Take your own tupperware to the butcher/deli counter. Bread bags? Find a good bakery and take your own bag. Veg wrapped in plastic? Find an excellent, super friendly greengrocers who do a happy dance every time you bring your own bags.
5. Just do without. You know what, this list could be endless. But sometimes, if there’s not a good alternative, then just don’t bloody buy or use the throw-away thing. We can’t always be prepared with our many containers, water bottles, reusable straws and coffee cups because life is chaotic and has to be unplanned sometimes in order to be Actual Life.
Although single use plastic is certainly not our only environmental issue, it is a very good place to start and often inculcates other thoughts and actions around how we engage with the space around us. Please don’t be fooled that we can all just swap single use plastic for single use paper/bio-plastic/insert other material. There are billions of us here, and most materials have to come from somewhere. “Recycle” has moved down the pyramid somewhat in recent years, to be trumped by “Refuse”. I could wax lyrical about the problems of the Consumerist dream, but I’ll leave that for another time. Needless to say, the less stuff we buy, the less stuff we have to put in the bin. You only have to look down your nearest street to see how completely overwhelmed we are by litter and rubbish.
refuse
Anyhoo, as a business, our next steps to help reduce single-use plastics are:
 
1. We have introduced bulk household cleaning products to the shop, bring your own bottles/jars/wellies/whatever to fill!
 
2. We have signed up to become a Terracycle collection point, which means you will soon be able to recycle certain currently un-recyclable items with us such as biscuit wrappers and beauty products. More info on this soon
 
3. I am continuing to look into ways of reducing our stretchy plastic. Although most of our fruit and veg doesn’t come individually wrapped, some boxes are covered in stretchy plastic to keep it fresh. I’ll be honest in saying this isn’t something that is going to change very soon, as some is undoubtably needed to keep the fruit and veg fresh (and food wastage is an important factor to consider for us). We currently get as much use as possible out of the stretchy plastic, but would like a better option for when it reaches the end of it’s life.
4. Continue to look at our takeaway soup cup options. At the moment these are “compostable”, but only at high temps in certain conditions. It’s still single-use, which makes it not ideal. Again, bringing your own container is the best option here, as we give you money off. Win win.
I hope you will join us in signing up, we would absolutely love to hear about the changes you are making and, importantly, the issues you face in making changes. We are all human, we are all busy and we are all operating within a system that is built around more is more. It’s not always easy to make changes and keep them up, but please shout about the ones you do make!
Em : )

Summer is here (quick, enjoy it while you can!)

I hope you had a good solstice last week! I had a lovely evening, wandering round Moses Gate Country Park, learning how to identify different herbs and plants, like the bloody hippy I am.

It’s set to be a lovely sunny week, so whether you are BBQ-ing or just fancy hitting up some salads then we have plenty of choice for you! Don’t forget, you are always welcome to refill your water bottles here. I have even put a bowl of water out for pooches; you are welcome to come sit and recharge your batteries here at any point.

P r o d u c e t h i s w e e k

It’s been a super hectic couple of weeks here at ASGT HQ, so apologies for the lack of produce list. Here’s this weeks, with all our extra stock added for those who requested it. availability-list-copy-1

Highlights this week:

* Mixed salad leaves from Stockport. These are lush, and grown just down the road, what could be better?

*Strawberries are plentiful at the moment. Don’t forget you can return your container to us to recycle

* Spanish cherries are back, these sell quickly so come at the of the week to snaffle these!

*I will hopefully be doing an extra veg run on Saturdays to our lovely supplier in Garstang. For those who used to visit us at Bunburys, you will be happy to learn her tomatoes, graffiti aubergines and green peppers are back on the list from this Saturday!

H o u s e h o l d c l e a n i n g

We are excited to add bulk washing up liquid, sanitiser, laundry liquid and fabric conditioner to our bulk offer. These will be Ecoleaf, which is SUMA’s own brand and sold by weight, so bring your containers to fill!

V e g b o x c o l l e c t i o n

We have had a few enquiries recently about putting together veg boxes for a quick and easy pick up. We are always happy to do this, we can either put a mixed box together for you or you can take a look at this weeks stock and specifically order what you want. Deliveries are on the horizon, but for now if you would like to arrange a collection just message us via Facebook or ring 07972 287108

Have a lovely sunny week folks!

Em

A busy week, someone pass the gin…

P r o d u c e t h i s w e e k

UK Strawberries are here, hoorah! They come in plastic, less hoorah. This is an issue we are looking at. We have been chatting to our supplier, and they are asking about alternative packaging. In the meantime, our supplier has very kindly said that people can return the packaging to them where it will be recycled. So, not perfect, but better than nothing. Just bring the containers back to us when done.

Loose mixed salad, naked cucumbers, radishes, Stockport spring onions are here for all your salad needs. Peppers are a bit rarer at the mo, we ones coming on Thursday but we are on green only until then which are still lovely and juicy

Cherries are here for the start of the week, but not at the end unfortunately. So, grab them whilst you can!

Nectarines here for as long as they last

Full list of what is available here availability-list-copy

M o n d a y o p e n i n g

We are now ready to open on Mondays, 10am-6pm for all those who wanted to come after work. As of this week our opening hours will be:

Monday: 10am-6pm

Tuesday: 10am-4.30pm

Wednesday: 10am-1.30pm

Thursday: 10am-4.30pm

Friday: 10am-4.30pm

Saturday: 10am-4pm

E v e n t s

Weds 13th June – Wake up to Organic! Free breakfast and yoga from 7.30am, all welcome

Friday 15th June – Frida Kahlo Textiles Workshop FULLY BOOKED

Sunday 17th June- Heaton Fold Artisan Market 10am-3pm

News news news

M e a l P l a n n e r s R e j o i c e !

A few of you have asked that we re-start our weekly list of fruit and veg to help with your meal planning. I applaud your organisation levels, so here we are! (For simplicity sake I will do the list without country of origin but this information is always available in the shop, or just message us anytime)

Week beginning 4th June

availability list copy

C r o w d f u n d e r U p d a t e

As many of you know we hit our crowdfunder target and are very grateful to everyone who contributed. We are now on the hunt for cold storage and are looking at the potential of stocking some bulk household cleaning products to add to our range. There’s a bajillion things we would like to do, but we are trying to be sensible with what we add to the shop at this stage!

E x t r a O p e n i n g

Our poll shows that there are a fair few people who would like to see a Monday opening, so we will be starting that soon. Keep your eyes peeled on our Facebook page for an announcement

E v e n t s

Coming up this month:

13th June – Wake up to Organic

15th June – Frida Kahlo Textiles Workshop SOLD OUT

17th June – Heaton Fold Artisan Market

24th June – St Thomas of Canterbury Summer Fair

World Environment Day

The theme of the UN’s World Environment Day this year is #beatplasticpollution.

When we advertise online, we often use the phrases “zero-waste” and “plastic-free” to connect with people who are looking to reduce their waste. In reality, these are still unrealistic terms, and it is a journey we are on rather than an end point at the moment.

Starting this business was a slow coalescence of ideas, inspired by various people along the way. I found that as I changed one thing to try and reduce my waste, another problem came to the fore. I got to the point where I would stand in the supermarket, trying to work out whether it was better to buy the organic thing wrapped in plastic, or the crappy thing that came in a cardboard box and whether to just get over myself and let my kids have a kinder egg. Down that way, madness lies, hence the setting up of the business to try and do something about it!

linear

 

The problem is, when you stick your head above the parapet, slowly but surely, the way we live seems to make less and less sense. In what crazy world is it easier to dig up oil, ship it half way across the world, use masses of water and other resources in order to create something we use once and throw away?

 

Over the past couple of years, I have read a lot about the problem with plastics/climate change/pollution etc. But the thing I have become more and more interested in, is why it has become a problem. What is it in human nature that has nudged us along into “self-destruct” mode?

I feel there are some very long and complicated answers to that question that would take a crack team of anthropologists, historians, political experts, economists and evolutionary scientists to explore. I am none of the above.

But on a more personal level, I think that we humans are fairly bad at scale. Our lives are set up to be very busy, and we don’t always think about the wider effects of our actions. I went for a walk this morning, and you really have to go fairly high up in the hills to find a piece of litter free ground. Plastics, cigarette butts, foil wrappings are everywhere. We are good friends with the folk who run the Bolton litter picking group and know that it’s fairly devastating to go out and find that an area you cleaned one week has been turned into a trash site the next. Why on earth would we do it?

I read a book a while back called “H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald. One of the passages really stuck with me which was this:

“We are very bad at scale. The things that live in the soil are too small to care about, climate change to large to imagine. We are bad at time too. We cannot remember what lived here before we did; we cannot love what is not. Nor can we imagine what will be different when we are dead. We live out our 3 score and 10 and tie our knots and lines only to ourselves. We take solace in pictures and wipe the hills of history.”

Echoing this, Maria Rodale in “The Organic Manifesto” says

 “We prefer our nature in the Macro- postcard vistas and views. When it comes to the micro, we would rather not look or know. We know more about outer-space than we do about the ground we live on, about the soil that sustains us.”

We are busy and we often fail to look up or down and focus in. Sometimes things are too overwhelming to look at, so we bury ourselves back into our busy lives and smart phones and stop looking. Me included. A lot of us live busy lives that are a couple of steps removed from nature. It becomes easy to forget the effect of our piece of litter/single use plastic in the sea on other living things.

I think another issue is how removed the plastic problem can seem from us. In the same way that we go to the toilet and flush it away down unseen pipes into unseen reservoirs, we do the same with our litter. Out of sight, out of mind. It takes widely viewed documentaries like Blue Planet to shake us up and make us truly look.
blueplanet2plactic1911e

 

 

A scheme in Perth is even looking at trialling see-through bins, in a pilot “face-your-waste” scheme to help people see what they are throwing away. Which is a great idea, but for me it needs to go hand in hand with other initiatives.  We now have the slim bin in Bolton, which I’m all for. But we need to go a step or two back. As consumers we can actively make better choices about what we do or do not buy. BUT, I own a bloody “zero-waste” shop and still have masses of crap filling my bin each month. Individual consumers can only do so much, and many of problems we face when trying to reduce our waste come from “up-stream” decisions and policy makers. We need better Government legislation and actual money pumped into solutions. Consumers have a lot of sway, but the simple rule of making everyone pay 5p for a plastic bag has had a massive impact. More of the same please.

Fundamentally, our plastic problem is one of design. The way we produce, use and distribute is completely at odds with a) the planets’ finite resources and b) the amount of people living on the planet.

So what do we needs to happen?

  • Need to stop linear model of planned obsolescence. Producing objects that are used for seconds and last for decades needs to end immediately.

  • Producers of materials need to be more accountable for where their products end up. Companies moving to a more circular model of design and production should be incentivised, making more companies do the same.

  • Changes to consumer and business practice should be supported by and driven by policy.

  • Policy makers have a duty to safeguard our health and environment by fully engaging with the problem and legislating accordingly.

(Info paraphrased from World Environment Day website)

On a personal level, we can make our voice heard and make small changes to our daily habits. This year, the United Nations is proposing a game of #BeatPlasticPollution tag for World Environment day, which is as good a place to start as any.

 

GameTag_En_Large

 

 

Let’s help spread the word and put an end to single-use plastic!