I’m at the start of trying to make changes to make me and my husband’s life more ethically conscious, in my opinion. I’m following a lot of bloggers who focus on ethical style, eliminating waste, ethical travel and vegetarian/vegan diets and everyone seems further ahead (and younger) than I am. That in itself can be relatively stressful and can lead to feelings of failure and that I’m not doing enough.
But everyone has to start somewhere. It’s rare that someone wakes up one morning and that’s it, life completely changed. So focusing on changing a handful of small details at once and/or on one cause at once is a really good way to start. It’s pretty difficult to focus on every single thing at once. If you decide to change your diet, cut out fast fashion, focus on the plastic problem, donate to various charities, and shop completely independent all at once chances are you’re going to feel utterly overwhelmed and begin to struggle. Don’t overcommit. Choose one or two things you want to dedicate your time to and go from there, and when you feel like you’ve got a firm grip on those things then you can move on to something else.
The first question to ask yourself whenever you want to buy something new is:
Do I really need this?
A lot of the time, the answer will be no. Even though I’m trying to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle this year I still haven’t nailed it to the point of not buying anything unless it’s essential. But asking this question whenever something crops up that you want to buy is a good way to remind yourself that you likely don’t need it – and if you do, are you really buying it from the right place?
Buy Second Hand or Buy Local.
There are many, many places we can shop to help channel our money into ethical causes. Not all fast fashion is instantly 100% bad nor does it immediately make you a bad person to shop in these places. I’ll be the first to admit I still indulge in Primark, ASOS or Topshop – for example my Valentine’s Gift Guide post contained a lot of high street products, and while I do love the fresh style of high street shops I want to branch out and find more ethical clothing companies to buy from and to focus my spending there instead. I have work to do and I don’t think there’s any shame in that. There are many other places to shop which aren’t high street or fast fashion, where we can genuinely feel like we’re doing some good:
- Charity shops.
- Local farm and craft shops.
- Local butchers, fishmongers, and fruit/veg shops.
- Online independent retailers.
- Local Facebook groups.
Say No to Plastic Wrapping.
First of all, buying items that are not plastic-wrapped in supermarkets can be more expensive and this simply isn’t an option for some people. But if it is, then this is something good to focus on. Either try and buy items that aren’t plastic wrapped, or choose a different place to shop. A lot of people are now ditching the plastic wrapping at the supermarkets for them to get rid of or mailing it directly back to the head office. Whether or not this is something you want to do, making a point and letting the big chains know that they aren’t getting it right is so important in this day and age.
With regard to my own food shopping, I just signed us up to Riverford and I’m so excited to give it a shot, plus I’m doing so much more shopping down at our farm shop (which is just a few minutes walk and is open late on Friday nights which is a huge plus).
Bring a Reusable Bag
Buy a reusable, ethically-made tote bag and use that for your shopping. I have a selection at home, my most recent purchase being one from our local farm shop, and I love them all. If you must get a plastic bag with your shopping (we’ve all been caught out) then make sure you reuse it somehow, don’t just ditch it. This post has some really great suggestions for how to reuse your old plastic bags.
Ditch the Disposables.
Say no to throwaway cutlery and disposable coffee cups. I’ve got three coffee cups I use all the time: two Keep Cups in different sizes and one flamingo cup that a friend bought me for Christmas and I love. It really brightens up any dreary day.
The simplest solution to avoiding disposable plastic is to bring your own lunch daily, but there are days for all of us when that doesn’t happen. Don’t accept plastic cutlery with food purchases; make sure you have your own with you if you know you’re going to be buying lunch. Try and cut down on plastic packaging if you are going to be buying something. Don’t accept plastic straws or plastic cup lids. And always carry a water bottle with you to try and limit the amount of plastic drinks bottles you buy.
One thing that is really, really important to remember: your best is good enough.
Financial and time constraints, family commitments, dietary requirements, all of these can impact how much we are able to change our habits when it comes to the things we buy. Not just that, but as consumers we can be easily misled by products that are labelled to look more ethically-sourced than they actually are. So often I see people feeling disheartened and low because they’re trying to make changes but feel like ultimately they’re failing because the changes they make seem so small.
Your best is good enough. Don’t let fear of not making a large change stop you from starting with small ones.