I’m a big thinker, right? And I’d say my brain is at capacity most of the time. I’m constantly mulling over how I can improve things. Not just the goings-on of my inner world through various mediums of self-improvement, but also the outer one. From a vegan diet to living plastic-free, I’m on a constant mission to try to do my best with what I have. The world needs to change and I’ve dedicated my life to helping that come to fruition. But there’s an extra element that’s thrown into all this. Guilt. And it eats away at me from time to time.

Let me back-pedal a bit to talk about my time in university. Whilst there, I was a key member of the Amnesty International Society – a society that I still very much support. Nowadays, however, I do so from the sideline rather than actively. When I was heavily involved, my perspective was rather different to how it stands today. When day in, day out, you’re following the stories of the most broken of humanity, you are grateful for simply having a roof over your head and food in your belly. And freedom, of course. Just having those basic things is incredibly wonderful. If you get choice added in too, you’re flying.

But as I say, time went on and I left university and began placing more and more focus on environmental issues. The causes I was fighting for were marine habitats, rainforests, native woodland, animals facing extinction, coral bleaching and microplastic pollution. It became less about the people and more about the environment. If I think about it logically, without a planet there are no people and so of course these are worthy causes to be fighting for. But as I sit here with a regular income, enough money to pick and choose my food, my clothing, my lifestyle, I can’t help but feel an element of guilt.

Millions of people around the world – including many on these wealthy British Isles – can’t afford the luxury of choice. They can’t afford the time to even think about being able to shop in fancy food stores that offer aesthetically-pleasing vegan foods and household cleaners and beauty items that are made with an array of delightful natural ingredients. Their priority is getting food on the table for hungry mouths that need feeding. Their priority is being able to afford the rent each month. Their priority is being able to make it through each day. Living on the breadline is no place to be.

So I can’t help but feel guilty when I preach about how we should all be eating vegan foods and living waste-free as much as possible when in truth I don’t understand what it’s like not to have the choice. I don’t come from a wealthy family and in fact growing up I witnessed the stress that a single mother goes through trying to put food on the table for her kids. Her priority was keeping her children healthy and happy. But even with this, I don’t know what it was like to be her. I can’t fully understand.

My dilemma is not wanting someone living a polar opposite life to my own to look at me and see naivety and an unachievable goal. It makes me sick to think that I could evoke anger in someone over my lifestyle choices, values and priorities. It’s this fine line to teeter along, with compassion for humanity on one side and an inner environmental warrior on the other. I don’t yet know the best way of figuring all this out. And in truth, I might never. (To clarify: no one has raged at me. This is purely hypothetical.)

But one thing I do trust in is my gut instinct; as should we all. It guides us. The reality is that there’s no way I could compare my life to that of a low-income single mother with 4 children where the fight for survival is first priority. I’m not living that way – fortunately. So all I can do is what feels right to me, based on the scientific evidence I have ready, with wthe resources I have. If I can afford to choose the most ethical foods to eat, not consume plastic that ends up in the oceans and write about my lifestyle choices in the hope that it might influence someone else who can also make those choices to start living differently, then why not do it? It seems logical…

I’m part of a whole generation wanting to do life differently. We want to live more harmoniously with our planet, improve our infrastructure using renewable energy and live lives that place emphasis on creativity and passion rather than the mind-numbing and mundane. I frequently refer to it as ‘the vagina lottery’ because we don’t know what kind of family we’ll be born into. All we can do is the best we can based on what we know.

We don’t all fight for the same causes and in a way that’s actually kind of great. If some of us could keep doing the great work for humanity while others clean up the environment, we should have a sound future ahead of us. Perhaps that’s all I need to trust in; the fact that we’re all different for a reason and it’s best to just embrace it, even if it does seem flawed. We need each other; that’s the simple truth of it. We’re stronger together.

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These past few weeks have been a rollercoaster. In a good way. I’ve been touring Ireland with my family and it has been utterly incredible.

Cliffs of Moher

But I’m currently on a zero-waste journey and so being out of my natural habitat was a challenge when it came to regulating my plastic consumption. At home, I believe we can all quite easily take leaps and bounds towards living with less waste. Or rather, consuming less waste, I should say. But that’s because we’ve learned how to do exactly that. We know where to go, what to do, and essentially which resources to use in our area. It’s the element of familiarity. It’s not always so easy when you’re out of town.

Travel is a sure-fire way to put you out of your comfort zone and force you to be present. The environment is new; the flavours, the smells, the dynamics and the language. You’ve got to stay focused in order to be able to navigate your way from A to B and digest those experiences you are encountering. So in that respect, being out of your comfort zone is incredibly satisfying. It’s also a potent way to grow and develop yourself.

But then, on the other hand it’s really difficult traveling if you’re trying to maintain a particular kind of lifestyle. For me, that’s vegan & low waste. I am always hesitant to say I live zero waste because in truth I don’t. I’m not sure that any of us actually do. But I am fully determined with every ounce of flesh and bone in my body to reduce my footprint on this planet. Every day is a new challenge and there are obstacles aplenty. But I want to know that when I leave this Earth, I’ll have made my very best efforts to have not left it worse off.

Plastic waste is the one. The baddie. Not so much the recyclables (although let’s be honest – they’re pretty ugly and horrid) but really the single-use stuff. The non-recyclable packaging that will go straight to landfill. That stuff is the bane of my life. And well, the whole planet really. And it’s everywhere I look: in every person’s hand and every supermarket shelf. It feels like all the odds are stacked against me, but by hook or by crook I’ll be damned if I give up the fight to live in a way that means I’m not having to consume it.

I’ve modified my lifestyle and consumption habits so that I’m using biodegradable or packaging-free alternatives to commonplace items. I’m still very much on a journey and learning of new solutions every day, but I’m trying. After doing my research and familiarising myself with where I can go for bulk bins, loose produce, raw materials for DIY cosmetics etc. I’d say that I’m bossing Bristol pretty well. But throw travel into the mix and it’s a bit of deer in headlights action. It’s also incredibly difficult when you throw family into the mix, or a group of friends who all have different priorities. You can love them to the moon and back, but still not see eye-to-eye on fundamental things.

So with this trip around Ireland (and our first family vacation in 2 years), there were definitely times when I had to refrain from getting angry about the consumption habits of my family. I didn’t want to rock the boat too much; after all, we were there to enjoy ourselves. However, there are some knacks to keeping the sea smooth while still living in alignment with your values. If you’re an aspiring zero-waster, these might just help you too.

  1. Do your research & offer to do the buying. It’s not that your family and friends don’t care about your values; it’s just that they have other priorities and unfortunately don’t understand the pressing desperation that some of us feel to not leave behind a large plastic footprint. To avoid confrontation and any defensiveness, it’s a good idea to offer to be in charge of the food shopping while you’re away. Ask them beforehand to put the money into a kitty if they’re happy to do so and let them know that you’re very happy to do the shopping. Chances are, they’ll be relieved that they don’t have to think about doing any grocery-shopping while on vacation and instead sit back and relax. You’ll have saved yourself the stress of a mountain of plastic packaging in the process.
  2. Prepare snacks for the day. If you get hangry anything like I do, then you’ll know that it’s not a pretty sight or any fun to be around in the slightest. Avoid stressful situations of feeling starved to death but having the inner turmoil of not wanting to consume plastic packaging by making sure to have a stash of loose fruit and nuts to keep you going until you can find a café or restaurant for something more substantial.
  3. Take produce bags with you. In some countries, supermarket produce must be put in plastic bags and priced before paying. Avoid this by being sure to have your trusty cloth bags in tow.
  4. Have your zero-waste essentials kit on you at all times. This is part of the daily life as a zero-waster, but when traveling be sure to have a reusable bottle, cup, tupperware, silverware and a stainless steel straw (if you can’t be without one when consuming your beverage of choice). This way, your family and friends can do their thing, but at least you know that you’re prepared. You might even spark some curiosity when they see your swanky little kit and see how easy it is to package take-away options.

For more zero waste tips, check out one of my latest on Peaceful Dumpling: Still Think Zero Waste Is Hard? 6 Easy Steps To Make It Work For Your Life

Are you passionate about low-waste living? What are your tips for making it work when you’ve got company?

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Define corporation: “a large company or group of companies authorised to act as a single entity”

We all know the corporate feel. Suits, white walls, stuffy meeting rooms, boards of the expressionless, and not much in the way of light-hearted humanity. It can be a soul-crushing worklife, but one that many of us must engage in for at least a short while until things work out for us. So let’s say that at the moment where you’re at in life means you can’t afford to be picky. You’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed. I get it. This job isn’t inspiring or active in the way that you’d like it to be, but it’s what has to be done, for the moment at least. How can you make it through without feeling like your head is either going to explode or shut down at any moment? There are ways! I’m telling you, there are ways.

First we’ve got to look at how desk-based corporate work affects our health. It’s not rocket science: the answer is badly.

More and more of the jobs available to us in developed nations are sedentary. They are jobs involving sitting at a computer. If we add in using a car to get to and from these jobs, we’re talking about the majority of our waking hours spent on our asses without actually using our bodies. That’s a pretty morbid (literally) thought, isn’t it? How do you go about killing yourself slowly but surely? You engage in a lifetime pursuit of slouching in the same position every day, likely also consuming some heavily-processed food at your desk. You wonder why you’re putting on weight. You wonder why you’re so miserable. Your skin doesn’t have a glow to it anymore. You look dull, tired and damn right down.

Part of the human evolutionary process is to make things easier for ourselves. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. But this backfires immensely when it comes to the corporate agenda. You see, no matter how hard we (I say “we” meaning the powers that be) try to monopolize this world with dull, pointless corporations, we have to realise that humans will never be able to act like robots and be consistently happy. No matter how much they want it, we’re meant for so much more. We need movement and creativity and freedom in our lives to maintain true happiness and success.

So, with that being said, here are 4 ways to engage in the corporate world short-term without losing all of your mind, body and soul:

  1. Commute in the most active way possible. You may well live a ridiculous distance away from your place of work and need a car. If so, unless you fancy moving closer then there’s not much you can do for this one. But to those driving when you could instead be walking or cycling, now is the time to make the switch. An active commute does so much for your health – both physically and mentally. A study found that those who cycled to work were 40% less stressed than drivers. The opportunity to commute in this way gives you time to relax and work any stress off prior to beginning your day. Likewise, at the end of a busy day. It can also be a great time to listen to podcasts and enrich that brain of yours. (Hello, Hello Internet)
  2. Make a conscious decision to take a lunch break. I know what it’s like. As soon as one of your colleagues takes a working lunch at his or her desk, suddenly the standards are upped. Everyone feels that in order to prove themselves, they too must work through their lunch. Newsflash, though: you aren’t being paid for that break! Therefore, do yourself a favour and take it. Change the scenery and get some fresh air. Take a short walk if you can manage it. This is a great way to hit refresh and be mentally prepared to kick ass during the second part of the day.
  3. Keep inspirational material visible. Whether this is a calendar with all the exciting things coming up or a photo of where you’ve saving to go on vacation, remind yourself of why you work to live – not live to work. This will save you during your mid-afternoon slump.
  4. Be nice to your co-workers, because you might need them one day. Depending on where you work, there might be a bit of a competitive streak that runs through the company. But there’s no ‘i’ in team, after all, and all that ‘my way or the highway‘ attitude gets you is loathing and isolation. Plus, in the distant future when you’re doing your own thing, you might just need to call on one of your colleagues from the past. Remember that karma isn’t afraid to come round and bite you in the ass. Therefore, be nice and it will go a long way in your success.

Have you managed to kick ass at corporate thing? What got you through?

Photo via Unsplash

 

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Simple question: do you take responsibility for your life and all the things that you do and consume and participate in within it?

Responsibility

Is the instinct to say ‘yes’? Is that instinct there because when we’re young, we’re taught that taking responsibility is a good thing and therefore you want to instinctively answer ‘yes’ so that you don’t get in trouble? God forbid you feel bad about yourself, right? We don’t want to be judged by our peers, right?

We’ve got a whole melting pot of problems on the planet at the moment. All, essentially, stem from bad parenting. (We know how I feel about parenting *shakes head*.) So we divide into power-hungry humans, masking quivering insecure children on the inside. And people who turn a blind eye to helping one another because in our time of need as youths, no one helped us. We fight about all the wrong things and we misalign our priorities. We jeopardise our chances of happiness because we’re too damn involved within our own heads. We laugh, we cry, and ultimately devestate our earth one generation after the next all because we refuse to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

That phrase, ‘taking responsibility’ stretches further than simply saying we’ll be there to pick our kids up from school, or turning up for that meeting on time. Taking responsibility for ourselves and the role we play in society first means owning up to who we are, what our values are and facing all those inner demons. We don’t like to look at what’s wrong with us. We’re completely blind to it, as Allain de Botton so famously preaches in his work on love and why we find ourselves in unhappy relationships more often than not. And unless we open our eyes and face the bad stuff, how can we possibly take responsibility for our actions?

We act in really strange ways that seem illogical, all because of wounds that score the inside of our head and heart. Sometimes the nature of these strange acts is small and harmless, but get a collective of ‘small and harmless’ and you’ve got ‘large and harmful’.

Detachment

Let’s take a look at some of the ways that we do this. The first is that we are lazy and detached in our food consumption. We expect to have everything available 24/7 on a supermarket shelf. We consume meat we haven’t hunted, fish we haven’t caught and vegetables we haven’t grown. I get it. In this corporate world we find ourselves in where few are in touch with the environment these days, we can’t all be hunters and farmers. But there’s a fundamental problem with only ever seeing your meat (if you consume it) sold in small plastic-packaged portions on a cold, metal, sterile shelf. It detaches you from what is real. What’s real is that that is one of many parts of an animal that had a life and was kept captive and killed for you. You are not taking responsibility for your actions if you consume meat and aren’t OK with killing that animal yourself. You are not taking responsibility for your consumption if you don’t know how it was killed and what the living conditions were like for it while it was alive.

Then there are the fish. Take a look at the state of the world’s oceans today and you’ll see that they’re not doing all that great. Overfishing, invasive species, ocean acidification and plastic pollution are just some of the problems we face that are causing extinction on an enormous scale. If you consume wild-caught fish without having any awareness of the state of the sea from where it was caught, you are not taking responsibility. If you support farmed fish but haven’t looked into the effects of eutrophication in the area where they were farmed, you are not taking responsibility.

Then there’s all the packaging, the plastic and the processed food. You sit in your house and each week the garbage is collected from kerb-side and transported somewhere that’s our of your sight. You are lucky that your neighbourhood aesthetic isn’t tainted. But someone, somewhere has to look at your waste. Is that being a responsible person? Consuming mindlessly certainly is not. That sealed bag of salad that you bought from a supermarket is likely packaged in non-recyclable plastic. That piece of plastic will be sat on our soil for many hundreds of years longer than you will find yourself alive. It will degrade into smaller pieces and distribute itself across our soil and seas, working its way up the food chain until one of your offspring many generations from now will consume it. You may feel no remorse for what you did to that person. After all, you’ll never meet them; never love them. But does that make it OK? No, it doesn’t. You wouldn’t like it if you found yourself on this earth unable to find any unpolluted food to eat or water to drink, would you? You wouldn’t want to live in a wasteland because all the ecosystems had collapsed due to what your parents and grandparents and generations prior had done.

Think about the things you enjoy. Chances are, something outside, in nature, is one of them. After all, that’s why you bought that camera, isn’t it? You want to capture scenes of that beautiful waterfall you plan on visiting next year. And when you’re on those golden sands at the beach, you want to remember how clear the water looked and how vivid all the colours of those tropical fish were, right? Newsflash! Those things are disintegrating. Unlike the Midas touch, everything we touch these days turns to plastic. We are wrecking and ruining and depleting and consuming and soon there will be nothing left.

Everything you do creates a ripple effect across this globe. We influence each other and your actions are those that will change the world for better or worse. The decision is yours.

Photo via Unsplash

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Home

Our home is our sanctuary, but it’s easy to let it slip to the bottom of the priorities list as life gets in the way. Before you know it, you’re looking around the place wondering how it got so bad. You start blaming yourself, feel disappointed in yourself and feel a strong resistance to getting things back on track. After all, the task of bringing it back to a state you’re proud of feels like such an overwhelming task that it’s easier to ostrich. Hello Netflix, Youtube or whatever your procrastination tool of choice is.

Believe me, I’ve there. In fact, I think I’m actually kind of there at this very moment. With one trip away after another, home becomes the dumping ground. In, out, shake it all about. Pile after pile of clean laundry, dirty laundry, stuff to go into storage, stuff to be repaired, stuff to be donated, stuff to go back to a friend. You name it, I’ve got it all.

The good news, however, is that it’s just stuff. Bricks and mortar and flooring and stuff. No one is dying. Nothing is so serious that we’ve got a health hazard (except perhaps for gym socks long overdue a wash. Yuck.) So here’s a list that I live by, for how to deal when the walls are swallowing you alive. Some things are instant, some are short term and others are long term. The ultimate goal is to prevent said situations from happening quite as often. But let’s be real, none of us are perfect and from time to time life is simply too busy to spend all day cleaning. Other things are more important. But for when it is time to get dirty to get clean, this is how we do.

INSTANT

  1. Do jobs that can be done in less than a minute. Chances are that you have things that can be done in 60 seconds or less. Hang your keys on the hook. Put your glasses away before you stand on them. Turn on the dishwasher. Change your dish towel. Do all of those things first. These will make you feel accomplished and get the motivation flowing from your head to your toes.
  2. Write a to-do list for everything else and prioritise. When it comes to organising your home, there are some things that you want to do and others that you need to do. As with every aspect in life, prioritise the needs first. Putting laundry on, taking the trash out, doing the dishes. Those kinds of things.

SHORT TERM

  1. Schedule half an hour into your day for the next few days to get on top of your shit. Tidy, clean, organise and reward yourself with a tasty snack or an episode of your favourite TV show. Pavolv’s dog, man, I’m telling you.
  2. Ask for help. If you feel utterly overwhelmed and can’t do everything that needs doing in the time you have allocated without having a breakdown, phone a friend or rope in your significant other. Most of the time it can actually turn into a lot of fun. What starts out as sorting through piles of crap leads to finding old photographs and laughing at that terrible haircut over a bottle of wine you’ve found buried somewhere in the rubble.

LONG TERM

  1. Assess the way that you consume and how you feel about the things that you own. You may not want to Marie Kondo your life, but it’s worth learning about your relationship with material items. Most of us own far more than we need and most of those things don’t bring us any happiness. Less stuff owned means less stuff to get in the way, less stuff to pile up and less stuff to clean up. Go take a look at The Minimalists if you’ve never done so before and start questioning if you really need all this stuff in your life. WARNING: it might get deep. You might find your spending habits are your way of trying to soothe your discontent about the way you’re currently living your life. Be prepared to have some serious realisations. Fear not; they’ll serve you well in the long run.
  2. Along with minimalism being a lifestyle approach of owning less, it also means downsizing. If you have the space, it can be tempting to shuffle your shit from one room to another. After all, out of sight is out of mind. If you have to look at your mess, you’re more likely to sort it out. I feel like that about our waste too, but that’s a whole seperate rant. If you want to up your organisation game, consider moving to a smaller place if you can get away with it. It will make it easier to keep on top of things if you frequently let them slip.

If you can prevent the piling up in the first place, you decrease your backburner stress levels. This makes way for the important things. The fun things. So sort your sh*t out and feel a million times better because of it.

Photo via Unsplash

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