I’ve had a collection of jumbled thoughts tossing and turning in my mind for the past couple of weeks. I’ve been struggling to articulate what they are exactly and why they’ve been bothering me so much, but a long walk in the sunshine yesterday helped me make sense of it all…I think…Let’s have a go, at least. Apologies if this is still somewhat jumbled *shrugs*.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been passionate about making the world a better place. Or rather, protecting the planet. I love the great outdoors, having been fortunate enough to grow up traveling frequently and seeing some true wonders in my lifetime. Nature is my greatest inspiration and where I try to spend as much of my free time as possible. When you love something that much, you want to preserve it, right?

Kennedy loves nature –> Kennedy wants nature to be there forever –> Kennedy fights to protect nature

I don’t actually know where it comes from (my love of the great outdoors and subsequent obsession with environmental conservation) because the rest of my family aren’t like me at all. I mean, they care as much as the next person who cares an average amount I suppose, but it’s certainly nowhere near the top of their priorities list. I try not to let these differences cause too much friction, but when you’re passionate about something (and I’m a Scorpio, so make that like x10), it inevitably causes at least a little discomfort. A difference of opinions always does. On the one hand, there’s me wishing they saw things from my perspective and on the other, them feeling like they have to walk on eggshells around me for fear of judgement. Any one else in a similar position? It’s hard, right?

As time passes, I realise that it’s important not to let it come between us. We’re all on our own individual journeys, facing very unique struggles and thus priorities. We each care about different things that we think are going to make us happy and serve the greater good. They just don’t happen to all tick the same boxes and it’s learning to accept that and work around it that’s key.

It’s actually something that I’m trying to work on in 2018: learning to communicate more effectively with those people who don’t see eye to eye with me. (The daughter of a diplomat; you think I’d be better at that, huh? Not really.) Again with the passionate Scorpio-ness, I guess. Plus, I’m still in my twenties….I hear we learn that stuff a little later in life (she says with fingers firmly crossed).

It’s easy to get yourself caught in a bubble – especially in this crazy time of social media where you quite literally pick and choose the kinds of people you let yourself be influenced by. Not interested? Unfollow. Annoyed by the negativity? Unfriend. The result is, however, that you find you’re rallying up people who are already passionate about the same things that you are. You form this mob of egotistical people who each pat themselves on the back, not having anyone challenge your thinking because you’ve strategically selected the people comprising this group in the first place. You form a collective who are already on the same wavelength, but aren’t reaching out and effectively communicating with those who need persuading (and will therefore stimulate real change).

Don’t get me wrong. Social media has a lot of power that certainly works for good. When eco-friendly stuff becomes trendy, everyone wants to jump on board and ultimately that works out better for the planet. But it is still a bubble. A small one.

I’ve been through so many different thought processes when it comes to how I can live most sustainably. No one could ever criticise me for not trying, that’s for sure. I’ve ebbed and flowed through all the usual dietary things (vegan, local, organic etc), the plastic I consume and waste I produce, the power I run my life on, my choice of transport, where I vacation, which charities I donate to, what I write about etc. The list goes on and on. Everyday I question my actions and try as often as possible to challenge myself when faced with a new decision. How can I do better?

I know living in perfect harmony with the planet whilst simultaneously not offending anyone is not an achievable goal. I know that there’s always something that I can do better and I’ll damn well keep trying til I’m dead, but what I want to articulate today is that it’s the trying that counts.

I can’t tell you the number of posts I’ve seen on social media by people sharing a little snapshot of some part of their life and efforts at reducing plastic waste, but also feeling the need to apologise for something in the photo which isn’t fashionably ‘zero waste’. It’s this silent pressure that sits there and holds standards out-of-reach. “Sorry about [insert object here], I bought it before I went zero-waste” or “Ignore [insert object here] I’m just using it up” So, why the pressure? Where does it come from? Probably from the same place that my getting into fights with coworkers who don’t believe in recycling comes from: a place of passion.

Passion makes people do crazy things. It is good, bad and ugly all mixed together in one cataclysmic bundle. But the truth is that no one has the right to judge you. I know it feels as if they do and trust me, I’m guilty of living with that fear too, but the fact is that they don’t. And just because something is right for them, doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

This is where I’m at with so-called ‘sustainable living’. There is no ‘one size fits all’, unfortunately. I wish it were that easy, but it isn’t. And as much as we all like to pretend that we’ve got it all figured out, I truly believe that living sustainably means being open to adaptation and being flexible. Being vegan, for example, might be the very best way that you can reduce carbon emissions based on your current circumstances as a city-dweller where everything is available to you. But what about if you moved to a tropical island where fish was plenty and tropical fruits and vegetables bountiful? Would you still choose vegan and import all foods that you were eating previously so as to maintain the status? No, of course not. The air miles would be killer and completely contradict the whole ‘sustainable vibes’ thing that you’re striving for.

None of us are living the exact same lives and none of these lives set in stone. We each have different financial constraints and health conditions and physical impairments and complicated emotions and hopes and dreams and lives that change like the weather. What is right for us today might not be tomorrow. And it’s this that I know truly resonates with me. The only thing that I’m certain of is that times change and that I need to be ready and willing to adapt as they do.

I hope that we see a shift towards encouraging each other to do our very best in the situation that we find ourselves in. Lower the bar a bit. Remember empathy. Don’t judge them or inflict your views upon them until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

Photos by Sphynx and Relentless Church on Unsplash and Chester Ho on Unsplash

hiking outdoors

Over the past six months or so I’ve been paying more and more attention to where the things I buy are sourced from. This covers everything from tofu to trainers, candles to concealer. I realise that I find myself in a highly detached society: one that thinks Amazon pulls products out the air and ships them to us.

This isn’t a good thing. If we’re unaware of the process of getting whatever item it is to our doorstep, how are we monitoring whether the supplier is doing a good job or not? Just as we don’t think about where our trash goes once it’s collected from the kerb, we’re not thinking of the entire process when we purchase a shirt to wear. At least, not most of us.

This kind of blissful ignorance is what is fuelling bad practices across many (if not all) industries. Consumption is greater than ever and the demand to push prices down also greater than ever. Suppliers want to accommodate and so if this means forgoing ethics, many will unfortunately comply.

I know marketing is a clever industry and it’s aim is to convince us that we need x, y, or z. But I didn’t realise until recently just how wrong I was about one particular industry: outdoor clothing & technical gear.

From the months of March-November (though sometimes in winter too) I look for any opportunity to pack up the tent, don my gore-tex and get some fresh air in my lungs. Whether it’s hiking a mountain or getting some waves, I thrive in the great outdoors.

In order to participate in these kinds of activities, appropriate “technical” clothing and kit is often required. Up until recently, I’ve purchased whatever is on offer in my favourite outdoor chains. I guess I had this idea that brands producing items for allowing one to be more comfortable/prepared in nature must also care about nature. See the link there? Sadly, I’ve discovered that this truly isn’t the case. It seems outdoor brands are closer to the fashion industry in terms of ethics.

This excellent round-up from Ethical Consumer goes into detail about a variety of brands and aspects of  what is considered ethical manufacturing & supply. I highly encourage you check it out.

There are some new items that I’m due to be purchasing very soon. But with this now knowledge floating around my brain, I refuse to simply purchase the next thing I see that looks nice and fits well (or is technically-sound). There’s a lot of research to be done, but watch this space because I’ll be bringing my findings to you. The ethical brands are not the mainstream ones, but it’s important that they get a voice. If we talk about them more, they will become more widely acknowledged.

Photo via Unsplash

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When it comes to ethical food, there are a plethora of things to consider. These include: origin, fertiliser run-off, pesticide, packaging, cost, health, intolerances and so much more. Shopping locally, growing your own, and dumpster diving are some ways of trying to be more environmentally-friendly. It all depends on what matters most to you and what you have available.

Like most people, I want fresh, healthy, delicious food. But considering environmental factors, I also want organic, local and packaging-free as far as possible. I consume a mostly vegan diet, although I do sometimes eat eggs from local chickens. Therefore, the majority of what I consume is plant-based. This is stuff out the ground or from a tree that really has no reason to be packaged in plastic. Yet if you step into any supermarket, a sea of packaging is what you’ll encounter.

One way I can choose to reduce my waste is by shopping at a farmer’s market. I’m pretty lucky living where I do in Bristol, because there are some great ones available within walking distance or easily accessible by public transport. Throw a car into the mix and Somerset is my oyster.

Below is what I picked up from the market today. It cost a total of £13.70 and most of it is sans packaging.

fruit and veg from market

To put this into perspective, if I went to my local supermarket and spent the same amount of money, it would have only included the items below:

fruit and vegetables

So, that’s no parsnips, potatoes, carrots, garlic, kale, bananas or leaks. And one less beetroot. A bit sad, really.

What does this tell us? It tells us that supermarket shopping your way around a plant-based diet isn’t such a smart move. It offers convenience, of course, so late night desperation shops are possible. But for the weekly shop of produce, markets are simply the better choice. Produce is fresh, generally local (well, whatever is in season) and they don’t force you to pay for the unnecessary packaging. Therefore, the bill is so much cheaper!

Whilst buying all this deliciousness, I spent a while talking to the owner of the place. I wanted to find out more about the trade, how long he had been in the business and whether he enjoyed it. I found out that he started the company with his then-wife 25 years ago. Back then it was a roaring trade. A couple a week in different parts of Bristol and he was raking in the money. It was very profitable, apparently. So much so that he was able to take 5 holidays a year in some of the most exotic places around the world!

Then, fast forward to the early 2000’s when supermarkets began opening on Sundays and it crippled them. Sunday markets – including his – were suddenly dying out in the blink of an eye. Supermarkets offered convenience: a place to get everything under one roof. So to the consumer, there was no longer a reason to purchase from the farmer’s market. It was no longer the only option. And stall-owners felt powerless to this change in shopping mentality.

Did he enjoy it, I asked. The response was oh yes, very much so. He just wished that the business was still booming, but that it was nice to see young people still choosing to shop for their produce this way.

This isn’t a lesson in history, but rather a look at where we can go from here. Whether it’s zero waste, local, organic or whatever else, farmer’s markets can offer it to you in a way that mainstream supermarkets simply can’t. Sure, we’d probably all like to grow our own or have a neighbour provide us with our goods each week, but let’s be realistic. Urban dwellers have more limited options.

I look around at my peers now and more of them each day it seems are finding a penchant for plant-based eating. With diets switching, now could be a great time to look at a lifestyle change as well. Can we go full circle and revert to more wholesome, intentional consumption habits? Support local and ditch the packaging perhaps…?

The only thing that I can’t recycle from my above bounty is the celery packaging. The kale and mushroom bags can be recycled and the rest will be making its way into my belly this week. Compare that to 10x more packaging from the supermarket equivelant and I honestly cannot fault it. You could argue that ‘well, everything isn’t organic is it? Or local?’ but I ain’t a saint. To me, right now, this seems like the best possible way of consuming my five-a-day given my options.

It can be easy to slip into feeling powerless as a consumer. You cast your eye on the sea of packaging and feel as though you’re fighting a losing battle. But remember that while you might not be able to change what the supermarkets are stacking on their shelves, you can choose what you buy and where you buy it from. There is mighty power in that; in marching to the beat of your own drum.

Use this exciting time while we’re still in ‘new year’ energy to perhaps re-think who you are supporting and where you’re spending your hard-earned cash. How would you like to look after our environment? Choose to support a local market stall and you’ll be sending less to landfill, that’s for sure. And that’s only the beginning. You’ll probably have a great conversation and a smile thrown in too.

 

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Christmas-ethical-gifting

Christmas is two weeks away and the feeling of pushing against the colossal force of consumerism is strong.

This year has been a constant quest and assessment if you like into my role – my life – on this planet and how it fits into everything. Not only that, but how my actions implicate the health of us as a collective people and place. It’s one gigantic learning curve. Life, I mean. You’re never just ‘there’ in terms of knowledge accumulated. There’s always something new you can do to educate yourself. There’s always something more intricate to study or focus on.

It’s so normal for us all to spin out of control in stress and anxiety this time of year. We’ve been force-fed this atrocious idea that Christmas  goes hand in hand with breaking the bank – with spending. And it’s not just Christmas, is it? Every single holiday is an opportunity for retailers to play on our weaknesses and convince us that we can always spend more.

It really is time to stop. And not just for Christmas. Spend these next few weeks, if you can, making conscious purchases. And not just in the gift department, either. Start looking at what you’re buying, when you’re buying things, and how the purchase makes you feel the moment you make it, 1 hour later, and 1 week later. We’ve got ourselves into this rut by over spending and then basking in the stress of a busted bank account. What if I told you that it doesn’t have to be that way?

Below I’ve listed some different ways you can tackle Christmas gifting this year, in case you’re dying of stress and hopeless as to what to buy:

  1. Do a Secret Santa. Instead of buying everyone in your family or friendship group a gift, each draw names and buy one present for somebody. Make this something that they would really appreciate. You can even reveal who has who and straight up ask the person if they need anything. Britons spend an average of 2.4 billion pounds on unwanted presents each year. Why not simply ask?
  2. Give your time. Relieve the pressure of spending money you may not have and donate your time to your loved ones. I guarantee it will be more appreciated than a flashy material present. This could be in the form of a voucher for a day in the park together, concert tickets (if you can afford it), or a homemade dinner. These gifts mean the most.
  3. With the upward trend of minimalism, people wanting to simply have less stuff can be tricky to buy for. If you know anyone passionate about a particular charity or cause, consider donating in their name. Give the funds to someone who truly needs it.
  4. Handmade consumables always go down a treat. Try getting creative and making some delicious homemade treats for foodies or beauty junkies. You can have fun, it doesn’t break the bank, and the fact that you took the time to make something yourself says a lot about how much you care.
  5. Pool together for adventure. If you’ve got a tight-knit family or group of friends that normally spends a hefty total on each other, consider pooling your funds and putting down the deposit on a yurt, lodge, beach house or any other place you might want to venture! Travel is one of life’s greatest experiences, so consider planning a trip together.

Rather than having to endure the time-consuming process of clearing out the crap once Christmas has passed, try to prevent the unwanted purchases from being made in the first place. We all focus so much on liberating ‘closet clean-outs’ and ‘spring cleaning’, but we must stop and access our relationship with purchasing in the first place. 2017 is going to be a year of making this my primary goal. I have a choice with each purchase I make and the repurcussions are huge and can make a difference. Ethical purchasing inspires others and gets the word out there that things can be different. If we each speak up about it loud enough, real change can happen.

 

Photo: Flickr

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