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Reflecting on a less wasteful year

This has been an odd year. For the first half of it, we were living in a thatched cottage in a Northamptonshire village. For the second half, we have lived in a thatched cottage in an Oxfordshire village. The two villages are so vastly different that I have a vague sense of disconnection – as if the two halves of the year have been lived by different people (the fact that the second half of the year has been six months of a persistent, but low-grade depression has been a contributing factor, of course).

But one thing has definitely been a constant: my exploration of ways to live a more ecofriendly life has spanned the year. And it is something I hope to continue improving. Here are some of the small changes I’ve made:

  • Ditching the clingfilm. I have made waxed fabric wraps – some with pine resin, and some without – to replace clingfilm in our kitchen.
  • Reducing waste – thanks to the excellent kerbside collection services provided by our local council, we have been able to make a dramatic reduction to our non-recyclable waste. Recently, we didn’t put our bin out on non-recyclable collection day, because it was empty. That was a first, and it gave me such a buzz.
  • Ditching the cotton pads. I made reusable fabric replacements for the cosmetic pads that formed part of my daily skin care routine. I also learned a valuable lesson about them: tie them into a sock for washing, and don’t put them in the tumbledrier – they are small enough to get caught in filters and stuff.
  • Making my own self-care products. I haven’t bought deodorant, body lotion or salve (the sort you use for minor abrasions/scalds) in ages. I’ve made my own. I am using up the stock of lotions and potions I have in my dressing table, and then I plan to replace those with ones I’ve made myself, too. I’m not yet brave enough to try making my own shampoos or body washes, because Mr Namasi has a tricky skin, and I don’t really want to subject him to failed experiments.
  • Growing food. I am a pretty useless gardener, but there is a community garden in our village, which I joined as soon as we moved here. This has given me access to company, new skills and freshly grown vegetables.

    Making more preserves
  • Making (more) preserves. This is not a new skill. I’ve made pickles, jams and so forth before, but somehow being in a country village has reawakened that side of me. And the sense of well-being I get when I open the larder cupboard to see a fully stacked top shelf is palpable.
  • Shopping differently. There is a buying group in our village that buys from a wholesaler of ethical products (foods and non-foods) with reduced packaging and so forth. I joined the group, and then found myself in the role of admin as the previous incumbent is moving away. We order every second month, and therefore tend to buy in larger quantities. The delivery is made as part of a set route, which has a positive impact on our collective carbon footprint.
  • Less stuff. This year, Mr Namasi and I opted not to exchange Christmas gifts. We also asked our sons not to give us anything. We had to downsize considerably when we moved here, and we still have more stuff than we need. We have decided to focus more on shared experiences. So we will explore the countryside and visit various places of interest.

Looking ahead to 2019, I’ve decided to really test myself. I’m going to see if I can get through the whole year without buying anything new. Of course, this doesn’t apply to food and other essential consumables. I am already a regular user Facebook marketplace, Freecycle, Vinted and online spaces of that ilk. I am also a regular visitor to charity shops. For 2019, I’m going to see if I can limit myself to those spaces. These are my options:

  • Make it myself. I have the skills to make a wide variety of things from furniture to clothing.
  • Repair what I have. I have the skills to repair many things myself. There is also a repair cafe in Wantage, where I can take any small appliances that break down, to see if they can be repaired.
  • Buy secondhand. Charity shops, Facebook marketplace, and any number of other spaces exist for this purpose.
  • Borrow from friends. So often, when we have an event to attend, it involves buying a posh frock that might only see one wearing before being relegated to the back of a wardrobe. Perhaps my friends and I can do the occasional swap shop thing to get more life out of a fairly expensive purchase. This applies to hats and evening bags/clutches/purses (choose your word) too.
  • Do without.
No more manis

One other thing I’ve decided to give up on – and hear me out on this one – is professional pedicures and manicures. The manicure thing isn’t going to be a biggie. My hands are too busy for prettying up, so I tend only to have a manicure once every couple or years or so, for a special occasion. The pedicure thing…. that’s a different matter altogether. I can’t abide unkempt feet, so I have always taken good care of mine. Every Sunday night, while Mr Namasi plays ice hockey, my ritual has been a soak in the tub, with a facemask, followed by a DIY pedi. Since I developed polymyalgia rheumatica earlier this year, I have been unable to twist my hips and knees enough to take proper care of my feet, and so I have treated myself to (more or less) monthly pedicures to supplement the limited work I can do on them. But my conscience has been bothering me terribly. You see, manicures and pedicures involve vast quantities of cotton pads and – for some inexplicable reason – clingfilm. I also have concerns about the various products used. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to achieve it, but I am going to have to step back up to the plate on my foot care routine.

I hope that this time next year, I will be able to reflect back on a 2019 that has been even less wasteful than 2018. Are you in? Shall we hold each other to account come year-end?

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Looking ahead to 2019

Do you make new year’s resolutions? At what point do you decide what they’re going to be?

I imagine that if you make them up on the fly on new year’s day – when you’re feeling bloated and uncomfortable after all the eating of the preceding month or so, and possibly hungover from the night before – swearing off booze and being determined to eat more healthily are likely to top the list. Aaaand, of course, the chances of breaking those resolutions within the month are that much higher.

I’m not much of a one for resolutions. I prefer to set goals, and new year’s day is as good a time as any.

I’m toying with the idea of doing something fairly major next year, and I don’t want to enter into it lightly, so I’m thinking about it quite carefully to decide whether it is an achievable goal.

I’m considering a fast of sorts. A few years ago, I decided to challenge my serious shoe habit and go on a year’s ‘shoe fast’. In the end, the fast went on for 18 months for a variety of reasons. But the fact is that I managed it. This time around, I’m thinking of swearing off new things altogether. Obviously I will continue to buy toiletries, food and the essentials – although, even there, I have been trying for some time to make more and buy less, and to buy sustainable, ethical products – but I’m thinking of things like clothes, shoes, jewellery, phones, appliances, furniture, bed linen, etc. I wonder if I could go a whole year without buying anything new. If I can’t find it pre-owned or make it myself, I go without.

For the most part, I’m fairly confident. But there are a few things I have to consider.

  1. Most significantly, purchases for the home don’t just affect me. I share my home with Mr Namasi. And he would have to be on board with the idea of nothing new for a year. If he wants a new sofa, my goal of only buying pre-owned items might be at risk, but I can’t strongarm him into abiding by goals he didn’t set and had no say in. This is what project managers call a ‘dependency’.
  2. Some items I’m confident I can make or repair. Others I’m not so sure of. For example, I have never made a bra. The very thought of it makes me nervous. If I were a neat little B cup, I could just choose to do without. If I were younger, I might not need a great deal of support. I am neither of those things. I am middle aged with a GG cup (and no, I’m not ‘bragging’, don’t even go there – there is absolutely no advantage and several disadvantages to having a disproportionately large bust), which means I practically need something designed by a structural engineer. I’ve also never made jeans, and don’t have a great deal of confidence in my ability to make a pair that would be robust, comfortable and flattering. I’m an odd shape. Could I do it?
  3. Some things are unforeseen. What if the year pitches me a curveball? I can make clothes if my body changes. If my prescription changes, I will consider new glasses essential and therefore exempt from the moratorium. But there might be other changes I can’t even imagine at this point. I might have to revisit things if for example I lose all my hair and have to decide whether or not a wig constitutes an essential item.

Generally speaking, I’m a seat-of-the-pants kind of person. But when you’re setting goals, if you are to be true to them, you really do need to think things through. I mean, otherwise there’s no point in setting the goals in the first place. You know what they say: a goal without a plan is just a wish.

I’ll let you know whether I pluck up the courage to go through with this one as my goal for 2019.