Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Nitty Gritty

You'll have to forgive me for being a bit hazy and rambling today - The Booba has rediscovered an enthusiasm for 2am, 3am or 4am snacks (its a booby smorgasbord around here!). Well, at least there was an 'or' there - was a time when it would have been an 'and' (2am the apperetif, 3 am mains, 4am dessert, perhaps a little after dinner mint at 5am....all a warm up for the main event of breakfast at 6.30!). Ok, in all fairness its only very rarely been THAT bad, but all in all I think I can say that sleeping seems to have become a bit passe for babies around here lately.
I digress. Its time to think about some of the practicalities of my pledge not to buy any new stuff for a year. There is a part of me that is quite optimistic (naive? deluded?) in predicting this may even be a bit too easy. We are hardly shopaholics as it is, and we do already make a bit of an effort to minimise our carbon footprint where we can. But then we're certainly no paragons of ecological virtue either, and there is probably a large element of living in an environmentally responsible way until it gets a bit inconvenient, or we really want something...having a Booba certainly comes in handy as a readymade excuse in this regard (and I don't think we're the only ones!). So here's a brief rundown of where I think we're going ok, and the areas where theres probably room for improvement:
* Most of mine and The Booba's clothes come from secondhand shops, are hand-me-downs or are homemade (by a very devoted Grandma - I'm not quite that talented). I actually find op-shopping a lot more fun than buying things in mainstream shops - perhaps its the thrill of the hunt. Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a bounty of good quality clothes in secondhand shops if you know where to look and don't mind doing a bit of sifting. Most of the clothes I have sourced in these places actually look new, but at a fraction of the financial and environmental cost(with the added bonus of giving money to the needy if the Op-Shop is run by a charitable institution).
* Most of The Booba's toys are sourced like his clothes. Of course it goes without saying that preloved toys are washed very thoroughly and checked for safety hazards, but as with the clothes, there is a surprising bounty of good quality secondhand stuff available out there. As for making toys at home, this has actually become a new hobby of mine. Some examples of things I have recently made for The Booba include a rattly cube made from scraps of fabric; a plastic bottle filled with the plastic tabs from packets of bread (well secured with electrical tape); and a small takeaway container filled with hundreds and thousands. He seems to be equally entertained by these (or an empty paper bag) as by his shinier new toys.
* We are fortunate enough to have a fantastic local library within walking distance where we source most of our books, CDs and DVDs. They have a particularly good selection of baby books (just as well because I get bored reading the same ones over and over again!). Must confess to having bought the new Adrian Mole book (by Sue Townsend) when I saw it in a bookshop last week though - how could I resist?
* We pay a little bit extra for 100% Green energy
* We use mostly biodegradable, phosphate free and grey water safe cleaning products.
* We use mostly organic and non-petrochemical based lotions and potions on ourselves and The Booba. In fact I've discovered a great line of Australian made, mainly organic and carbon neutral products which don't cost anymore than their mainstream counterparts - see the link the Sukin below.
* I don't drive so The Booba and I do a lot of walking and catching Public Transport. This has the added benefit of giving me enough incidental exercise (particularly when I'm lugging an extra 8kg of baby around) so that I don't have to worry about gym memberships and such (must confess to being a bit allergic to walking on treadmills etc....).
* We're trying to grow some of our own food. We're a bit limited by the fact that we rent and therefore are mainly limited to growing things in pots. That and the fact that I for one seem to have a black rather than green thumb so the degree of effort put in doesn't quite seem to be matched by my degree of success. But we're learning.
* Most of the time we remember to take canvas bags to the supermarket
* We use mostly recycled paper products.
Well, if you think that all sounded a little bit smug, here are some aspects of our lifestyle which I'm less proud of:
* Number One most deadly sin with big flashing lights around it would be the fact that we use disposable nappies. Yes, ahem, mea culpa.
* We tend to leave lights on that we don't need.
* We leave lots of appliances with flashing lights on all the time.
* We leave mobile phone chargers and laptop chargers plugged in even when charged item has been detached - apparently this accounts for a lot of wasted power in most households.
* I have a bit of a shiny women's magazines habit (and, lets face it, these are basically just glorified advertising catalogues....thus giving more impetus to the desire to buy STUFF). I do actually think its a bit important for things to be aesthetically pleasing (not VERY important in the scheme of things, but a bit). However I find it quite irresponsible how the Fashion industry seems to promote a throw-away culture. Its equally regrettable how we are encouraged to equate surface appearance with fundamental worth. Again, I digress. I'll get off my electronic soap-box and back to the point!
* When we go to the supermarket we tend not to give much thought to how items are packaged or where they have come from. When we went shopping yesterday we found that with not too much anally retentive label reading required we managed to get about 50% of our shop from within W.A. and nearly all of it from Australia. Not great, but its an improvement. We've also just recommenced getting our dry goods in bulk (less packaging) - but then most of them do seem to be imported.....
* We eat meat. I fell off the vegetarian bandwagon when I was pregnant and became severely iron deficient (and iron tablets make me sick) - so I don't apologise for that. However some meats have less ethical and environmental repercussions than others. I've only just plucked up the courage to try kangaroo (pathetic, I know), and discovered that as far as meat goes, I quite like it. So we've pledged to not eat any other red meat. For those unfamiliar with the environmental, health and ethical benefits of eating kangaroo relative to other red meats, please see link to macro meats below. We also stick to free-range chicken.
* We use tissues and paper napkins when people come over to eat. I've just bought some fabric to make some cloth napkins, but can't get over the fact that I find the whole concept of hankies quite repellant...
* We tend to waste a fair bit of water. Our shower has an annoying habit of taking ages to get hot - we've just starting using a bucket to catch the waste (which we put on the garden).
* I don't look after stuff. The Beloved Husband is excellent at this, and in fact there are several items in his wardrobe he has been wearing for over a decade. So he despairs at my propensity to wreck things, and he's right, although its not deliberate it is a form of wastefulness. I think I need to take a leaf out of his book - and if i'm not buying anything new for 12 months, I'll have to. Ironically, in order to consume less things, I'm going to have to start showing more care for them.
* I love buying things on the internet! In particular quirky T-shirts and kitsch items printed with photographs of The Booba. Theres nothing quite like the thrill of finding that package waiting on the door step....This is going to require a lot of self discipline (especially when producers of said items email me every other day with special offers and new lines - hats off to them for clever marketing!).

Of course its all very well to beat myself up and promise to henceforth be perfect, but this wouldn't be very realistic. Although I have pledged not to buy anything new for 12 months, there will have to be a few exceptions. I will do my level best to limit these to the following:
* Toiletries - where possible to be organic, biodegradable, in recyclable packaging. The nappies are a big issue here - hmmm....I have no desire to enter into the very well worn 'Cloth vs Disposables' debate, and am well aware of the facts and the options out there, just experiencing a little bit of wanting to stick my head in the sand on this point right now!
* Household cleaning agents - as above
* Food. Although it would be lovely, we are never going to be self sufficient living in our current circumstances! We will however do our best to:
- boycott items that are excessively packaged
- choose locally produced and seasonal items
- purchase only organic and fair trade tea, coffee and chocolate (I can highly recommend Green & Black's)
Of course some of the above items will be more costly than usual, but hopefully this extra expense will be offset by not buying other things.
* Essential gardening items such as seeds, manure, etc
* To a certain extent, gifts. The fact remains that not everyone is as enthusiastic about pre-loved or homemade goods as I am.

The first test of my pledge is that my purse has just fallen apart and keeps pooing coins etc. all over the place. Hmmm...this may be related to my aforementioned tendency not to look after my stuff. I haven't cleared it out in a year or too, and its been so bulging with ancient receipts and random never-looked-at-again business cards I haven't actually been able to clip it shut forever.

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