It’s an everyday battle: I go into the kitchen and straight away spot something very familiar. A metal can sticking up from my soft-plastics recycling bin. I go over, pull it out and put it into the correct bin (the general recycling one), but turns out it’s not alone. Also merrily hanging out in the soft-plastics bin is a non-recyclable piece of packaging, a bottle cap, and an electric cable. Welcome to the digging-in-the-bin-with-your-bare-hands reality of being a newbie at sustainability – and living with someone whose attitude towards it all can best be summed up as, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”.
For about a couple of years now – since we left our former London neighbourhood that didn’t do recycling (seriously, London? In 2016?) – I have been slowly but surely discovering the many ways in which we can all do our bit to help our ailing planet. In this time, I have gotten into many new habits, such as filling up on refillable detergents at my local ethical food shop, using a reusable coffee cup and water bottle, shunning plastic bags forever, and other ways of working towards plastic reduction. I now feel that, as vegans, it’s our duty to protect the natural habitats of animals. But, frustratingly, in my own (vegan) household most of my efforts have been met with either a sarcastic remark about “tree-huggers” or a stern comment along the lines of “please don’t bother me with this, I am too busy”.
What’s more, the recycling isn’t the only part. If I had a penny for every time I came home to find every light in the entire flat turned on, I would probably be rich enough to pay a lifetime’s worth of electric bills in one go. And don’t get me started on winter: as soon as temperatures drop, I brace myself for The Great Heating Wars – the daily screaming fights about whether the heating should be on or off. I read that women usually are the ones cranking up the heat – girls, put on a (wool-free) sweater and turn it down! It’s killing the Earth.
It’s not that my husband is heartless, or unaware of the horrendous damage that our lifestyles are doing to the planet. If nothing else, my constant banging on about it at home has played its part in informing and enlightening him. It’s not that he doesn’t care, either – his understanding of it is (quite correctly) that until society changes and corporations step up their eco-friendly game, whether two or three or fifty of us stop using plastic simply doesn’t matter. He’s not wrong, and I tend to agree with this reasoning. Demanding change on a collective level is infinitely more powerful than simply learning to make your own almond milk and pat yourself on the back for not buying the packaged stuff.
But here’s the thing. Just because you don’t have the time, power, or money to contribute to big-scale change, that is not an excuse not to do the small things that you could easily do to make the world a slightly better place. This is what makes me so frustrated with my husband’s reckless approach to recycling – “Would it kill you to toss the Quorn bag into the correct bin?” I despair. “It’s not you who has to trot to the supermarket every weekend to recycle the soft plastic! All you have to do is put it in the right place. How hard can that be?”
But in my desire to turn the Camilli household into a minimalist, composting, energy-saving, pro-level recycling haven, I sometimes need to step back and realise that David’s progress may just be little slower, but it’s happening. He went vegan three years ago, after proclaiming that he never would. “Maybe vegetarian, but never vegan!”. And he recently went off on me for not soaking my beans long enough: “that way you have to cook them for longer, and using the extra energy is bad for the environment!”
Progress comes with enlightenment: after seeing enough evidence of how garbage and waste hurts nature and wildlife, David’s reluctantly agreed to making our own hummus and oat milk at home, and after watching turtle after whale after sea bird die with bellies full of plastic in the heartbreaking Netflix documentary An Ocean of Plastic, he said he’d drink filtered water instead of bottled, after previously flat-out refusing for years. What’s more, he’s agreed to letting me give him recycling lessons in 2019! But that might have been because I made him promise at one A.M on New Year’s Day, and there may have been some French Champagne in the picture…
David says: “sustainable living, when done properly, can be quite time-consuming. Many of us are simply too busy with the daily demands of society to add yet another thing to think about to our already full to-do list. It’s up to companies and corporations to offer simple solutions to motivate people to live more sustainably. Having said that, it’s important that we realise that all lives on the planet have a value, and our choices impact this. I will try to do my best in the future to incorporate eco efforts into my daily life”.
So, we’re getting there. As for many other things, I’ve found a slow and gentle approach to work best here, too. Here are a few tips on how to get people around you to care more.
This month I am reading…The Good Guide by Marieke Eyskoot. David’s Christmas present to me was a book on sustainable living. Not all hope is lost.
This month I am listening to…In Flames and Arch Enemy. Yep, I’m into death metal. And I am a girl. A girl in heels and lipstick. Shocking, I know.
This month I am watching…Black Mirror‘s interactive film Bandersnatch on Netflix. Again and again.
This month I am planning…to take author headshots for my upcoming book launch. Being in front of the camera is seriously nerve-racking. But that’s best left for another Editor’s Notes.
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Header photo by Clem Onojeghuo via Unsplash