In January 2010, I wrote a piece here about 10:10 and what steps we agreed, as a family, to take to reduce our carbon emissions over the year. Since January 2011 I have been intending to write an update of action which we actually took and whether we hit our targets.
Well, some we hit and some we missed. Just to remind you so that you will know what I am talking about, here is my list from 26 January 2010.
1. Monday is now a telly-free day. In fact it is a screen-free day so that people don’t just migrate from the telly to the computer.
2. We will turn off the computer earlier.
3. We will now drive to supermarkets a maximum of half as often as we used to, and use them primarily to stock up on store cupboard items. We will source fruit and veg from local shops and meat and sustainable fish directly from farms, producers and farmers markets.
4. Following on from this, we will spend more of our income in the village and buy less consumables elsewhere.
5. We will use our shopping trolley to carry stuff home from the local shops and hold our heads up high even when people laugh…..
6. We will drive at a maximum of 70 mph on motorways and try to chill out more when travelling and not to zip from A to B as fast as possible. We will drive slower on minor roads.
7. We will carry on turning down heating, turning off lights and making sure that electrical items aren’t left on standby.
So how did we do?
1. Screen free Mondays have been partly successful. The telly typically doesn't come on, Hugh and I have an earlier night as a result, and the kids grumble but don't really mind too much. I, however, completely fail when it comes to the computer. Generally I do some sort of work on a Monday so I need to access the internet, but then I am very undisciplined and look at Facebook and browse the news and yukkety yuk. I have also started giving the kids 20 minutes each on the computer and if I don't helicopter them, then this time extends till I do something about it.
On the plus side though, I also imposed a rule of no telly during holidays till 6pm. Great! Positive, active kids and family life for the most part and a respite when everyone's gasping for it.
2. We don't turn the computer off noticeably earlier. Oops, forgot about that. Will do better.
3. We use supermarkets much, much less. Not only do we avoid shopping there, we have almost stopped having them deliver, since a call from a driver who told me that he was over 30 miles away in Oxford, and I was so outraged that my shopping had taken a late night tour of much of South East England that I decided to try not to use the service again. I would guess that I mostly use supermarkets for store cupboard stuff now, which I buy about every 3 weeks, instead of doing a weekly shop. How much has that enriched my life! Even on holidays we have started shopping locally rather than getting one big load from Sainsbury's.
So, I source meat and fish from farmers' markets and Abel and Cole (not just for rich gits - if we shop carefully, we can get free range meat for less than £2 a kilo) I get a lot of fruit and veg from Abel and Cole too, although that is, in my opinion, expensive. I grow quite a lot of that stuff in the summer anyway. My hens poop out eggs generously and with abandon so that keeps us going too.
Shampoo, washing up liquid and all that sort of stuff I buy in bulk online. Cheaper, with less wasted packaging. Toilet paper I get from my local fairtrade rep. Kitchen paper is banned, except as a treat at Christmas.
I also worry less about running out of stuff. It seems to me to be a good lesson for everyone that our household stocks are limited and that sometimes we have to make do rather than always be able to have exactly what we want instantly.
4. Hmm, do we spend more income in the village? Yes, probably. We use the greengrocers more and we buy birthday presents for kids' parties here - we never go further afield to do that sort of thing. We also use the charity shops a great deal to get second hand stuff.
5. Yes, I use my little shopping trolley to bring stuff home. I'm a bag lady and proud of it.
6. We have relaxed on driving and getting everywhere as though starring in Wacky Races. We can't be bothered to get in a steamed up rush these days and we are aware that to do so will use petrol faster. I have to add here that I feel slightly ashamed whenever I go to fill up the tank.
I drive as little as possible during the week.
7. Yup, we are still switch-off-obsessives.
So, that was what we planned to do. However, we also started to do loads of other things that weren't on our list. I stopped buying clothes. I don't want to dress in fabrics made from petro chemicals and I don't want to wear non-organic cotton since it a very environmentally damaging crop to produce. I also wanted to see if for a year, I could do it. And pretty much, yes, I could.
Whilst I hate shopping with a passion, I still have the impulse to consume (in more brutal language, I like new things) and I am concerned about my appearance. So it was very easy at first, and then I started feeling a little wistful. Anyway, my break with non-organic cotton is permanent. Since it is now 2011, I have bought a couple of organic cotton items, but mostly I indulge myself in Charity Shop chic and have bought waterproof trousers on ebay. I hardly buy shoes, but when I do, I pay the extra and get some which have been ethically produced.
In face, the kids get second hand stuff for presents now. They understand that in the West we have loads and elsewhere others have very little and our excessive life style is supported by ripping off poorer people in a big way. Very, very occasionally, they get new stuff but generally we try to apply what economic muscle we have in as ethical way as possible.
Last year we didn't fly at all (with the exception of business travel - don't know quite what to do about that, and why businesses aren't getting the message that they need to scale back flying too). This year for our holidays we have taken the train around Europe and will continue to do so over the summer.
We are getting PV panels as soon as we can persuade the builder to turn up, and we have installed a wood burning stove. My fire starting skills are being shown up to be very poor, but it'll get better. We also need to buy an axe to chop up wood before the winter comes.
We try very, very hard to avoid products containing palm oil and our consumption of soya is going the same way. This really, really limits food shopping. And by the way -if the ingredients include 'vegetable oil' - that's palm oil in hiding!
We recycle almost everything. Our garage is full of stuff that we need to take when we pass the relevant recycling centre since we don't want to make a special journey.
So all in all, we are progressing along this road, and we have made an effort.
However, we are still of this society and we therefore make constant compromises and collaborate in the current system of excessive use, disproportionate sharing of the world's assets and waste. So it seems to me that there is an inherent failure in what we have done and in our life styles. I worry about this a lot.