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Be the change you wish to see in the world

We are living in a rapidly changing world - some change is for the better, some is not. In fact, a lot of it is not good change. I have regular internal arguments with myself. There is one devilishly resigned mini-me that sits on my shoulder whispering into my ear: "What's the point? The planet, it's natural resources, beauty and humankind are doomed." Meanwhile there is a better version of myself on the other shoulder: "There is hope. Stand up for what you believe in. Keep sharing your views in the hope that you can change the way someone sees the world."


I sometimes wish I was a blissfully ignorant fool and could live a thoughtless and self-indulgent life with no concern for how it might be affecting anything or anyone. But I am not, I care for our planet and all of it's beauty and living beings.


Over time I have realised that we cannot beat ourselves up for every single thing we do which may have a negative impact on the planet. Instead, we should do all that we can realistically do BUT not to the detriment of our physical and mental health, and without negatively impacting our relationships with those who are important to us. I believe I am finding a balance in my life which sits well with me. The way I am living, although far from perfect, is having a positive impact on the planet and, hopefully, inspires others to make small changes in their way of living too.


Let's explore some of the main aspects of my life which have been a source of internal debate and how I have chosen to settle with my decision.


Food

I am not a vegan. I did "veganuary" last year and it was fine. I was brought up as vegan for a short time when I was very young, and then as a vegetarian before discovering meat as a teenager at a tennis club BBQ (the smell of burgers enticed my curious young self).

I have never eaten a lot of meat but it has been a part of my diet since my teenage years. Since trying a vegan diet last year, I chose to reintroduce animal products into my diet in the following way. Meat - less regularly, as a weekly treat and sourced from a local butcher. Dairy - less regularly, and choosing always welsh organic milk, welsh yoghurt and welsh cheese where it is available. Eggs are now from our own chooks, and honey is always from a local producer (good to combat hayfever too).



Fruit and veg choices have been a battle over the last year - plastic free vs organic. Plastic free usually wins the battle as I cannot afford organic produce across everything I buy. Luckily, I've now got the veg patch so we are buying a lot less fresh veg anyway and I am eating much more of my own produce which is all organic.


Fish and other seafood - I've gone off it since learning to dive a few years ago and also learning about plastic particles found in so many things we eat from the sea. I get an occasional hankering for fish and chips or a fish finger butty which I give in to but other than that, I don't normally touch the stuff. I can be persuaded to eat fresh fish if I know it is a sustainable option but it's not a regular choice.


Clothes

I am very good at wearing things until they are worn out - the great denim crisis of spring 2012 will go down in history with me and my friend when we both wore out the crotch of our beloved jeans. When you wear trousers or shorts so much that this happens, you know they've had a good life. Me and my friend still update each other when this happens with a mixture of delight that we got our monies-worth (from probable charity shop bargains anyway, so a real bonus!), sadness at having to part with a favourite wardrobe item, and hilarity if there is a story behind how the clothing met it's end.


I love charity shop finds and try my best to buy second-hand. If new clothes are the only option then I spend my money on sustainable purchases - new running trainers made from recycled materials (see pic left), tshirts made from organic cotton etc. Fast fashion should be made a thing of the past. I am currently doing more reading up on the most sustainable fabrics for clothing after questioning bamboo as a sustainable source and also being aware of the amount of water required for cotton production (organic or not).






Travel

I live quite far away from the nearest shops and a half hour drive from work so a car is pretty essential to me. I'm very aware of the mileage I rack up on my car and am currently battling the following options: a) switching to an electric car or b) keeping my current car - a little VW Polo - and taking care of it until it one day can't keep going any more.


Lockdown has been really good for no travel. I have only needed to put fuel in the car once in 4 months and I have been making an effort to cycle to the beach for a swim instead of driving (the car park has been closed so it's been the only option BUT I've realised it's not that far away and is perfectly doable).



Pre-lockdown (and post-lockdown, eventually, one day) I always try to take the train when visiting friends or family further away, unless ridiculous prices make it completely unaffordable or I can car-share. And flying - I don't often fly and when I do, I feel horribly guilty. We flew to Japan last year but we stayed for a month so made it a worthwhile trip rather than lots of minibreak flights over a year. I love travelling but now we have our house and chickens, it's unlikely I'll have an opportunity to argue with myself about flying any time soon anyway (not to mention the obvious pandemic...).



Single use items

I try to avoid these where possible. I was shopping at a plastic-free shop, topping up on things like pasta, rice etc but I have stopped doing that. I need to make the effort to begin this again since a new plastic-free top up shop is available to me in Bangor now.


Things like milk cartons and yoghurt pots get re-used. Plant pots, watering jugs, homebrew containers - there's always something to turn them into. They are never single-use and then recycled once they look tatty.


If I want a takeaway drink, I take my own cup - there is just no excuse for this. Even if the packaging is 100% recyclable, it is still unnecessary waste which has had energy and resources put into its creation for a one-time use.


I use soap bars and shampoo bars (made by local businesses), but if you can't tear yourself away from bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and need liquid hand soap in your life then you should find somewhere that you can get your bottles refilled. These are also likely to be better quality products not filled with nasties.


We buy a fair few things in bulk: soap nuts (detergent equivalent), british rapeseed oil, cleaning products etc.


Cloths for cleaning are always reusable and just shoved in the washing machine when dirty.



Preaching...

In my personal life and in my work, I try to influence positive change and positive action for the better of the planet. From not littering (I work with a lot of hard-to-reach young people who are sometimes baffled by this) to using soap bars and everything in between. I often wonder if people get tired of hearing it but I try to have discussions in a healthy way. It seems to have had some positive impacts. I loved it when my aunt, uncle and cousins came to visit me and it ended up in me having a massive discussion with my aunt about our impact on the planet (it was at a time when it was getting on top of me a bit too much and I felt guilty that I was imposing these things on people). It resulted in my aunt making everyone homemade Christmas presents that year and that really made me feel that there is hope. It is worthwhile talking to people about this stuff. We can all positively influence others by showing we care and how we do so.


I feel like I've rambled in this blog post. It's typical of me to get completely wrapped up in my passions and keep waffling on non-stop about all of the things we can do to be better citizens of planet earth! I am not perfect at all. I love cheese, I drive a car, I eat meat, I sometimes choose convenience over the better option for the planet due to affordability or not making time for something. BUT I also try really really hard to make a lot of conscious decisions, some of which now come naturally as part of my life and I don't think twice about them. We can all improve our lifestyles to lessen our negative impact on the planet and take positive action.


What can you do better for our planet? I would love people to get in touch with changes you have made, or have been inspired to do from reading this, or stories of how you have inspired friends or family members - I would like to feature my blog readers in my next post. Share your stories with me via email: naturekeencymru@gmail.com, on instagram and facebook @naturekeen, or by contacting me via blog post comments.


Thanks for reading!

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