19 March 2015

Going Green As Moving Target

Two years ago, I embarked on the project I called "Ten of Tens" -- ten days on each of ten different habits to make changes in the direction of environmental sustainability. My projects included packing lunches to avoid take-out (and all the plastic involved) at work; eating more local food; using less water for dishwashing and in the shower; learning about the environmental impact of the foods I eat; switching to fair-trade coffee, tea, and chocolate; not buying things packaged in plastic; and buying less stuff.

It was a partial success. I didn't eliminate take-out, which is terrible for the planet and the body, but I cut back. I continued doing most of my shopping at the supermarket, but I made an effort to get out to the farmers' markets more. I've been almost take-out free this year, but then again I'm on sabbatical, and my desk is five feet from my kitchen. Buying local is easier here in the UK, where everything in the supermarket is marked with point of origin, but I STILL don't get to the farmer's market enough. And I don't know, but I think it's gotten even harder to avoid bringing home plastic packaging. At Sainsbury's, even the recycled toiled paper is wrapped in plastic.

But I keep trying. When I'm finished with the sabbatical I'm planning on buying some stainless-steel food containers for packing lunches -- I've been using mason jars, and they're heavy, and they break.

As of right now, today, I'm going to try to stop first at the farmer's market every time I go shopping.

Another of the issues I wrestle with is how much clothing I own. The 333 Project has been on my radar for a while, and it's a great idea: limit yourself to 33 items of clothing, including accessories, shoes, outerwear) for three months.

But exercise clothes are excluded from the accounting, as are pajamas, undergarments, and "in-home lounge wear." I do a lot of different kinds of physical activities, and I own almost as many items of clothing for exercise as I do for the rest of life.  I've been trying to avoid having a separate wardrobe for all the different activities. And you get 33 items of clothing for each season -- so in a three-season climate, that's 99 articles of clothing.

I've been trying to overlap as much as possible, for instance buying hiking clothes that look neat enough to wear in town. I dress a lot more casually when I'm writing at home than when I'm teaching, but it doesn't seem fair to allow an entire additional wardrobe of casual clothing, so I'm trying to bring my casual and work clothes closer together. There's a decluttering recommendation that you only buy an item if you're getting rid of another item; I've been trying to go two-for-one, though not always successfully.

Moving toward sustainability isn't a one-shot deal. It requires continuous adjustments and renegotiations. I'm trying to do better each year; it's hard, and I fail a lot, but I know I'm doing better than if I didn't try in the first place.