No, not E = MC2. Albert Einstein once proclaimed that “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.” Last week really reminded us of this.
We drove into our local town centre for a shopping trip and as we were walking around it got me thinking about how our aim as a family of avoiding plastic and generally trying to do “the right thing” environmentally now influences every aspect of our lives.
Occasionally when giving a talk or casually chatting about the subject I’ve used the slightly annoying phrase, “train your brain”, but it’s true. You really do have to alter your mindset so that when you are buying or planning to do something, you step back and think that little bit harder about things.
So firstly, as I mentioned, we drove. Unfortunately from our house there is no direct public transport to the town centre. Our quickest indirect option would take around an hour each way, which isn’t ideal with children in tow. I do however commute daily using public transport and my annual car mileage is well below the national average so I can live with that. I’m currently toying with whether an electric or hybrid car is really a better option environmentally. The research still seems mixed.
Anyway… the first item on our shopping list was a selection of birthday cards. Yes, we could make our own or avoid them entirely. As we always say, the changes people can make can be considered on a spectrum. We always aim to be towards the better end of it, if not perfect. Not everyone can (or in some cases, can afford to) do everything.
When buying cards, we generally aim for ones that are produced on recycled or FSC (sustainable) paper, (non biodegradable) glitter free, without a badge and not wrapped in plastic. When walking around the town centre, it quickly became apparent how hard this is. WH Smith fared well on most fronts but didn’t have the largest range so we didn’t find all of the cards we needed. We walked in (and rather quickly back out) of Clintons as every card appeared to be wrapped in plastic. The same was largely true of gift shop Neon Sheep. Card Factory fared well in terms of unwrapped cards but we can’t comment on how they first arrive at the store. We tried an independent card shop, The Wild Card, as they often perform better, but it was still a mixed picture. We also politely declined to enter the competition to win a (plastic) balloon taller than my son.
Our next point of call was much more straightforward, the fantastic Maya’s Refillables in Market Place. It had apparently been quite a busy day despite the rain (good to hear) and we caught up for a quick chat while Maya refilled a few bottles of household products for us.
On to hardware store Robert Dyas for an egg poacher. There was a plastic option or an aluminium pan. You can guess which we bought.
A quick pit stop for a hot chocolate. We’d brought snacks for the boys with us so could avoid the gingerbread men wrapped in plastic that they initially had their eye on. And they had a glass of milk each, rather than a bottle or carton. No, we’re not perfect and this won’t always be the case (we can’t spoil all of their fun…) but today we were trying extra hard as it was on my mind.
Lastly, we needed a couple of children’s birthday presents so we ventured into bookshop, Waterstones. We aim not to buy too many plastic toys these days although sometimes it’s hard to avoid them. We bought a selection of books and were proud when (unprompted) our son picked up a book he has at home called ‘Somebody Swallowed Stanley’ for one of the gifts. It follows the life of a plastic bag that ends up in the sea!
Talking of the little man, the weekend had begun with a lovely school harvest festival at our local church. We were amazed to hear several year groups of children presenting on issues including plastic pollution, habitat loss and climate change, reminding (and inspiring) everyone in the room how we all need to respect, protect and treasure out planet. Amen to that.
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