I started some threads around March last year seeking mutual support from folk who wanted to improve their environmental impact and who, like me, found the changes tough to make.
It garnered a fair share of ridicule and some kind support. I stopped posting them when accusations of "virtue signalling" appeared. However, it didn't stop my experiment or efforts.
So, a year since I started and almost a year since I posted, here's what I managed and some things I learned.
What I managed
- I didn't fly. We holidayed in Wales and it was great. I didn't "need" to fly for work, so no split loyalties there. I may fly once this year; I can't see the need arising for a while after that.
- My diet has settled towards the veggie-end of flexitarian. Red meat maybe twice in the year; fish maybe 4 times; chicken once every couple of weeks. I eat eggs (we have hens) - and I expect their food isn't great in terms of carbon - but they're here. I eat cheese because I tried not to and it risked blowing the overall positive trend. Similarly milk in tea. I use soya milk to cook.
- I drive much less. Mostly due to changed work, but also because if it's under a mile I now walk and under three and I'll bike. That sounds trivial but I didn't used to.
- I never used much stuff anyway, so not much change there. Recycling as normal to the limitations of the Council service.
What I learned
- Lifelong habits are hard to break. I mean physiologically hard not just mentally hard. Most people on here will have had food cravings whilst on expeditions (marmite). I missed cheese that much when I tried to cold-turkey away from it. Being unable to stick to a vegan diet risked me giving up - so I compromised. Cheese and milk and eggs... and a very (very) gradual reduction in those.
- On travel the main trade-off is time. Travel to europe by train is loads nicer than flying and you can get to a great many destinations within 24 hours, BUT it is slower and it is usually more expensive. I haven't yet committed to "just not going" despite knowing I should. I think exploring the world is a harder habit to break than meat.
- It's easier if you plan recipes. We've shopped to a weekly recipe list for about 20 years, so searching around for interesting recipes and trying them out hasn't been hard. We've eaten *a lot* of mushrooms. And of various pulses. Some recipes hold their own in the alltime top 10. Variety is a good antidote to craving. There're also a couple of dishes that I love too much to give up just yet - Kedgeree perhaps the biggest one for me. I try to make it rare without labelling it as "a treat" (with all the implications that holds).
- It's easier if you don't do it alone. Like an addiction I guess - alcohol, heroin, stuff, travel, meat; all easier to cut down with support from others. Some people can be amazingly supportive - and I thank the folk on here who offered recipes, ideas and encouragement.
- Some people will mostly try to derail you. Decry your ambition, ridicule your failures and imperfection, denounce it as preaching. Where that comes from I don't like to think. But it makes the process of trying to do the right thing much harder. Sure, people aren't perfect, but don't take the piss because they had milky tea when they're making a serious and sustained effort to make some changes that, for them, are pretty hard work.
I continue to not have a passport. I haven’t travelled more than 45 crow-flies miles from my home in the last 12 months. We put 80% of our household’s below-average mileage on a 2nd hand Leaf EV. It’s now 7 years since I’ve been on a plane. The rainwater system is fully functional with nice high pressure rainwater on tap in the garden. At one point in the last year when explaining what I’m doing to reduce my impact a poster on UKC told me “you overestimate the bounds of your intelligence”. Given who it was I find that quite amusing.
This year hopefully we get off the oil boiler and on to a heat pump and more insulation. I’m also starting to plan a 1 kw run of the river micro hydro scheme for us, although I appreciate it’s not a useful thing for most people, with our growing capacity of installed solar PV it’ll make us a net exporter of power all year round.
I think I had one vegetarian evening meal this year rather by accident. Just doesn’t appeal. When I meet a vegetarian whose given up all travel over 100 miles I might have to re-evaluate my stance. I longingly watch the 4K “timescapes” video and think of the American south west sometimes. Perhaps we’ll take a 3-month trip in a few years time once we are off heating oil at home. We’ve found some amazing places locally though. The one thing we can’t find is a broad leafed wood big enough to not see the outside of in any direction
Jr and I have stopped using manufactured shampoo. Once a month I chop a few conkers up and we blanch them, and used the leached out Saponin rich liquid instead. I’ve given it a few goes in the laundry with excellent results - this autumn we’ll collect enough conkers to do all our laundry except tea towels, flannels etc.
I'd say that the world needs more people like you and full respect for trying.
I have yet to be convinced that red meat consumption is actually any more environmentally damaging that any other form of intensive agriculture and I know that there will be plenty of studies out there to point me in that direction while there are plenty of others that refute the claims.
For me, I'd be more likely to give up intensively reared meat on ethical grounds.
Living in the middle of Canada, my carbon footprint tends to be higher as we use more fuel to keep warm, drive everywhere and pretty much have to fly just to get into the next province. There are almost zero trains and buses and cost is prohibitive.
So hats off to you for doing your bit.
> Some people will mostly try to derail you. Decry your ambition, ridicule your failures and imperfection, denounce it as preaching. Where that comes from I don't like to think.
They are feeling guilty and trying to excuse themselves.
I've been flexitarian my whole life, I just use the less trendy term omnivore. And a responsible one at that.
I flew more than I'd have liked last year (3 return flights so still not loads). Off to London next week for work and, as a nervous flier on top of the environmental impact, I'm glad my company now only offers rail travel for UK trips.
The western isles should be my furthest leisure travel this year and I'm happy with that.
Aside from a few herbs and tomatoes at the moment (inside via an aerogarden) I haven't grown as much stuff as I'd hoped.
My thing from the thread in March was primarily about meat reduction, I was aiming to be vegetarian during the week and a meat eat at the weekend, I'll admit, I had a few false starts, but I'm used to it now and I'm probably down to one meat based meal a week. My reason were only partly environmental, a large part of it was cutting out heavily processed products.
Interesting. But.....as you say...:-
I don't like flying - its like a cattle market, but if I stopped flying completely it wouldn't reduce the carbon footprint unless they cancel flights. And it would take a lot of people to not use a lot of flights before some of the flight are cancelled.
As for giving up meat? We too rarely eat red meat - But.... I don't agree with those who say red meat is environmentally unfriendly. Surely if we got rid of cattle, farmers wouldn't need grass and they'd grow crops. They'd turn grass fields into something else. From a bird point of view this would be a disaster. I've done enough surveys and enough birdwatching to know that far more birds & mammals utilise grass farmland than intensively grown crops. Of course some, like my very 'green' grandaughter argue that the old grassland could be turned into woods or planted in smaller plots, less intensively and so on. But how would you get farmers to do this if it isn't going to get them a better income? And even doing that would decimate some birdlife, meadow plants, fungi, several insect species I can think of just for starters.
Being 'green' isn't easy or simple and can have negative consequences.
As a counterargument to your point about cattle farms being turned over to crops: at the moment demand for beef worldwide is increasing. This results in old growth forest being cleared for pasture. If a decent number of people cut down their consumption then the rate of clearance decreases. You could argue that we are making room for the increase in demand that is coming from elsewhere.
I was browsing xkcd a few minutes ago as I am wont to do and was struck by this comic (it's a couple of years old but I doubt things have improved):
Perhaps we could do a monthly thread (as per the film threads) so that there is new progress to report each time.
I have made some significant changes this year which will reduce my footprint, though I can't claim they were made entirely for environmental reasons:
I have continued not buying meat from supermarkets. This has made a massive difference because eating meat now has to involve an element of planning which is just enough of a barrier.
I flew to Europe twice last year, neither time did it feel worth the impact or effort. The big change on travel is that I have moved to Scotland, so hopefully there will be enough exploring domestically that we will not feel the need to travel internationally for a few years. My girlfriend is slowly convincing her employer that getting the train down to England (which she does regularly) is a good alternative to flying down.
As a result of moving I can now cycle to work which is reducing my car miles drastically.
There are some things that I need to suss out following the change in my circumstances: I now live far away from family so I will need to find viable ways of travelling to see them; my job is likely to involve more travel so I need to be careful not to fly unnecessarily; I have access to a work canteen for the first time which makes it easy to eat meat at lunch.
We want to try out refill places to reduce packaging but they are painfully expensive and I wonder how much better they are. Has anyone explored that?
> I use soya milk to cook.
I did a little bit of background reading recently, prompted by one of those anti-vegan backlash things doing the rounds on social media that was 'shared' by a friend on FB.
You know the sort of thing: soya production is an ecological disaster (partially true, it's been responsible for a lot of deforestation), and that is all the fault of vegans driving demand for soya (bollocks - 85% of the global crop is processed to make feed for livestock).
One of the more reasoned pro-cow pieces I read was this:
There might be a bit of confirmation bias going on here, because it's what I was inclined to do anyway, but I've convinced myself that it's probably better from an environmental point of view to use dairy milk than soya milk here in the UK. I buy organic in the hope that I'm supporting more sustainable farming practices and a higher standard of animal welfare than would otherwise be the case.
I know Alpro (for example) source their soya from 'sustainable' European sources, but that's still a crop that might otherwise replace Brazilian or USA imports in some other product.
Coincidentally, I stumbled across this, on the subject of almonds, just yesterday. It's pretty grim.
What else could you do? Oat milk is probably fine, right?
I remember your thread(s) from last year on this, found them very good - didnt realise you stopped them due to accusations of "virtue signalling"
I kept eating meat last year, albeit mostly locally sourced (from animals I could generally see in the field locally, butchered by farmers etc) and have continued this, only thing we have to buy is chicken or fish (although we still have some mackerel in the freezer from last year)
Resolved to grow more vegetables / fruit last year - which we did, however harvest time coincided with a bad three months for us (wife ill, over it now though) so sorry to say we didn't harvest/use a lot of it, most went to compost (used most of the vegetables and still managed to make chutney from the apples but still....)
Transport wise I managed to cycle commute to/from work on 105 days as opposed to taking the car, would have been more but for those three months I guess but such is life
We did however fly for holiday, return journey - only second flight holiday in 10 years though, havent flown for work in at least 5 years
Stuff - made a concious decision to try and stop using "stuff" - was never a great buyer of stuff but was a keeper of things, makeing them last but did mean I had a lot of gadgets/things gathering dust so I distributed them locally to people who wanted them and would make use of them, hopefully meaning they didnt buy more stuff
This year I am informed will be the year when we branch out into getting some rescue hens for eggs (hmm, we already get these from local farmer, why do we need to change this, its not like there is any food miles from these), also we are eating more and more vegetarian meals (dear lady was veggie for 10+ years earlier in her life) and I am committed to cycle commuting as much as possible
With regards to other things insulating the house remains ongoing, every bit of insulation helps offset heating, although I'm not convinced on this totally.
I also want to get back to making my own wine this year, hardly made any last year, and harvest (and use) the fruit / vegetables grown in the garden
Thanks again Deadeye for your inspiring thread last year, shame you felt you had to stop it
I think my best improvement over the last year has been in terms of reducing car use. This is partly down to moving house to somewhere with lots of nice outdoorsy stuff accessible on foot. But it's also partly down to getting an MCard, a travel card that gives me unlimited bus and rail travel across the whole of West Yorkshire with a hefty student discount. It's really changed the way I travel and I'm far more likely to use public transport to get around, even at the cost of a bit of convenience.
Other than that I've not done much. 2019 was another year of not flying, making it almost 3 years since I went on a flight. I'm sure I will fly again but I'm keen to look at alternatives. So we're heading off skiing in the Alps on the train and we'll probably do the same in the summer with the mountain bikes. And I decided to make my PhD a no fly project and will only go to conferences that I can reach by train. I've switched to solid shampoo, conditioner and soap so cut down a bit on plastic there, and I get our laundry liquid from the refill place in the next town over. My biggest source of CO2 emissions continues to be household energy but there's little I can do about that. It's an energy inefficient rental so there's not much I can do and we already have the heating on as little as possible.
What do I want to do for 2020? I want to make this year the one where I stop buying lunch out, especially plastic tubs of salad. This means I need to get more organised at taking my lunch in to uni. It'll help me cut down on my meat consumption (a lot of the meat I eat is crap butties from the campus Coop), save me some money, cut down on my waste and maybe help me lose a bit of weight.
Slightly off topic, but I generally try not to buy supermarket meat, dairy etc. I get as much as possible from local sources. I also avoid buying stuff which is packaged more than it should be. So I know that if I don't buy it, it doesn't add to the supermarket sales numbers.
However, food waste upsets me a lot, so if I buy these things in the reduced section, am I adding to their sales numbers for these items, hence encouraging them to stock more, or do they remove the reduced section stuff from their numbers and therefore by buying it I would just be reducing food waste?
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