As we move into October, it seems a suitable time to reconsider our basic habits and lifestyle. Many are talking about and considering a reassessment, a review of lifestyle, a potential unloading and jettisoning of that which is no longer required.
Others, with more sense of the urgent, are taking a long hard look at capitalism and why it's destroying the earth. Even the Labour party put alternatives to capitalism high on their agenda at their recent conference.
First and foremost in our considerations, we need to save the planet. In his first blog for Campfire today, 'I Hate Capitalism', @Daniel Pinchbeck sounds this alarm bell "I hate Capitalism most of all because it is killing the Earth, our home. Some people argue that the negative environmental impacts are not a result of “pure Capitalism” (whatever that is), but that is wrong. Capitalism is a debt-based system that requires endless growth and development to sustain itself. Endless growth is clearly impossible on a finite planet with limited resources. Capitalism has put all of our children’s lives into extreme jeopardy. This is not okay. It is terrible."
When I recently spent a year without a permanent home and lived mainly in my camper van, I had no choice but to slim down to essentials and I learnt a lot from the experience, not least in terms of how to get by with minimal possessions. I took on the road a suitcase with clothes plus a couple of coats, bedding, a few books for times when I needed a break from my laptop, a phone which also acted a modem for tethering and enough food to fill my fridge. The TV I'd bought when I acquired the van mainly stayed in the cupboard.
Here are a few ideas on ways we can adapt and reduce consumption (thanks to Facebook friend Zoe MacLean for some of these prompts) :
Cutting electricity and gas consumption can be done by using timers, clever power saving switches, timers and switching all bulbs to LED. Don't boil more water than you need in a kettle.
Look at solar / wind power options.
Car use - worth looking to carbon calculators to work out if driving can produce less carbon emissions than flying to holiday destinations. Being organised and combining various errands in one trip, or walking/cycling can reduce short-journey carbon emissions.
Shopping local. Look for alternatives to supermarkets fresh vegetables and fish / meat if they are included in dietary choices, where can fresh organic milk be purchased in glass bottles. How do we feel about cutting out meat completely? Or fish? Or diary? Or wheat? Look at allergies and observe how you feel after eating different types of food. Can we cut out caffeine-based drinks? Stop smoking? (even yogis smoke sometimes, as I noticed on a recent trip to Paros). Remember to take shopping bags!
Grow your own vegetables. Use the earth.
Reducing single-use plastic and other packaging - my town Frome has been at the forefront of campaigning recently and I'm hearing news that there may be changes in the recycling of some plastic-based packing materials, which now constitute 90% of my waste. Do you food re-cycle?
In Greece, the amount of water bottled in plastic is huge, slightly ironic given all the water around the Aegean. Look at ways of cutting down on sparkling water and check on local water refill stops, carry a water bottle. Use reusable coffee / tea cups.
Gadgets and creature comforts - clothes are often impulse purchases. Are they really essential or just for vanity? Look at what is a sensible budget for renewal of comfortable clothes and buy in quality materials - so much nicer to wear, they look nicer, and they behave better when you wash them. Do we really need that latest tech gadget or phone upgrade? Can we pass on a our old phone to a friend or family member? If not, stores such as Apple offer credit on old models.
Showers over baths. Set a limit of 4 minutes for a shower (maybe 5 on a winters day?)
Use thicker jumpers instead of central heating and exercise in the morning to get the blood flowing and warm up.
Here are some further tips and ideas for the wider context from Daniel Pinchbeck's 'How Soon Is Now?' book (essential reading)
- Become a vegetarian or a vegan, or reduce your consumption of meat to a minimum.
- Cut down on air travel. Stop taking unnecessary business trips and vacations. Focus on creating local utopias rather than travelling long distances for exotic experiences.
- Give up your car, or share a vehicle with other people. New digital platforms are making this easier. For instance, Bla Bla Car, a European company, has recently launched a new ridesharing platform, which connects ‘people who need to travel with drivers who have empty seats’. This is a beautiful and simple solution. It could quickly become a global standard.
- Reuse, recycle, conserve, compost.
- Buy less stuff, particularly new stuff.
- Support the transition to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
- In the digital domain, support the movement away from closed, proprietary platforms that extract value to a small financial elite towards platforms that are open-source, peer-to-peer, cooperatively run and democratic.
- Food: grow some of your own food, if possible.
- Join a cooperative or start one. As business ventures, cooperatives are democratically controlled, collectively owned, voluntary associations of people. They are based on common economic, social and cultural needs and shared values.
- Create your own media about what inspires you: With smartphones alone, each of us is now a broadcaster able to spread ideas, stories and so on. In the best-case scenario I can envision, at least a portion of the wealthy elite in the developed world will model the path to self-sufficiency, sacrificing excess, choosing to address the planetary emergency as an initiatory path. Through media, they can explain to the global multitudes – the rest of the world – what they are doing, and why.
- Join an already existing, purpose-driven, social change movement. Some examples of ongoing global movements are Transition Town, the Zeitgeist Movement, the Global Eco-Village Network and the World Social Forum.
- Join a community, or start one with your friends. I currently know many groups buying land or buildings together.
"When we realize we are all victims of a Capitalist system based on mutual exploitation and victimhood and the exploiting of the Earth’s resources for gadgets and creature comforts that are inherently unsatisfying, we can make a shift from #metoo to #wetoo:"