Have you heard about The Story of Stuff? Take a look at www.storyofstuff.org and watch the short film about the life cycle of material goods. They also have a Facebook page about the way we make, use and throw away stuff.
This is the story of my stuff. Twenty five years ago I came to live on the beautiful island of Jersey. There I was, a naive 21 year old who knew it all, huge Diedre Barlow glasses that covered most of my face, bad perm half grown out, perched on the back of a rigid inflatable boat with a rucksack on my back – en route to Jersey from France where I had been working the summer season on a campsite. The key point here is that rucksack. I arrived in Jersey with a rucksack of belongings, and apart from driving to Scotland a few months later for my brothers wedding and bringing home a few boxes, that was the whole extent of my worldly goods.
Roll forward 25 years and I seem to have amassed a scary amount of stuff. A home, a garage, a garden shed, a utility room, a field shed, a convoy of vehicles. Stuff. A glass-working studio I can’t use because I can’t get passed the junk, an attic so full of belongings I’m surprised it hasn’t all crashed down into the bedrooms, a shed full of barely used tools. Where did this all come from???? I’m so confused! If asked I would have said I’m not a material person – but it turns out I am……we have 4 TV’s in my house and we don’t even watch telly!
And now, in the madness that is the modern day Christmas I found myself rushing around searching for that perfect gift for my loved ones – this idea that in order to show them how much they are loved and treasured I must buy more stuff to clutter up their lives. And in the throw away society we have become, plastic is king, but why do we use a material that is known for its longevity for throw away, short lived, single-use items?? So….. I have decided….. that for the next year I do not intend to buy anything new, at all, except for food, toiletries and seeds to grow food. I will buy second hand, make, upcycle, recycle, beg or borrow (but definitely not steal) everything that I would normally buy new. I’ll stop to consider want against need. I’ll try and reduce the huge volume of waste that I generate. And when it is a birthday, anniversary or other event I would normally celebrate with a gift I will endevour to spend time with my treasured person and do something together, and if that’s not possible I will make or upcycle a gift with conscious thought.
So to my family and friends – you know how much you are loved, and I would like to show you differently next year. I know you and know you won’t be offended by upcycled and recycled ideas. For me, if you ever intend to gift me something, firstly please please please can it be the gift of time with you – we don’t spend nearly enough time together, and if you do feel that you need to gift something physically to me please feel free to make, bake, buy from a second hand shop, charity shop, re-gift, upcycle – with a little tag of its history. If I receive one gift with the tag ‘bought with thought from Oxfam’ I would be delighted.
And in the meantime I am going to spend the next year working my way through my home and will sell, gift on, recycle or upcycle my belongings that are just sitting there without purpose or meaning. It’s our dream to downsize to a tiny home (with lots of land, to be more sustainable – but that’s a whole other story) so this will be part of working to that goal – so that we’re all ready to go when we finally do find our forever home.
This is the little recycling centre in a dark corner of my kitchen lean to. This year I’ve been really proud of the amount of waste I managed to seperate out for recycling, and stop from being dumped into the energy-from-waste plant. We recycle cardboard, paper, metals, plastics, batteries and bottles which go into the States sponsored recycling centers, we collect stamps which go to the Post office for recycling, we self-compost all our own fruit and veg scraps and we also collect other items such as bottle caps, tops and corks for various crafting groups to use. But for 2017 I’m going to work at reducing the amount I recycle, by buying and using less that needs to be recycled in the first place! Less plastic, less unnecessary packaging, more bulk buying of food stuff, more buying local and a little bit of campaigning for less waste. I think this is going to be a huge challenge, living on an island where a vast majority of produce is shipped in to the island daily, already covered in layers of unrecycleable plastic packaging. But I’m up for a challenge!
Care to join me………..? For those like-minded people please come and start some idea sharing and discussions on @ZeroWasteJersey on Facebook.