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Follow-up

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My last post was pretty depressing, so I thought I might follow it up with a summary of the things we’re doing now to lessen our impact on the planet, and where I think we can do better.

General

I’ve been guilty lately of getting too hung up on doing everything right, and that’s silly. If everyone made some better choices, we’d be in a much better position than if a handful of people disappear off the grid and stop washing their hair. So I do what I can, when I can, and try to be mindful of what I’m buying.

In general, we try to:

  • choose brands that are made locally or in New Zealand. This supports jobs here, and the profits stay within NZ, instead of ending up in the pockets of the 1% overseas
  • choose fair trade options whenever possible
  • choose products that aren’t full of chemicals or made of plastic when there’s an alternative
  • choose products made of recycled or sustainable materials
  • choose organic when there’s an organic option — the science still seems to be confused about whether organic is much better for you, and the weird rules of what qualifies as organic mean it’s often still contributing to soil depletion and nitrogen leaching, but I’d rather put my money towards increasing demand for organic methods than towards supporting current commercial practises.

Buying free-range, fair trade, local or organic is more expensive, but as folks on a decent wage, I feel like we have an obligation to pay for it. Not only is that what things actually cost when the environment and workers aren’t being exploited, but they’ll get cheaper and more abundant as demand for them goes up.

That said, we can afford it. I understand if you can’t. But I’d ask you to consider whether paying an extra $2 for a packet of bacon is really unaffordable, or if perhaps you could just eat less bacon? Or sacrifice a packet of biscuits for the pleasure of eating really good food that didn’t cause appalling suffering?

(I’m talking here to people in roughly the same social position as us — the appalling poverty levels in NZ are a whole other conversation, and I’m certainly not asking anyone raising a family on minimum wage to do anything but whatever they need to to keep their household fed.)

Food

I know people don’t like hearing about the treatment of commercial food animals, but I think if making the choice to eat meat, you should have to be aware of what you’re choosing. The way pigs and chickens, in particular, are raised for food would be an actual crime if done to a cat or a dog. You’d go to jail. Their lives, conditions and deaths are HORRIFIC.

And if that doesn’t convert you, how about this: they’re also sick. Their conditions are so appalling that producers pump them full of antibiotics to keep them alive and functional enough to get to the age of slaughter. You’re eating all those antibiotics too.

Cows in New Zealand have better lives than beef cows in the US, but intensive dairy and beef farming is still destroying our water and wasting untold amounts of resources. There are a lot of places on this planet that aren’t suitable for growing crops but can be grazed by ruminants, so I’ve decided that I’m comfortable continuing to eat meat that’s been ethically farmed — but I want to eat a lot less of it.

What we’re doing now:

  • starting our grocery shop at Commonsense Organics and Moreish for meat and going to New World for whatever’s left over, rather than the other way around (this is a bit more expensive, but since we don’t really buy processed food, it’s not a huge amount more)
  • eating at least two vegetarian meals a week, and only one involving red meat
  • only ever buying free-range (and organic if possible) pork, chicken and eggs
  • using the BestFishGuide app to choose more sustainable fish
  • taking our own bags to the supermarket
  • composting (we have regular compost and a worm farm)
  • make everything we can ourselves (I bake our bread, make our muesli and do all our baking. We don’t really eat anything from a packet except chocolate… this does take time, but a) I love to cook and I’m at home anyway and b) it actually doesn’t take THAT long, and the taste and nutrition benefits are more than enough to make up for the effort)
  • working on expanding the garden and improving the soil, planting lots of bee-friendly flowers and looking after the fruit trees I planted this winter.

What I want to do next:

  • start getting an organic vege box delivery until the garden is producing better
  • get the garden and fruit trees to the point where we’re growing most of our fruit and veges
  • increase the amount of vegetarian meals we eat until meat is a treat rather than an expectation
  • start only ordering free-range meat when out (I’ve been intending to do this for ages and always seem to be able to forget it when it comes time to order… mostly I think because I’m scared it’s going to stop me getting bacon at most of my favourite cafes)
  • get chickens to provide us eggs and fertiliser
  • have a crack at ordering raw milk
  • add yoghurt and fresh cheese into the regular baking repertoire
  • take my freaking reusable coffee cups with me when I go for coffee in the morning!

Baby

What we’re doing now:

  • using cloth nappies at home during the day (I bought Pea Pods based on my research before Nico was born, but my favourites are Snazzipants and the generic pocket nappies they sell at Baby Factory)
  • using the best eco-friendly disposable nappies and wipes we can find
  • breastfeeding (except if circumstances mean I won’t be around for a feed, in which case he can have formula, for reasons I will explain at length another time but boil down to WILL EVERYONE JUST CALM THE FUCK DOWN)
  • trying to buy wooden toys and dissuade family from buying plastic junk.

What I want to do next:

  • have a “toy in, toy out” policy — every time Nico gets something new, he has to donate something he already owns
  • implement a donation/charitable volunteering Christmas present policy and focus on homemade or activity presents rather than vast heaps of toys
  • figure out cloth nappies that won’t leak overnight
  • stop using wipes or compost the ones we do use.

Cleaning and beauty products

What we’re doing now:

  • using planet-friendly cleaning products (best things: Eco and Deco laundry balls, and the steam cleaner I bought for floors and carpet)
  • using olive oil for eye makeup remover (trust me, it’s better than anything you can buy) and coconut oil as moisturiser (ditto)
  • checking makeup and personal products on the Think Dirty app (lots of things look like they’re not full of chemicals but they are, eg Natio, Body Shop)
  • using Ethique products (the deodorant is FANTASTIC — I’d previously given up the idea of being able to find non-chemical deodorant that actually worked — and I’m really enjoying their body bars and conditioner)
  • alternating non-chemical toothpaste with the industrial whitener stuff (because as said above, sometimes I’m okay with better rather than perfect)
  • trying to buy fewer clothes, and from retailers with better scores on the ethical fashion report (sometimes I feel like I use good causes to exploit my own consumer desires… is it still charitable if, between us, the Johnston-Freire household has 10 pairs of Toms?)
  • using Honey Wraps instead of gladwrap.

What I want to do next:

  • kick my Body Shop habit
  • find mascara and good makeup that’s also good for me and the planet (recommendations, anyone? Currently I’m using a lot of Honest Beauty, which I quite like but I have to YouShop it here and it’s not GREAT)
  • start making some body and cleaning products myself.

So there’s a rough summary of how we’re approaching stuff at the moment. Conundrums for another time: transport, power, water, etc.

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Writer of things. Annoyer of cats.

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