Reflections: A 2019 Alphabet of Sustainable Changes

How many times have you heard people say recently “I can’t believe it’s December already,” or “Where’s this year gone?” It does seem the older we get the quicker time flies, and that is magnified when you have children too!

But December is naturally a time of reflection and review of the past year; what have we re-committed to, what have we changed, what have we learned on our journey to zero waste.

I should say here; we’re definitely not experts and just your average family trying to make changes so I’m sure (in fact I know!) there are other people out there who are much further along their journey than us. But if you’re looking to start your journey, or make some changes for 2020, then look no further than my 2019 Alphabet.

A: Advent-tures replaced traditional advent calendars in an attempt to be zero-waste and also more conscious in our commitment to ‘slow Christmas.’

B: Beeswax Wraps became a staple for covering leftovers as an alternative to cling film or plastic bags; with fun designs and anti-bacterial properties we absolutely love them!

C: We all became a little more conscious of our Carbon-footprint; from unnecessary car trips to UK holidays instead of going abroad. We were more than a little shocked when we used the calculator here to check our carbon footprint:

D: Thanks to Marie Kondo, decluttering has become one of the nation’s favourite activities of 2019; as long as those things aren’t going to landfill and are being gifted, thrifted and shifted, decluttering can help us all live better, with less. Whether it’s the garage, the man drawer, or even decluttering our email inbox can have a positive impact on the environment; so maybe this can be part of your 2020 spring clean!

E: Of course 2019 for us was all about Eco-education; we needed to educate ourselves, our children and our communities about the damage we were doing to the planet. A lightbulb went on and Ecologico was born!

F: Furoshiki has become the wrapping method of choice for many this year; see my blog post about how and why furoshiki is such a good way to combat the waste of single-use wrapping paper with beautiful consequences.

G: 2019 had also been the year of enjoying our garden; whether it’s planting flower to attract birds, butterflies and bees or growing you own fruit, veg or herbs. This is going to be a big one for us next year as we plan to plant (and hopefully grow!) some of our own produce in our beautiful garden.

H: From cardigans to chutneys, and even Christmas, 2019 has been the year of homemade; and let’s face it there’s nothing quite beats the satisfaction of making it with your own fair hands, even if it is more time-consuming. And how nice is it to receive a handmade card or gift, instead of the mass-produced shop bought one. Nothing says ‘I love you’ better than something homemade.

I: I have found so many like-minded people, pages and campaigns on social media this year, which I find really supportive and encouraging, and I feel like this is a great time to big up the Instagram community, from #XR to #slowfashion and even something for the #ecomummies, #ecobabies and #vegans, there’s a tribe out there for everyone; we post daily over on Insta; if you haven’t already, give us a follow, pop us a comment or drop us a DM.

J: Since we started making changes, and especially since I went maternity leave in June 2018, I kept floating the idea of doing something with our knowledge; a blog, a business, a community. Mr Ecologico’s words in the summer of 2019 were ‘Just do it.’ And this is my advice to you: just make a start, just make one change. It may seem small, you may not have a plan of what you want to achieve but actually committing to change is the first, and best, step you can take. So, I just did it, and here we are!

K: One of the main places we’ve made changes this year was in our kitchen; from food swaps to making our own cleaning products, the kitchen is a great place to start some simple swaps for sustainability and notice big changes.

L: Our journey to zero waste started 2 years ago when I read Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living by Linnea Dunne. Lagom is the Swedish ethos of ‘not too little, not too much,’ and if we all live by this mantra and only took from the earth what we actually needed, imagine how much lovelier life would be. Check out my upcoming blog on Lagom for more info and top tips.

M: Meal-planning was one of our starting points to zero waste; coming from a family of food wasters, I was determined to cut down our food waste and spend last year. We’ve honed this now and meal-planning is an everyday part of life for us as a family; which is not only kinder on our wallet but also on the planet!

N: This year I have learned the power of ‘No.’ As ambassadors for the eco-cause our voices, and our actions, are the most powerful tools we have to change other people’s opinions. It’s actually amazingly easy to open up a dialogue about going green by saying ‘we don’t do this because we’re trying to be zero-waste’ or ‘no sorry I don’t want X, Y or Z because we’re trying to cut down our consumption.’ It’s non-confrontational, it’s liberating and actually it’s much easier than I expected!

O: Our ‘O’ is for organic; from fruit and veg, to clothing, organic produce is much more sustainable; organic farming relies on practices which cycle resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Yes, organic does mean more expensive but often the quality of the produce is so much better that it’s worth the extra spend where you can afford it.

P: Ask anyone, this year everyone is talking plastic; especially the horrible single-use kind! We’re so much mindful of our packaging, plastic-use and how to reduce our plastic consumption and guess what; ditching most single-use plastics is easier than you’d expect. I’m not saying we’re anywhere near perfect yet and we will most certainly be doing a ‘plastic-diet’ in early 2020 so watch this space or send us your top tips to really cut out plastic from our households.

Q: The spirit of Lagom, and of Zero-waste, isn’t buying nothing. It’s quality over quantity. In some areas of our lives, we are actually spending more; certain foods, certain household items, wooden toys over plastic tat for the kids. But the key message here is to buy better, buy less and make it last.

R: The ‘Refill Revolution’ is on. From zero-waste refill shops opening up nearby to handy apps for refilling your reusable water bottles for free, taking your own coffee cup to refill or even your own containers and produce bags, everything these days seems ‘refillable’ (is that even a word?!). Along with reusable bags these items would be in my go-to sustainability starter kit, and are things we always carry with us on a family trip out (you just never know when you’re going to need to refill!).

S: From clothes to toys, from books to furniture, we’ve always loved buying second-hand, but this year, we’ve really committed to not buying new wherever possible. In some areas, this has been harder than others but it’s really shown us what beautiful things are already in existence and not adding to our environmental impact.

T: For the longest time, as Mr Ecologico will tell you, I have been a water snob. I have maintained for the past 5 years since moving here that I don’t like the tap water. Newsflash: the tap water is fine. It’s better than buying bottled water. It’s equally hydrating, lots cheaper and has far less environmental impact. I have seen numerous blind ‘taste tests’ of tap water on TV and people genuinely can’t tell the difference; so if you’re not on the tap water train yet, give it a go in 2020.

U: I am definitely not a handy/crafty person (kudos to all of you out there who are), but we love a bit of upcycling; we are now the proud owners of an upcycled bureau, wooden inspiration sign, upcycled bottle lamps. Maybe we’ll be braver in 2020 with our upcycling efforts too.

V: Despite not going fully vegan/vegetarian, we’ve definitely been more conscious of what we’re eating and experimenting with vegan meals in our meal plan (and they’ve all been a huge success!).

W: We officially became Wikaniko distributors; making Qualified Distributor three weeks after signing up. We love their ethos, their products and their community! Don't forget to check our online store and order direct to your door.

X: XR has been another huge part of 2019 for a lot of us; on a national and local level it’s brilliant that there are like-minded individuals speaking out and disrupting the status quo in the name of raising awareness of the climate emergency we’re facing.

Y: Over 2019, we have realised that, for us, the journey of sustainability starts with youth, (not ours!). It’s our children who inspire us to make a change for the better; for their future. But actually, over the past year, I have seen on both a global and local level how much passion and enthusiasm young people have for sustainability. Be encouraged! We hope that Ecologico can be part of mobilising young people to be curious, to challenge expectations and to make changes.

Z: Of course, all of 2019 has been about Zero-waste; are we there yet? Definitely not. Are we committed to change? Absolutely. This will definitely be a continuing theme into 2020.

What would be on your alphabet?

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