This post in the first in a lifelong series. You see, like many of us I have recently woken up to the realities of what the excesses and selfishness of the human animal is doing to our planet. Our one-in-a-million planet, home to billions of brilliant magical creatures and a plethora of priceless plantlife. It’s the most indescribably precious resource we have, and we are killing it (and I don’t mean killing it in the good sense!). As our own dear David Attenborough said at the recent United Nations climate summit, “If we don’t take action the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Ouch. It’s pretty blunt. But like many of you no doubt, I’ve been feeling lost. How can I fight the relentless power of the human machine, hellbent on destruction at any cost to our environment as long as it lines someone’s pocket?

Searching, I took at look at the UN climate summit’s website and found their “ActNow.bot”, supposedly suggestions for things we all can do to take climate action. But the suggestions I found were all things I do already, such as reuse and recycle, and reduce energy consumption in the first place to a minimum by always switching off the lights, consuming local produce and unplugging anything I’m not using. Indeed, I’m sure I drive my coworkers nuts by always turning off the kitchen light when I leave the room.

I didn’t feel inspired by that, so I’ve thought about it and I’ve come up with my own suggestion. I hope you’ll help me with it. You see, I’ve decided that I am going to examine my consumer behaviour much more closely. I’m going to take a really, really close look at habits and purchases I’ve unquestioningly followed before. And if I don’t like what I see, I’m going to change it. Consciously and purposefully for the better. One little thing at a time!

I said at the start this was going to be a lifelong series, and it is. It’s something I hope to start today, work at, and improve at continuously, my whole life through. There is a Japanese concept which I’m very fond of, called kaizen, which you would roughly translate as ‘continuous improvement’. Or more like, getting a little bit better every time you do something. I find this so much more useful and easier to deal with than aiming straight for perfection! Nobody is perfect anyway.

Here’s my plan: every time I notice that I could be doing something better, I’m going to consciously swap to a more sustainable choice. It could be anything at all, overconsumption, single use plastics, whatever. I’m going to make an Instagram post about it and tag the post “#mysustainableswaps”, so I can collect and look back at the improvements I’ve made as I go. Continous improvement, right? I hope it inspires you to make sustainable swaps of your own, and I’d love to see your sustainable swaps and be inspired by them too!

So here’s my first one: wrapping paper. That might be surprising, after all it’s paper right? Paper is recyclable?? I recently discovered that Christmas wrapping paper often isn’t, owing to the materials that go into making it, as it’s often dyed or laminated or contains non-paper additives, like gold and silver coloured shapes, glitter or plastics, which can’t be recycled. It’s also part of the heady excesses of Christmas that in my grand old age I’ve come to dislike (yes, bah humbug to you too).

In an effort to move away from heady excesses, this year I’ve made the swap to using plain brown paper and garden twine to wrap my gifts, and as often as possible, recycled paper and/or paper which I have reused or repurposed, like newspaper. To keep a bit of Christmas sparkle (metaphorical you understand, no plastic glitter here!), I opted for a few Christmas stamps which I purchased from The English Stamp Company. As well as avoiding plastic and sticking to fully recyclable materials, I thought it could be a new family tradition, and one which we can add to each year. And it’s so much nicer to receive a personalised gift anyway, don’t you think? Something made with love, even if it is a little bit smudged around the edges.

So there we have it, #mysustainableswaps. I hope you will get on board and share your sustainable swaps too. I can’t wait to see what you do with it! Let’s take action against climate change together – one little swap at a time.

Bryony x

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