Waste Not, Want Not
Following through on resolutions
Happy New Year! We’ve reached 2019 and as regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve made my resolutions (read about them here) and have made a good start to all of them so far. It has certainly helped that I did my reflection early and planned them well in advance. My pre-planning means it feels a bit wrong describing them as New Year’s resolutions when they are long term lifestyle changes that I’ve been feeding into my routine and thinking about regularly for quite some time now. It was the end of year that prompted the reflection, though, and I would sound incredibly pretentious if someone asked me if I’d made any New Year’s resolutions and I replied with:
“I’ve actually made a series of changes to reduce my impact on the planet based on longer term self-reflection that has gradually led to adaptations in my behaviour that I have decided to log in order to keep a record of where I am at present, so that I can better understand my improvements in this area, given that it is my intent to continue to modify said commitments that I might continue to improve myself as I become more aware of how my actions and behaviours can influence the world around me.”
That said, that is pretty much the subconscious and now overt promise that I’ve made to myself so maybe I should embrace my inner pretentiousness and speak like that. We’ll see how that goes...
Anyway, the year has got off to a good start. Kat and I have even been on a post-holiday detox, embarked on the 30 days of yoga challenge, and I’m currently exercising as much as I have done in recent years and am definitely feeling the benefits. This, however, isn’t a blog about my exercise habits, my daal recipes, my collection of herbal teas or my downward dog. The resolutions I’ve been thinking about the most are the ones to do with actively reducing any negative environmental impact that I have. If you’re struggling to stick to any changes that you want to make, have a look at this article for some advice on improving your willpower.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Slogans are fantastic for helping us remember to stick to things, and reduce, reuse, recycle is a great one. It’s actually one of the first ‘eco’ slogans I ever came across, reading it on a poster I bought for my Politics classroom at an old school, when I was teaching the fringe ideology of ecologism (elements of which are becoming more and more mainstream). Simple, alliterative, memorable, it ticks all the boxes. It also gives really good advice. By reducing, reusing and recycling what we have we can make a big impact on the world.
When thinking about reducing waste, the three ‘Rs” is a great little reminder, but when I was researching this blog I came across something that I think is even better. ‘The Buyerarchy of Needs’ by Sarah Lazarovic, is an idea that really makes you think. Whilst Maslow’s hierarchy of needs works it’s way up from our physiological needs such as food and water, to higher concepts like self-actualisation, this adaptation serves as a great reminder whenever you are considering making a new purchase. It particularly fits with my goals to reduce the amount of clothing that I have and my ideas about consuming less. In fact, I have been thinking this week specifically about how I can apply the ideas contained in it to my current clothing situation.
Applying the ‘buyerarchy’
Despite it being on my mind from my pre-Christmas reflection, when Kat and I went away for a fortnight over the holiday season, we both packed far too many clothes. This was particularly apparent because as we were trying to exercise over the festive period (to counteract the effects of over-consumption), we ended up doing several loads of washing to make sure our gym kit stayed clean. I ended up wearing the same clothes for casual wear over and again rather than using all the items I had bought with me.
Use what you have
So apart from the fact I need to work on my packing skills, what do I need to think about? If I’m not using all the clothes that I own, how can I say to myself that I need more clothes, and justify going to the shops to buy more? The answer is that I can’t. So what am I going to do? I am organising my existing clothes, working out what I wear all the time, what I wear some of the time, and what I don’t wear at all. The things that I don’t wear at all will be going to charity, so people who don’t have the option of an overfull wardrobe can at least keep themselves warm this winter. The occasional clothes are going to be shifted into the rotation more frequently, to help the longevity of my favourites, and this could also lead to my realising that I wear them so infrequently, I should also donate them!
The next stage is that when I don’t have something, I should borrow it. This is something that I’m always happy to do, and I regularly lend items to others as well (Kat looks better in my shirts than me anyway). I have a school trip coming up and rather than getting extra items with the school logo on and making new piles of clothes, I’m going to find a friend on staff who’s the same size as me and nab one of their jumpers for the week I am away. Borrowing is more something that we are likely to do with other household goods, but keeping it in mind for clothes will hopefully help me stick to my aims.
One of the problems I have borrowing clothes, is that I am taller and wider than average, and since I stopped playing rugby the number of friends that I have who are equally sizeable has diminished year on year. This also applies to the next step on the ‘buyerarchy’: swapping. Kat has it easy when it comes to clothes swapping (in my humble opinion). She’s a ‘normal’ size, and there are always things available. My thigh and backside girth make finding trousers and shorts a nightmare, and I’m always working from a small pool when there is a place to swap. Something that Kat has done a few times and I would jump at the chance to get involved in is a clothes swap party. Often hosted by local communities, or bars/coffee shops as an event, these are little get togethers where you bring a bag of things you no longer wear, and you go along and refill it with other clothes that people have brought. Next time you feel like your wardrobe needs a revamp, why not give it a go? You could host your own or look for some upcoming events in your local area. If you're London based check out @betsyclosetswapshop to join 'The Swaplution' with regular events. And of course don't forget to invite your friends, especially if they've got similar fashion sense!
Betsy's Closet Swap Shop
I find thrifting a lot more achievable than borrowing or swapping, as there is more likely to be things in my size. When we were living in London there was a really good range of places to do so, and finding a bargain item that you love is a real buzz. I have made a promise to myself that any money I spend on clothes this year will be either from a second-hand clothing store, or preferably a charity shop so that my money is also going on to a good cause.
Although I can’t make anything clothing wise due to my woeful fine motor skills combined with my lack of patience for artistic tasks, Kat is amazing. She made me some beautiful matching pyjamas for our anniversary this year (two years, cotton anniversary), and is in the process of fixing up one of my shirts which I have torn on the sleeve so it can become a casual beach shirt. I’ve spoken about avoiding fast fashion in my Christmas blog, and if you’ve gone through the previous stages and not been able to find a solution, making something is not just a great chance to indulge your creative urges, but to have a truly unique item.
Finally, buying. At the top of the hierarchy because you should only do it if you need to. As already stated, I won’t be buying any new items of clothing this year. In fact, I’m planning a major simplification of my life in general and will be using this diagram in all aspects of it. Kat and I were discussing our ideal home not long ago and both of us described clean lines, and minimalist living. You would not know it from seeing our home at the moment. Lots of clutter everywhere, lots of thinking and conversations needed as we reduce our reliance on having things in for a rare occurrence. Lots of items will be going to new homes, lots of things will be donated, and when those rare occasions arise, we will improvise, like we did before, and we’ll be fine!
Wilful waste makes woeful want
The above saying has been in the English language for nearly 450 years, and developed into the more popular phrase and title of this blog, ‘waste not, want not’. Whilst it’s intention is about not wasting food (also a valuable sentiment), it’s developed a dual meaning for me as I’ve been thinking more about it. As well as the idea of not throwing things away as you might want them in the future (definitely sensible, and I’ll be following 'The Buyerarchy of Needs' to avoid any unnecessary waste this year), I’ve also made the phrase a reminder to myself about reducing my consumption. By not wasting money on things that I don’t need, I’m aiming to reduce my desire for things that could have a negative impact on the environment, and have turned the phrase into a mantra for the future. Waste not. Want not.