‘Our lives should be in constant audit’ – Chris Packham
Making informed choices about what we consume and how we lead our lives can be overwhelming and exhausting.
It’s an uphill struggle when you do all you can to make an informed decision yet the choice just isn’t available to you.
I’m Talking to you, Supermarkets
Take supermarkets, for example. I started considering my year without supermarkets last year.
I wanted a couple of things and couldn’t find them without plastic packaging.
I wanted natural yoghurt. There is an entire aisle of yogurt, a baffling array of the stuff. Yet every single package was single use plastic.
And bread. It was baked there in the bakery, still warm from the oven. It was packed immediately into plastic. It could have been left loose, it could have been packed in paper. But no. Only unnecessary waste is good enough for Asda.
At the checkout, with my single lemon and a couple of cans of food, but nothing else from my list, I looked around and saw nothing but a sea of plastic in everyone’s baskets. It was utterly repellent.
Love Your High Street
I’m fortunate, I live in Bristol and my local high street, Bedminster, is well provisioned with some excellent shops. Notably, big retailers are leaving East Street, but small, independent shops, cafes and delis are moving in.
More of this please! Everywhere!
If I lived somewhere more remote, I may have no other choice. When we lived in North Petherton in Somerset, at the time, our only option was to get in the car and drive to a big supermarket to get food.
It was that experience in Asda that finally made me stop and say,
“You know what, forget you Asda et al.
Why am I wasting my time trying to scour the aisles for ethical products when I have plenty of great alternatives locally?
I may have to make more of an effort to shop in multiple locations, but at least I won’t be complicit in your wilful destruction of the environment. Plus, I will be supporting small businesses that do give a toss!”
I won’t be complicit in your wilful destruction of the environment.
Small changes, regularly, mount up and make a difference over time. You won’t get it right first time. A regular audit will keep you on track. You can’t do all the things all at once. Sometimes, you have no option but to compromise and you need to appreciate the value of things and accept paying a fair price for them.
Buy less but spend more – it may sound counterintuitive, but most of us could probably agree we have reached ‘peak stuff’.
Rather than focussing on the cost of everything and appreciating the value of nothing, we can buy less but buy better.
A caveat to that. I don’t want to be tone deaf in the face of the brutal cost of living crisis we are facing right now. I’m not so much appealing to the unprecedented number of people living in extreme poverty in the UK, here.
I am appealing to people that can make more ethical choices but don’t, or don’t know how to. YOU have the power in your pocket to hold supermarkets and other ethically dubious businesses to account, by voting with your pound.
That said, we can all benefit from being more empowered about our food, especially those who are struggling. And we can all benefit from better access to secure food, without relinquishing our power to a handful of massive corporations.
Aiding and Abetting Poverty
I am arguing that supermarkets are aiding and abetting poverty. By pushing prices down to unsustainable levels, while passing the pain of those cuts onto producers, low paid workers and other stakeholders in their lengthy supply chains.
I realise it’s not as simple as this, but here’s a thought:
Supermarkets, pay a decent amount for food in the first place. Shorten their supply chains, so fewer links need to eek out a measly profit to survive. Offer fewer but better and more sustainable choice – we don’t need 15 kinds of baked beans, offered in various sizes, and packaging and multiple brands! Then, pay your staff a decent wage and stop using loopholes in employment law to get the taxpayer to subsidise your unethical business practices by picking up the slack with in-work benefits.
How about you choose to make less profit for your shareholders and offer better value, instead of ‘cheapness’ to consumers?
How about you do something about the 30% of food that just gets wasted before it even reaches the consumer?
How about you invest resources and research into producing food locally?
And stop with the frigging single-use plastic!
Use Your Power
- Keep an eye out for better, more sustainable products and services, new things pop up all the time.
- Research better alternatives for every day things.
- Educate yourself and hold the retailers to account.
- Sign petitions:
This isn’t something that you can change overnight. Do so incrementally. A simple swap, here and there, regularly, accumulates over time.
Regularly audit how you live your life.
Here are three top tips to start regularly auditing your life:
1) Consider where you buy
Is there a more ethical retailer? What about buying in bulk, direct from the producer?
- Shop locally
- Use your local greengrocer
- Go to the butchers – eat less but better and more ethical meat. (Instead of industrial, planet killing, rainforest depleting, meat from the supermarket!)
- Use zero waste shops
- Buy direct from the producer. (More money to the producer, less for the planet killers).
- Frequent your local shops. (Your money will sustain families instead of corporations).
2) Question what you buy
Do you need it? Can you get it in sustainable packaging? Is there a better product?
A common objection for not shopping elsewhere is the habit of getting the same products every time.
“But they don’t sell the stuff I get.” Is not an excuse to refuse to change, it is a reason to question your choices.
Think of it as an adventure, instead of a chore. You may even discover something better than ‘what you usually get’.
For example, for years I bought Sun Pat Peanut butter, then I discovered the fresh peanut better dispenser at my local Zero Waste shop. OMG. I would never go back! It may cost a bit more but it’s SOOOO worth it. My peanut butter on toast is next level delicious now.
Also, Rubies in the Rubble ketchup. Just wow. Heinz is a vinegary goo in comparison. Bonus, it can be refilled at the Zero waste shop.
Is it time you did an audit of your regular shopping list?
3) Declutter the stuff.
A good clear-out often makes you realise that you don’t need that new thing. You may already have something you have forgotten about. It also feels good to audit then minimise the stuff cluttering your space. Get really good at minimalizing and you may even find you can live somewhere smaller and cheaper!
When you release yourself of ‘stuff’ the last thing you want to do is buy more of it!