Making a difference
We all want to feel we make a difference, don’t we? When we’re not sure that what we’re doing is making a difference, we feel powerless. We feel a lack of motivation, a lack of enthusiasm for what we are doing and don’t we sometimes even just give up?
We hear and read about lots of big lifestyle changes that would make us all greener. We could stop taking holidays abroad; we could all sell our cars and take to our bicycles; we could go vegetarian; we could give up plastic. But…
Last August, inspired by the idea of ‘Plastic Free July’ I tried to have a plastic free month. I made some great discoveries. I found out that I can take my own containers to my local butchers and I sometimes still remember to do so, but not always. I discovered some lovely solid shampoo, conditioner and deodorant products from Lush with no packaging at all, which I love. But I failed to get my family on board with the whole plastic free idea and so when they were sharing a packet of crisps, and I wasn’t, I felt glum – and that was day four. By the time it got to week two, I was tucking into the bowl of crisps with them. #fail
This year I thought about trying to give up flying. Then I got invited to speak at a conference in Brazil. Four and a half tonnes of carbon later - but a great conference - I clock up another #fail.
Last week I decide to take to my bike instead of my car. I do some shopping in the village by bike and feel great. I get to a meeting at a local school by bike and feel awesome.
But then I have to visit clients (the day job!) and although I feel I could manage the 6.30am start to cycle the 10 miles to the nearest station, I baulk at the exorbitant train fare plus taxi fare the other end. I’ll drive thank you very much. I can leave an hour later, pick up a colleague on the way, get home an hour earlier and go for a leisurely cycle ride on a traffic free route – and all that for half the money. #fail.
The big stuff sucks!
When I was writing my book, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free, I asked people to send me their favourite tips for going green. I set one rule – it had to be something people could do for free. And I suggested it should be something simple. Carolyn said this:
"When I'm cleaning my teeth, I just use the tap water at the beginning and the end, first to moisten the brush and at the end to rinse the brush and my mouth. I turn the water off when I'm actually doing the brushing, because running the tap water in between is a waste."
So easy! But does it make a difference?
I did an experiment to measure the flow rate of my taps, and I used this to calculate how much water we could save in the UK if we all turned the tap off while we’re brushing our teeth. Take a guess, now guess higher, now even higher!
That got me thinking about the amount of water we use when we shower. Apparently the UK average for the time we spend taking a shower is 8 minutes. What if we were to cut that time in half just when we are not washing our hair? (I have two teenage girls – let’s be realistic!) How much water would we save? At the time I was doing all these calculations for my book I checked my water bill and found that our household had used 81 cubic metres of water in 180 days. (That’s 60% of the UK average water usage). My latest water bill showed that we’d used 61 cubic metres in 180 days. We’ve cut our already below average water consumption by around 25%. We’ve made a difference.
When we know that what we do makes a difference, well that’s a whole new story! Knowing you are making a difference is empowering. It makes you enthusiastic; it makes you feel good about yourself, it makes you carry on, and it also makes you want to make even more difference. Doesn’t it?
Right, I’m off to the post office now, on my bike – it’s a small thing, but it makes a difference and that makes me feel good!