Economic progress has brought us a way of life that is easy, convenient and luxurious in comparison to how our ancestors lived, but some of us are returning to a simpler way of living and consuming...
I recently heard an interesting analogy about why we over-consume in the western world and that it's not merely down to over-population but a way of life that we have been "spoiled" by.
In medieval times, people led simple lives, restricted by status, means and poverty. Our diets consisted of predominantly grains and vegetables, with the consumption of meat, dairy and fish considered a luxury that was only afforded to those with money or who had the means to hunt it themselves. Throughout history; Pharaohs, Kings, Queens and gentry were among the lucky ones who could afford varied diets. As we have developed and broken through status barriers, achieved careers that can provide us with the luxury of eating whatever we fancy - we have in turn become the Kings and Queens of today, over-indulging in our favourite foods and becoming spoiled by the endless choice that's now at our fingertips, whether it's in season or not.
Creating a sustainable diet doesn't mean we have to miss out on flavour but it does mean that we need to curb our overspending and overindulging as well as the use of throw-away kitchen regulars like plastic straws, cling film and disposable tableware.
We recently visited the Weald and Downland Museum with the kids and while it was fun to walk around the medieval streets and informative to find out how people used to live and work, it also surprised me at how much of this historic way of life so many of us are now trying to emulate. Our ancestors had it sorted! They already used beeswax wraps and earthenware, they had open fires, grew their own vegetables and herbs and they had and needed very little "stuff". Don't get me wrong, there are certain modern luxuries that I have become accustomed to that I will not be giving up such as spf, toilet paper and toothpaste, however there is something to be said for a simpler approach in the home that has inspired me to reduce what we buy and have knocking around the house.
Since becoming plastic-free at home we now have beautiful looking shelves and cupboards, there are no cheap plastic toys to tread on or for the dog to eat, the bathroom is clear of excess products and clutter and therefor easier to clean, there's less tidying needed overall and far fewer trips to take bins out. In fact when it comes to bins, we barely fill a small pedal bin in a fortnight and it continues to reduce the longer we remain plastic-free and on the path towards zero waste.
I've also been so surprised at how wonderfully adaptable and supportive my children have been - I try not to make the state of planet a negative or worrying thing to them but educate them with environmental books as well as programs like Blue Planet II. When we decided to do a carboot sale to sell what we no longer needed or used, the kids wanted to sell a huge portion of their own toys to earn money for outings and experiences. To our surprise, our daughter sold over half of her belongings as well as only asking for donations for her birthday so that she could afford the horse riding lessons she so desperately wanted. My son is saving up for Legoland and Lego continues to be the only plastic toy he is interested in, but we're hoping the existing collection will last for a few more years.
Overall, I feel that a simpler, less cluttered way of life that echoes our ancestors has many benefits, all of which my family and I are currently enjoying so every bit of the initial effort that soon becomes habit is worth it, whether it seems extreme to others or not.