I have been on a mission to slow my life down during recent years. It's going... well... I am trying.
For me, ‘slow living’ is about taking the time to really think about what I am doing. To mean it, to put my heart into it. Cooking a meal from scratch. Turning off the TV at meal times. Writing a letter instead of banging out a text.
One thing I quickly discovered when I started on my mission of slow-living was that it was intertwined with mindfulness. They can't be separated. The very act of deliberately slowing down and putting thought and love into something is in itself mindfulness.
And with mindfulness comes, often unbidden (and sometimes unwelcome), my conscience.
For example, I can't slow down and cook something properly for my family, taking the time to do it right and appreciate every element - the food, the cook, the company, setting the table, eating together - without thinking about where it all comes from, and the impact it has.
Here's how my brain works:
If I'm taking the time to stir and simmer a beautiful pasta sauce, I'm going to try to find a great recipe that uses the best ingredients. Thinking about what "the best" means turns my mind to organic, and then I try to reduce food miles by buying local, which starts me thinking about the livelihoods of farming families. And then my mind goes to the impact of producing this fresh, beautiful food: is it packed in plastic? Am I then using more plastic shopping bags to carry it home? And what will I do with the waste when I'm done?
So a simple pasta sauce that once I might have bought in a jar from the supermarket turns into a trip to the farmers' market; brings the nutrients of local, organic food to my family; ensures the absence of excessive salt, sugar or harmful chemicals; is a reminder to carry my own shopping bags; forces me to explore avenues for food storage that don't involve cling-wrap and plastic; and kick-starts adventures in inner-city composting.
But it's just a pasta sauce. This is exhausting!
This is not an easy journey, and I certainly wouldn't say that "slow living" necessarily leads to "simple living" (although I'd like it to). But I will say that "slow living" leads, at least for me, to "sustainable living," and that is something I am proud to model for my children.
There is so much that I want to do and want to change, but it's not always accessible or affordable or something that the rest of my family wants to do. Slow is not something that I want to drag my family into unwillingly; it has to work for all of us.
So I have decided to be kind to myself (and my family), and do just one thing at a time. I try it, I play around until I get it right, I make sure it suits the family, and eventually it just becomes part of our daily lives. Then I move on to another one thing.
Alongside broader "lessening footprint" type goals, one of my first objectives is to reduce the amount of waste we produce as a family. We generate a LOT of waste. A criminal, embarrassing amount of waste. So one milestone that I've set for myself is to reduce our weekly garbage output to just one bin-full. I can hear you laughing, because it seems crazy that this is even a challenge at all, but we send extra bags of rubbish out every week. It's shameful.
Anyway... I thought maybe I'd share one thing I do with you each month, so we can be in this journey together as we go along. Maybe you're already doing what I'm trying, and can share some tips to make it work. Maybe you've never heard of this one thing, and it inspires you. Maybe you do just one other thing that you'd like to recommend that I try.
So for this month, the "just one thing" I want to share is beeswax food wraps, which I now use as an alternative to cling-wrap and plastic sandwich bags. I bought these "honey bee wraps" a couple of months ago and I confess to being skeptical at first, but nowadays I am utterly sold. I have about six on the go.
They're made out of cotton and coated in beeswax, jojoba oil, coconut oil and tree resin. You use them just the way you would use cling-wrap - to cover bowls, wrap around cut vegetables and over cheeses, to wrap sandwiches in lunch-boxes - and the jojoba and beeswax have antibacterial properties that keep food fresh for longer. The only thing you don't use them for is meat, because they only wash in cold water. The beeswax wraps are reusable again and again, so they quickly become affordable, but I also found this tutorial for making them at home, which I might try one day. It looks kind of fun.
So now there is no more nasty plastic* in my 'fridge, and there's that much less plastic waste in our bin every Thursday night.
What do you think of this one thing I'm doing? Have you used beeswax wraps? How did you find them? Or do you have another alternative?
Image credit: Roman Kraft (licensed for unlimited use in Creative Commons)
* I realise cling-wrap doesn't take up a whole lot of space in the garbage bin, but we are taking one step at a time, yes? Also, according to this article in Choice, cling-wrap contains plasticisers such as DEHA or phthalates that can leach into food, and research is casting doubt on the safety of these chemicals:
"BPA and some phthalates are endocrine disruptors, meaning they can mimic the body's natural hormones and thereby cause a raft of health problems. Infants and the very young are most vulnerable to exposure because of their lower body weight and because their growth and development are strongly influenced by hormones; the effects on health can be lifelong." Even at low levels, growing scientific evidence suggests that "phthalates and BPA may be causing problems such as infertility, obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease and diabetes."