Wednesday, 18 November 2009
I've just returned from visiting our oldest daughter Sophia as she settles in to life at Exeter University in Falmouth, Cornwall, where she's studying environmental geography. It's been a strange experience having my first child, who's been with me for 20 years, leave home. I don't miss her, or my second daughter Anna who's also left home recently, although I think of them both very, very often. I have a sense that they're still with me, in a timeless way.
I've returned from my visit feeling excited by Sophia's idealism and optimism in her new life. As part of her new, experimental life, Sophia's decided to give up plastic for a week, inspired by a fellow student who has been living what she calls post-plastic consumption for three weeks. Her friend Ruthie 'got to the point where she physically felt sick when she threw away plastic. Because it can't disappear - that's only an illusion - it stays around for a very long time.'
Curious, I asked Sophia for tips for people reading this column about how to kick plastic out of shopping. She told me, 'The main way of doing this is being prepared in advance - taking tupperware with you when you go to the fishmongers, carrying cotton bags, having a network of friends who can help each other out, like picking apples from your neighbours' trees when they're not using them. I'm not using supermarkets as there are enough local shops around and I have the time. It's a very idealistic way of living because there's not a widescale framework for this way of living.
'The main reason I'm doing this,' she told me, 'apart from reducing my carbon-embedded consumption, is to inspire other people. As a young person I realise I'm a symbol of the future - I am the future, and that's powerful.
'When people say that I'm just being idealistic, I say, idealism pushes the boundaries of the norm, allowing more movement for mainstream society to be radical. I'm not saying what I do is feasible for everyone, but what I can do is to help remind people that it is possible to live in less carbon-intensive ways. It's also about community and helping local farmers in Cornwall, remembering the traditional way of living and maintaining that for future generations, at the same time as living in modern times. You can't go backwards, you can only go forwards.
'My friend Mark, who created the Freeconomy, writes a blog on his year of living without money, which ends on Buy Nothing Day on 28 November. I know a lot of people who are getting into this kind of thing. Living without money, or with less money, living more simply, is very related to buying no plastic. A life like this is also a lot less mundane, it's a life where we rely on and connect to each other more. This way of living is an integral part of inhabiting the earth, which is the only direction we can go in.'