Dr. Spiteri’s personal blog, Vegan Footprints, has been a source of information and inspiration for me ever since I started following her blog several years ago. I highly recommend a visit. She covers a wide range of subjects from animal welfare, recipes, to research and libraries. Her articles respond to the rapidly evolving necessity to embrace low-impact living. Her thoughtful discussions allow readers to recognize that everyone can make a difference simply by implementing small changes within our daily living. Dr. Spiteri has generously agreed to share her insights on CEGE Connection.
With special thanks to Dr. Spiteri for encouraging me to embark on my personal “zero-waste living” journey.
Rebecca Budd graciously invited me to discuss a non-work related aspect of my life as part of the blog’s Creative Lives series. My personal interests focus on these areas: Ethical veganism; animal rights; minimalism; zero-waste living; and films. Of these interests, films have been with me since childhood, where I developed an early love of classic Hollywood films, and especially those of the 1930s and 1940s.
Today, however, I would like to focus on my environmental interests and its subsets of minimalism and zero-waste living. I still remember the experience I had as a child of twelve watching a documentary – whose name I cannot recall – that discussed the environmental impact of fossil fuels. Without giving away too much, suffice it to say that this was many, many years ago, and at a time when predictions about climate change and global warming were very few and far between. Thus started my lifelong pursuit of reducing my carbon footprint, even if this term was unknown to me when I started this journey. As a child, I had much less control over my environment, but I remember following family members around to turn off the lights, making sure that taps were not left running, ensuring that windows were firmly closed during the winter, and so forth. I’m sure I annoyed everyone around me, but I was a young woman with a mission, which I was happy to share with anyone who asked.
My interest in what is commonly referred to today as “zero-waste living” has grown over the years. I acknowledge, of course, that there is no such thing as “zero-waste”; the goal, rather, is to reduce as much as possible the waste that one produces on a daily basis. To many, this has focused almost exclusively on single-use plastics, which is also fine, but I have tried to apply this principle of low-impact living – which is perhaps a better term – to all aspects of my life. I maintain a personal blog, Vegan Footprints, in which I document this journey. My veganism is an important part of my low-impact lifestyle, although it was motivated by my love for animals and my desire to do them no harm. The impact of a plant-based diet on the environment has been documented in many places, and perhaps could be the subject of another blog post.
Low-impact living varies with the individual. There is a growing community of like-minded people around the world; it delights me to see so many young people taking up this banner, especially in the face of the dire predictions for the health of our planet. Steps can vary in degree and diversity. Here are examples of how I have created my own low-impact lifestyle:
- The largest step I have taken is to give up car ownership. I last owned a car in 2007 and have never looked back. I enjoy taking public transit and walking, and rent a car occasionally when I want to travel longer distances across the province, or when I need to make larger purchases, such as giant-sized cat litter boxes. I do not miss the monthly car payments, insurance payments, gas payments, and driving on icy and snowy roads.
- I minimize air travel as much as possible. In a country as large as Canada, avoiding air travel is not always easy, especially since train service is very expensive and not very extensive.
- I have minimized my possessions. I declutter my home at least twice every season, to ensure that I own only what I actually use. I enjoy the freedom that comes with a small wardrobe, and with having empty shelves and closets. Minimal living allows you more time to focus on what is important, as well as to save money. I do regular shopping fasts, where I buy nothing new for a specific period, excluding, of course, necessities such as food, etc.
- I avoid using disposable items. So, for example, I use only cloth napkins and handkerchiefs, I reuse glass containers to store food. I shop from bulk stores as much as possible, refilling my glass containers and cloth bags. I’ve been using cloth shopping bags and produce bags for several years. I avoid buying anything that comes in plastic. Recycling is not a solution, unfortunately, since not all items actually are recycled, and the process itself is not carbon friendly.
- I follow a locavore diet as much as possible. I buy as much as I can from local farmers’ markets so that I can focus on seasonal and locally-grown products. I think that many people are unaware of the carbon footprint of a lot of foods, especially if those foods are imported (I’m looking at you, avocados).
The list can go on, but for the sake of brevity, I will stop here. My personal blog provides more information for those who are interested in exploring how to embrace a low-impact lifestyle. I know that many feel discouraged because of the weight of the environmental predicament in which we find ourselves. Many ask “what possible difference can I make?” I’ve always believed that I can control only my own environment and that I have a responsibility to do what I can to reduce my impact. For many years, I was quite isolated in my low-impact living, but I now know that I’m far from alone and that the movement is growing. We can, in fact, make a difference.