Shop Well for the Planet? Yeah, alright.

Exciting to see what an influence we are having after just a few weeks of blogging! 😉

The BBC have just started a new series called ‘Shop Well for the Planet?‘. This is a well seasoned format (I think I maybe even remember watching an episode of something similar before…), but this series has a focus on how to be more ‘eco’.

We’ve only watched the first episode, and I have to say that at first I shouted at the TV (quite a lot). Honestly, I found it frustrating and quite shocking to see what a chasm there is between our approach to life and the family that was featured. Don’t hear me wrong – I’m eager not to be judgemental, and want to recognise that everyone is at a different stage on this journey, but when learning to walk more gently on the earth has been such a big part of our lives for so long it is hard to see others who seem to be wilfully naive… And breathe.

On reflection I realised that even just hearing of others becoming aware wanting to make a difference to their impact on the world was really encouraging; they really seemed to want to make a change, even if it was mostly still around what they enjoyed (rather than any idea of personal sacrifice for the common good). I grumbled, I shouted, I smiled and I laughed with them. By the end of the show I had really grown to like this family, and had rightly repented of my earlier grumpiness.

This programme isn’t for idealists, and I was left disappointed at times by the shoulder shrug moments and absence of real connection to the climate and ecological crisis. There was lots of generic talk about ‘eco’ and ‘carbon footprint’, but no actual information on what any of this means or why it is important for those of us in WEIRD countries (Western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic) to urgently start making significant lifestyle changes. However, for lots of little changes and seeing honest reactions to trying out new things this was well worth the time.

REMEMBER KIDS: the whole idea of carbon footprint was invented by a PR company working for the fossil fuel industry. Use it as a helpful way of thinking about your own impact as an individual or family, but don’t lose sight of the fact that the climate and ecological crisis is a systemic problem and that fossil fuel companies have done everything they can to keep the world dragging its heels on doing what needs to be done. Whether you recycle or not makes almost no difference in the big picture (as our Prime Minister said in a surprising moment of honesty and insight), and your individual carbon footprint is similarly irrelevant. Don’t let this demotivate you from doing the right thing, let it move you to act.

Sliding Doors

Looking back on our first few weeks of being car free. It’s been going pretty well so far – genuinely quite enjoying it! Here is one highlight from the journey so far…

Monday 11th October

This morning I arrived at the station just in time to watch the train leave.  Again.  The next one isn’t for an hour.  This is the second time this week.

I’m now kicking myself for the handful of little, inconsequential conversations and actions that I could have managed without this morning.  Each of the short pauses on my way here that weren’t essential, but could have won me those precious extra 30 seconds to get down on to the platform before the doors closed, instead of being stood on top of the footbridge listening to the engine rev up.  Bums.  

I’m on my way to an overnight training event.  Difficult enough already being car-free without missing a train connection.  I have all my stuff in a rucksack on my back (my new bike with basket and cargo rack on the back is due to arrive on Wednesday), and at the other end of this 30 min train ride I will have an 8mile cycle journey to do.  My minimum journey time door to door was already at least 105mins (compared to 45mins in the car), now looks like it will be 165mins.  Ugh.

BUT.  Were all those little conversations and actions inconsequential?  Or are they actually the stuff of life – what it is to be human?  Missing the train was frustrating.  Very.  But this isn’t all that bad: it isn’t raining, I’m sat in the sunshine on a crisp autumn day, taking time to reflect on my life and choices, counting my blessings, slowing down and being more present. 

I don’t fully remember the storyline of the film Sliding Doors – whether it turned out to be a good or bad thing that she missed a train – but for me today maybe it isn’t all that terrible.

(DISCLAIMER – I am obviously child free today, this would not be so easy or pleasant if I had one or both of my lovely children with me!  But maybe then we would pop round the corner to a cafe, or find a game to play together…  Maybe even that wouldn’t be so bad?)

Update after arriving:

Overall my journey today took approx 2.5 hours (maybe a little more when you also include having to take a shower once I arrived!), compared with approx 45mins door to door by car. Travel today was 30mins on a train, about 9miles cycling, and a bunch of waiting… Lessons learned:

  • I am not as fit as I thought I was.
  • I definitely need capacity to carry stuff on my bike (can’t cope with everything in a rucksack) – thankfully new bike should be here on Wednesday!
  • Taking a slower, longer journey today was really enjoyable. I saw tractors pulling trailers full of potatoes and smelled the earthy freshness (and was glad they were going the other way not overtaking me!). I noticed trees and the rise and fall of the road. I’m also very conscious that this was a massive privilege and not something that everyone can always make time for (not easily at least).

#CarFreeFamily

[reposting from Facebook so everyone can catch up on the journey so far – fresh new content coming very soon!]

Last week we gave up our car.  We are now a car free household.

It’s not that we can’t afford to own a car, although it is a big expense.  It’s not that we don’t use it, although we have been trying to travel by walking, cycling or public transport whenever possible for some time.  This reduction in use over time is what has now led us to take this step.  We have got to a point where we can’t justify owning such a big resource (in money and carbon terms) for it to mostly just sit on the road in front of the house: a very expensive piece of road furniture, and a temptation to be lazy!

This has been a long time coming.  For a couple of years now we have talked about whether we could manage without a car.  If we could afford it we would have swapped for an electric car years ago, and that might have kept us running a vehicle for longer.  But this goes beyond petrol/electric really – this is about choosing to engage with transport in a different way altogether: to reimagine our relationship with moving about the world.

We are choosing to explore a different way of life/travel/transport.

Not having a car will be inconvenient at times.  It will mean that we need to leave more time to get around, that it will sometimes take more effort or planning, and that there are some things that we will no longer be able to do (at least not without borrowing or renting a car).  This is a sacrifice we are prepared to make.  We recognise that this will also knock on to our family and friends (and work) at times, and ask for your patience, grace and understanding as we work this out.  We are going to need to travel more intentionally – less nipping about and quick journeys – but plan to use this as an opportunity to make the most of being in the place that we are.  We might not be able to visit as frequently, but will plan to spend good quality time in a place once we get there.  Slowing down to appreciate the moment.  

Our hope is that this is one thread in the tapestry of people, places and groups coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world.  Reimagining transport – away from self-reliant convenience and rushing around all the time, towards sharing and a steadier pace of life.  

What will we do when we want to move big things around now?  What will we do when we want (or need) to get somewhere that isn’t accessible by bus or train?  What will we do when it is raining hard but we still need to do the school run?  

We have chosen to limit our options, but we still have plenty!  We can:

Walk, Bicycle, Bus, Train, Taxi, Borrow a car, Rent a car, or even Just not do it!

The adventure begins…

OIKOS

In September 2021 I learned a new word: oikos  

In present day oikos is the name of a yoghurt, but in Ancient Greek times (up to and including New Testament biblical times) it meant household, family, or home.  Oikos is where we get the prefix ‘eco’ – as in ecology, economics, eco-system.  It is about connectedness, our relationships to one another, our interdependence.  ‘No man is an island…’ etc.

So oikos life felt like a good title for gathering some thoughts and reflections on our journey over the past couple of years as a family.  This is about our family/household/home life, especially in terms of how we are trying to live in more eco-friendly ways.  We want to walk more gently on the earth – to be more compassionate, connected and aware of the people, places and other created beings around us.  For us as a family this is inspired by our Christian faith, which shapes how we see the world and how we aim to live as part of it. We are working out what it means to follow Jesus today, particularly in light of our global context of climate and ecological crisis.

The particular prompt to write was our decision to finally get rid of our car completely in October 2021 – to become a car free household.  Several people said they would be interested in hearing some honest reflections on how this worked out for us, so that will be one element of this blog.  But as we thought about that one big lifestyle change we realised that it is just one example of how our attitude and approach to life is changing – a big one, but just one.  So we also want to include thoughts, reflections, and lessons we’ve learned along the way so far on the whole range of our family life and eco-journey.  We hope to include topics like:

  • quick wins
  • less is more
  • food
  • travel
  • stuff
  • cleaning
  • faith
  • protest
  • and probably more!

This is absolutely a work in progress, so we would love to hear your thoughts and responses on the way.  Let us know what lessons you’ve learned, point out the things that look like they are still blind spots for us, join us on this journey.  Peace be with you.  

Oli, Joanne, child1 and child2 🙂