A small step might not seem like much. Choosing to cook a healthy meal at home rather than getting take out. Bringing our reusable grocery bags to the shops one time instead of packing in flimsy plastic bags. Decluttering one drawer in the kitchen. Saying no to one engagement to spend time with friends and family. But the thing is, taking small intentional steps adds up to big changes over time. This blog, and @the_smallist Instagram, is a collection of small steps you and I can take to be more intentional in our lives. It’s about having less things, creating less waste, slower living and eating healthier (mostly vegetables).
The office I currently work in is paperless, in theory. There are still printers, and occasionally you see people taking notes the old fashioned way, with pen and paper. But digital is encouraged over analogue. From an environmental perspective, this is really good. Less trees required. Not to mention less of all the side effects usually associated with the paper production, delivery and recycling process. As someone who is actively trying to live with less things, and to create less waste, I have embraced a paperless existence wholeheartedly. Oh wait, that was not me!
Attempting to eat more nourishing food has brought me a joy for cooking that I have not experienced since I was a child. For most of my adult life, cooking was simply a way to get full for less money than eating out. Or worse, to get a quick sugar-fuelled energy boost. These days, I challenge myself to cook meals that are both nourishing and taste good (almost) every day. It gives me great pleasure, as does going to farmers markets, and to health food focused shops, cafes and restaurants. Eating more nourishing food has also been the catalyst for a lot of other small changes I have made in my life.
Try it: Make an effort to "crowd in" nourishing ingredients to as many meals as you can, and take your friends and family along on your journey.
Food is incredibly important in our society. In many ways it is the centerpiece of our culture and our relationships. Food brings people together, literally. But food is also really divisive. That said, vegetables tend to feature heavily across most diets and approaches to eating. Despite this, and the clear emissions benefits of a plant-based diet, only one third of Australian adults are getting enough vegetables. So how do we eat more vegetables?
Two years ago, I lived in a penthouse, beachfront Sydney apartment. I had a 4WD in the garage and an overflowing closet. At age 29 I was well and truly in the “accumulation” stage of my life. I was mindlessly doing what I was “supposed to” be doing, working hard to pay for “things” I thought I needed. Today, I live in a one bedroom apartment with no car and significantly less things. Instead, I have more time and more disposable income to spend on experiences that I really enjoy. Over time, I have chosen less over more.
Try it: What material possessions or aspects of your schedule or day-to-day life weigh you down? Try changing it up, choosing to own or do less rather than more.
I feel incredibly frustrated - often - at how difficult it is to do the right thing with our "trash". What do we do with used up batteries and lightbulbs, laptops that refuse to turn on, old mattresses and "pre-loved" clothing worn one too many times for the donation bin? How do we tell a "soft" plastic from a "hard plastic" with any certainty, and can a certain type of plastic even be recycled in our area at all? Does the "cardboard" almond milk container from the local shops have a hidden plastic lining, or can it go in the paper/cardboard recycling bin? And is it our responsibility as consumers to understand the detailed composition of materials in the things that we consume, so that we can "throw them away" correctly?
Small intentional steps can add up to big changes. But, in my experience, we don’t always realise how far we have come, because we can’t always remember where we started. Seeing progress, for me, is a great motivator. It’s especially satisfying to realise that we have formed a new (positive) habit - something that we don’t even have to think about anymore - like bringing a keep cup, saying no to sugary sodas, avoiding impulse shopping or automatically looking for products with less packaging at the shops.
Try it: What (small) goal or change do you want to achieve? Find a way to track your progress towards the goal over 30 days and see if it helps keep you on track!
What is in your wallet? If you are anything like me about one year ago, it's full of membership cards, receipts, handwritten lists and notes and small coins... and hopefully also the things you actually use daily, like money and/or bank cards! My wallet was heavy, both physically and mentally, because every time I would get it out I was reminded that I should clean it out and 'get organised'. So I decided to get a smaller wallet, and to review what I really needed to keep on me in physical form all the time.
Try it: Take a few minutes to go through your wallet and clean out anything you don't need. Could you carry less around than you do right now?
Somewhere in the range 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tonnes of plastic went into the ocean in 2010, according to a study. The international study calculated that a total of 275 million tonnes of plastic waste was produced by a 192 nations, and noted that population size and quality of waste management systems largely determine which countries contribute the most to the problem.
I have been doing my very best to be intentional about what I buy lately, and have been implementing some key steps in that process. Do I really need it, and did I need it yesterday (or the day before that)? Does it fit in my closet, or in a cupboard? Is it going to take up my precious time without at the same time adding value?
Try it: Develop your own "do I need it?" flow chart, on paper or just in your mind. Next time you find yourself thinking, "I really need...", apply your questions and see if you really do need it.