Hi everyone! It’s Millie here (everyone’s favourite nineteen year old), this time to talk about a slightly different topic on the blog — climate change and what we can do to save the planet. As everyone knows, thanks to human practices, industrialisation and globalisation over the last 150 years, the Earth is changing at an unprecedented rate.
We’re cutting down billions of acres of forest, polluting the soil and oceans with detrimental farming practices and trash dumping, and pumping toxic gases into the atmosphere. Suddenly, whole species are disappearing, and humans are suffering from illnesses linked to chemicals and toxins in the air and what we consume. Left: a newly-built rubbish incinerator in our area. Right: deforestation in Indonesia.
The estimates vary, but scientists predict that unless we cut carbon emissions and massively change our lifestyles and living habits in about twelve years, the effects of climate change will be irreversible. A great deal of this responsibility sits on the shoulders of our governments and the massive corporations who exploit us and the Earth for resources, but where there is demand there will be supply, and making changes to how we live can help to contribute to this cause.
I thought I’d write this article not only to elaborate on the issue and make suggestions about changes you can make, but also to show how we in France can contribute and make changes.
The first thing that I’d like to talk about is food! Glorious food!
We love it, we eat it, and we hopefully share it with our friends, but we could also be slowly poisoning ourselves and the planet by continuing to eat how we do. Farming nowadays is mainly done through mass agriculture, machines and chemicals being used to grow what we need. These pesticides are leaching into the planet, and also us. GMO foods are linked to various illnesses, and animals particularly are extremely costly. There are several ways to lessen the effect of this; vegetarianism or veganism already help to greatly reduce our impact on the planet, but eating organically is great too. Here in France, we have a lot of farmer’s markets where we can buy local produce — cutting down on fuel used to transport the food, giving back to the local economy, and often buying food grown with a lot less pesticides. An example of exactly how toxic pesticides can be was relayed to us when we visited a vineyard in the Dordogne a couple of years ago. They were totally organic, but their neighbour wasn’t. One day he was fixing his sprayer tractor and it backfired in his face, spilling the chemicals all over him. Six month later he passed away from multiple types of cancer related to what had happened to him.
It’s also easy to grow your own vegetables, and can be cheap, particularly when done from seed. Even if you don’t have the room for one, you can get an allotment or collaborate with friends or family on a shared vegetable garden. There are various options for natural pesticides, such as using salt or vinegar, or even a small flamethrower. Some animals (particularly ducks) work wonderfully as natural pest control, providing you’re not too attached to the idea of having the perfect garden. We’re currently raising up four Indian Runner ducklings just for this reason! Two of them are enough to keep several acres of land free of snails and slugs. One vineyard in South Africa (coming back to wine!) even keeps a flock of thousands to eat any naughty insects!
One subject that’s slightly less unknown to most people is that fast fashion does the planet. This is when clothes are made at an extremely cheap cost (think H&M, Primark…), sold cheap, and people wear them a few times before they get bored or they get worn out and are trashed. The transport of these clothes is also costly to the environment, and workers often labour in terrible sweatshop conditions to make these clothes.
At the same time, clothing and fashion can be a bit of a “touchy” subject for some people: it’s related to culture, self-expression, your reputation and work needs. Balancing these with almost being more environmentally aware can be difficult. I recently read that up to 85% of the world’s wearable clothing is currently sitting in landfills. One solution is to donate or give away old clothes: it negates the need to create new ones and benefits the less fortunate. There are also a lot of options to buy clothes second-hand: charity shops, garage sales… here in France we have a couple of really cool options. Our first is Emmaüs, a franchise of charity shops that sell donated items of all sorts in order to fund housing for the homeless and fight for the rights of immigrants. Many a time we’ve found all sorts of incredible things there!
I bought this yellow raincoat for three euros at a brocante recently! Surrounded by vibrant nature like this, it’s terrible to imagine it all gone.
There are also the infamous brocantes. While people will sell old furniture and antique items (what you tend to see on the blog!) there are usually always a lot of clothes for sale too. With a little patience you can find really nice clothing for next-to-nothing. Some people might be afraid of this because the clothing could be dirty or worn, but just like new clothes, all you have to do is give them a wash before you wear them. There are even now apps dedicated to the sale and trade of second hand clothes! My New Year’s Resolution this year was to not buy any clothes new except for underwear and socks. So far I’ve found a 70 Euro pair of shoes for two euros, a 50 Euro jacket for three euros, and countless beautiful jumpers and bags. You can find some lovely items, without contributing to fast fashion or landfills. It’s also a lot easier on your wallet! Many brands now have “eco conscious” options nowadays, too.
Moving on, let’s talk about cleaning products, soaps and cosmetics. With things like disinfectant and washing up liquid, there are only so many organic or eco-friendly options. But they do exist! Many products are now made with ingredients that are less toxic to the environment once they’re flushed down the drain, and a lot of these incorporate plant extracts with natural antibacterial and antiseptic properties.
Organic and oftentimes homemade soaps are to be found in huge abundance in France: at many markets there’ll be a stand selling all-natural soaps. Different plants can have different effects, and these can make soaps for different purposes: hand-washing, shower soaps, face washes, and even ones that function as shampoo and conditioner! They’re also a lot less harsh on your body. We recently had Belgian friends to say who make their own soaps. I’ve been using their camomile and honey body soap and lavender face soap for a month now and I really like them, it’s definitely something to look into.
In terms of cosmetics there are many options nowadays, and they’re much healthier for our skin too, as well as cruelty-free. One example could be Lush, the very popular chain of shops notorious for being cruelty-free, using natural ingredients and having a strong ethics code. Bare Minerals is a nice choice, but there are also less expensive ones — the Dutch department store Hema recently released a makeup line called B.A.E., which is 100% vegan and cruelty free. It’s also VERY affordable (take it coming from a broke university student!)
Another thing to consider is transport. Constantly pumping fumes into the environment is obviously terrible, but so is the slow drying up of fossil fuels to power our cars, and the oftentimes toxic disposal conditions of old vehicles. Here in France the (electricity-powered) train system is excellent — most small towns have a train station, and this is a great way to get around and be less taxing on the environment. Carpooling can also be a good option. In France one carpool website is very popular; “BlaBlaCar”, I’ve used it several times to go long distances. You have to be a bit brave though!
Sixteen year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg is leading school walk-outs in protest of climate change.
One of the most polluting machines is of course the plane. Flying several kilometres above the Earth, and at incredibly rapid speeds, is extremely costly energy-wise. When I see how many celebrities use private jets to get around when they could just catch a normal flight, it’s a little crazy. A sixteen year-old climate activist named Greta Thunberg has sworn off planes and convinced her entire family to stop using them as well. For many people it’s very hard to totally eradicate flying from your life, but it’s also possible to use planes left and think about alternative ways of travel. As the popular saying goes: It’s about the journey, not the destination.
To finish up my (rather large) list of ways to change your habits to be more environmentally friendly, I suppose I should point out what I consider the truly obvious ways to help: take shorter showers, try to use less electricity and not leave lights on, always use reasonable containers and bags, RECYCLE or COMPOST, etc., etc. On a side note, some energy companies are now offering new “green” energy contracts (like EDF in France), which supposedly use energy sourced from sustainable resources like wind and hydro power. It’s certainly worth looking into, plus the EDF “green” contract is actually cheaper than the regular one!
To bring this post to a close, I think I should probably reiterate that: the planet needs saving. Unless you’re one of the strange science-deniers, then there’s no hiding the facts: unless we change everything, the planet WILL die. I know that the blog’s reader demographic tends not to be teenagers or very young adults, a lot of you have children or maybe even grandchildren. Unless we change something, they might not make it to old age, or will spend their lives living in a poisoned world, breathing filtered air, with many of the Earth’s cities underwater, food shortages, catastrophic weather… the list of consequences goes on forever.
To my mind, I feel that we have a duty as humans, no matter how uncomfortable it may be or strange to change our habits, to fight for our planet. It is at the very least a survival effort for ourselves, and beyond that it is preserving billions of species, nature as we know it, and protecting many generations to come.
Change can come, but only if we act now. It’s important to remember that “difficult” changes to make, such as forgoing the use of planes and cutting things out of our diets, may not be forever. Science is always looking for and finding new alternatives for what we enjoy today. In the meantime, we have a responsibility.
Thank you so much, if anyone has read this far, for reading what I’ve written today. I know that it’s all over the news at the moment, and most of this probably isn’t new information, however it’s necessary to repeat it until it starts to sink in, I suppose! Hopefully you were interested in my perspective as a very young person growing up in this endangered world, and perhaps you learnt a little more about France or found a change you’d like to implement in your life.
Please consider sharing this article, and I’d love to hear your opinions and know what you have changed about your lifestyle or would change to help stop the climate crisis.
I really hope you enjoyed Millie’s post, certainly plenty of food for thought. Naturally I am very proud of her, she has a wise head on such a young pair of shoulders. There are so many ways we can do our bit, including in our own homes. We can recycle, upcycle even ‘relooking’ (as the French love to say) old pieces of furniture. We can buy second hand and we can fill our homes with antique and vintage treasures that were made by hand and come with a wealth of history, as opposed to buying mass produced items made in a giant factory. As you probably all know I am passionate about trying to live a greener lifestyle. To help a little this week I am offering 50% off virtually everything in the Etsy shop, before I restock with a vast amount of new ‘old’ purchases. Remember we combine shipping and this week you really can grab yourself a bargain and feel good at the same time.