Living a Sustainable Lifestyle

January is a great month for reflection. The slightly frenzied rush of December is over, the bling is back in its box for another year and in the northern hemisphere the gardening season is at its quietest. It’s a New Year and not just any old one but a new decade and the start of the twenties. When we think of the roaring twenties, we think of the 1920’s, flapper style, the Jazz Age. In France they were known as les années folles which literally means the ‘crazy years’. I wonder what this decade holds in store for us ? It surely has to be the decade in which we try to save our planet, a decade in which trying to make a difference is not enough, we HAVE to make a difference and an enormous one at that.
First of all I must apologise for the silence here on the blog. I am not quite sure how a month has flown by without me writing a word. It’s been a month of family visiting, enjoying the company of friends and a month when I have thought a great deal about our carbon footprint. How we live our life here in France and what we can do better.
So the 2020’s are here I am sure there will be plenty of heartbreak and anguish, the world is a mess. But let’s not forget in the 1920’s it may have been the decade of plenty but it was also the decade in between the two world wars, not all was good back then either.
Have we learnt anything ? I often think not, but I am no politician, nor historian and I am certainly not going down that road in public. What I will say though is that this is the decade when we have to do our very best, each and every one of us, to save this planet if we want to secure its existence for future generations. We have to go past just talking about it and actually do something. The tendency is so often to think we help a little here and there and then continue in our own merry fashion. In truth it means making sacrifices and compromises, but they can only be for the good. I asked two of our children (we’re down to just two at home this week and it feels very strange) two simple questions. First question. “Does everyone at school know about Climate Change?”  Obvious answer to this one, “of course they do”. Second question. “How many of the kids amongst the 400 or so in your school are actually doing something/have changed their lives to help the planet?” Our daughter said maybe 5 or 6 and our son said maybe 1 but probably 0. Doesn’t that just speak volumes? There is so much apathy, even though we see the warning signs, and the reminders and the pleas for everyone to help every day on our screens, in newspapers and on the television.
So for me January is not just a month of reflection but also a month of planning and this January is a month when I really consider how to make necessary changes and to make sure we implement them. I love making notes and I splashed out on a gorgeous Castelli Italian notebook so that I can keep every list I write in one place and because it looks so elegant that no one (read me) will mind it sitting on the kitchen table all the time!
Climate change, sustainable living, these are words and phrases we hear every day. The most basic choices are the ones seen everywhere. Less waste. Eat less meat. Choose sustainable energy providers.
The three ‘R’s head every one of my lists. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We are lucky to have an abundance of fresh local produce here in France and if we cannot grow our own we try to always buy locally. Our favourite greengrocer is a regular stopping point. It is on the way to and from school so there is no specific journey needed and we now take with us a selection of string bags, a Christmas present from our eldest daughter and we fill these with the produce we choose, ready to be weighed. No paper bags needed and absolutely no plastic. And I’ve said this a hundred times or more before, one of the best things about living here is that we cannot get out of season fruits and vegetables. Sounds a strange thing to be happy about but I really am. When those strawberries come into season they are treasured and savoured and enjoyed to the full. The first melon, the first of the spring asparagus, a fresh raspberry, they all suddenly become such an immense treat.
We reuse and recycle and upcyle whenever possible. I have spent the past two weeks decluttering the house. Yesterday morning we took a car full of things to the local charity store. Perhaps someone else will find things that will be useful for them. I will continue with my Brocante store because I love it and because even though when things sell overseas this means they are sent by plane, it is one package on a plane that is already taking that journey. Air travel is not going to stop. But by buying and reusing vintage products we are certainly helping a great deal. I only wish I could ship some of the wonderful old furniture I find here around the world. It is so strong, so well made and so inexpensive. A beautiful vintage armoir costs less than a flatpack mass produced store bought one that is not even real wood but manufactured and often coated in plastic. I also like to think about actually using vintage things rather than just looking at them. Eating off vintage china and using vintage cutlery feels like a luxurious treat, it raises the level of every meal, but actually we are helping.
But hey, this is no lecture, these are just my thoughts. We are very aware and we have made sure our children are too. Sunday afternoons are made for family walks with the dogs. The best sort of afternoon entertainment.
When the weather allows there is nothing that I love more than working in the garden, doing what I can at this time of year, already planning for spring.
And if its too wet or cold and I have time to spare then I retreat to the potting shed, where I light the fire. This is where we store all the twigs and branches that fall from the trees when the wind is howling. There’s a constant supply! One huge box which is drying and another from the year before which is for using now. It is eco friendly heating. I work away sharpening old secateurs and shears. Cleaning plant pots. Soon I will start thinking about sowing some seeds. And these saucers which you see on the potting table below are all old recycled terracotta lids. Originally they were used  for enormous jam, olive or grease pots. I picked up a mass of these years ago from a local brocante. No one wanted them and I think I paid a couple of euros for about 20 of them. I knew instantly I would use them as plant pot saucers. They have flat bottoms and come in all sizes. I love them and so many people comment on them. Typically since then I’ve never seen another mass lot for sale!


49 thoughts on “Living a Sustainable Lifestyle

    1. Totally agree, we got rid of so much single use plastic from our house, still more to go, but it is a start. Also my New Years Resoltion this ysar is No New Clothes in 2020, my stand against fast fashion.
      Every little bit helps doesnt it?

  1. Love the pictures! I regret not seeing your FP in the potting shed! What a lovely place to work!
    Can Gigi practice tennis when it is so cold out?
    Coming from a huge family of 11 children I learned early in life the value of reuse, recycle & make do!
    Sending wishes for an early Spring for you & yours. (I esp. liked seeing the pups out & about!)

    1. Next time you visit we have to spend some time in here, it is my absolute favourite place, but I don’t use it so much during the summer, it is definitely my autumn, winter and spring haven!!! xx

  2. Welcome back. I’ve missed you but you’ve been living and that’s the top priority. I’ve been using my own bags for some time, although sometimes I can’t find what I want without plastic packaging. I use thrift stores all the time, never more so than now that we’re getting ready to move to Arizona in April. When the farmer’s market is on, if berries are sold in a box, I take the box back to reuse or give back. There are so many small things we can all do and they add up.


  3. Glad you are back after your Christmas break, much deserved. Blessings for the
    New Year to all.

    I like your idea of string bags. Now, if only,
    Everyone would do some little adjustments.
    Too many want convenience.

  4. Your post is so timely. I have become similarly conscious that it is now or never to save our planet. When I started reading your wonderful blog at its inception, one of my adult children was newly married. Now a second son has married and, very happily, by the end of this year we will have three grandchildren!! Even without this personal and precious stake in the future, I take all of our and the planet’s health very seriously. There is so much that each of us can do to make things better by making conscious choices in our daily lives and by electing officials who share our concern for and love of the environment. Bravo for your post and please continue to share any ideas or inspiration from your lives to live green. PS Have missed your posts but glad all is well.

    1. Wow, so much excitement for you in a few years, cherish those grandchildren, I bed they are adorable! I too fear for the future and what lies in store for our children and their children. But if we all keep doing what we can we are helping to secure the future for them. Education and understanding are so important. xx

  5. Thank you, Susan ! As usual you have summarized what is necessary in the most logical and practical terms. I do not think any of your very many readers would disagree on the need to change so much in our current lives – not even for our children but, selfishly, for the good in our own lifetime. Since August last year I have had to be afraid for my home and, by November, my life being right amidst the horrific bushfire crisis in Australia. Altho’ evacuated a number of times, with over 160 giant roaring blazes in our state of NSW alone – exactly where could one go ? It has been a time the children and elderly were not allowed outside because normal breathing was impossible. It was the time I could not see the house opposite for months at a time because of the smoke and haze. It was the time that for some 20 hours a day the house shook every few minutes as the dozens of water bombing aircraft and repellant carrying helos passed low-low over our homes. After a cooler and less windy week there are still 77 fires burning in my state and 15 dangerous and damaging ones south in Victoria and in three days the temps are over 40 C again ! And when storms have poured some water down from the heavens with oft 200 mms of deluge in half an hour, a different damage has occurred . . . and when all this is over the most heartbreaking part of rebuilding and recovery will take a long,long time ! Methinks our coal-happy climate crisis denying Australia has caused the world to sit up and take note.

    To my way of thinking it is very hard to make the average man give up the life he has created unless his has been threatened as we have. The biggest changes have to be made by governments and by international businesses and neither wants to regress on its profits – our demanding they do does not belong in this conversation. But each one of us is also responsible . . . each one of us CAN DO if we use common sense as you have shown in your post. Every journey begins with a first step . . . and that may vary for each and every one of us. You have logically noted a number of reasonably easy things which should not impinge on anyone’s richness of life. Take one step this month and work out another for next one . . . if each one of us joins in . . .

    1. I’m in Australia too, up near Byron Bay, and I agree with you 100%- what a mess the politicians are making, despite the wishes of the people 😦 And so many innocent animals and birds killed in the process :(( G

      1. Hello bone&liver – Am writing from SW of Sydney almost inside the Green Wattle Creek tragedy, but lived in Ocean Shores for a number of years . . . the billion or so animals who have suffered a frightening horrendous death is heartbreaking . . . but don’t you agree ‘liveryman’ in the country has come together as I have never known before . . . let the active terror pass and the outcry from the grassroots will be heard loud and clear . . . I am European-born but have never been so proud to be an Aussie . . .

        1. Hi there- I’m so glad you are safe- yes indeed we have come together, but not the politicians! We are all donating to each other’s fundraising events while they are in Hawaii or India- makes my blood boil
          Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your experience 🙂 G

    2. I totally agree with you, people talk, people will do small things but giving up something is another matter. What a summer you have had, my heart literally breaks for everyone in Australia. Huge hugs from this side of the world xx

  6. With all that’s been going on, I’ve been thinking of my footprint as well. It’s pretty small already, but I could make it a bit smaller and tighten up in places. So I’m glad others are thinking that way too. It’s going to take all of us changing a bit.

  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and yes, we ALL need to do more to reduce our consumption, plus DEMAND that our politicians (whose wages we pay) actually do what they’re told! Do none of them have children or grandchildren?? I can’t understand why so many destructive choices keep being made, when we have so much evidence all around us. This summer of bushfires in Australia has been a living NIGHTMARE, and perhaps only the beginning… so good on you for taking more actions in this new decade, G

  8. I am very proud of you for taking this stand for the Planet, It’s brave of you, in a world determined to overlook everything that was predicted to happen if we allowed climate change to proceed unchecked. Here, (Princeton, New Jersey), I work for D&R Greenway Land Trust, founded in 1989 to preserve open space in the most populous state. We are due to be completely built out in a handful of years. So far, we’ve saved over 20,000 acres. Open space, especially with trees, especially if farmed, shows climate change. I’m assuming you must have similar organizations in France now. So, in addition to cutting back on fossil fuel use, buying a hybrid car, light bulbs and all that – you can support saving the prices acreage left in France. I lived above Cannes in 1987/88, and was not at all aware of preservation then. There was, however, a burgeoning of the Biodynamique. Even in wines. I love it that you love it that you cannot get foods out of season there. It used to be like that everywhere, in my Michigan childhood. Thank you for the pleasure of your blog and for your example and your cautions/warning. We’re all in this together. Indian chiefs of another century warned us, “Everything is linked.” We save the planet together, or…. merci mille fois! Carolyn Foote Edelmann

  9. It is such a delight to read a post from you again – and such a good one too! We are all in this climate crisis and, while we feel helpless at times, it really is up to each of us to contribute what we can towards a solution.

  10. The sights coming out of NSW have been so terrifying the world has had to sit up and recognise the damage we have done.
    We can all take responsibility and do our bit no matter how small. The new decade needs to be the decade where the world begins to turn bad habits around. Buy local. Buy seasonal. Buy second hand. Recycle and reuse. Support small business. Think twice before upgrading the tech. Grow your own. Take the train. Only fly if there is no other way. It is easy to do these things and it will make a difference if we all do it. We can only work on the bits we can control.

  11. We have often spoken of you and we know how busy you always are. Know that we also always noted how careful you treat our planet. You REALLY do what you can to live local, healthy, avoid trash & do good to our earth. Thank you for that, thank you for being the family we so much love and cherish, for your blog posts (I don’t even find the time to read all, so how could we not understand that time flies by w/o you writing posts?!), for your thoughts and the love you so freely share. I shall contact you by mail re us and ‘possibilities’ – maybe you’ll need to come to the Paris region for a short stay?
    Just wanted to say HI, wishing you all again a wonderful, richly blessed 2020 and sending a big hug and a massive kiss. Give a cuddle to all your pets too and may we all meet again.

  12. I totally agree with you. When I moved away from the hectic city life and fast-paced business world that I worked in, in the UK, to rural France it took some getting used to. But working with nature and living according to the seasons has added so much to our lives. I have to say, it is much easier to live an ecologically sustainable lifestyle now – we have more time to be thoughtful and creative in our choices and ‘convenience’ is not the priority that it was. Having said that, change is now urgent and there is no excuse for anyone not to do their utmost to help the planet in whatever ways they can.

  13. I agree with every word! We’ve been doing our part for some years now, using cloth bags everywhere (I even take them into clothing stores), refusing all plastic bags, and going on a personal campaign in my small town to stop restaurants from dropping a handful of plastic straws on every table as they set down drinks. We re-use and recycle everything we can, shopping at thrift stores too. I buy used books, and then donate them back to a store that gives the profits on their sales to local charities. I cannot grow as much of my own veggies as I would like, but we shop at the smaller markets during the seasons for local produce, cheese and meats as much as possible. If everyone would just do a little, it would go a long way!!

  14. Susan, I so agree we need to do our part and be conscientious of the resources we use. I wish more would also start thinking this way. My biggest pet peeve is plastic bottles of water. It makes me cringe at the amount of plastic waste they create. Always enjoy your pictures. I am currently admiring your beautiful stove!

  15. This planet has been doing very well sustaining itself for a few billion years, even over the past 200,000 or so years as humans infested it. I feel VERY sure that the planet will continue to do so even if I use gasoline, coal, too much heat, too much electricity, and only avoid too much bull like this senseless “sustainable life” crap.

  16. Yes, yes, yes. Shop in thrift stores, carry your own bags (I keep a bag full of cloth bags in the car so they’re at hand when needed), recycle books and everything else as much as possible. But Reduce is really the key: Use less, buy less, throw away less.
    In India the concept of Indra’s Web says everyone is both the whole and inseparable from the whole, and John Donne called it no man being an island, but we are all interconnected in ways small and large. And every little bit toward conscious use of the planet’s resources matters.

  17. I’m a blog post behind but lovely to see you writing again, I wondered if I’d unsubscribe by mistake- that’s the trouble with busy lives and many children, finding time is so hard!
    This year I have swapped ALL my family into ecological toothbrushes . It’s such a small thing but nice to think of reducing those nasty plastic brush handles from the landfill.
    I was thrilled to discover the “Truthbrush” from two fabulous women entrepreneurs in Devon and their bamboo handled brushes and natural bristles which can be ordered online. I highly recommend them.
    Happy and healthy New Year to you and the family Susan.

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