I’m a delighted to bring you a different kind of article today with an interview with one of Ireland’s top Zero Waste speaker, Timi Nicholson.
If you don’t follow her already on Instagram at @simple.nowaste.life, go and do that now!
I photographed Timi and her two children last year, for this article, and I hope you enjoy taking a peek at what ‘low impact living’ looks like for them. As Timi says, there is no “one solution fits all”, but if you are interested in making some changes, just take that first step, and then a second one, and so on…
Enjoy the article, and let us know what resonated most with you in the comments!
Timi, tell us about your journey and the steps you have taken to lower your family’s impact on the environment.
It all started when our first child was born, and we were sick of our black bins full of dirty and smelly nappies. We were looking for an alternative solution and found cloth nappies. Within a few months, we transitioned to use reusable nappies full time, and in this process, we learnt a lot about how our way of living is not very kind to the environment and to all who live in it, including us.
From my academic background, I was very much aware of the issue of waste but never really connected the dots that my actions can have an impact. We thought the future would have the solutions, and there is nothing we can or need to do.
This is, of course, not true.
We were unaware that this “western” lifestyle could also have health implications.
Step by step, we made changes from reducing single-use items from our home to buy food with less packaging. Then soon we realised that waste reduction was only the first step into low impact living and there is more we can do.
Feeding ourselves the low impact way
In the beginning, we aimed to buy no packaged food; this alone reduced our impact as we stopped buying most fast foods, ready-made meals and processed foods.
- We soon realised that a homemade pizza is a lot tastier and a lot cheaper than ordering “insert your favourite Pizza Delivery”.
- We significantly reduced our meat intake too. Meat can be pricey so the sums we saved on buying whole foods and only a little meat, we could spend on buying organic.
- We support local growers as much as we can, but if not local, at least from the island of Ireland.
- We buy our dry foods from vendors that sell their produce packaging free.
- This year we are signed up with Dublin Community Supported Agriculture and have a veg box a week from them.
- And to further lower our impact, we grow some vegetables and fruit in our garden.
- We try to eat seasonal foods as much as possible and teach this to our kids. But it is not always possible and we are OK with that.
- We enjoy traditional food processing methods like fermenting and preserving.
- We forage during the summer months, our favourite is elderflower, and now in the autumn, we are after some rosehip, sloe and haw berries.
Our major project for 2020 has been converting our front garden into an “Edible Front Garden”. We have broken up some of the concrete on our driveway and using permaculture principles we have finished the groundworks for the front. We are now waiting for the dormant season to be able to plant some trees, fruit bushes and hedgerow plants.
Low impact housing
Energy consumption is a massive contributor to climate change. We had to re-evaluate our house and carried out work to be as energy-efficient as possible.
Small actions can have a big impact, so buying LED bulb instead of the “energy-efficient” one is a great step first step.
From A+ rated appliances to better windows and more insulation, we have improved the BER rating of our house significantly.
Last year we signed up with Community Power to provide our electricity. Community Power is the only 100% renewable electricity provider in Ireland, despite others claiming the same. It is a non-profit organisation too, which is fantastic.
Low impact consumption
Research has now shown that we need to reduce our consumption of goods to be able to fight the climate crisis. It has to happen on a systemic level, it is agreed, but without individual awareness, systemic change will unlike to happen.
We aim to buy second hand and multifunctional items and refrain from “hypes”. The “shopping experience” of buying second hand is different. One would have to wait until the desired item appears, but it is even more satisfying than just buying something off the shelf.
With small kids, clothing is a significant part of our consumption. We utilise freecycle, adverts.ie and Facebook marketplace for buying.
I also make our own clothes from certified organic cotton. Sewing is a great skill to have, and it further adds to lowering our impact as we can upcycle materials instead of binning them. It is a fantastic hobby as well, and I love seeing my little ones wearing clothes that I made.
We are teaching these values to our kids too. We explain to them what we are doing and why. We do not shy away from explaining how the natural world is declining and animals are in danger and what we can do.
For example: “Let’s not spray our garden with weedkiller, instead, eat the dandelion that is considered as a weed in other gardens”.
It is such a joy to hear my son squeak when he picks the first red strawberry of the year. Not buying strawberries out of season builds up the expectation and the ones that are in season are even more delicious.
Low impact travel
It has been established that carbon in the atmosphere is what causes climate change, therefore on an individual level we are trying to be low carbon in our travels.
I find this is the hardest of all. Especially as people whose family live abroad, it is challenging not to fly as often as we wanted or could. There are other considerations as well, like healthcare abroad.
We are lucky with where we live. Most things are in walking/cycling distance, so we utilise these forms of transport whenever we can. We have also bought a second-hand cargo bike (on adverts), so we can haul the kids to school with it even when it is raining. And they have great fun waving at their pals.
Looking to make some changes?
We share our journey, full of successes and failures, on our Instagram account: @simple.nowaste.life. I hope that we can inspire others to make smaller or more significant changes. I believe a change is only sustainable if it can establish itself into one’s daily life. Therefore it is better to start slow and ramp-up speed later. Here are a few examples of changes most people can do:
- Meat-free Monday
- Walk/cycle when you can
- Buy second-hand clothes/toys/books/furniture
What I always say is to start with observing and making the most manageable changes.
If it is leaving the car at home, because you are sitting in the traffic jam, then do that. If you want to reduce waste in the house, look for the biggest waste source and try and tackle that. Sadly there is no one strategy fits all.
There are numerous resources online and in book format too, here are a few examples:
- Story of Stuff – Annie LeonardZero Waste Home – Bea Johnson
- This Changes Everything – Naomi Klein (this is more on a systemic level, not very practical, but interesting nevertheless)
And some more images…
Thank you for reading. Timi and I would love to hear what you think!