It’s been on my mind for a while that I would like to get a better feel for how my work fits into the wider considerations of environmental awareness. In the end I came up with four ideas.
Firstly, there is no magic ‘away’ place where the stuff we don’t want to keep, goes. This is something that my clients have often been scrupulous about and it’s one of many reasons why people keep overwhelming amounts of unwanted plastic. We can look at the ‘life after you’ potential of an item. Equally, recycling and rehoming play a part. Most of my clients reject the idea of just filling a skip and chucking everything in lanfill. Unavoidably, however, some recycling challenges are still beyond us. We are also limited by the time available to work on someone’s home.
It’s great to see how our unwanted items can become a resource somewhere else. Buying second hand has always been popular (now called ‘pre-loved’ which is a phrase I particularly like). We have gone beyond ‘peak stuff’ in terms of customers’ willingness to buy things, and now increasingly refurbishing hardware or repurposing what we already have is becoming more socially acceptable. Repair cafes are springing up everywhere. Almost all of my clients want to use the furniture and resources they already have when starting a new organisational process with me. Many organisations are building a requirement for sustainable business behaviours into their business models, and increasingly customers value that.
When you know what you have, and you know where it is, you don’t need to buy it again. I had a client who had eight identical hairbrushes, because she kept losing the one she was using. Apart from anything else, this is an expensive habit, but it is extremely common. Buying less will save a client money, and it also reduces the impact they have on limited planetary resources. Some people advise ‘buy less but buy better’, particularly in terms of clothing, but often it really is a mindset that says, “I have enough”. Shopping to ease emotional stresses is unfortunately not a very effective solution in the long term, tempting as it is.
My most recent discovery is that stockpiling tends to increase anxiety, rather than alleviate it. There’s no doubt that we are living in anxious times, and so I’d recommend getting clearer about our actual, genuine resource base, rather than a vague idea of plenty. What emerges from this process may well help show us what useful actions we can take from now on.