Ah – January: gloomy nights, rainy days, empty pockets, and the dying embers of Christmas cheer all of which make us want to crawl back under the duvet and wait until the summer holidays are here. Ahem. Perhaps you’re motivated and are already training for a marathon, working on a large business proposal, devising a robust revision timetable, or making an alphabetised, chronologised list of New Year’s Resolutions?
Well, for anyone feeling a little more directionless, read on for my take on sustainable comforts that will help boost your mental wellbeing for the next couple of months. There is hope, and if that fails; chocolate...
Firstly, candles! These little pockets of scented sumptuousness can really help reduce anxiety and improve mood, plus they mask the smell of repeatedly-reheated turkey (or tofu-key) as folks continue to trudge month-long through piles of leftovers. There's a way to do candles sustainably of course; go for soy wax, and avoid weird toxic chemicals (that's got to be a decent mantra for life right?!). Bam Boo and Eco Kiwi (natural oils, soy wax and zero plastic packaging) are two of my current fave brands. I should also point out that noxious candle fumes (from the true baddies of the mood-lighting world) can trigger asthma attacks and worsen other respiratory-related allergy symptoms. Plus, anyone present at the 'Carols by Candlelight' at St James the Deacon before Christmas will have seen the true sartorial carnage one tiny flame can cause if you stand too close.
Speaking of clothes, it's essential to wallow in warm items especially as I can see you’ve turned down your thermostat to save some pennies - well done! With that in mind, if you’re looking for a big pledge for 2024 but you’re not quite ready to commit fully to Veganuary (best not pronounce this - as I did once – ‘VeJanuary’), then how about avoiding buying new clothes this year? Our high streets are chock full of charity shops, and you can find lovely bargains online at Vinted, Depop, and Facebook Marketplace, and check out your local clothes swap (like this one in Acomb, or this exciting event in York in February).
Next, what better way to spend the weekends and long evenings than with a craft activity? Check out the ScrapStore in Leeds, or online there's always Preloved. A fellow-crocheter pointed out that microplastics found in man-made fibres (like acrylic “wool”), can leak out in the washing machine and end up in our waterways, so try to avoid this by using 100% wool or other natural fibres like merino, aran, or bamboo. Have a shufty round Hobbycraft (who do an NHS discount), or for Yorkies we have the delightful Sewcialising tucked away in a Dickensian alleyway just a sustainable stone's throw from the minster.
And finally, coffee. Though it pains me to say it, coffee is actually quite complex in terms of carbon footprint, so let’s at least go Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance certified (especially at work if someone else is paying, ha!). Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Co-op all do competitively priced, tasty Fairtrade beans. Or perhaps you have your own coffee machine which uses pods? Check out PodBack to ensure you are recycling the empties: pick up a free bag from your local Starbucks or Morrisons, pop in your empty pods, and then drop off at a Yodel near you. Better still, try these completely home-compostable pods from Grind, or get yourself a reusable pod from Grindsmith! And of course try to support your local coffee shop; I am grateful to But First, The Coffee Pod, Bluebird Bakery, and 2 Many Wines for recharging my batteries these past 5 years and allowing me to sit in and plot how to overthrow the perpetrators of unnecessary single-use plastic.
Next time I'll be writing about cooking! It's a massive and delicious topic, so join me as we don our net-zero napkins and eat our way through plenty of bargains and freebies...