Got to give it up

Local charity One25 has been running a brilliant campaign over the last few days, or rather, a challenge, for its supporters and anyone who’s just feeling a bit masochistic, to give up something they value or enjoy or are addicted to for (at least) 125 hours. Their blog is at giveitupfor125.word, with accounts of what everyone is doing. And the aim of the exercise is to raise money for the charity, which does great work with vulnerable women such as street sex workers, so if you can afford to make a donation, please do so! Twitter tag is #giveitupfor125.

I agreed to sign up to the challenge, and then spent far too long prevaricating over just what I should give up. I’m a vegan, I don’t drink, I don’t have caffeine, and now that Green and Black have started putting milk into their dark chocolate bars, avoiding even that temptation is pretty easy.

I asked for suggestions on Twitter and, predictably, most people said ‘Twitter’. No. That would be like giving up email. OK some of it (much of it) is frivolous but it’s also a valuable news source and people use it to contact me, or ask me to plug their blogs and campaigns, and I’d run the risk of offending some very nice people if I stayed away for 5 days. And basically… I don’t want to!

The second most common suggestion from people who know me was ‘heels’. That might have been do-able if I actually possessed any flats but I don’t! Apart from the scruffy walk to work OTK boots, trainers and flip flops, none of which are quite the thing to be seen in at the Dispatch Box. Oh, and a few Tories suggested giving up ‘being a moron’, ‘breathing’ and such like – still the nasty party!

After much thought I decided on my challenge. I was going to give up buying anything with packaging. I um-ed and ah-ed over whether it should just be non-recyclable packaging, but decided to go the whole hog…

I’ve done a bit of campaigning on this issue in the past, writing to supermarkets asking them what they’re doing to reduce unnecessary packaging, and putting down parliamentary questions about implementation and enforcement of the EU Packaging Directive. (There was a story a few years ago, which I think I blogged about, where some campaigners did a load of shopping in a supermarket and then took everything out of its packaging at the till, dumping it all on the conveyor belt before waltzing off with their purchases… Direct action at its best!)

So here’s how I’ve been getting on, and what it’s meant going without:
– No takeaway coffees (I don’t ‘do’ caffeine, but do indulge in the occasional decaf soya latte, especially on a train journey).
– In fact no takeaway drinks of any kind, not even water – I don’t like buying bottled water, for environmental reasons, but travelling a fair bit, especially on car journeys, it’s sometimes difficult to avoid.
– No cereal bars, crisps or snacks of any kind from the Commons tearoom except apples and plums (a good thing I guess!)
– Carefully rationing my existing supplies of soya milk to make it last the distance, so after the morning coffee or cocoa it’s on to rooibos tea; I ran out in Bristol this morning, but pretty sure there’s still half a carton in the London flat… hope so!
– More or less not buying food at all. When I buy vegetables in Better Foods I tend not to put them into bags, apart from mushrooms and such like. I figured avocado was OK, in that it comes with its own packaging and you can’t really get it without!
– Staying in the Commons tearoom to eat my lunchtime salad (on a plate) or soup (in a bowl) instead of skulking away to eat it at my computer (in a plastic container or paper cup). Call me unsociable, but this is a bit annoying actually…
– Not buying Saturday’s Guardian, as the magazine and TV guide come in a plastic bag. In some ways this was a relief. I buy it as a ‘going to sit down with the papers and relax’ treat, read the lightweight bits and then feel guilty all weekend because I’ve still ‘got to’ read the serious stuff. Which I could read online if I really wanted to.
– I wasn’t quite sure if clothes shopping was ruled out too. Perhaps you could ask them to ditch the carrier bag and tissue paper? And do the tags really count as ‘packaging’? As I was, I haven’t had time to do any anyway.

So, three days into the challenge and with two more days to go, have I cheated at all? Not much… One bagel grabbed at the station before a long train journey (but at least that was recyclable packaging) And I’d run out of moisturiser but I figured that
buying from Lush, which asks you to take back the black pots, was OK? I’m on a train now, as I write, and would no doubt have been tempted to grab a latte at he station, were it not for the fact I only made it with seconds to spare.

It’s obviously not a sustainable way of going about things in the long run, but it’s made me think a bit and it’s definitely been something where I’ve noticed making a sacrifice as opposed, say, to giving up something I’d quite often go without for more than five days at at time.

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  • thebristolblogger  On March 6, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Out of interest, has anyone ever shown up the dispatch box in flip-flops or trainers?

    If not, is there some obscure medievalist rule against them? Or are our representatives, in truth, a rather conservative and traditional bunch?

    • kerrymccarthy  On March 7, 2011 at 3:30 pm

      Breaking with stuffy tradition in the Commons generally means wearing comedy ties. Which is not to be encouraged.

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