Meet St Nicks’ supporter Tiphaine, who has shared her experiences of adopting a greener lifestyle with our Sustainability Officer Ivana. Would you like to share yours? Please get in touch.
Please introduce yourself in a few sentences.
My name is Tiphaine, I am French and arrived in York five and a half years ago with my husband David who is Australian. We share our home with two rescued female cats, Possum and Pixel from Cats Protection.
What’s your motivation for striving towards a greener/sustainable lifestyle?
I think it is a no brainer for me. It’s become a way of life that I feel comfortable with simply because there is always something I can improve and do differently to have a positive impact on the environment. As I don’t like routine, that way of life suits me too as I can keep on looking for new sustainable and greener ways of living.
What or who inspires you?
In 2008 I worked on a carbon footprint project and that opened my mind to waste, carbon, water and energy footprint. Since then I’ve been reading articles on waste and climate change.
Thanks to my husband I discovered Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries in 2013 and have followed his work since. It was amazing to be in the UK to experience the Blue Planet effect that keeps on inspiring me.
Finally, I admire the courage of Greta Thunberg to speak out loud to “big guys”. At her age I was so shy! Nowadays, I can speak out more and also have the means to change aspects of my life.
What changes have you made at home to make it/yourself more environmentally friendly?
The first thing we did when we bought the house, was to change the windows for double glazed ones and to insulate the loft to keep the warmth inside.
In the bathroom, we switched to soap bars many years ago and now we are trialling the shampoo bar. During last year’s first lockdown the toilet paper shortage inspired me to try wee wipes – I enjoyed sewing them and it was a great way to use scrap fabrics.
In the kitchen, we’ve done a lot and I think the easiest one was simply to go to a refill shop to get the inspiration and buy more food from there. We are lucky in York to have more and more of those shops, which make refilling convenient. For a decade we’ve also been making our own “magic spray”, a cleaning product made from sodium bicarbonate and white vinegar. This is really easy to make but we use some bleach occasionally.
Regarding clothes, we are buying less and when we do, we buy good quality clothes which will last. I love shopping in charity shops for second-hand clothes as well as bric-a-brac, and enjoy clothes swaps too. Due to the lockdown, I’ve switched to the free app OLIO and have donated as well as received clothes through it.
After living in flats, the biggest change for us has been having a vegetable garden. We rolled up our sleeves to grow different veggies, seeing what works or not, and we’ve installed two rain water tanks as well as two compost bins.
How easy or not has it been? What are/were the major barriers?
I think some steps have been easier such as using soap bars, having bags in the car for grocery shopping, switching to a “green energy” supplier, always having a reusable water bottle or a reusable coffee cup etc.
Some other changes have been harder such as buying less – e.g. close to zero clothes for the last two years. The temptation is always there to have something “new”, be it clothes, kitchen accessories or decorative items. But I’ve realised that something “new” in my life doesn’t have to come with a big (environmental) price tag from a shop. It can simply have had one or many more other lives before reaching my hands, where it becomes new again, or at least “new to me”. Bearing this in mind makes it easier to buy and use second-hand items. We also enjoy doing a lot of upcycling such as transforming pallets into planters.
Also, perfection does not exist. I am learning with each change I make – how to do it better next time, or how to let it go and focus on another one.
What else are you aiming to do and what would help you achieve it?
I would like to help more colleagues, neighbours, friends and relatives to be more sustainable. By talking about it, sharing on social media and practising what I preach, I’ve managed to inspire some people to pass on their organic waste for our compost bins. Some friends have joined OLIO after seeing what I was doing and they now use it regularly to declutter instead of throwing items in the bin.
I think having empathy and putting myself in the shoes of the other person can help me to better communicate how some simple steps can be taken for good. Talking with others also helps to generate new ideas, to see a situation from other points of view, and to better understand other people’s motivation for being sustainable – or not – as we don’t all have the same priorities in life.
Have you implemented/initiated/joined any changes in your workplace?
At work, I was shocked to see paper cups still being used. After some long discussions during numerous meetings, there has finally been no more paper cups, plastic glasses or plastic stirrers at work for about three years now. I am glad I was tenacious enough to push that change through.
I discovered the TerraCycle company back when I worked in Australia but it took a while before it got going in the UK. At work in York, I first started with a few cardboard boxes next to my desk to collect some of the recyclable waste. It is now three shelf units collecting diverse packaging for TerraCycle and others – such as foil, Brita cartridges etc. – to encourage colleagues to separate more of the waste they generate. Once a month or so, at least before the lockdown, I would cycle with a colleague or two to drop off the relevant recyclables at St Nicks.
Did you make any green resolutions for 2021? How are they going?
I didn’t make any specific resolutions for 2021 as I am continuously looking for new ideas. So far this year we started using a wormery, which we got for free on OLIO. Now, we get some nice enriched liquid feed for our indoor plants and generate more compost to use for growing vegetables and herbs. I will stick with that for a while until I discover a new idea I want to experiment with.
What keeps you going and keeping positive?
The people around me are the first to keep me going. For a few people at work and in the neighbourhood, I am their “go to” person. I often receive questions and photos of food waste before someone adds it to their kitchen waste pile for us, making sure they can actually compost it. They care and they want to do it right, so it motivates me to keep going. They also ask me where to recycle and I share with them what I know. I think it is very important to build a relationship with neighbours as I feel that helping each other in tough times has a greater impact on our mental health. I have never been so close to my neighbours as since the lockdown.
While walking I often pick up litter. Once I didn’t have any bags with me as I was just going for an early morning walk when I found lots of beer bottles. I asked a dog owner if I could have one of his “dog waste bag” as I couldn’t carry them all in hands. He was pleased, gave me two bags, and since then we always say hi to each other. A smile and a “hello” is all I need to keep going.
What’s your favourite eco hack, or would be your top tip for someone who’s just starting to explore their environmental impact and wanting to change one thing?
I think that for someone who wants to change one thing, the best tip I can give is to find the one thing you are not attached to, and that you are willing to change.
For example if you love your shampoo and always have been using the same brand over a decade, then don’t try shampoo bars. But if you dislike seeing rubbish in your favourite park or garden, then you can start litter picking. Or if you are fed up seeing your recycling box full of plastic after just one week, then have a look in it: what is in there that could be easily eliminated? Is it the numerous milk bottles? Then switch to milk delivery in glass bottle. If you are not bothered in which material you drink your coffee or tea, get a reusable cup and bring it with you wherever you go.
I think it is important to feel comfortable to change, and not to feel like it has been imposed on you without any explanation of the benefit. Also, it is important to try many alternatives until you feel comfortable with the change as there are many ways to reduce waste and it is quite fun to try them!