Do you, like me, sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the challenges facing the world?
I felt like this last week when I visited our local Waitrose to get the ingredients for a dinner party. Over the last few months we’ve been trying really hard to reduce single-use plastic at home – replacing our many bottles of soap and shampoos with natural soap bars, for example, and reducing our use of cling film by using re-usable food wraps. But looking at the shelves in Waitrose, I just thought, ‘what’s the point?’ Fennel could only be bought in pre-packed bags of two, new potatoes were all bagged, almost all tomatoes were in plastic trays and wrapped in plastic - even the swede and cauliflower were shrink wrapped. There appeared to be no end to the unnecessary packaging.
Whether it’s the online hate I referenced last week, the apparent polarisation of politics, global warming, the NHS, the environment, or just challenges at work … sometimes there’s only so much we can do! The energy we spend getting stressed about the things we either can’t or won’t change, is not just wasted; it’s targeted at ourselves in a way that can do us serious harm.
But not being able to solve a problem doesn’t mean we can’t do something – that we can’t make a difference and be part of the solution. Think of big challenges this way: We couldn’t circumnavigate the Earth alone in a day. But if just 1% of the world’s population took a single step, we’d cover enough miles to achieve just that!
Sometimes, the burden isn’t ours alone to carry. We can’t, on our own, dramatically reduce the amount of plastic making its way into our oceans and into landfill. But, by making small changes, we might be part of the answer. That’s why we’ve been using recycled packaging and even recycled tape when dispatching orders for years. It’s also why we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to try and find more environmentally friendly products for our new shop for Trainers’ Library members, starting with plastic-free fiddle packs. It’s been surprisingly difficult, but we’ll keep at it.
You can be part of our solution too – if you know of any eco-friendly products you think we could stock in the shop, please let us know.
In the meantime, here’s a little stress management exercise:
Firstly, make a list of the challenges you face, writing each one on a separate piece of paper. Then, separate these into three piles:
- Things you can own. These are the ones you control or can change through direct action alone, or with others. In my pile, this might involve the way I manage the team, the courses I deliver, the way I speak to family and friends, and the way I treat my pets.
- Things where you can be part of a bigger solution. Remember, you don’t own these, but they matter to you and you can make a difference. What steps can, and will you take today that will make a difference, however small?
- Things you can’t, or won’t, change. These are the concerns that you need to let go of. The stress you spend here is not only harmful, it could be preventing you being effective somewhere else. Do something symbolic with this pile like put it through the shredder (before putting it in the recycling, obviously ??) or throw it on the fire.
My lesson for this week has been that a lot of stress is caused by the time we spend in the past, or the future. By working in the here and now and doing something, however big or small, we can become more effective, happier and less stressed!
Until next time...
Addendum: I wrote to Waitrose about the amount of packaging used on their fruit and veg, and received this response:
Thank you for your email and concerns about the use of plastics in our fruit and vegetables. I really appreciate you taking the time to write and for the photographs, and would like to reassure you that we are doing all we can to ensure that going forward we will change the way we use plastics in our products
One of the biggest ways we can make an impact is to stop using black plastic trays in our packaging - this type of plastic is hard to recycle. So far we’ve removed 65% of our black plastic packaging in fresh fruit and vegetables. By the end of 2018, we will have completely removed it from our fruit and vegetable ranges, and meat, poultry and fish ranges, by the end of this year. This will be a big step to helping us achieve our 2025 commitment.
We are also working with our suppliers and packaging manufacturers to develop and source alternatives to plastic. An example of this is our punnet made out of tomato leaf and recycled cardboard, which we trialled for Waitrose Duchy cherry and baby plum tomatoes last year. If we are able to roll this out further it will save 3.5 million plastic trays a year.
Thank you again for getting in touch.