It’s taken about a month to finally find the time to write about my 7 day challenge but better late than never!
It was a wonderfully productive, educational, exciting week, during which I learned a lot about little and not so little things I can do (well everyone of us can) to make our planet a bit better and hopefully extend it’s life span.
I won’t list everything I did (you can have a look at a selection of photos below and my Instagram posts on each day about it) but the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is, as cheesy as it sounds, that every little helps.
Reducing the use of plastic and cars as much as possible, reducing water, electricity and meat consumption, recycling, picking up litter, we can all do them to a lesser or greater degree. I promise you, it’s not as hard as you think it might be.
I personally found it much easier than I thought not to eat meat for a week and I love the reusable glass straws I bought to replace the paper ones, they have a better feel and no need to throw anything away! One of the people on the group commuted to work by bus which wasn’t as inconvenient as he initialy thought it would be, another installed a water filter to avoid buying plastic bottles, some discovered eco-friendly cosmetics, whereas others now take their water bottle and reuseable straws with them everywhere they go and the list goes on. Check out the Embassy of Sweden in Cyprus Facebook page, where you can read more about the group’s challenges
We can’t be using the excuse of ‘Unless the industry/government/etc does something about it, there’s no point of me trying’ anymore. If we all adopt more sustainable habits, we can not only help save the planet and live a healthier life, but we can also inspire others and all these small changes will add up and create a huge impact.
We have now truly ran out of time. We need to act now and restore as much damage we made to our beautiful planet as possible.
What this 7-day challenge proved to myself and the rest of the group is that living a more sustainable life is certainly possible and the way forward is not by adopting habits that would make our everyday life impossible and we eventually cease doing them, but by making a lot of smaller, easier to adopt changes.
A couple of weeks ago Eva, my favourite partner in crime at the office, shared a post from the Embassy of Sweden in Cyprus, (in collaboration with Let’s Make Cyprus Green, an amazing organisation doing great work on saving the planet) asking for participants to take part in a challenge living sustainably for a week.
I do my bit to protect the environment, but I feel there’s still more I can do and A LOT more to learn, so I decided to sign up, as Eva also did so we could take up the challenge together.
Last Friday, the 16th of July, we got together at Home For Cooperation to be given more information about the challenge, an unexpectedly informative and inspiring evening.
Let’s Make Cyprus Green gave a short and also shocking presentation with some horrific statistics that shook us all up.
Did you know that only 9% of plastic does get recycled and that after the first time it gets recycled the quality drops so it doesn’t really get recycled again?
Did you know that traces of microplastic have been found not just inside us but also in embryos?
Did you know that not all paper drinking cups are 100% recyclable?
Did you know that is predicted that by 2050 there will be more trash than fish in the ocean? That trash has been found in the deapest of the oceans already?
These are just some of the terrifying facts about our planet and why we have to act now. We may recycle as much as we can but that is not the solution. We need to do more than that. We need to work more on prevention. Let’s Make Cyprus Green has already started a few great initiatives, such as water refill stations installation and organising regular beach cleanups but it’s everyone’s responsibility to save the planet, we are the ones who have been destroying it after all.
After the presentation we all brainstormed ideas on what we should include in our challenge and ways we can eat, move and live more sustainably. The point of this exercise is not to torture ourselves or cut all plastic from our lives and anything else harmful all at once, that’s not feasible or sustainable (although how we wish it was!).
The point is to gradually adopt more sustainable, green habits and this challenge is an opportunity to try some of these habits when it comes to eating, moving and living sustainably. Every little we do helps.
So what I’ll learn/try/attempt this week?
No meat (should be easy considering I don’t eat much meat)
Reduction of my cow milk consumption, I’ll replace it with oat milk (almond milk leaves a large ecological footprint).
Eating locally produced vegetables and fruit (I personally love using RescuedBox, who save perfectly fine but ‘too ugly for supermarkets’ vegetables and fruit and sells them to customers across the island).
Use my car as less as possible (e.g. walk to the supermarket or kiosk).
Car share (if possible)
Use public transport (not that easy/convenient when carrying three bags)
No takaway food or coffee
Buy and use reusable, refillable water bottles until I find out more about water filters and whether is possible to install one at my flat.
Use of glass straws
Use of dish washing water to water the plants
Park clean up during exercise/walks which is called plogging, Swedish for plocka upp (pick up) and jogga (jog)
Find out more about composting in Nicosia
In a week’s time we’ll all meet again to discuss our experience and get our diploma for participating.
If you decide to participate pick up a few ideas or come up with your own and join us!
This week’s video it’s all about endings, the end of my first year of teaching English as a foreign language, new beginnings, which at the moment I have no idea what those would be, and change.
I hope significant change. I hope the black lives matter movement keeps going on until we all finally realise our white privilege, our implicit racism as well as racism deeply embedded into every layer of our society, justice system, the world and our responsibility to change that. And the first step: educate ourselves, as sad and uncomfortable it might feel. Imagine if we feel uncomfortable reading and seeing this injustice, how much worse is for the people living it.
I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries lately, at the moment I’m watching Kalief Browder’s story, a poor kid who at age 16 was sent to adults prison. He spent three years at Rikers Island, two of those in solitary confinement for a crime not only he didn’t do, but was never convicted for. After his release he was so scarred from all the abuse he suffered, he committed suicide.
What a week. One of the most stressful of being a teacher. New classes with a small business group, formal observation, trying a dogme lesson, my birthday I couldn’t even celebrate because of work, a conversation club on Friday evening.
I also managed to book a flight back to Cyprus for July, but whether it will materialise it’s anyone’s guess.
To cope with all the stress I’m trying to focus a day at a time and try and enjoy the present as much as possible (sometimes it’s not that possible).
So I thought for my weekly post and video to put this little activity I wrote about a while ago into a little video.
The rest of the details is on the video. Skip to 3:04 for the activity if you wan’t to go straight in.
I’m not sure if anyone other than fellow teachers would understand just how exhausted I feel today, on a Sunday after a week of 6 new courses (on top of my existing ones), using a platform that doesn’t allow pairwork or groupwork, 6 hours of pure pain, mainly just talking for the majority of the time, soul-destroying, plus invigilating and marking and lesson planning and anything else that comes up on a normal week.
But at least we are now allowed outside and I managed to go for a walk by the beach on Friday, which was awesome.
So this week’s video is mostly footage of the outside world that I almost forgot it existed! I can’t wait to go home, enjoy my summer and seriously consider if teaching is for me. 40 days to go.
Inevitably, 7 weeks under lockdown took its toll on me, I found the last few days pretty hard.
I haven’t been that productive, I felt low, sad and stressed. But that’s life. I learned to accept and go through the lows and I feel much better now.
The only reason I’m posting this, getting paranoid about getting ill, feeling low, anxious and sad is to encourage others to do share as well, mental health is as important if not more important than physical health, so there you go. This is one of my lowest moments of the last 7 weeks.
This week’s vlog was a bit late due to our little Easter break, so here’s how I spent it. Not in Vienna or Budapest or Bratislava as I originally planned but it wasn’t as bad as I thought I’d be I guess.
Catch ups with friends, lots of chocolate, pancakes, Netflix, reading, blogging, so all in all it wasn’t too bad.
Happy Easter. I was supposed to be in Vienna today with my little sister, but I spent most of the day with Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre. I was so enchanted by it, I could barely let the book down. I’m not happy about this turn of events, but I’m not miserable either. I guess I’m now more used to spending endless time by myself.
I’ve been pondering for a while about the situation we are in and how our brain copes with it.
We humans have two fundamental characteristics that are perhaps in conflict in some aspects right now. We are creatures of habit, apparently it takes 30 days to form a habit and we are also social creatures.
The lockdown put us into social isolation, yes we face time and text but we don’t hug each other, touch each other, walk together, comfort one another, so at the moment we form habits that perhaps are not healthy to have when this is all over. We socialise and interact differently don’t we?
So my question is, when this is all over, how easy will it be to go back to our previous life? Will we ever go back to whatever ‘normal’ was? Can these new habits be useful in the new normal or will this experience leave us with issues we won’t necessarily know how to deal with or fears we can’t shake off or will our innate social ‘insticts’ kick in?
I posed the very same question to my friends. Some seem to think that as soon as we are let out (which I’m sure it will happen gradually, no country will risk another wave of infections) we’ll be back to our old selves straight away.
Others think that will not be the case, which I tend to agree with. I personally believe we’ll never go back to ‘normal’ the way it was. We will initially be scared of human interaction, shopping, being outside, we might not even crave going outside, since we are now used to keeping ourselves entertained indoors, but at some point our social nature will prevail, and though initially we’ll appreciate every moment we’ll then get used to our new reality again and get close to what ‘normal’ was.
But I don’t think we’ll ever go back to how we used to live. Fear never really goes away. We’ve all been traumatised but also formed new habits, learned to live with less of everything and by we I mean the whole world, how incredible it is that the whole planet is going through the same situation all at once, so we’ll all deep inside have this experience affecting our lives for ever and we hopefully learned a few things about ourselves and our future.
But this experience is not the same for all of us, for some it’s not as challenging or even difficult.
I had a chat with my friend Claire about this, who’s been diagnosed with autism a couple of years ago and I found it incredibly fascinating how her amazing brain which is wired differently to most is coping with this. I asked her if I could send her a few questions and here it’s what she said. I’ve learned a lot from reading it and I think you will too.
1. For those who might know enough if anything about autism and it’s different aspects how would you describe it and how is it for you?
Autism is hard to explain because it is vast and complex (as is everything brain related.) Autism is a neurodevelopmental difference in the way the brain functions. You can’t see my brain functioning, but it affects nearly everything about me. My personality, my sensory experience of the world, my memory, my development, the way I communicate, how I think, how I move.
There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with autism but, because we are the minority our condition is classed as a disability. But that’s just because the social world doesn’t accommodate us yet.
2. How are you coping with lockdown?
Adapting suddenly (well, inventing from scratch) a new routine – making it intricate enough to curb the anxiety of ‘empty’ minutes – was challenging beyond words. But now I am coping very well. The social world, and it’s uncertainty and misunderstanding, is overwhelming for someone like me, and therefore I am a regular self-isolator!
It takes a lot of conscious energy to be around other people. This is partly because I have to ‘mask’ a social and communication disorder, and partly because the worry about what other people think about my ways and responses to our shared world, is draining. People people people. This is not the same as being antisocial though. I love my friends and I value people very much indeed. I’d want to be the one to help someone in a crisis and I’d be the first one to support their projects and celebrate their victories. But the rules of conversations and spontaneous social times are far from natural to me.
3. How is it different for you?
In order to socialise and communicate with a person I need there to be a very clear purpose and for the words spoken to be clear and direct. Even then, I process information and conversation much more slowly than other people because I can’t filter out environmental distractions and because I need to physically see things to understand them. I’m often tired by this (and the subsequent shame) so I need to isolate to get my energy back. This means I very often feel lonely and separated from the rest of society.
Right now EVERYONE is in isolation, and for many active, extroverted, sociable autistics, and especially the non-autistic community, they maybe feeling this type of uncertainty and separateness for the first time. People are inventing ways to stay in touch although they’re not together (like online quizzes and things) and these online social events are accessible for autistics too!
I hope these continue forever, because, it means those who struggle socially can still participate in the fun activity and not worry about the social element – therefore being less lonely.
4. What advice would you give to others? Any tips from your experience?
Generally speaking, non autistic people prioritise communicating and socialising with others, whereas, autistic people prioritise the environment, detail and solitary hobbies and projects. Non-autistic people are sort of being forced to experience the world from the perspective of an autistic person for the first time (they’re just avoiding a virus instead of the social/communication etc.) So, with that in mind, I would advise the following.
Yes… socialising and communicating are valuable to most people, I completely empathise, but when doing those things you miss so much. Now is a chance to focus in on the environment, the detail in rooms and objects, and intricate, time-consuming, all-encompassing hobbies, interests, projects, learning. Not for the purpose of working, or competing or recording, but just for pleasure.
If you think you can’t do it because you have children, let it be your project to encourage THEM to investigate the environment, the detail, the comfort of a new special interest. If you find a nice flower, look at it closer. If you see something interesting, look at it for longer than you normally would, and from all different perspectives. If you smell something lovely, savour and memorise it. If you read an interesting article, research more around it, that kind of thing.
People are starting to do it… they’re posting things about the beautiful places they live near, the weird things they’ve got in their house and they are sharing nature, art and ideas. This should become a habit beyond isolation. Look at things more intricately than you thought possible and awaken a quest for knowledge about those tiny details… then you will begin to experience an autistic-like joy. There is so much joy in the ‘little’ things – and you know … you’ve all got each other again when it’s all over.
Thank you Claire for such an informative and insightful interview!