I’m going to be honest here: lately I’ve been feeling rather guilty. It’s 2021, the planet is in crisis, and a Swedish schoolgirl has done more for the environment than I have in 22 years.
Until now I have been relatively conscientious of my impact on this world, but in my heart of hearts I know I can do much better. So, I’ve decided now is the time to make an effort. In the week leading up to the break I ensured that my days were spent in as healthy a way as possible for both myself and the planet.
Spoiler alert, it was a great week (and then the break came and I got lazy).
I decided to ease into the first day with some fresh fruit and a muesli bar for breakfast. This type of diet is standard for me, but breakfast is something I would normally skip. I noticed an increase in mental alertness that was almost surprising, and merrily set about packing lunch for my day at uni. Packing lunch at home, rather than buying something, would turn out to be a key move in every way. If you’re not in the habit of doing so, why not give it a go?
On Monday I brought a Tupperware container of the previous night’s leftovers: egg and spinach quiche. And since I’ve been caught out in the past, I made sure to bring cutlery as well.
Our bags and lunches packed, my wife and I carpooled to uni. Normally we make our separate ways in since we have class at different times, but in keeping with the spirit of things we decided to go together to save time and emissions. Also, yes, I’m married, but never fear. We’re both poor students in our early 20s so this should all be pretty relatable. Uni on Monday was great. Since I was there much earlier than usual I got a full morning’s study in before going to class fresh and full of delicious quiche.
For dinner we decided to keep the meat-free theme going and made the most wonderful pesto pasta. Normally we make it with chicken, but it was just as good with extra broccoli and tomato.
Tuesday is my day shift at the bar, and to be honest, it was a bit of a challenge coming up with healthy and environmentally friendly choices throughout the day. But I did manage to make a few small ones, and small is better than none at all.
For starters, I parked much further away than I usually would. I got some light exercise on the walk, and I didn’t have to pay for a parking ticket. Once again I packed lunch to prevent myself from buying unhealthy food and unnecessary plastic waste, going with the trusty old apple and muesli bar combo. At the end of my shift I decided to skip the free staff beer, which is a big deal for me, and enjoyed the walk back to the car.
Driving home I listened to a podcast about writing and publishing, rather than my standard true crime fare, as a healthy mental choice.
Wednesday morning my wife and I decided on something very out of the ordinary. We woke up an hour early and kicked a ball down at the park. I don’t know how it’s possible, but you gain energy from spending energy.
After heading home for a breakfast of yoghurt and fruit salad, we packed our pesto pasta leftovers and carpooled again to Callaghan. Wednesdays are full for me class-wise, and on the average one I run out of steam and have to buy a coffee and a snack between tutorials.
But today I was brimming with energy. I found a quiet spot, pulled out my pesto and the reading for my next class, and went to town. I also remembered to bring a fork, which is good for me.
By the end of the week, I felt great. I’d saved real money, was more productive and active, I felt more alert and mentally sharp, and I was more sober.
Thursday mornings I have a class at NUspace. Rather than my standard ‘get-up-as-late-as-possible-and-drive’ technique I decided to park at Callaghan and embrace the university shuttle. It did mean getting up a tad earlier than I’m used to, but I’ve come to learn that that’s a good thing.
The shuttle is an excellent service, and well worth looking into even if you don’t like buses. They’re free, regular, clean, and consistently on time. And they’re hybrid buses, so you can ride to class knowing it’s better for the environment than other alternatives. A selfish reason that I like the shuttle service: hybrid vehicles are really, really quiet.
When my wife finished class, we carpooled home and decided to do our grocery shopping. We live in Wallsend, so we figured we could catch a bus to Glendale and back with our groceries no problem. I’ve never been much of a bus person, so it was an adventure for me. I felt like an eco-warrior riding into environmental battle with a fistful of green bags.
While shopping, we chose plastic and meat-free options wherever possible. We discovered you can buy reusable and washable mesh bags, which means we’ll never have to use those tiny annoying plastic ones for our fruit and veg again as well as Beeswax wraps to use on leftovers instead of glad wrap. And, while we were at it, we bought a few seed packets to throw in the garden at home. We chose things that we eat a lot of; spinach, basil, lettuce, tomatoes, and snow peas. When we paid for our groceries we were pleased to see that, because we didn’t buy meat, the cost was less than usual.
Then it was back on the bus and home for dinner. We had to use up some chicken, so Thursday wasn’t entirely meat free, but it was still a healthy day for the planet and I.
Friday began with another sweat session at the park and more yoghurt fruit salad. I’ve got to say, chopping your fruit and having it ready in refrigerated containers makes it so easy to pull out and pour yoghurt over. There’s no hassle in a delicious pre-made snack like that.
Then, since I am now in love with the bus, I caught one into Callaghan. I didn’t have class on but I thought it would be nice to be out and about in the sunshine and get some work done on campus. My lunch from home was a banana and a can of tuna, but this time I forgot to bring a fork.
By the end of the week, I felt great. I’d saved real money, was more productive and active, I felt more alert and mentally sharp, and I was more sober. I’d planted seeds (literally and metaphorically) that would go on to become good habits. Sure, over the break I’ve been slack. You can’t be too healthy on a long weekend. But now that the semester is back on track, so am I.
Our little garden is set to flourish, and I’m committing to the bus and at least two meat-free days a week. Small changes like these can have a big impact. What changes can you make?
Feature image by Sylvie Tittel via Unsplash