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I was a teenager when I first became aware of the need to protect our environment, and if you’d asked me then I would have said that after a terrible century the tide was finally turning in favour of the green movement. By 2017 we’d be driving solar-powered cars, the seas would be teeming with humpback whales and the only oil in our homes would be for making stir fry. How wrong I was, with my naive dreams of a windmill outside Pier Road car park.
Almost 15 years have passed since Michael Jackson released Earth Song, and still, we refuse to heed its simple message of respecting the planet, earning the trust of elephants and the idea that MJ might be the second coming of Jesus. The problem has got worse, as MJ has seemingly returned to space and the effects of our reckless consumption are being felt from the smog of Beijing to the droughts of California. Perhaps where Michael went wrong is that his message was too global, too universal, and out of reach for people who just need to start by making a difference in their everyday lives. We need to save the earth, but maybe the best place to start is with ourselves – we need to look at the man in the mirror, and ask him to make a change. If that man in the mirror is you, here are some easily achievable ways you can put yourself on the right path with the planet – perhaps eventually to get those elephants to start taking your calls.
Recyclopathic tendencies: charity shopper
The biggest way you can make a difference to the environment is in changing your patterns of consumption. In simple terms that means buy less stuff, especially new stuff, and make the stuff that somebody has already bought go a bit further. You can learn to repair your clothes by darning socks and patching things with holes in them, for that ‘eighties maths teacher’ vibe. Don’t buy the latest smartphone, proudly use a Nokia. Dump Xbox One for a Super Nintendo, and buy your books, clothes, DVDs and medicine exclusively from Jersey’s massive selection of charity shops. This will mean that you save stacks of money through an entertainment programme made up of the lesser films of Adam Sandler, but also that you will be functionally indistinguishable from a hip art student who’s returned to the island from Brighton. That’s not a problem if you’re in your 20s and like the idea of dating a gender fluid sculptor called “Fox Vortex”, but will be a bit harder to pull off if you work in finance and turn up to the golf course dressed like a broke Russell Brand. Stick with it, because Fox Vortex can do things with a chisel that you wouldn’t believe.
Eat local, buy local: mainly vegetables
When you start reducing your footprint through buying everything at charity shops, you’ll soon accumulate large collections of last year’s fashionable cookbooks. This is fine, as the only difference from this year’s fashionable cookbooks is that the celebrity chefs will have had a little more botox, and you can recreate this effect by rubbing warm lard into the Helmsley sisters. There will always be piles of surplus miracle diets, and those are only worth buying to burn as fuel because the secret to losing weight and saving money boils down to exactly one piece of sensible advice: eat mostly grains and vegetables, and ideally those grown in the parish of St Ouen. You don’t need to juice them or eat them raw either, just cook them in basic recipes (with cream and butter if you want them to taste better) and serve yourself smaller portions. Not complex, and you can live well on about £20 of food a week. £20? I heard that sharp intake of breath. Yes, £20, even in Jersey, because the answer to supplementing your diet is to understand that, with the exception of fresh meat and dairy, sell-by dates are a conspiracy maaaan – so you can save loads by transforming into one of those people who hang out at the supermarket an hour before closing time. You may have a week eating marked-down Muller-rice for every meal, but it will cost you about 50p a day and you’re saving all the fuel needed to ship you something that doesn’t taste like wallpaper glue.
Make love to the land
Well, not literally, but it is worth considering how problems with the global environment are just an extension of bad decisions we make in our own back garden. Most of us work out Jersey is very small by the time we’re old enough to ride our BMX further than the next parish, and it should be obvious that we don’t have infinite space to bury our rubbish. We clearly don’t have any fresh water beyond what falls out of the sky, our roads aren’t going to get any bigger and anything we dump into the streams will end up coming out of our taps or floating around in the beaches we all love so much. Given how obvious this is, you’d think we’d all be natural environmentalists, applying the life lessons from a tiny home to the problems of the entire world. Anybody who’s seen the 8AM traffic can tell you that we fall well short of being an island of eco-warriors, and the soggy green carpet covering St Aubin’s Bay is evidence of our inability to respect our water supplies. But – the change can start with you. Any time you think about binning an object without recycling it, think of that mountain of waste at La Collette, and every time you wash something away try and consider whether you’ll be okay drinking its residue in a few years. I’m not suggesting that anybody form a band of masked vigilantes to deal with dog poop and fly tipping, but I promise I’ll look the other way if you do.
Don’t go anywhere unless you can get there on foot
Carbon-neutral personal transport is a pipe dream for most places, but in Jersey it really is possible. Any able-bodied adult could technically cycle or walk to work – even if they live in L’Etacq and work in Gorey, and doing that every day would save you time and money from going to the gym. If you’re pining for arm day just do your bike commute carrying a couple of bags of (eco-friendly) cement. The wonders of the internet mean you don’t actually need to leave the house at all if you don’t feel like it, although you musn’t cheat and get all your shopping delivered by a stinky big diesel van. Use your environmental conscience as an excuse to skip useless social engagements and family gatherings, and you’ll further reduce your footprint by not needing to buy birthday presents because you’ve become a bearded shut-in. You won’t wear shoes, will read only third-hand paperbacks and eat Muller-rice in a hovel decorated with old pictures of Nigella, warmed by a pile of animal skins harvested from irresponsible Chihuahuas and their owners. I guarantee that if you pursue this policy for a year, you’ll save enough carbon to enjoy a relatively guilt-free flight to the exotic paradise known as Alderney. Michael Jackson might even collect you from the airport.