A few years ago a friend at university gave me a book. It wasn't a particularly thick book but it was a brilliant book. Created by the we are what we do organisation (they also create the I'm not a plastic bag campaign!) Change The World For A Fiver contains 50 easy actions that will make you happy and make the world better.
Over the years I've rediscovered this book again and again and it always makes me smile. There are lots of days when the news is filled with so many problems that it's easy to think there is just to much to fix, but this book reminds me that everything we do has an impact and can make a difference.
I'm determined to try all 50 actions this year but let's start with the first 10 for now (I've got all year!). So what have I already done and what have I got left to do? Here we go...
1. Decline plastic bags whenever possible
This is already an obsession for me. Normally I remember to bring old bags with me, but I have been seen walking out of supermarkets with pockets full to bursting and arms laden whilst insisting a bag isn't needed. I politely refused a bag today in fact, in Boots, and the lady gave me a big smile when I did; maybe she hates plastic bags too.
On average every person in the UK uses 134 plastic bags each year and each bag can take up to 500 years to decay. There's no sensible reason not to really.
2. Read a story with a child
This is tricky since I don't know any children locally. But I'm sure I can find someone who wants to hear a story. It's one to work on over the next few months.
Reading with children is fantastic. They learn to read and discover amazing stories, you feel warm and fuzzy and won't stop smiling for hours.
3. Fit at least one energy saving light bulb
When we moved into our flat we made sure all the bulbs were energy saving. Did you know over a bulb's lifetime an energy efficient one could save you up to £65 compared to a normal one? Then there's all the good it does for the planet too...
4. Learn basic first aid
Unfortunately I can't "do" this one this year as I already know first aid. But I can refresh my knowledge regularly.
Helping a stranger in trouble is a powerful feeling; knowing how to put your housemate in the recovery position when they suddenly collapse is ever better. Statistically you're more likely to perform first aid on someone you know than a stranger so get learning and get your friends learning too. You might need each other one day!
5. Smile and smile back
I smile a lot in the job I do. Sometimes I smile so much that I come home and my checks ache. But it's worth it.
Smiling actually releases chemicals inside you that make you feel good too. It's cheaper and safer than alcohol or drugs so give it a try. Why not smile at the next person who serves you at a till in a shop, you never know who needs a smile to cheer up their day.
6.Take public transport when you can
I think I do this most of the time. I always look at train routes before driving somewhere (sometimes it's impossible though!) and the buses around Exeter are great.
A double-decker bus carries the same number of people as 40 cars, and you can practice smiling at people or read to a child while you're travelling!
7. Plant a tree
I need to think about this one. Included on this page of the book is a packet of Scots Pine seeds so you can grow your own Christmas Tree. But we have no outdoor space so I'm not sure how big our tree would get. Maybe I should try it anyway and if it gets too big I can give it to a friend as a gift.
Each tree planted will provide oxygen for two people for the rest of their lives, that's pretty good for a tiny seed.
8. Have a bath with someone you love
I have done this in the literal sense, but being almost 6ft baths aren't always long enough for me on my own, let alone with someone else. So instead, in the same spirit, we regularly share a bath but one after another. It saves water, saves time and saves us heating two baths rather than just one.
Sharing a shower is even more water efficient because a two minute shower uses less water than a bath. So share a shower too, but make sure you don't linger...
9. If it says 30mph, do 30mph
I agree completely with this. We've all seen the advert. At 35mph you are twice as like to kill someone if you hit them than at 30mph. Also, it's the law. I can't complain about people breaking environmental laws (that I care about) if I ignore other laws myself.
10. Turn your thermostat down by 1 degree
I don't have a thermostat as all our heating comes from electric radiators in each room of our flat. But in most of the rooms we don't have the heating on at all. In the living room we only have it on when it's essential; and when we're already covered in woolly jumpers. But maybe it's time to turn it to 5 rather 6 six when we do have it on.
If you do have a thermostat and you turn it down a degree you can save about £25 a year. What else could you spend that on...
So it's looking pretty good for the first ten, I need to find a child to read with and plant a tree. Both of those sound quite exciting. How many of these do you do regularly? Are there any that have slipped off your done list? We'll see how the nest ten look in the not to distant future. For now, I'm off to find some soil.