Week 10: Community

As our family efforts to #pushpastplastic run into week 10, I’m delighted to say that things are going really well. Our household waste has been slashed (still only one bin bag put out for collection in 2019 so far, down on what I would average as about four bags a month from 2018) while our recycling rate has also dropped dramatically by virtue of plastics, not just single use, being dramatically reduced, and our efforts to reuse glass containers as much as is possible (or plausible, as we do have a lot of them now). If anything, I was a bit worried about running short on material to cover for week 10, but an event in one of our nearby towns got me inspired, and thinking.

For three days, at the end of last week, the town of Nontron hosted the Festival de la chevêche. Despite asking many people, and rummaging through many a dictionary, I’m still at a bit of a loss as to what ‘chevêche’ translates to – at a guess however, I’m going to say that this was the festival of organic sustainability, because that’s pretty much what it was, and it was wonderful.

One of the things I’ve found with the #pushpastplastic programme, is the occasional feeling of loneliness. You will find plenty of people who will congratulate you, and tell you that what you are doing is inspiring them to try and do the same, but in terms of finding people who are actually doing what you are doing, well those tend to be a bit thinner on the ground. More than that though, when you go out into towns and cities, you are constantly confronted by what feels like the futility of your efforts, as mounds of plastics mount up high on pavements, casually discarded by people who seem simply not to care. It can get very demoralising very quickly, and that’s where festivals like this one come into their own.

The Festival de la chevêche provided plenty of positive things. Access to organic produce and plants is always welcome, but so is a variety of hot food stalls serving all organic meals, while serving it up on ceramic plates – no single use plastics here. Inside the main building were plenty of stalls run by organisations promoting sustainability, recycling, and management of landscapes for the benefit of wildlife first. In one corner, a workshop took place teaching people how to prepare fruit tree saplings from off-cuts, in another, a round table debate was being hosted questioning whether a green dictatorship is needed to save the planet. In the middle of it all was a workshop for repairing worn out and broken clothes – waste avoidance being the order of the day.

Above all though, the event provided a communal environment where like minded people could share in an environmental and ethically focused event – and it was packed out. All of a sudden, you could trick yourself into thinking that the majority of people shared your world view, your preoccupations and your fears. Of course, it was just a trick. For the few hundred there, there were a couple thousand more in the mega supermarkets ten minutes up the road. Yet, those few hundred are part of a changing picture – a landscape in which awareness of the issues which affect us all are at the forefront of the mind, and efforts to do something positive are something that people will commit their spare time towards, and it was great to be a part of it.

We also bumped into some new friends at the event – a young couple who live in a caravan down the road from us, who are also aiming for self-sufficiency in their life and ideals. It’s particularly exciting to find people in the 20-40 age bracket who share these goals as well as us. Hopefully having them on the doorstep will make our journey that little bit easier as well.

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