A Hoarder's Quest in Sustainability: The Inconvenient Truth of Eco-Shame By Hannah Gravett

There used to be a time, a Utopia if you will, when I wouldn't bat an eyelid at picking myself up a bottle of water at lunch, I'd even wear that smug, up-yourself expression you acquire when you go for the healthy option. If I bought a few bits and bobs in Topshop, it didn't even occur to me to decline a carrier bag. Straws in drinks were essential when wearing lipstick and bi-annual plastic toothbrushes were just a Fact of Life.

But now, my life is ruined, my blissful ignorance has since departed and I'd say it's all probably aged me rather terribly, as I suspect a guilty conscience often does. Because as of recent, I am obtained a great burden. Shame.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a dig at the wider population that I'm sure spend less hours self-assessing themselves in an almost compulsive manner, that would be a pretty egotistical declaration. After all, I wish this terrible predicament hadn't fallen upon me and I wish this wasn't the case, but I can't stop dwelling about reptiles. Specifically, turtles. Poor, sad, deceased baby turtles. I don't especially wish to lower the tone to one quite so morbid but the ghosts of tiny turtle babies that already don't have the greatest fighting chance of getting from land to sea haunt me constantly.

I reach for a plastic straw with my gin and lemonade? BOOM. Tony the turtle just chocked on it four months down the line somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. An online order arrives in a shedload of bubble wrap? Yikes. Better start planning little Terrence's turtle funeral.

The guilt is inescapable and honestly quite inconvenient. As a hoarder down to my very core, I find it near impossible to resist the siren call of online shopping. This is, as I'm sure you can imagine, quite an irritating opponent to my crippling desire to be a more sustainable human. I'm like one of those self-proclaimed 'vegetarians' that 'only eats chicken'. Except I like to shout from the rooftops all about how sustainable I like to think I am (I mean I did actually ban myself from plastic bottles and bags pretty successfully, all the while using ORGANIC tampons), but my Achilles heel has, and sadly may always be, online shopping.

Not to sound like a mid-90s fashion columnist but I am, by definition, a shopaholic. I really do try to cut down... but Amazon Prime is just an astonishing phenomenon (despite the atrocity that is Jeff Bezos). To be frank, I just love the act of buying something and online shopping adds another layer to my joy. Ordering online is like sending yourself little presents; it's like Christmas, but whenever you want. And you're buying your own gifts. I like having things to look forward to, be it an obnoxiously cheap book from Amazon or an impulse-buy origami kit, in the wise words of Ariana: I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it.

Whilst I am still of course very much an evil, dirty consumer, much of the fun has, quite rightly, been stolen from me. With each parcel that lands at my doorstep, I can't avoid the ever-growing grief of wide-eyed tiny turtles. Every new delivery feels less and less like Christmas morning and instead feels more like a scene from a blockbuster where a millionaire is sent the piece of his estranged wife in an envelope until an extortionate ransom is paid, except instead of human limbs, I am collecting the metaphorical empty shells of the many fallen turtles that met their tragic end, all because I used cling-film over my leftover bolognese. The whole mental ordeal is frankly exhausting.

There is, obviously, a very simple solution to my inner turmoil that would release me of this hellish nightmare and rid me of the night sweats that are RUINING the new H&M Home sheets I ordered last week. Unfortunately, this particular solution is simply to stop buying things, or at the very least cut right back, a reality which sends shivers down my spine and makes me wonder if I should perhaps order that thick-knit wooly jumper that caught my attention on the Zara website earlier.

In all guilt-ridden seriousness, I really would like to free myself from my constant Eco-Shame. Because the truth is my shame isn't exactly irrational. According to the National History Museum, between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year and I can't help feeling responsible for my tiny percentage. Extortionate loyalty in consumerism is ingrained in me and if I actually do want to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I need to be stricter with myself.

During this period of social distancing I have found managing my addiction to shopping particularly challenging, especially with so little else to look forward to. But I want to at least try, because that's all we can really do. I hardly think I'll be able to completely deny myself an occasional online shop, especially if it can mean supporting small, independent businesses, but I can try. I truly believe that if we all make some small sacrifices, the world can become that little bit more sustainable and hopefully last that little bit longer.



Created with an image by Jcob Nasyr.