Waste Free

The Battle to Live Sustainably with a Chronic Illness

Today’s post is a bit different, I have my lovely friend Vicki Webb writing for me (and you guys of course). We have been friends for 7 years now and through that time I have seen her at some of her lowest points as she has battle chronic illness. She is an incredibly strong person and asked if she could share her experiences of trying to manage her health while trying to help the planet too! Of course, I couldn’t say yes quick enough! Hope you enjoy it. Lottie xx

Vicki’s Thoughts

As someone who lives with a cocktail of mental and physical illnesses, I live my life in a very different way to the average human being. I tend to have a lot less energy than others and this leaves me unable to do a lot of things and having to cut corners. It particularly has an impact on how I live a sustainable life, as things that work for you may not be possible for me and many others who live with chronic illnesses.

The main thing I wanted to share through this post is the guilt that I have had to work through. Many sustainability campaigns or life hacks can be inaccessible for people like me, leaving us feeling ashamed for not being able to help the planet. The campaign against plastic straws has had an impact on many disabled people who rely on them to drink, and the sustainable alternatives don’t suit their needs. Check out a good example of this here.

When I was at sixth form, my mobility was at its worst. I had to drive the ten minute walk to school, and even across campus, because the site wasn’t accessible to me. I was aware of my carbon footprint during this time, however this was the only way I was able to finish my A Levels.

Now I’m at university, in order to balance my limited energy, I need to eat ready meals on weekdays, which produces a lot of plastic waste. The problem is if I don’t have those, I won’t be able to eat. Sometimes I’m physically incapable of cooking a home-made meal on the days where I have lectures and other commitments, which leads me to be less sustainable than I would like.

One thing that is evident from the posts on Little By Lottie is that it is important to put your wellbeing first and do what you can.

As I enter my final year at university, I plan to start batch cooking meals and freeze them in reusable containers, to eat on days I don’t have lectures. I have also found a local zero waste shop on my route to university, which will help me to reduce my waste on the days I don’t rely on Tesco for ready meals. Superdrug have recently started a medicine packet recycling scheme (check it out here) where you can send your medicine packets to be recycled, which will also help to reduce my waste.

My main point here, is that those of us who have chronic illnesses shouldn’t have to feel guilty for putting their health first. I am doing my little bits to reduce my waste, and I recycle wherever I can. People like me still need to do the things which others may deem unsustainable in order to survive. It isn’t my fault that supermarkets don’t use eco-friendly packaging on the products I need to use to cope with my day to day life, and I can work hard to be sustainable in other ways! Sustainability shouldn’t be an individual project. We should be working as a wider community to help save our planet, so that people like me who have to do ‘unsustainable’ things can do so without feeling guilty.

While our impact on the planet is vast, we also need to hold large corporations accountable for the products they produce and the way in which the products are produced. These companies have a much larger carbon footprint than I do. While, of course, our individual choices can make a huge difference, it is important for me to remember that I am still able to make sustainable choices in other ways too.

This is just a reminder that we can only do what we can. Take some time to check in with yourself during your sustainable journey and make sure you’re dealing with any feelings of guilt along the way. I sometimes have to take a deep breath and just remind myself that I am doing my best. I may seem “less sustainable” than someone else but changing certain things in my life could have a negative impact on myself. Sustainable living isn’t a race or a competition.

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