The Sustainable Spring: 40 days of positive change

Following the launch of Walpole’s British Luxury Sustainability Manifesto earlier this year, Helen Brocklebank discusses why she’ll be buying less but buying better this spring – and how we as individuals can adopt small, positive changes that will contribute towards safeguarding the future of the planet.

Today Walpole is launching 40 days of positive change: we’d like everyone in the Walpole community to commit to six weeks of being more mindful when it comes to sustainable behaviour and, as individuals, adopt some small positive changes that will contribute towards safeguarding the future of the planet.

Earlier this year, Walpole launched the British luxury sustainability manifesto, a long-term project with the ambition of making the UK the global benchmark for luxury sustainability. The Sustainability Manifesto is all about British luxury brands working towards 12 important aspirations – for example, working towards 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable or widely recyclable, or a 50% absolute reduction in scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions – and Walpole members have embraced the project with both enthusiasm and passion, and there are already 47 signatories to the manifesto. Together as businesses I believe we can achieve great things, and there is also a key role for legislation and a strong regulatory framework (interesting to see what role COP26 will play in accelerating the pace of change in the UK) but there is also a clear obligation and opportunity for each of us as citizens to play our part in reducing our impact on the environment. It’s this thought that has inspired Walpole’s Sustainable Spring: We believe the actions of five thousand or so like-minded and empowered individuals within the Walpole membership can make an extraordinary difference – and I’m really excited to give it a try between now and Easter Sunday.

I’m not suggesting we should embark on a luxury version of Climate Strike, or that we meet in Whitehall for a spot of Extinction Rebellion inspired performance art (though now I’ve written it down, I’m quite tempted), what Walpole is asking for is six weeks of mindful consumption – it might be committing to using your reusable cup or water container (we all now have one) rather than inadvertently leaving it at home. It might be dissuading your dry cleaner from shrouding your clothes in yards of plastic (if I promise to pick them up on the day they’re ready, mine will comply – he also takes back all the wire coat hangers). Or it might be getting into the habit of washing your gym kit at 30 degrees inside a marine-friendly bag (washing machines are one of the worst contributors to micro-plastics in the water system). There are many small nudges and changes that together combine into something more significant – think of how disconcerting it is now to see a plastic straw being offered in a pub or restaurant.

Why 40 days? Aside from co-opting Lent into a kind of secular climate fast, most of the research seems to agree that six weeks is the right amount of time to embed a new habit – so the small initiatives and nudges you adopt between now and Easter Sunday could have a lasting (and meaningful) impact, and it also allows for some experimentation and a bit of trial and error – whilst the 100 mile diet seems like a great idea on paper, only eating food grown within a 100 miles of Mayfair may prove impractical. Rather than try as many different planet-saving things as you can for the next 40 days, I recommend really committing to one or two things, trialling a few others to see if they have habit forming potential and taking an overall approach of mindful consumption.

I’m going to try to kick my habit of sidling into Zara for a little fast-fashion pick-me-up: instead I’ve been going through my wardrobe and rediscovering some old favourites (including a dress I bought thirty years ago), and I’m investing more in fewer, better things that I hope I will still be wearing in 30 years time. I’m also reducing my carbon footprint by embracing a vegetarian diet (I love meat and hate vegetables so wish me luck). Easier to adopt – so easy I’m not even sure I could make it qualify for #40days – is using the water bottle I bought from Fortnum & Mason – it wasn’t nearly as expensive as the main brand in the reusable water bottle category and it’s about a trillion times more chic.

Between now and Easter, Walpole will be posting our suggestions for Walpole’s #40days on Instagram Stories –  and if you’d like to share what you’re doing to support #40days please Whatsapp a picture or a short phone video to Jenni Rayner on 07818523705, and we will feature it on our Instagram stories to inspire other members.

#40days of Walpole’s Sustainable Spring isn’t part of the Walpole Sustainability Manifesto, but I do hope it will inspire everyone to think carefully about the choices we all make, and by doing so, put ourselves in our customer’s shoes.

And if you need an opt-out day along the way, there is precedent; the early Church nominated the fourth Sunday of Lent as Laetare Sunday (refreshment Sunday) – a day of relief from the rigours of Lent. But my bet is that you’ll be so fired by enthusiasm for #40days, you won’t even need it.

helen.brocklebank@thewalpole.co.uk

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