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Sustainability: Alice's Story

June 01, 2022

Sustainability: Alice's Story

The Auto Trader Sustainability Network is made up of different people from across the business. Each of them is on a different sustainability journey of their own, and this series of articles gives you the chance to hear their unique story. Meet Alice Montgomery.

When did you first become aware of the need to be more sustainable?

I think for me, it was a build-up. I didn't grow up in a sustainable household; I was taught that a meal was meat and two veg. No one told me what sustainability was. It took me a long time and a few key events to figure out we need to change what we're doing.

I'm a scuba diver, and I remember the first time I witnessed a coral reef. Life was everywhere, and there really is no other place like it. The good thing about training to dive is they don't just teach you about how; they teach you about maintaining the ecosystem you've been given the privilege to explore. I remember getting a few hints about the destruction we were doing to a place that had been so impactful to me.

Funnily enough, it took me to become vegan to learn about the environmental damage I was having as a consumer. I think it was because my guard dropped; I stopped rebelling against the information which questioned my norm. This was the point I put everything together.

What interests you about sustainability?

As an individual, I love finding new ways to live more sustainably. People are so creative, and discovering our everyday staples reimagined as little wins for the planet is my favourite.

As an advocator, I love having discussions with people who may become a bit 'hardened' to the course. I think it's easy to feel attacked when it comes to literally changing our lives because of this thing that we cannot see. I enjoy changing the tone of sustainability to one of empathy and inspiration.

What was one of the first changes you made on your journey to be more sustainable?

Probably to have an actual hard critical look at my recycling. I've always recycled, but I was very blasé about it, and I think I dabbled in too much 'wish cycling'. I've started to go a bit further now; for example, I like making new candles out of the ends of my old ones (you know, the bit left at the end when the wick is gone).

What change has been the easiest?

Bringing it home. I remember being introduced to homegrown vegetables as a chef. A local allotment near my first place used to bring us freshly grown beets that were bright pink, and another taught me how to forage for wild garlic. I didn't make the sustainability connection then; if you ever want to cry about wasted food and overused plastic, go and work in a professional kitchen. Afterwards, I thought I'd have to deal with food that would never taste good, but then the sustainability world introduced me to local farmers and veg boxes! I was thrilled to discover that I could once again explore seasonal vegetables that taste great, have fewer air miles, need less fuel to produce and give back to smaller businesses. Score.

What change has been the hardest?

Becoming plastic-free. Which, admittedly, I still have not fully achieved. And that's ok! I am constantly looking out for plastic-free alternatives, and that consciousness makes a massive difference when trying to be more sustainable. I would also say that I believe sustainability should not be detrimental to your physical or mental health; if you are struggling to maintain the actions you are taking, that is not sustainable.

On the other side, I have had a lot of fun finding plastic-free alternatives for my bathroom and cleaning products. When there's a cause, people come up with many exciting ways to do their part; discovering funky new businesses that are doing things differently is my pastime.

What future changes would you like to make/are working towards?

I've binned off my car! I've not owned a car for about three years, but I cheated by letting my partner drive me around. I love the change it's having on my lifestyle. I'm getting outside more and have found a gorgeous market 40 minutes from my house, which I cannot wait to go back to. I'm getting a bike again, achieving my step count every day. Our shopping budget has decreased because we can only buy what we can carry, so our purchases have become more considered, and my partner loves telling me how much money he has now it's not being sunk into a car!

Can you recommend some simple changes that others can make?

Practice 'mindful sustainability'. Once we stop and question our habits, we can begin to do things differently. Think: can I make this journey by other means? Or where is my energy coming from? Where has this product come from, and can I find one with fewer miles made with more sustainable materials? Can I try alternative meat for this dish?

Throw away the 'all or nothing' mentality because if 7 billion left their car at home for one day a week, that's ~16 million tonnes of CO2 not contributing to climate change.