Eco-friendly living, with a disability

‘Everyone wants to be eco-friendly, but for people living with a disability, it’s not always easy. Certain items that may make it possible for you to live your life independently aren’t always environmentally friendly. You should not ever feel guilty about using products that help you.’

Rolling without limits gives some suggestions for incorporating eco-friendly habits into your life without affecting how you live with your disability.  One idea is for people who use a wheelchair and have a dropped threshold. A raised threshold helps prevent drafts entering the home. Take this away and what can you do to keep your home warm, thus reducing heating costs? They suggest using a fabric door snake – which you can buy or even make yourself. Simple things.

Sam Little is a green enthusiast with disabilities. She builds eco-friendliness into her life even though it can be a less accessible option given her disability.  She passes on some tips such as using a rucksack, rather than plastic bags. Using a rucksack also enables hands to be left free to cope with walking sticks and similar. I can confirm that this is a great help. I cannot manage a hand bag nor even a shoulder bag, but a rucksack works a treat. I find reusable bags are heavier than plastic ones and that added weight makes it more difficult for me to carry things. The rucksack distributes the weight in a way that I can manage.

She tells us that the technology is out there for rechargeable hearing aids, though she says that currently they are more expensive than single use battery powered ones.

An advert for reusable incontinence pads informs us that a maxi pack of disposable pads contains the same amount of plastic as five plastic bags. Washable, reusable incontinence pads and pants and also washable bed pads are now available.

So there are slowly becoming more eco-friendly items/life style changes that people with disabilities can choose. However, some things cannot be changed and will still be needed to enable us to live independently. Medical equipment is essential and can involve single use items such as plastic tubing. No-one would advocate that you stopped using this on grounds of ‘it’s not eco’, would they? Yet someone who uses a disposable plate to be able to manage independently without support may feel great guilt over this. I use a dishwasher as I am unable to stand in one place for any length of time without my back hurting. I have mixed feelings – I know I need it but I also know it is not the best.

How about someone with difficulty using their hands who buys prepared vegetables such as peeled potatoes or chopped carrots that come in plastic bags? The trade-off is between being able to cook for themselves with plastic use or needing a carer for support with meals. How do you manage that guilt? Especially in the face of the urgent drive towards eco-friendly living in light of the current crisis we face.

I am hearing a term that is new to me which might explain why we may feel so much guilt – eco-ableism. People who are environment activists may in their enthusiasm advocate for measures we should all take without realising that these changes are not possible for all people. We need to remember that one-size doesn’t fit all, and this applies to environmental change as much anywhere else.

‘Climate change does not discriminate – everyone will be affected which is why it is important all of us take action in whatever way we can.’

Ally Bruener tells that she saw a woman on YouTube who fit a years’ worth of waste into a mason jar, ‘but neither my health nor support network will allow me the option of living to that extreme. We need to apply empathy to the expectations we have of one another and not let our arrogance taint the joint venture of a stabilised planet.

‘While innovation will continue to expand new routes towards greener living, it’s important to realise some people carry heftier waste baskets through life via no fault of their own.’

Wise words – we need to take everyone with us on this journey, making sure we support people to achieve what they can, and avoiding alienating people, thus leaving them behind on the wayside.

Written by Portland Jones, Disability Liaison for Pagan Federation Midlands