How to be environmentally responsible and to save money in your consumer habits. Since 2008 ADEVICO, a French NGO, is providing an answer to this question by conducting workshops in which participants learn to make their own cheap and environmentally-friendly products.
Basically what we do is enable people to be more environmentally-friendly AND to save money (yes it is possible), by making self-made products in small workshops using cheap and green raw/natural ingredients, while at the same time helping us to acknowledge together our current practices and how to change them.
How did we start ?
ADEVICO started from discussions between motivated people during CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) distributions which occurred each week. People there were all trying to be more responsible towards the environment but felt strongly that everything was working against them: high prices for environment-friendly labelled products, having to shop at 2-3 different shops for products to suit your needs and which are very expensive, shops forcing you to pay more for one-purpose products and, overall, no useful information on how to truly change behaviours and habits. Everywhere it was all stamped "you should" with very few "how-to".
In this context it was clear to us that merely asking people to be more responsible was more like bullying them than actually helping them out with useful stuff for their daily lives. During the discussions we had, we felt even more discouraged because from our practices we managed to actually save money by these consumption choices and change of habits, the exact opposite to what everybody around us was convinced about. How to make people then, especially people who need it the most, benefit from this change in behaviour? How to work against the dangerous cliché that organic is only for bohemian people with enough income?
What did we do?
We started very small - making several trial-and-error experiments at home, reading recipes, blogs, books, and each of us practicing separately at home the solutions that we wanted to try. We also started to share more and more of this knowledge in our weekly meetings, which eventually led to the idea that we should share our practices. A few months later, our association was born, with the concept to provide workshops to other people in order to help them put in harmony what they believe and what they are used to practicing.
How does it work?
Basically we carry out four kinds of activities :
- Free demos in meetings, fairs, ... To make our workshops known and spread the word
- Fee-paying workshops (18€/person for preparation and products)
- Free, subsidised workshops for people at risk
- A paid training for trainers (social workers, ...)
These factors enable us to be autonomous and to be able to provide a part-time job to one person (currently). The subsidised workshops are conducted in local neighborhoods and are aimed at people with lower incomes, who experience exclusion, ... Usually we contact them through our partners or by advertising in social and cultural centres.
Who do we work with?
At first, we worked without any partnership but soon people from city and regional authorities became interested in our project and we then became involved in projects subsidising free workshops for participants. Presently, we are also working in collaboration with other NGOs, social centres, social workers, unions, ....
What actually happens in a workshop?
Usually, we being the workshop with a general introduction and allow time for the group to get to know each other and feel at ease. Then, we introduce the theme of the workshop, asking everybody to share their current practices, questions/doubts and difficulties being experienced in order to adapt the workshop to the participants. Next, we propose to them several products to make, generally self-made alternatives to commonly used commercial products (detergent, toothpaste, skin creams, balms, etc.). After a short introduction, everybody practices the recipes step-by-step, with our help and guidance, so at the end each individual has an actual product they can take home and use. This end result leads to numerous discussions, people realising new possibilities, sharing their resources and knowledge, and actually gaining awareness on something that you would never get from some conventional information campaign.
Working with people at risk is also really great. While some groups are indeed difficult, mostly because of language barriers and feelings like "I'll never change this for my family at home", we're quite often able to overcome this because basically what we do is to share our lives, what we practice in our own homes... So there is some strong common ground to build respect and trust upon.
Some key ideas we use:
How to restore conviviality and keep expenses low :
- Using a set of cheap environmental products that can be easily combined
- Using basic products and making the advanced (and expensive) stuff yourself
- You have total control over the ingredients, simpler is healthier
- You find cheap recipes to efficiently replace almost everything you're currently buying
- Having the materials at home needed to make all your products
- Only by practicing real solutions in small supportive groups can you gain awareness of people while also respecting them
- Things you didn't do, nor try, you don't tell others to do
- Stop eating meat daily and you can easily switch to organic quality food
The workshops :
- Housekeeping, washing, cleaning
- Basic toiletry and personal care
- Advanced toiletry and personal care
- Food preparation for local products
- Babies and children
- Advanced cosmetics
The most interesting difficulties that were raised in groups were with activists. Basically, they are very interested in what we propose but find it unpraticeable because of the lack of time. This is one great issue : interested people thinking, however, that they don't have the time to do everything by themselves. This is something which goes further from our field of activity towards personal time management and home economy. In this field we need to work more with other partners which have experience with those issues.