I've never been much of a city person. I can find it very over-stimulating. Everything is so fast - fast food, fast fashion even fast people hurrying between destinations with a harried look that seems permanently etched on their faces. Cites also tend not to be set up for sustainable choices. Promoting convenient and cheap products in many of the leading brands, from fast fashion £4 t-shirts to the take-away that invariably involves an obscene amount of plastic, this can lead consumers into making environmentally detrimental choices. But you can practise sustainability in cities. You just need to know where to look. Hidden in away from the glaring brand signs that monopolise the high-street of seemingly every city, there are gems that more in line with my values. So, follow me as I visit my favourite places in Inverness - a city at the heart of the Scottish Highlands.
One of the key aspects of sustainability is preparation. I've learnt this the hard way when I've suffered what I feel is extreme dehydration (which in fact is probably classified as a mild thirst) trekking between shops yet refusing to buy a plastic water bottle. This is no fun. So, I always bring my essential reusable's with me including a water bottle, coffee mug and tote bags. I'm all set.
I have always loved charity shops. I was introduced to these from a young age as we had many a family outing wandering around our favourite vintage stores. This is a fantastic way to be sustainable as you are giving these items a new life and supporting charity to boot. Adding a little feel-good factor to your day. Inverness has a great selection of charity shops so these are often my first stops. It can be challenging shopping. You need to be willing to dig and often use your imagination to bring some life to these somewhat tired looking items. This day I was lucky. I found man's shirt in prime condition that just oozed cosy vibes. It was only £4.50, quite a bargain. And it just shows you shouldn't be restricted to shopping within your gender. I often find some of my favourite clothing in the men's section. I also take the time to visit one of my favourite all time stores, Leakys, a second-hand book shop. This shop is rich with character with its spiral staircase and towering book-shelves. It has a sense of magic about it as stories are waiting to be read. Almost a feel of Harry Potter. I could spend days in there...
Once all the charity shops have been thoroughly searched, I head to my favourite local independent stores. These businesses really need our support, especially with the world being the state it is. I often find that items from the larger brands often blend in together. Nothing feels unique. I like items with a story, especially clothing, so I visit my favourite fair-trade shop that's just bursting interesting items. I greet the familiar shop-owner, letting her know that I am glad to see her open again, and browse these treasures, coming away with my traditional incense on this occasion. Its not much, but her smile let me know it meant the world.
Lets talk about food. I have to admit, currently most of my food comes from the supermarket. It is something I would like to move away from at some point, which will be helped when I can grow more of my own food. For now, I supplement this supermarket shopping with products from our local heath food shops. I have to go in with a list or else I'll get carried away. Its just heaven, especially for a vegan. So many interesting products, many of which I can actually eat! There is a such a charm to the health food shop in the city centre. With rickety steps, squeaky floorboards and a blend of aromatic smells, its a potent experience and gives me a sense of going back in time. It feels like its sat on this corner of Inverness forever, stubbornly staying put as larger more garish brands colonise its home. But locals appreciate it. Its also a busy wee place, for which I'm so glad.
As I walk through the city, I see nature everywhere. We are lucky that Inverness is a wonderfully green city. Being perched on the river and having Ness islands, which has been left as a forested refuge, just a stroll from the city centre, it has perhaps more nature than is common in larger urban environments. This makes sense, being based in the heart of the Highlands, which has some of the richest wildlife in the country. Nature can't help but seep in. I like to appreciate the common, overlooked and sometimes unfairly villainized city wildlife. Gulls, for instance, fascinate me. Their confidence, or perhaps arrogance, amuses me greatly as they strut around the city. Having adapted to urban living, they seem fully confident in this environment. Of course, not everyone takes pleasure from their presence. Signs are plastered through the city streets telling you not to feed them. One of my favourite stories is about my dad, who is often very belligerent in following rules. However, he has been known to subtly drop food from his stuffed pockets followed by a brisk walk in the opposite direction as the gulls relish in this snack. I think I know where I get this unapologetic adoration of animals from...
I end my day in my favourite café, 'Blend Tea and Coffee Merchants'. Another hidden gem, its a cosy little spot full of all the teas you could imagine and ever-delicious homemade cakes. Its quieter than usual on this day, another business perhaps feeling the weight of the world's problems. I decide to sit in and snag my favourite table by the window so that I can gaze out at the pigeons pottering along the streets. I order a pot of their delicious loose leaf tea and scribble away quite content. Cafes are a great source of inspiration for me.
Feeling somewhat weary, yet satisfied I leave this little city and return to my caravan to share my spoils with my cat. I may never be a 'city person' but Inverness, like much of the Highlands, has stolen my heart. I'm eager to continue unlocking this city's secrets as it becomes part of my sustainable journey.