Over the past year I’ve been growing more concerned about my carbon footprint and the effect my lifestyle and daily choices are having on the environment. Climate change is a hot topic right now, and with so many people consciously making more eco-friendly choices, a lot of companies are also following suit.
My journey towards a more eco-friendly and sustainable existence started last year. Together with a friend of mine, I switched to using only cruelty free cosmetics. You can read about this decision here. A few months after that, I felt that I wanted to go a step further as I was learning more and more about the topic of animal testing and the industries linked with it. I started to feel as though I was a bit of a hypocrite as I was refusing to purchase cosmetics which had been tested on animals, but I was still eating meat and dairy at the time. A few months later, around September 2017, I decided to cut out meat and fish from my diet entirely. I had been a vegetarian in my teens, so this wasn’t hard for me to stick to whatsoever. In fact, I’d never felt better. My husband then decided to cut out meat and fish as well and let me tell you – I was shook. I never thought in a million years he would ever give up seafood particularly, let alone become a vegetarian. Then in April 2018, we both made the decision to go vegan and have never looked back. When I was researching about veganism I was watching a lot of documentaries about the effects it has on the environment, and it was something I simply couldn’t ignore, so ever since then I’ve been making a conscious effort to reduce my carbon footprint and try to live a more eco friendly and sustainable life.
If you’re looking to make more eco-friendly and sustainable changes to your life but aren’t sure where to start, here are some things you can do to make a difference.
DITCH THE MAKEUP WIPES
We are all aware of how awful makeup wipes are. Not only are they bad for the environment, they are also terrible at taking makeup off and most of them irritate the skin. The only argument that could be made in favour of them is that they are good when travelling, but that’s about it. A great way to cut down on your waste is to ditch the makeup wipes (this also includes cotton pads), and find yourself a makeup remover which can be taken off with a flannel. My absolute favourite is the Sumptuous Camomile Cleansing Butter from The Body Shop (£10). It’s so gentle on the skin, a little goes a long way, it’s vegan and cruelty free, it comes in a recyclable tin, and it involves zero waste. Unless it’s ever discontinued I will never buy a different makeup remover ever again.
GET RID OF KITCHEN TOWEL
It recently occurred to me how much kitchen towel I was going through on a regular basis. I hated how much of it I was throwing away, so I bought some washable cloths which are now the only thing I use for cleaning. They don’t need to be anything fancy – mine were £1 in The Range for a pack of 4.
BUY RECYCLABLE PACKAGING
This one can be a bit challenging as some companies love their plastic packaging, but it does mean you need to be switched on when doing your weekly shop. This one occurred to me the other day when I was shopping for Olive Oil. I picked up a bottle of oil that we’d had before, but it bothered me that it was a plastic bottle, so I put it back and reached for one in a glass bottle. The only downside to this is that the glass bottles are usually more expensive. Also when it comes to Christmas and Birthday’s, opt to wrap your gifts in brown paper instead of ‘normal’ wrapping paper. Brown paper is recyclable, whereas most types of regular gift wrap isn’t.
COOK IN BULK
…and make good use of your freezer. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve let food go to waste because I’d accidentally cooked too much and wasn’t able to eat it in one sitting. (Luckily my husband is a human hoover so that doesn’t happen too often now!). Whenever I’m cooking a curry or a bolognese I’ll purposefully make more than one serving, so I can either leave it for lunch the following day, or freeze it to have at a later date. This is especially good if you don’t compost or recycle your food, but in Somerset we have a food waste collection every week so all of the food we do waste gets recycled.
HAVE A PLASTIC FREE PERIOD
I’m sure I’ve read before that every single plastic tampon applicator that’s ever been made is still on this planet – how disgusting is that!? I’ve been wanting to try a menstrual cup for a while now after a friend of mine recommended it, and I actually just ordered one yesterday. There are many different brands available, but I went for the OrganiCup. (Mooncup and Diva Cup are also very popular). Not gonna lie, I’m a little bit frightened of it getting stuck, but I’ve been assured that it’s fine after you get used to it! Not only do you save the planet from harbouring all your tampon applicators, but think of how much money you’ll save not having to buy tampons and sanitary towels any more. But if you don’t think a menstrual cup is for you, there are brands out there that sell organic tampons and reusable sanitary towels – Time of the Month is a good brand.
WALK – DON’T DRIVE
This seems like a fairly obvious one, but if you live in an area where you can easily access somewhere on foot, there’s no excuse to get in the car. Unless it’s an emergency. Then you can drive.
MAKE YOUR OWN CLEANING PRODUCTS
Many of you will probably be aware of a cleaning enthusiast on Instagram called Mrs Hinch. Her account completely blew up this year and she gained 1 million followers in the space of a couple of months. Her account was dedicated to her infectious love of cleaning, and although her stories and cleaning hacks are great – the amount of toxic chemicals and plastic bottles she is using gives me a headache. I was seeing so many people doing what they call a ‘Hinch Haul’ or ‘Hinching’ and buying hundred’s of pounds worth of cleaning products at once. While I do love a nice cleaning product once in a while (I love cruelty free ones like Method, Zoflora, and Astonish), I do believe that there’s not a lot you can’t clean with some lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, and water. There are plenty of recipes online to make your own natural cleaning sprays which will save the planet and save you money.
GET A WASHING LINE OR DRYING RACK
I probably sound like a complete sadact here – but how exciting is it when the weather is finally warm enough to dry your washing outside on the line?! A tumble dryer is probably seen as a luxury in most households today, we don’t have one and to be perfectly honest – we don’t need one. I dry all our washing outside in the warmer months, and we have a big drying rack for inside. If one of us needs a particular item of clothing washed for a certain day, I just make sure to wash it a couple of days beforehand so it has time to dry.
GROW YOUR OWN
This one does depend somewhat on how much space you have, but everyone has a windowsill so why not try growing your own herbs? We had a vegetable patch installed in our garden earlier this year, and even though my butternut squash’s didn’t want to grow, I loved being able to grow my own garden. (Yes, I’m officially an old lady). I think I’ll try tomatoes next year. Alternatively, you can always visit a pick-your-own place when you’re shopping for fruit. They’re cheaper, they taste better, and they’re local. Plus you can adopt the ‘one-for-me, one-for-the-basket’ rule…
Ok so decluttering in itself won’t necessarily help you be more eco-friendly, but the way in which you discard all your things can be. Instead of just throwing things away you could donate them to a charity shop, sell them online, give them to a friend or family member, or recycle them. Try not to throw anything in the bin.
INVEST IN GOOD QUALITY CLOTHING
This means no fast fashion! It’s so easy to get caught up with the latest trends and offers and before you know it you’ve been suckered into buying dozens of items that you really don’t need. Once you’ve decluttered your wardrobe, make the most out of all the clothes you do have, and when it comes to replacing them try to invest in better quality items that will last much longer. I also try to be more mindful when I’m buying new clothes to try and buy items that will go with a lot of the other things I already own.
MAKE YOUR OWN BEAUTY PRODUCTS
Or try to be mindful of the amount of chemicals and artificial ingredients in the products you buy. My friend Hannah told me how to make a Rosemary Water hair rinse and I absolutely love it. All you do is simmer a few sprigs of fresh Rosemary in a pan of water until they go soft and brown, then remove the rosemary and let the water cool, then pour the water over your hair after you’ve finished washing it. It smells amazing and it makes your hair really shiny and soft.
TAKE LESS SHOWERS
Another more obvious one here, but a great way to lesson your impact on the environment, and save your pennies, is to take less showers. I tend to shower and wash my hair every other night, but I could certainly improve by spending less time in the shower, and by turning the temperature down a bit. You could always save water by showering with someone else…
SWITCH TO A BAMBOO TOOTHBRUSH
Admittedly, I don’t have a bamboo toothbrush. I’m pretty terrified at the thought of doing to the dentist, so I have an electric toothbrush. While this isn’t as eco-friendly as a recyclable bamboo one is, it’s still going to last me much longer than disposable plastic toothbrushes would, therefore still cutting down on my plastic waste.
BUY A REUSABLE TRAVEL MUG
Many coffee companies sell their own reusable cups, as well as offering a discount if you bring your own cup as opposed to taking one of their disposable, single use cups. There are so many different types of reusable cup out there, but one brand I do want to try is KeepCup.
CONSUME LESS MEAT & DAIRY PRODUCTS
While I’d absolutely love for everyone to choose to go vegan, and even though we are heading in the right direction, I’m fully aware that this is probably not going to happen anytime soon. It’s certainly the best choice I’ve ever made, and I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner, but if you don’t want to go completely vegan there are still ways you can help the environment. The meat and dairy industries are one of the biggest contributors to pollution, greenhouse gases, and deforestation. This has always been kept very quiet in the media because a lot of companies would likely go out of business if it were widely reported. One of the best ways to cut down your carbon footprint is to consume less meat and dairy products. If you feel that going vegan is too big a step, simply start by swapping your cow’s milk to soya or almond milk, switch from meat to Quorn a few times a week, and try a dairy-free spread instead of butter. (Flora make a brilliant one which tastes exactly the same as the dairy version). You can find an alternative for pretty much anything, and once you’ve made a few changes you’ll find it much easier to continue choosing more vegetarian and vegan alternatives. Remember, doing something is better than doing nothing.
DITCH PLASTIC STRAWS
There are so many different kinds of reusable straws – metal, paper, bamboo, etc so there’s really no excuse to still be buying those hideous disposable plastic straws.
BYOB (BRING YOUR OWN BAGS)
As of a couple of years ago, supermarkets in the UK started charging 5p for a plastic bag which I think is a brilliant way of swaying people towards reusable bags. Many supermarkets now sell their own branded reusable Bags For Life, but they can be quite bulky so I tend to take a fold up canvas bag with me in my handbag everywhere I go. Many retailers have now switched to paper bags which are recyclable, but it’s still better to bring your own.
HAVE YOUR FOOD SHOP DELIVERED
This cuts down on car emissions, and means you can do your food shop in your pyjamas. Win win. You’re also more likely to save money by not impulse buying at the supermarket.
SHOP SECOND HAND
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m terrible at charity shop shopping. I have zero patience when it comes to browsing and I tend to feel very uninspired easily. My friend runs a charity shop and often tells me when something comes into her shop that she thinks I’ll like, and I always feel much better doing that than buying new. Shopping second hand doesn’t necessarily have to be charity shops or car-boot sales though, there are many online places where you can buy second hand – eBay, Depop, and there are also loads of local buy-and-sell pages on Facebook. We actually got both of our sofas second hand when we moved in.
BORROW, DON’T BUY
Granted, when it comes to clothes this is a lot easier when you have a friend who wears the same clothes and shoe size as you, but it can apply to absolutely anything. If there is something you need, be it a dress for a wedding, an appliance, a book, or a piece of equipment – see if someone you know has what you need before you go out and buy a brand new one.
I actually can’t remember the last time I used a notebook. A great way of cutting down on the paper you use is to keep all your notes and documents on your smartphone. That way they are all organised, you’re likely to have it on you a lot of the time, and theres no waste. Many banks have the option to receive paperless statements, you can also ask your employer if you can opt to receive your payslips by email instead of the paper ones.
SWITCH IT OFF
Appliances, lights – everything! Now if you’re just popping out into the kitchen to grab a drink during an ad break, then you don’t need to turn everything off when you’re only going to be out of the room for 30 seconds. But when you’re finished in a particular room, or using a certain appliance, make sure you switch it off at the plug – it saves so much energy and therefore saves you pennies. And it saves the paranoia of “Have I turned my straighteners off?!”.
That’s it! Let me know if you have any tips that aren’t on this list!
What are your best ways to go green?