Over the past few years, 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 in 2017. Together with a friend of mine, I first switched to using only cruelty-free cosmetics. (You can read about this decision here). I then wanted to go a step further after learning more about the topic of animal testing and the industries linked with it. I started to feel as though I was 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 lots of documentaries about the effects it has on the environment. It was something I simply couldn’t ignore. So ever since, I’ve been making a conscious effort to reduce my carbon footprint and try to live a more eco-friendly and sustainable life.
Are you 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, but they’re 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 easy to use when travelling. A great way to cut down on your waste is to ditch the makeup wipes (this also includes cotton pads). Find yourself a makeup remover which can be taken off with a flannel, or eco-friendly reusable makeup remover pads. 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, and 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. Much more eco friendly!
BUY RECYCLABLE PACKAGING
This one can be a bit challenging as some companies love their plastic packaging. 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 the bottle was plastic, so instead, I went for a glass bottle. The only downside to this is that the glass bottles are usually more expensive. Also when it comes to Christmas and Birthdays, wrap your gifts in brown paper instead of ‘normal’ wrapping paper. Brown paper is recyclable, whereas most types of regular gift wrap aren’t.
COOK IN BULK
…and make good use of your freezer. I can’t tell you the number 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. Then 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 honestly believe that menstrual cups are the way forward. There are many different brands available, but I went for the OrganiCup. (Mooncup and Diva Cup are also very popular). 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 more tampons and sanitary towels. If you don’t think a menstrual cup is for you, there are brands that sell eco-friendly 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. 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 blew up in 2019 and she gained 1 million followers in the space of a couple of months. Although her stories and cleaning hacks are great – the amount of toxic chemicals and plastic bottles she uses gives me a headache.
I saw so many people doing what they call a ‘Hinch Haul’ or ‘Hinching’. Some 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. It’s much more eco friendly 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 I need a particular item of clothing washed for a certain day, I just make sure to wash it a few days beforehand.
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 a few years ago and I love it. Even though my butternut squashes didn’t want to grow, I loved being able to grow my own garden. (Yes, I’m officially an old lady). 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 make you more eco friendly, but the way in which you discard 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. Then 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 buying new clothes to buy items that will go with 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. Just 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. When you’re ready, 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 FEWER SHOWERS
Another more obvious one here, but a great way to lessen your impact on the environment, and save your pennies, is to take fewer showers. I tend to 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 bamboo one, it’s still going to last longer than plastic toothbrushes would.
BUY A REUSABLE TRAVEL MUG
Many coffee companies sell their own reusable cups. You can also receive a discount if you bring your own cup as opposed to taking one of their disposable, single-use cups. There are 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 go vegan, I’m aware that this is probably not going to happen anytime soon. Though we are heading in the right direction. It’s certainly the best choice I’ve ever made and I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. 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, start by swapping cow’s milk to soya or almond milk. Or 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. 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 eco-friendly 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 few of years ago, supermarkets in the UK started charging 5p for a plastic bag. I think this is a brilliant way of swaying people towards eco-friendly reusable bags. Many supermarkets now sell their own branded reusable Bags For Life. They can be quite bulky though, so I take a small 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 much easier when you have a friend who wears the same 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 paper is to keep all your notes and documents on your smartphone. That way they are all organised, you’re likely to always have it on you, and there’s no waste. Many banks have the option to receive paperless statements, you can also ask your employer if you can receive your payslips by email.
SWITCH IT OFF
Appliances, lights – everything! This is probably one of the easiest ways to be more eco friendly. 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. This simple change saves so much energy and therefore saves you pennies. And it also saves the paranoia of “Have I turned my straighteners off?!”.
That’s it! Let me know if you have any tips on how to be more eco friendly that aren’t on this list!
What are your best ways to go green?