Small steps towards a greener life

Hi, how are you doing? It’s been a while. You’re looking GREAT.

I’ve been a bit MIA on the blogging front; I’d love to say I’ve been off speaking at global warming conferences but I’ve actually just been trying to sort a few things out — mainly my skin and career… I’m not where I want to be yet but it’s all about the small steps!

Speaking of small steps, they’re also important in the journey to better protecting our planet. In light of Greta Thunberg’s recent UN speech, and the Extinction Rebellion protests currently underway in London, I thought I’d share the steps I’ve been taking in order to do my bit for the environment. I’m not preaching that I’m the perfect eco-warrior; not all of us are able to drop everything and live completely waste and emission-free, but if we could all make slight adjustments to our day-to-day lives, we might be able to make good progress.

Special shout-out to my Mum for this post; she was nature-loving and eco-friendly long before I was!

Friendlier lifestyle:

Know your waste – What you can recycle depends on the local facilities in your area. I’ve been using this page of the recyclenow website to get clued up on which household items I can dispose of in my council bins and where to take the items I can’t (such as batteries, old computer parts, building materials etc).

Charity/shelter shops – I’ve been buying from and donating to charity shops for years. I’ve always loved the sense of discovery involved, and who doesn’t like a bargain hunt for a good cause? Recycling isn’t just for paper and plastics; if you’re doing a Marie Kondo-style clear-out, consider the items that are still in good condition because charity shops and shelters will gladly take donations of clothes, toys, furniture and books etc. One person’s trash is another’s treasure and all that.

Charity shop clothes
Some of the charity shop items hanging up in my wardrobe.

Drink tap water (when it’s safe to do so) – In the first episode of BBC programme War on Plastic, (which aired in June this year), it was discovered that there were virtually no health benefits for drinking bottled water over tap water. Additionally, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall carried out a marketing experiment in London where he disguised tap water as a new bottled brand, and most people who said they avoided tap water because of its taste declared they liked the taste of this one! So there you go. No need for buying endless plastic water bottles, even if they can be recycled. You can always ask for tap water refills when you’re out and about. I’ve recently discovered the Refill app, which tells you where your nearest tap water refill stations are! Read more about Refill here.

Consume less meat, fish & dairy – Aside from any ethical arguments; it’s been common knowledge for a while now that the livestock industry is one of the biggest contributors to global climate change, and fishing techniques used in the seafood industry such as trawling can have equally damaging effects on marine life. I’m not saying let’s all become immediate vegans — I haven’t stopped eating meat, but when I went veggie for a month for chaity last November I realised I didn’t need or want meat as much as I did previously. I rarely eat meat for breakfast and lunch any more and I also try to have vegetarian dinners at least three days out of seven. There are so many different meat and dairy alternatives available now anyway,  so we could all be capable of cutting down on our consumption of meat, fish and dairy and considering more responsibly-sourced ingredients. Don’t think of it as a diet. You can take it from me that eating Quorn nuggets feels just as much a treat as eating normal nuggets!

Some of my easy-to-make veggie meals.

Let loose – I try to buy loose fruit and veg wherever I can. Annoyingly this can work out more expensive in supermarkets but if you can afford it, do it. It’s also worth going to markets or farm shops and supporting local businesses. My nearest farm shop is striving towards plastic-free packaging, and they even have their own re-fill dispensers now for laundry liquids, rice and seeds etc!

Stanhill pumpkins
My local pick-your-own field. This was the pumpkin patch last year, basking in the weird October heat.

Snacks & meal prep – How many times have you gone out to buy lunch in the past week? How many of those lunches came in non-recyclable containers? Appreciated, sometimes you just won’t have time to plan your meals or make things in bulk but when you can, not only will you be saving on plastic waste and money, you’ll probably be healthier for it! I find it far easier to make veggie lunches in bulk because there’s no meat prep to be done and less washing-up.

No receipt, please – Unless you really need a paper receipt, why get one at all? Most high street retailers are turning to e-receipts, so opt for these instead of hard copies. They’ll probably be easier to find if you do need to return something! Also, some receipts are made from thermal paper and coated in BPA, which in large amounts is toxic to us and the environment. It’s not possible to tell which receipts are BPA-coated, (unless you own a science lab), so in this case it’s best to avoid possible toxins being recycled by not recycling at all.

Paperless statements – You can’t recycle shredded paper, so contact your bank and ask them to send you online statements instead, (if this option is available to you). The process might be a faff but it will be worth it! How many statements have I pointlessly filed away this month? None!

Grow up (and outwards) – If you have a garden, plant seeds to encourage growth and wildlife. You don’t need to have the skills of Capability Brown to make it look pretty — the plants and flowers will do that for you! You could also grow your own fruit and veg and transport it to your kitchen plastic-free.

Garden
Unfortunately I take no credit for my parents’ beautiful garden!

Compost – This page on the Eden Project website has some useful tips in building up a good compost heap or bin. You can also use compost to fertilise your plants and flowers, so win-win really.

Beachwatch – My mum and I participated in a beach clean in Hastings last month, organised by volunteers for the Marine Conservation Society. They provided us with biodegradable bags, gloves, litter pickers and a clipboard with a tick-list of waste types so we could record specific items we found in order to contribute to the MCS’s research. You can find out where and when your nearest beach clean is here.

IMG_9071
This was Hastings beach before we’d cleaned! We didn’t have a full bag at the end of it but we did find loads of BBQ skewers and a burnt pile of metal nails… lovely.

Give intangible gifts – Sometimes an experience, trip or day out is better than a physical present. Spend time with your nearest and dearest. If they’re not your nearest and dearest — it may seem impersonal to give someone a voucher but they might make more use of it than, say, a generic bath set, (or they may not, maybe that’s just me.) Alternatively you could encourage your family and friends to be more eco-friendly by gifting them some of the products below…

Friendlier products:

Re-usable bottles/flasks – Take your tap water with you! I’ve got this 500ml metal bottle from Typo which is good at keeping my water cold in summer. It’s quite heavy but worth it. I’ve dropped it a couple of times but it’s still fine to use…

My former colleagues didn’t appreciate my dented bottle so they bought me a sparkly new one, quite literally, which now resides at my boyfriend’s house:

Typo sparkly bottle.jpg

Canvas/jute & cloth shopper bags – I always re-use the plastic bags I have but they’re a faff to clean if you spill something (if you’re clumsy like me, anyway). My Ravenclaw bag comes pretty much everywhere with me if I’ve got extra stuff to carry, (headphones, water bottle and books), and I’ve recently bought another bag from H&M.  It’s well worth paying £5 or so for a bag you can wash and that will last you years.

For large food shops I always make sure I have a few jute bags in my car. However, the one thing I hate in supermarkets is being caught out by those annoying little clear plastic bags for loose fruit and veg. I don’t want to use them but equally I don’t want my yellow pepper touching the bottom of my shopping basket because germs. Luckily, my Mum introduced me to &Keep, an online shop selling only eco-friendly products. From there I bought three organic cotton produce bags. (&Keep are also selling delightful “I’m with Greta” recycled tote bags at the moment, for all your eco-warrior/bag lady needs.)

Bars of soap – Save on plastic dispensers by buying bars of natural soap instead. I took one on holiday to use as a handwash and for cleaning our swimwear in the shower when needed. I also brought a bar back with me as a cute little gift.

Olive oil soap

Natural sponges & scrubbers – Loofahs, sea sponges and coir fibre brushes to name a few are natural, bio-degradable alternatives to plastic sponges, brushes and scourers for your kitchen and bathroom. Again, &Keep have a wide array of these products on their website.

Lunch boxes & beeswax wrap – You probably have a lunch box but if you don’t, it’s time to make a purchase! Additionally if, like me, you prefer wrapping your lunch components separately, you can use beeswax wrap as an alternative to cling film or aluminium foil. It’s malleable when warm, holds its shape when cool, and it’s washable and bio-degradable.

Natural makeup remover – Coconut oil. My friend recommended this to me as a skincare tip rather than an eco-friendly thing, however I’ve been using this huge jar from Amazon to remove eye makeup since April and it’s still going! Just make sure you refrigerate it in summer because the whole thing can melt in hot temperatures.

Lush products – Not only do Lush use fresh and natural ingredients, their black pots are made from recycled plastic and can be returned to your local store to be recycled again — here’s how it works. Also if you return five empty pots to Lush you receive a free fresh face mask in return. Fabulous incentive!

Lush
My current to-be-recycled pile ft. my favourite Lush products!

Indoor plants – House plants don’t just look pretty, they can help with air purification and contribute to your general physical and mental well-being. I took the plunge in May last year and bought my first big indoor plant, an Areca Palm, and I’m pleased to say it’s still alive nearly a year and a half later. When the leaves started growing outward I was worried because I thought they were drooping. I kept thinking I’d neglected the plant too much or I’d been incorrectly watering it but turns out it was just adjusting to the air humidity and temperature of my room. I trim dead leaves off occasionally but new ones always grow in their place. I quite like how it looks now because you can see definition of the leaves better than when I first bought it, (excuse the bad lighting):

You can also see my aloe vera’s growth, and my cute little cactus addition, (the smaller aloe plant in the first picture was fake and has been moved to my book shelf! Only natural stuff allowed in this corner now).

Reef-friendly sun cream – At the moment fully eco-friendly sun creams come with rather hefty price tags, so for my recent holiday I opted to use Nivea’s protect & moisture sun cream. This sun cream is compliant with the Hawaii Reef Bill which, by January 2021, proposes to ban chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate from the production of sunscreens in Hawaii due to their toxic effects on coral reefs.

Less harmful cleaning products – Sometimes you can’t avoid buying plastic-bottled products like kitchen and bathroom cleaners. The good news is there are brands out there striving to make cleaning more eco-friendly, both in the ingredients they use and their packaging. Method products are cruelty-free, use plant-based ingredients and recycled plastic bottles. I found Method in my local Dunelm store and was pleasantly surprised to find that their products were just as tough on dirt, grime and limescale as the leading brands using harsher chemicals.

Responsible sparkle – Bio-degradable glitter. Useful in the run-up to Halloween and Christmas, or if you’ve just bought tickets for Glasto next year and want to bling yourself up for it! I love Gypsy Shrine, and they have a good selection of environmentally-friendly sparkle on their website.

That concludes my recommendation list! I have three things from my &Keep haul I’m yet to use, which are all made from bamboo:

  • ‘truthbrush’ – I’m letting my plastic one run its course at the moment!
  • Re-usable nail varnish remover pads
  • Re-usable makeup remover pads – these are a tricky one at the moment because I’m trying to get my acne under control so I think I will need more than a 16-pack as I’ll need to wash them after every use to avoid bacteria build-up!

My to-buy list currently looks like this:

  • Re-usable tongue brush/scraper – my new toothbrush doesn’t come with a tongue brush like some plastic ones do, so I’m looking to buy a brush or scraper separately.
  • Thinx – Proper period pants! I use pads near the beginning and end of my period, (side note: I’m not sorry if discussing my period makes you uncomfortable — more of this in my next post), but would love a comfier and more eco-friendly alternative. Thinx aren’t cheap but they offer a 60-day money-back guarantee and have loads of FAQs on their website which makes me feel more confident in making a possible purchase.
    (I recently tried the Mooncup in place of non-applicator tampons but couldn’t get on with it. However, if you’re willing to give them a go, silicone menstrual cups are able to collect three times as much blood as a regular tampon and, provided they are properly cleaned between uses, can be re-used for up to ten years!)
  • Litter grabber – I’m going to become the local weirdo out at strange hours picking up rubbish and I’m going to be PROUD. Should probably also add biodegradable bin bags to my list too.
  • Shampoo & conditioner bars – My Mum is currently trialing these! She prefers the conditioner to the shampoo because she says it’s hard to get the shampoo into a proper lather and it doesn’t feel like it washes out as well as bottled shampoo. However, I’ve read on the Primal Suds website that your hair feeling waxy or thick is completely normal; it will take time to transition from being washed with chemicals to all-natural ingredients. When I have the patience I’ll let you know what that transition is like!
  • Re-usable food bags – I don’t have an urgent need for these but I’ve seen some silicone brands online as an alternative to plastic freezer bags so they could be useful for storing meals made in bulk.

In addition to all this I’m going to start making some ‘eco-vows’, the first one being to use less water. As you may have noticed from my not-so-subtle hints in some of the points above, I’m a bit of a clean freak. I used to shower and wash my hair every day but not only is that awful for the environment, it’s not as healthy for me as I once believed. I’ve managed to cut down on the showering now but I still need to rein in the obsessive hand-washing habit! It’s really not helping my eczema.

I’ll stop rambling on now.

Keep me updated on your journeys to becoming more eco-friendly! Have you made any eco-vows of your own? I’d love to know if you found any of the tips and products above useful. Let me know in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading!

[I’m not sponsored to promote any of the brands or products I’ve mentioned in this post.]

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