Way back in January I made a little half-promise to myself to try different ways to be kinder to the environment this year. I could write a big emotional blog about how I got upset watching Blue Planet 2 and admit that I invented an imaginary sea turtle called Dudley to be my own personal cheerleader of shame for every piece of plastic I touched….. but what’s most useful is knowing what worked to see if it could work for you too right? Right?
So. In 2018 I went green. I started the year knowing little about the environment beyond the fact that we’re all killing the planet, global warming is terrifying, and sea animals like Dudley couldn’t understand why we all hate them so much (why else would we shove plastic straws up their noses?!). Which meant that I had quite a bit of research to do, as I know anyone will slap the label ‘eco-friendly’ ‘organic’ ‘hand crafted’ or ‘natural’ on a product just to sell it. Everything I found I found on Google. And everything I tried had to fit with three rules:
- It needed to reduce my plastic consumption, and help me send less stuff to landfill. Plastic has (rightly) become the devil in 2018, and I want to use as little of it as possible.
- It needed to not be expensive, or save me a lot of money over 12 months. I am not made of money, and most people just don’t have the funds to spend hundreds going eco-friendly. I made these changes gradually over the year (about one purchase a month for the things I had to buy).
- It needed to be a sustainable change. It needed to be something I could stick to, or something that would have a big enough impact to make it worth sticking to.
Finally, before I get to the list of changes, I wanted to tell you what my results were. At the end of 12 months of making these changes and trying to be more eco-friendly:
- My grocery/household shopping bill has massively reduced.
- My black bin (the landfill one) is only half full when it gets collected every fortnight. And 90% of that is cat litter from the fuzzball.
- My recycling bins are generally full of paper, tins, and glass with about 20% being plastic. I’m going to aim to reduce that even more in 2019.
- I appreciate the things I have a little bit more, and give more to charity through donations of old things and buying myself new things in charity shops sometimes.
And now here’s the list! It’s in 4 categories: General Changes, Food/Household shopping, Kitchen, and Bathroom as these were my biggest offenders. Some of it is common sense, but they were things that I wasn’t committing to proper in the past so I count them as a genuine change. I really hope you find it helpful!
- Actually doing my recycling properly. Washing out tins and jars, sorting it all out, separating all the paper from junk. This cost nothing, took barely any effort, and reduced my landfill waste by a third overnight.
- Buying a metal water bottle. Cost me £15. Saved me well over £300 in buying fizzy drinks, bottled water, and general pop. If I forget it, I opt for a can or a glass rather than a plastic bottle as much as possible.
- Charity shopping. Not for everything. But where I would previously have browsed the high street, I had a gander in my local charity shops instead. £50 dresses with the tags still on for £2.50. Full set of pretty glittery coasters and a candelabra for £5. Knowledge that I’m keeping things out of landfill and getting a new little-black-dress for next to nowt? Priceless.
- Eating a little less meat. I’ve been doing this all year, but largely only cook with meat if I have guests now. This has had a huge impact on my spending and on my plastic reduction (gone are the little plastic meat trays), and has forced me to find new ways to get protein – handfuls of red split lentils chucked into any chilli, casserole, soup or stew are pretty good. As are chickpeas, kidney beans and butter beans. I’ve not entirely ditched the bacon, but my impact is a fraction of what it was.
- I don’t drive, so I do my ‘big shop’ online… here’s how I help keep the pesky plastic and crappy environmental products down….
- First step, untick the ‘plastic bags’ box. Tesco have the option to pack without bags. Saves 40p every time and on average, about 10 unnecessary plastic bags too.
- Next, I buy tins individually (no more plastic wrapping holding them together that always just goes straight in the bin), or choose ones in a cardboard box. They arrive in boxes that you can unpack – you do not need them to be wrapped in plastic!
- Fruit and veg – I choose loose versions of everything that I can, rather than the packets. With all the money I saved from the reusable drinks bottle, I can afford an extra 20p to buy the veg without the plastic if it comes out more expensive overall. Also, when it’s handpicked, you only ask for what you need. If my recipe calls for 4 carrots, I only have to buy 4, not a 1kg bag.
- I choose glass bottles over plastic where possible (hello wine!). Seriously though, bottlegreen are quite good for cordials and things and it’s easy enough to order a 24can pack of coke instead of a 2litre bottle, with the advantage that the tins don’t lose their fizz. Only exception is vimto. I love the stuff, so I’m going to try using the old plastic bottles to make ecobricks sometimes instead.
- Ready meals. I used to buy a few of these – they’re easy. But they come in a plastic box and are kinda expensive for one portion of food that often leaves me hungry. Instead, I’ve been batch cooking by just making more food when I do cook, and freezing portons in my freezer. Works the same, generally cheaper.
- Laundry capsules (plastic box filled with silicone parcels filled with brightly coloured liquid detergents) swapped for soap powder in a big cardboard box. Works just fine.
- Paper kitchen roll swapped for bamboo kitchen roll. Worked great until guests kept binning it! Trying fabric cloths instead.
- Clingfilm/ saran wrap. Used up the last of it then just didn’t buy more. I haven’t needed it once. Food for saving goes in Tupperware. Sandwiches get wrapped in foil (haven’t migrated to fancy beeswax wraps just yet). Food for the microwave gets a plate on top or just the Tupperware lid, loose, to stop soup explosions.
- Cleaning products, washing up liquids, and detergents. So far, as these have run out, I’ve largely not replaced them aside from the following from Method or Ecover: washing up liquid, one general cleaning spray, glass spray. I have a small bottle of bleach in case of emergency, which I haven’t needed in 6 months.
- Plastic toothbrush (every one you have EVER owned, still exists) swapped for a bamboo one. Dentist hasn’t noticed a difference. Price is cheaper. Wood biodegrades, tiny amount of plastic in the bristles is negligible.
- Face wipes. These are TERRIBLE for the environment. I used them all the time. Now I have a bottle of micellar water and some reusable cotton pads. You can buy crochet or flannel ones on Etsy. I made about 30 little flannel ones so it’s easy to just chuck them in them washing machine and not run out.
- Disposable razors swapped for one razor handle and disposable razor heads. Next step – finding a way to keep smooth legs that’s still eco-friendly that I can afford… (no thank you, I don’t do waxing).
- Shower gel – stopped buying it. Someone always gets me some sort of bath set for my birthday or Christmas. It’s always lovely, so I just use those til they run out and then a body soap bar until the next present arrival!
- Hand soap – using a bar. Used to have liquid hand soap. Have no idea why – bar is even moisturising and smells pretty.
- Toilet roll. Bulk bought this stuff from Who Gives a Crap. Feels lovely. Recycled paper. Comes in a cardboard box, in individual paper wrapped rolls. Not a smidge of plastic. Company gives 50% of their profits to build toilets in places that need them. Haven’t found better yet (also available – fancy bamboo version but that was too much of a budget stretch to test at the minute).
- Antiperspirant. Currently using a combination of my old favourite Mitchum for training/fitness type stuff, and a lovely glass jar of stuff from the Natural Deodorant Co that smells like orange and bergamot for everyday. Technically the natural stuff can cope with training days too but I’m a worrier. Getting there though!
- Hair products – worked my way through shampoo bars and eco-friendly liquid shampoo and conditioners. Haven’t found one I like yet. Got some normal stuff for Christmas so using that while I ponder. Project for 2019 – recommendations welcome!
- Hairstyling – gradually paired down my old mountain of products to just four things: a heat defence spray, a volumizing mousse that works for curls, a serum for frizz, and a can of dry shampoo for between washes/ texture. Working ok so far, and creating much less waste by not having a gazillion of everything! (and, as usual, birthday and Christmas supply the odd fun extra to play with).
- Cleaning products – using the same general cleaning spray and glass cleaner that I use in the kitchen. Toilet cleaner from Ecover. Small bottle of bleach just in case but haven’t needed it thus far.
And that’s the lot so far. They are small changes, and it’s nowhere near as much as I could have done, but I’m gradually changing to something that’s a lot kinder to the planet. Dudley the sea turtle has stopped scowling in my imagination, and it’s had a big impact on reducing the waste and plastic that my house goes through. So, it’s a start. And a start is good, right? 😊