If you have read any of my posts on this blog you will be aware that I am interested in trying to do what I can to help the environment. I’m not remotely plastic free, and I can’t pretend that every item I buy is eco friendly, or from an ethical company, but I am trying really hard to make a small difference ..and if we all made a small difference … well, you know the rest.
I love this quote by Jane Goodall:
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
Like everyone else, I am waiting for the governments of the world to make some big changes that will slow the destructive path that our planet is on, but while we wait, it is worth considering what small changes we can individually make TODAY. Have a look at the 50 ideas below. I’m sure there are many hundreds more, and if you have your own favourites, please include them in the comments below.
1. Buy less clothes. When you do buy, spend more money on quality pieces that will last you years.
2. Set up a “clothing borrowers club” with friends to swap clothes for a month. I appreciate that’s difficult with Covid at the moment, but it’s something that could be fun to plan when the restrictions aren’t as rigid.
3. Write to your MP. Let the people in charge of policy know you have concerns about climate change, plastic pollution and global warming. These concerns are not vague worries about a world that may, or may not be in our future. These concerns are real. If nothing is done, we are going to be facing a world that will be irrevocably changed in less than thirty years. We are going to be affected, and our children and grandchildren will certainly be affected.
4. Vote with your money. Don’t buy from companies (any company!) that doesn’t have an ethical range, an eco friendly policy, or a sustainable mission statement, or are at least working towards one.
5. Don’t buy plastic bottles of water. Tap water is perfectly OK to drink in the UK and hopefully the time is long past when it was fashionable to wander about clutching an bottle of expensive bottled water. Sadly a lot of those bottles are now in the stomachs of sea creatures.
6. COVID has seen us change the way we work. We are now often working from home, meaning less cars on the road, and using less trains and planes. Discuss with your workplace whether there are options to continue to work from home at least some of the time, and whether more meetings can be organised on Zoom, Skype or Teams.
7. Buy local food from your supermarket. For example, buy British Tomatoes not Moroccan ones. Get used to buying seasonally. We should not be buying strawberries in January, when it has taken a ridiculous amount of energy to get them here. Strawberries should be a summer treat when they are able to be grown in this country.
8. Walk or bike more. Yes, I appreciate this is easier in the summer, but a brisk walk on a winters morning is not always an unpleasant thing! If you are in the market for a new car, consider electric.
9. Get a composting bin. We have had one for years and all our uncooked food waste goes into it. I have recently heard about a ‘hot composter’ which ALL food waste goes into. We are definitely getting one of those!
10. We will probably be thinking about turning the heating on in another month or so. Consider turning the thermostat in your house down by 1 or 2 degrees. Only have the lights on you need to, turn devices off at the plugs overnight and swap baths for showers.
11. Use ethical cleaning products such as Method rather than your usual cleaning products. Method use paraben free, responsible ingredient sourcing, cutting edge green chemistry and recyclable packaging. They do not use chlorine bleach, detergents containing phosphates and anti bac wet wipes, which are all distinctly NOT eco friendly.
12. Don’t use a tumble dryer. Not only do they wear away your clothes, but worse, an average cycle uses over 4 kWh of energy and sends 1.8kg of CO2 into the atmosphere.
13. Use biodegradable cleaning cloths or utilise old clothes that can be washed and reused. Don’t use anti bac wet wipes that end up in landfill and don’t biodegrade. Or worse, find their way to our oceans where they kill marine creatures.
14. Here is a simple idea but highly effective: Use tiered steamers when cooking on the stove – cook one lot of veg over another instead of using 2 rings. Brilliant!
15. Keep the heat low when cooking and use lids. Steaming is the way to go.
16. Make it a family habit/ tradition to do litter picking on walking trips and especially when going to the beach.
17. Buy loose veggies. This is a habit I have now cultivated every time I go to the supermarket. And what a lot of those horrible thin plastic bags ( which wind up in sea turtles stomachs) I have saved!
18. It is easy to get very worked up when talking about the environment. I know I feel that way sometimes, especially with people who seem blatantly oblivious to what is happening to our planet. Instead, start conversations about subjects that will resonate with that person, invite them to watch a programme with you about the plastics problem in the oceans or climate change. People generally respond better if they think it’s their own idea to change their habits, rather than someone else telling them what to do!
19. Buy second hand clothes from eBay. Buy second hand anything from eBay!
20. Never throw clothes out. They end up in landfill. Donate them, sell them or cut them up and use them for other purposes. Anything is better then landfill where they do not biodegrade.
21. Less is more. I don’t know where we got the idea that we have to wash clothes every time we use them – we definitely don’t. Wash clothes when they really need it. They will last longer and you will use less energy.
22. When you do wash clothes, wash at 30 degrees. There is no need to wash clothes at 60 degrees. It certainly won’t make your whites whiter!
23. Think about becoming a veggie. If that’s too hard, think about becoming a veggie for three days of the week. If that’s too hard, have one meat free day a week. And if that’s too difficult, (really?), swap your lamb and beef for chicken. I was a dyed in the wool meat eater until 1st Jan 2020, and I wish I had made the switch long before. I enjoy my food so much more, have lost weight, and have regained a real joy in cooking. I can’t imagine ever going back to meat.
24. Think about mending clothes where you can. “Extending the life of clothes by just nine months of active use, could reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by around 20-30 per cent.”
25. Grow your own veg. It’s fun, very rewarding and nothing tastes as good as the veg from your own garden.
26. Buy butter and avoid margarine. I read somewhere that even rats, mice and cockroaches avoid margarine, which must tell us something! And those horrible plastic tubs are an ecological nightmare.
27. When buying your usual detergent products, see if you can swap plastic packaging for cardboard boxes. For example, swap washing liquid in plastic for washing powder in cardboard.
28. Freeze bread and only take out what you need. Make breadcrumbs from any stale bread and top pasta bakes. You can also freeze cheese and milk!
29. When considering buying literally anything, look first for a ethical company. There are eco friendly wine, (featured on this blog) jewellery, (featured on this blog) and even lingerie companies now… just take an extra minute to look for them first before going to your usual company. You may well be amazed as to what it out there now!
30. Don’t use cling film – try beeswax wraps instead. Use reusable baking sheets instead of foil. Putting a plate over leftover food in the fridge is a lot better than using clingfilm.
31. Use bar soap instead of liquid soap in plastic bottles. If you must use liquid soap, buy the large refill bags, rather then the plastic containers.
32. Teabags contain plastic! Swap to loose leaf tea. If you are a coffee hound, recycle your Nespresso pods at their recycling points.
33. Use biodegradable tampons, eye makeup remover pads and cotton tips. You can also get silk floss instead of plastic floss in a plastic tub. There are so many biodegradable bathroom products out there!
34. Bulk buy shower gel shampoo and conditioner and then decant, or even better, use solid shampoo bars.
35. Use Tupperware ( yes it is plastic but not single use) to store food rather than cling film or foil.
36. We all have so many plastic shopping bags lying around in our houses. Keep bags in your car, in your handbag, in your glove compartment or even your bike basket…. so you should never have to buy a plastic bag ever again.
37. Recycle everything you can. Register with Terracycle. They recycle products that are hard to recycle! Where you can’t recycle, upcycle.
38. Opt out of junk mail by informing Royal Mail. It requires a form or two, but it is worth doing. And put a no junk mail notice on your door.
39. Shop at your local farmers market. The food is local, you are helping small businesses and they are usually plastic free zones.
40. Buy fresh bread (pop it into a paper bag if you must) from your local shop, and take your own containers to the deli counter plastic
41. Buy body lotions and hair and beauty products in glass jars.
42. Don’t buy new DVD’s. Rent from your satellite provider or buy second hand.
43. Think about going back to getting your milk delivered.
44. When buying pet food, buy tins not pouches. Although they are great in that you don’t waste much, they will all end up in landfill. Also buy cat and dog treats in cardboard, not plastic.
45. Look for ‘Zero Waste’ or ‘Plastic Free’ shops – there aren’t many, but they are on the rise. You can take in your own container and fill up with pasta and other staples without the plastic packaging.
46. Give up the chewing gum – its made from plastic. Ugh! If you cannot face saying goodbye to the gum, there are now plastic free options to choose from.
47. Say no to plastic straws in bars and no to plastic lids on takeaway coffees!
48. Do you own research. If you start reading about climate change and the horrific effects of plastic pollution, I guarantee that you will feel more motivated towards making some changes to your lifestyle.
49. Don’t get too disheartened. I am more hopeful than I was a year ago. I think the tide may finally be starting to turn. But we have to keep the pressure on. Keep talking about it, keep doing what you can individually, whilst understanding and acknowledging that we all have a collective responsibility for the future of our planet.
50. For more ideas, please have a look at the following posts also on this blog