I was just like most of the population, a mainstream consumer who was not aware of very much regarding the environment.
Once the decision has been made to try & be more environmentally aware, it can be quite difficult to know where to start.
I found this a little overwhelming at first so I just wrote a list of things I could do & wanted to do.
I then made a list of 52 things I thought I could do, this was only a little shorter than the original list & had things which were easily achievable & some a little harder or which needed a little more thought.
I have put this together to share in the hope it may inspire some others to make a start be it small or large.
This is not a list of musts; each of us will find what we can do & what we are happy to do. I decided on 52 as there are 52 weeks in a year & I wanted to make a substantial difference & change quite a few habits in a year. I saved some money on this journey too.
You could start with 5 a month, find what is achievable for you.
I still have a very long way to go before I would think of myself as where I want to be, I have a new list which I am starting on now, as I have become more aware there are more differences I would like to make. I think it is important to also forgive yourself for those things you find too difficult or are in need of, I have to forgive & allow myself quite a lot; this is okay as for the most I really try.
Water is a valuable resource which can be taken for granted, we are lucky here, we can turn on a tap & have water instantly
1) Ask the water board to put in a Water Meter, I saved over £150.00 a year just doing this, I was really surprised.
2) Never run the tap when brushing teeth.
3) When running the cold tap to drink, there is water wasted before it runs cold enough, this can be collected in a jug & used for the kettle.
4) Any water not drunk, use to water the house plants
5) Buy a reusable water bottle & use this for when out & about, always ask for a jug of water when out eating & refill.
6) Install & use water butts in the garden, if possible use grey water on the garden.
This is easily done if your bathroom is upstairs with a hose pipe or a drought buster, not so easy in a bungalow without wasting water… I use small buckets, it does need to be more thought through, I rent so am limited to some changes I can make.
7) Only heat the water once a day & use all of the hot water, if not going to use it all, use a kettle for washing up. Hook the washing machine up to cold water only. I have an old boiler system.
8) Use a shower timer for the shower.
Food Miles, what is my food environmental footprint.
From an environmental point of view buying food which is out of season & has come from far away is not helpful, it adds to food miles & pollution, if it can be grown locally or closer to the UK.
Organic is also the way to help stop the reduction in the loss of flora & fauna.
9) Buy local, in Season & Organic where possible, use local shops & markets, stop using supermarkets. No GM.
This was quite easy for me, we have a lovely Organic Vegetable Market stall, a few Farm shops, Bakers & other little shops, this may not be as easy for all & of course there are the items which don’t & can’t be grown here.
10) Learn more about growing vegetables, Organic & Permaculture practises, No dig & Heritage foods. Grow easy items to begin with salad, fruit & herbs.
I had a small garden at the start & had a few pots as the years have gone by I have grown a little more depending on where I am living.
Incredible Edible is a great source of information & plenty of places have this community project, producing & sharing.
I have learnt a lot & met some amazing people along the way who have shared knowledge plants & produce.
11) Use up all food & stop food waste, as much as possible. Learn to cook properly, try more recipes.
Love Food Hate Waste is a great place to start.
12) Buy Fairtrade food & products if it comes from afar, it helps in other countries, and it enables people to have a better standard of living & encourages sustainability.
13) Food, only buy what I cannot make, either due to skills, health or time.
I left this quite open as I wanted it to be a change that stuck, I started slowly, stopped buying processed foods & ready meals, put all vegetables & fruit loose in my own bag or basket, politely refuse plastic produce bags, if given one say “Oh I didn’t ask for one of those” & give it back.
I still buy Houmous & other items that I am not so good at making, but as my skills improve this becomes less.
14) Buy in bulk for me this is, Rice, Pasta, Seeds, Nuts, Grains etc. I tend to buy in 5kg & store these in jars, it reduces the plastic, if possible I buy in paper, it is not possible for me to buy lots of items loose at the moment in the quantities I require.
As time has gone on this is & will get easier already in 2018 some of the companies I purchase from have changed, for some they need more volume (customers) before they can go plastic free.
15) Palm oil, avoid it in all products unless it is from RSPO, Round table on Sustainable Palm Oil as Palm Oil is adding to deforestation & destroying the Orangutans habitat.
16) Only order online if I cannot get it locally, do not do next day delivery as this increases the products footprint. Do not buy from abroad even if it is cheaper to purchase the product that is not the true cost of the item.
17) Repurpose & Upcycle before Recycle.
An example of this would be a bag I was never keen on; I have used this for a peg bag when my last one broke beyond repair. I also have a hat stand in the garden for the honeysuckle to grow up.
Some fun can be had with this, my broken china I have made mosaics with, for gifts & for the garden.
18) Only buy second hand clothes or Organic & Fairtrade.
This can be a little hard sometimes if I have something particular I am looking for, but with all of the Vintage sales, second hand shops, car boots & Fairtrade & Organic clothing brands I manage this quite well.
Clothes swopping parties are a good way to have a get together & exchange some unwanted but quality items of clothing with friends & family.
19) Shopping bags only use reusable ones.
This took about a week to get the hang of, now I have a bag of bags in the car & some by both front & back doors, no excuse.
20) Purchase less, make more.
This for me includes gifts; I try & make my gifts or pack a lunch & go out with friends & family for special occasions. This doesn’t mean we don’t have days out or eat out in cafes & restaurants. Or that I don’t still buy gifts as I do, just less.
The more I started thinking about the purchases I made & the companies they came from the more I wanted my money to go to what I consider better companies. Companies who try & do their best, where the environment, sustainability & communities are concerned.
21) Avoid purchasing from the big 10 Companies: Nestle, Pepsico, Kellogg’s, Mondelez International, Mars, DANONE, Coco Cola, Unilever, General Mills, Associated British foods & the companies/brands they own.
This was hard at first but has got easier as I became used to it, it changes each year. Since my start Green & Blacks were bought by Mars, DANONE owns Provamel & Dream Rice, JP Johnson owns Ecover & Method (Method being owned by Ecover) & recently Unilever have bought Pukka Herbs. Ben & Jerry’s was bought, the list is endless.
However it means I have discovered some lovely companies, cooperatives, community interest companies & Brands that I may not have come across otherwise.
I do not shop on Amazon & avoid Google where possible.
22) Chemicals, Petro Chemicals to be more specific, were in my household cleaning products & toiletries.
If I was to be Organic, to stop the destruction of habitats & wildlife, I thought I should also stop using Petro Chemicals, as these are not great for my health & they go down the drain.
I just started changing products as they ran out; this took a couple of years for all of the products in use & in the cupboard to go. Now all are replaced by Natural & or Organic.
Soap nuts are great for Laundry; I got on really well with the Eco washing balls too.
It took me a while to find what I was happy with, as with everything most products are a little different. I am pleased to say they all work well.
We even ran a catering facility & used Natural Cleaning products & received a 5 Hygiene rating. Proof they do work.
23) Never use Bleach again, I didn’t know you could use Bicarbonate of Soda for those mug stains, so much nicer to use too.
24) Use some old tips & tricks for cleaning; learn how to use Vinegar, Bicarbonate of Soda, Lemon Juice etc.
Aim to make some of my own cleaning products, this goes in phases depending on where I am living & the space available.
I have always used the old way of newspaper & vinegar on my windows.
25) Cosmetics & make up, research what is in them, where does the Parfum come from?
Is it mainly chemicals?
Only buy cruelty free & Organic. Try & buy recycled packaging which can be recycled.
This is easy for me as I don’t really wear makeup, maybe once or twice a year, it has been hard to find the products in recycled & recyclable packaging.
26) Hair Dye having spoken to 4 traders at the Natural & Organic Show, they have informed me it is not possible to get a hair dye without some chemicals, it is the amount & what which they can control. (This may change)
Bah humbug, I’ve always enjoyed this & had fun with it, but the chemicals go down the drain.
So for me this was the start of the all natural look for good, it’s been interesting watching the grey appear.
27) Hair removal! I’m still in two minds about this, it’s easier not, but then I stay covered in hotter weather, I have never got on well with sugaring or waxing, I will try again as there are some good “how to do your own” sugar.
I opted for a razor which was made from recycled plastic & is recyclable, the packaging is even made from wood cellulose, and the razor blades can go in the metal recycling at the tip.
I liked the idea of a traditional razor but feel I am too clumsy for this.
28) Bathroom fabrics. Cotton buds, ensure the ones bought have no plastic in the middle, buy Organic cotton wool & Organic towels
Make reusable washing pads for make up removal.
29) Shampoo & conditioner, change brands, use less, use hair care products from ethical & sustainable sources.
This took me a while, I hadn’t realised how much the other products had stripped my hair of all goodness, not washing my hair as often took a while to get used to, after a few months I soo noticed the difference. Feels much softer & shines a lot more.
The products are a little more expensive but as I use less in a year, I have ended up saving money.
30) Tooth care, swop brands ensure no micro plastics, no petro chemicals & no sls or sles. This was easy there are so many good brands out there that work, it was just a case of finding which one I preferred.
I am still having trouble finding floss, I don’t want silk, those beautiful creatures boiled alive, I don’t want plastic, Bamboo has its environmental issues when turned into a fabric/thread.
I did buy some once at a show that was Organic cotton, of course I have not been able to find it since & didn’t think to save the packaging.
31) Baby wipes, these were handy for outings or festivals, stop buying these & make your own washable ones or use flannels soaked in a solution in a Tupperware box.
32) Nail varnish & remover, stop using or find a natural ethical alternative.
I hadn’t realised nail varnish meant I was coating myself in chemicals which would absorb into my body, nor what source some of the colours came from.
There are a few Organic & Ethical brands out there, I just don’t play as often, the ones I have tried you have to apply an overcoat so it doesn’t chip on the first day & it takes some effort to remove with the natural nail varnish remover I have purchased, but it does work & it doesn’t smell as bad, at all, is lovely to apply & never blobby.
33) Hair brushes & combs all of mine are plastic, they lasted a long time, when I replace them I will source ethical, for me the bristles will have to be from a plant source not an animal source, most wooden brushes use pigs hair. Combs are very easy to come by made out of wood.
34) sanitary products, again I hadn’t realised the toxins that were involved, I only buy Organic now, there are so many options, Organic pads & tampons, reusable pads, moon cups or lunar cups.
It isn’t just for my health that I avoid Toxins, when I dispose of these items I don’t know what happens to these toxins/chemicals.
35) Reduce what goes in the dustbin, this means I do not buy some products, if they cannot be recycled or reused. I have reduced my bin greatly; I still wish to do it by much more.
I have an aging indoor cat, which uses cat litter, it is compostable, but the local council will not take it. This is the main bulk of my bin, there is not much I can do about this, I cannot compost it as I do not have a garden compost, I used to when I was living elsewhere.
36) Household paint, these are full of plastics & chemicals.
I know whenever I have painted my home in the past; it has been quite unbearable to stay inside, or sleep in my home.
I use Organic & Natural paints now, they are a little more expensive, they are much nicer to use, & I can sleep in the same room after decorating. I use Auro, they have always answered all of my questions.
The cloths I have used could be composted into my garden compost without any chemical issues (cotton cloths), after decorating.
37) Scrubbing stuff, cleaning brushes mops etc again mine were all plastic, I was mortified to realise this meant I was washing plastic particles down the drain.
Over the years I have replaced them with wooden fsc brushes & alternative plant sourced scrubbing pads. They last much longer seem to work much better & are either UK or Fairtrade made.
My favourite is the coconut husk used as a scourer, no more metal or plastic going into the water system, just trim the ends when it doesn’t work as well & compost at the end of life, what’s not to like.
38) Paper & stationary, I’ve always used recycled, now I ask if it is PCW Post Consumer Waste, this means it has been used first, it is not just off cuts from the printing process. It is easy enough to make your own envelopes out of old magazines, papers. I have had fun doing this.
39) Wood & Garden all wood is to be from a reusable source if possible, FSC if not, I have never used herbicides or pesticides.
I was a little distraught when I discovered garden centres could sell plants as wildlife friendly or Bee friendly & yet be covered in pesticides which would kill the same insects.
I do not use any garden centres which spray plants, sometimes this is difficult, but I have found some lovely small places & plant swops locally are great for me, as most practise Organic & Permaculture that attend these.
I try & save seed & grow as much as possible myself, this is hit or miss, this is down to my gardening skills not the seeds or products bought.
I do not use any Peat products in the garden at all.
Nor pebbles, stone or wood chips, without knowing the source
40) Alcohol I don’t drink, but when I purchase this for friends, get togethers or parties I buy Fairtrade or Organic wine & Organic ales, beers & spirits. There are some great UK producers out there, I buy UK & Organic first as this reduces the miles the alcohol has travelled.
41) Credit Cards I only had one of these, I changed it to one that also gave money to Green peace, they have now stopped giving to green peace & do not offer this anymore. I was unhappy about the plastic used anyway & have decided not to renew.
42) Banking this was easy to do, I swopped to the Cooperative bank first & now am changing to Tridos bank. I don’t want my money invested in arms, genetically modified material, oil or anything else unethical.
43) Insurance, I was with the Cooperative for a long time, then a lovely customer (it is great when we all share) told me about Naturesave, they are based in Totnes very ethical great for Business Insurance too & have a fund they add to each year for community projects. I have used Naturesave now for over 10 years.
44) Use & buy rechargeable batteries, I don’t use many batteries & would always use a battery deposit box for used ones.
Now I only have recharable batteries & am trying to only buy the old fashioned clocks, the ones which you wind up.
I love clocks & the ticking anyway so this is not an issue for me, I know it is for others.
I still have scales & watches which use batteries which I have been unable to buy rechargeable batteries for, thankfully these last a very long time 5-10 years. Once these have run out, I am hoping to sell these on & buy items which don’t need batteries.
45) Calculate Energy use & Ecological Footprint, Energy use was easy I used an Effergy metre for my electricity usage, this made it easy to work out what used the most electricity. Using this & my fuel bill I was able to calculate the energy used in my home. I then worked on reducing this, every time I need to replace an appliance it is the best I can afford, generally A rated, this is more expensive at the start but not in the long term. I have changed all of the lighting systems to energy efficient & aim to use less.
I also turn everything off at the wall, nothing is on standby. A habit I was taught as a child.
I will not have a smart metre, this is of no benefit to me & is a very strong wifi signal, I don’t wish to add to the amount of Wifi entering my home, when the use of this is still not fully understood.
Ecological footprint is much more indepth, takes into account, holidays, modes of transport, I like doing this as the results are in Global Hectares or acres, this is how much land is needed for your own life & lifestyle. It really makes me think about habits & how to improve, I aim to do this every year but manage every two years for definite.
46) Change Energy Supplier this was easily done, I have changed to Green energy, but there are more alternative energy companies out there, there are also small independents who also support renewable & alternative technologies.
If I didn’t rent I would invest in PV & invest in the future energy supply of my home.
Not only is this great for the environment those I know who have done this, with reductions in use they have made too, they have been bill free after 5-10 years, this can only be good for us as individuals & families.
47) Tools, oils etc
I buy second hand tools firstly for hand tools, if new, good quality UK made, most of these should last my life time, hopefully longer.
Power tools, I see if I can borrow or hire, if purchasing power tools, I try & buy the best I can afford, if it is something I will use regular.
There are some sharing groups in different towns & cities, some even have a shop.
I am hoping there will soon be one a little closer to me.
I am hoping to learn how to scythe this has to wait as I have health issues, in the mean time I have a friend who comes & scythes my lawn a few times a year, in between times it is beautiful & long & full of clover flowers (clover lawns need less water look just as good, flower for along while & feed plenty of insects including my favourite Bumble Bees). This stops the need for the Petrol lawnmower that was in use.
Oil for bicycles & general home use, I use Green Oil a great UK company, started from a garden shed. This oil will not pollute is made from Natural ingredients & comes in a recycled bottle, which is also recyclable.
I am still trying to source better oil for my car.
48) Microfibers, these are released when synthetic fabrics are washed. They are then released into the water. The full research has not been done yet on the harm this is causing. The last paper I read on Micro Plastics & Fibres stated there was no creature within the ocean (test area), which did not have plastics within (2008).
A larger ppm (parts per million) then predicted was within the seas.
There are bags you can purchase for washing these items, I don’t use these. I do wash these items of clothing less & purchase Natural materials more.
I did use micro fibre cloths for cleaning I don’t wash these or use these much anymore.
49) Rammin, soft wood, picture frames, pool & snooker cues.
No soft wood, Rammin is a problem with illegal logging elsewhere in the world, it is causing mass deforestation & aiding towards the destruction of the Orangutans habitat.
I now use mainly second hand frames for my photography, this can take a while to find a suitable frame sometimes.
I have found it difficult to find new picture frames, in wood that is from a good sustainable source which is within my budget.
50) Technology Coltan in particular.
Coltan is a mineral which is mined from open pits & within Militia ran areas, mainly in the Congo, children are forced to work in these open pits for very long hours.
It is destroying the forest habitat where gorillas reside, there is also an increase in Bush meat within an area where the mines are opened.
Coltan is in nearly all new technology, the demand is growing.
I do not buy new technology & mend what I can.
I bought a Fairphone as my first smart phone, this comes apart so I can replace parts as I need to. The gold within is Fairtrade & they have traced the minerals within to the source.
I get on well with mine, I did not have a smart phone before & I mainly use it as a phone, for some social media & the camera.
51) Transport, Car: For me this is a must as I have difficulty walking. Which also means cycling is out of the question at the moment.
The bus stop is not close enough, too rural for regular use.
To begin with my solution was a car ran on Bio Diesel (this was from a crisp factory in another town) the fuel miles were under 20 from source to production to filling.
Unfortunately I did not do enough miles & trade was too slow & my supplier ceased, this lasted about 2 years.
My next was a diesel car, finances decided this, I am saving for a Hybrid, however I want a Petrol Hybrid as it pollutes less than a Diesel, Diesel having heavy Exhaust chemicals.
I try & not do unnecessary journeys. Include more than one errand on any run out & calculate my yearly mileage. ecological footprint & grow & plant some trees to help my conscience.
52) Holidays only have responsible sustainable environmentally friendly holidays.
For me this means thinking about how I will get somewhere, do they have local facilities or a supermarket, is it ran by locals or is it a complex.
What is the transport like whilst there. How many miles would this be, what ecological footprint would this be & how I can improve on this.
As I do not travel abroad this is relatively easy for me.
© A. Lawson
Eco Friendly Shop