How are your efforts to live more sustainably going, or have they been lost amongst worries over the pandemic and other concerns? Here is a review of where I’m at, which might encourage you, or at least spark some thought and conversation.
It seems a lifetime away now (just last year) when climate change and sustainability came onto my radar. As often happens, I threw myself into it wholeheartedly to begin with and, while I am still enthusiastic, it has settled down to a more practical routine and pace, for my lifestyle.
It’s a job to know how to begin changing a lifetime of behaviours, so I began by looking at what came in and out of our home, and asking some basic questions about food and household items:
Is it necessary?
Is there a better eco-friendly (and perhaps cheaper) alternative?
How far has it travelled?
Was it produced ethically (materials used, who made it and in what conditions)?
Does it involve unnecessary plastic packaging?
I’ve always tried to shop ethically but lots of things changed straight away and others have evolved gradually. As far as possible, our produce is now UK grown and in season. For example, if strawberries have come from abroad I go without and just wait for UK ones in June. I’m fortunate to have access to farm shops and the like, so buy produce locally grown where I can, often surprisingly reasonably. This also means we can support local and UK business. Where possible, we look for fair trade and free range, even if they cost a little more. It all takes a bit more thought and effort but is worth it. I gave up my allotment recently, but still produce soft fruits which are easy to grow but usually expensive, beans, tomatoes and the like, in the garden.
Our recycling bin is a lot emptier these days, with paper and card torn up and put in the compost bin as ‘browns’ to balance the ‘greens’ or sometimes used in craft projects.
Cleaning products also came under scrutiny. While using up all the spare bottles and packets I whittled down my ‘needs’ by reading lots online and started making some of my own, with basic ingredients, and with varying degrees of success. They are all surprisingly quick and straightforward to make, and all my knowledge and recipes came from the internet.
My new best friend is coconut oil which is cheap and I use it in toothpaste, as a hair conditioner, hand cream and for itchy skin. It has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. My other best friend is vinegar – used neat for window cleaning with newspaper, or as a fabric conditioner (no, our clothes don’t smell like chips!)
I have a love hate relationship with bicarbonate of soda as it is effective but too harsh for my skin. I stopped using it in toothpaste as it seemed to affect my gums (now just coconut oil and peppermint essential oil). But it works fine as an ingredient in my soap powder which is quick and easy to make.
Essential oils (lavender, peppermint etc) can be expensive but I buy from Holland & Barrett when they have an offer on, and they last for ages. 20 drops of oil in a spray bottle filled with water makes a good fresh air spray.
I make and use bars of soap, rather than buying plastic bottles of shower gel.
We now have lots of home-made washing cloths for household cleaning and mopping spills, rather than kitchen roll or wipes.
What hasn't worked so well -
I went back to buying deodorant as the bicarb ingredient was too abrasive and caused a rash, and I couldn’t find a suitable alternative.
I’ve only tried a couple of shampoo bars but haven’t found one that works for me, so now use a squeeze of my husband’s shower gel, which works fine so far.
I made a couple of different washing up liquids but they didn’t cut through the grease, and home-made cream cleaner wasn’t very effective either. Maybe I should try more recipes but that seems wasteful if they don’t work, so I’ve compromised by buying both from our local waste less shop, so cutting down on use of plastics, etc.
Overall, we’ve hopefully reduced our carbon footprint whilst saving quite a bit of cash as my home-made items are definitely cheaper than shop bought. I’ve still got a lot to learn and some way to go, and would love to hear of your experiences and what you've learned.
Love for now, Chris x