I got started on the eco-friendly train early. I don’t think it was necessarily an intentional thing, at least not at first – we were just one of those families.
My family were farmers for generations, and we still grow a lot of fruit and vegetables, and make our own compost. My grandparents taught me to sew, and knit, and darn, and fix because that’s just what you do. Ditto the reasoning for always using old shirts as dusters and keeping your leftovers and going without things you don’t really need. And for the things we did get rid of, we had great facilities in town, so we recycled a lot. We live in a area where nature is always close by, reminding you of the impact you have on it at every step. The perfect environment to raise an enviro-baby.
But the world is the world.
For a long time you had to buy your food at the shop in town, and everything came wrapped in plastic, no alternatives (we have a farm shop now and that’s no longer the case, thankfully). My parents moved to a more family-friendly place when they had kids and so my father had to commute back into the city, meaning a car was necessary, and there was lots of sitting in traffic.
Life gets busy and you skip cooking from scratch sometimes, and turn the heating up a little more than you need to, and forget to check whether that can actually be recycled or not because i’m so tired, when will the weekend get here already?!
But most of the things I was slacking on could be fixed by tiny, low effort changes. Being eco-friendly doesn’t mean what I think a lot of people picture. You don’t have to be extreme by any means. Some simple changes can make a big difference. You don’t have to go zero waste off the bat. You don’t have to ditch everything and go full minimalism. Sometimes I wish I could but it’s just not realistic for my situation.
So baby steps. And tiny changes.
Ditch the disposables
This category could cover just about everything but I’ll do like the title and stick small.
Big one: Drinking bottled water. Stop it.
I am guilty of this one. I will hold up my hands. And in all honesty, I do keep some for emergency storage. But I definitely don’t need them for day-to-day use. I’m transitioning to using a metal canteen and it’s saving me a ton of money and waste.
You can use travel cups for things like tea and coffee. I clutched my thermal flask full of hot chocolate every December morning. Let me tell you – worthwhile investment. In money and the ability to use my fingers for their intended purpose.
Other things you can switch out:
- Use tea-towels instead of paper in the kitchen. Or you can make specific ‘un-paper’ towels if you want to be a bit fancy.
- Use a re-usable swiffer cover or a mop instead of using throwaway wipes.
- Use a cloth or make re-usable cotton rounds instead of using the disposable versions to cleanse your skin, remove your make-up, remove your nail polish etc. There’s a ton of tutorials for these in a number of ways. Or make reusable baby wipes.
- Take re-usable shopping bags instead of getting plastic ones at the shop. You can make your own produce bags, simple totes, or big fancy shopping bags. You can always buy a bag for life if you’re not particularly crafty.
- Stop with the single use. Swap individual coffee pods for bigger bags of ground coffee. Try an epilator or safety razors instead of disposables. Buy share bags instead of individually wrapped items. Boiled water is boiled water, it doesn’t need to come from a fancy machine, a kettle works just fine for all purposes.
- If you need period products – try cloth pads or a menstrual cup as a zero-waste alternative that might be better for your body as well as the Earth.
Keep it out
The easiest way to cut down on waste is to stop it entering your home in the first place.
- Swap magazine subscriptions from paper to digital. My family have started using the Readly app and we love it! You can find a ton of free magazines on sites like issuu as well.
- Citizens Advice have some tips on unsubscribing from junk mail. Although I would say read this post by Skip The Bag and try to refuse at the source, rather than later down the line, otherwise you’re just passing the waste on.
- Look for better packaged items. I mentioned the farm shop up above. They hardly use plastic – a lot of glass, paper, and re-usable containers. Much better than before! Our butchers does use plastic bags, but ones that use a lot less waste than the packages at the supermarket. You pack your own fruit and veg at the market so there is nothing to throw at all which is the ultimate goal.
- Making a meal plan before you go shopping can stop food waste and save money on products you’re not going to use – if it’s not on the list, it’s not in the trolley!
- Along those lines: Cut down on impulse purchases. I always try to ask myself some questions before I buy something new:
Do you need it? Do you really want it?
Cutting out impulse buys has done wonders for my bank account and stopped me buying things that I don’t need or get bored of in a short time. Having a break between considering an item and buying it might make you realise that you didn’t really want or need it in the first place. If you still really want it afterwards, that’s fine. We all need a treat sometimes. But, consider:
Do you have something similar that could do it’s job?
Could you fix the thing you’re buying it to replace?
We have a real problem with duplicates in our household. Double checking whether you already have something that could do the job just as well will save you problems down the line. Check out my post on de-cluttering if you want to get some tips for avoiding this.
If you’re sure you need it, and that it’s unique to you, consider one last question:
Is there a more sustainable option – could you rent it, borrow it, or find an alternative?
Look for products that can be easily disposed of (such as those made from natural materials) or recycled. Another thing to think about is that while you might need it, how long will you actually use it? If it’s a short period of time, consider borrowing or renting it, so you’re not throwing it away and creating unnecessary waste.
Sharing is caring
- Borrow books and DVDs from the library instead of buying. If you don’t have a local library, or they don’t have a good selection, consider starting a little club to pass around new releases between a number of people.
- Sharing isn’t just a nice thing to do, it makes a lot of sense, especially with low use items. We share tools around a lot. We don’t need a hammer all the time and so what’s the point in ten households all having one lying about? Two groups of us need a pressure washer, but only half the time. So we share. We’ve never had a situation yet where two of us have needed the same item at the same time.
- Shop second hand – charity shops are treasure troves
- Use non-recyclable containers to plant and organise instead of throwing away
- Donate magazines to the library, local community centre, dentist, or pass them on to friends. Make papercrafts from them or recycle.
- See if there’s an established local swap group – a lot of communities have a Facebook page where people can offer items or sell for low cost. Mine has pretty much everything from furniture, TV’s and appliances, clothes, toys, books, you name it. Check there or ebay before buying something new and a lot of the time you can find it cheaper.
Fix it, craft it, re-use it
- Learn some basic fixes for your products and clothing, meaning you can use products for longer and avoid throwing out things that can’t be easily recycled
- Ripped/broken clothes can be turned into cleaning cloths, patchworks, dog toys, pretty much anything that uses cloth.
- Use the backs of letters and envelopes as scrap paper.
- ‘Make your own’ should always be your first port of call if you can.
- Make paper beads or other crafts from junk mail. I have a number of different Pinterest boards to collate ideas for recycled crafts:
What are your simple tips for a more eco-friendly life? What changes have you been making? Let me know in the comments!