Being eco conscious is all the rage right now. Between the Extinction Rebellion protests, worldwide school strikes and Greta Thunberg’s impassioned recent speech to the UK government, the tide is definitely changing. It’s making ordinary folk reassess their own habits, which can only be a good thing. Facts are we won’t reverse climate change by being a champion recycler or switching on just two lights instead of four. But rather than view this with apathy and wonder what the point is, I urge you to think of it differently. If we create workable sustainable habits now, they will filter down onto our peers and children and their peers and children. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain when it comes to creating a better world to live in. One that isn’t driven by our own selfish wants and instead has the wider impact on society in mind.
Knowing first hand how difficult (in some circumstances virtually impossible) it is to break toxic behaviour cycles, I fully advocate not creating them in the first place. If we’re giving our kids a good example to follow then we’ll have a clear conscience. There’s a misguided notion that making sustainable changes, with the environment at the forefront, is only for the wealthy. Goodness only knows where these ideas come from, because they really are nonsense. As anyone who has gone through this process knows, most of the changes will save you money.
How to be More Eco Conscious
A Animals are a bone of contention among many, and going vegan is lorded as the answer to all our problems. Trouble is, while a wholesome vegan diet containing tons of fresh veggies is great for us, lots of other vegan food isn’t massively sustainable or healthy. I think if veganism works for you, then that’s great. If you do choose to eat meat, then it’s time to start getting acquainted with where it comes from. Consuming vast quantities of processed meat from factory farms is a lose lose situation. Terrible for the animals (who are treated horrendously, forced to live in squalid conditions and given lots of drugs), hideous for the environment and appalling for your health. When you read articles about meat causing cancer, this is the meat they are talking about. Knowing where our food, especially our meat, comes from is so important. Whist it’s more expensive to eat ethically sourced meat from decent farms, we just need to get on board with HAVING LESS.
B Buying in bulk will always save money in the long term, although I do understand this can be tricky for some in the short term. If you are in the fortunate position of having a decent household budget, as well as storage space, this is a great way to shop. From tins to large sacks of grains, UHT milk/mylk and more. At my previous estate we used to do a collective order with Suma, an ethical wholesaler well worth checking out. (In their own words: “Suma is a wholefood collective founded in 1977 by a liberally-minded group of people who believed there was a better way, and actively set out to create it.”) Failing that, there are lots of health food shops and refillable markets around the country where you can buy liquids and dry goods in big quantities, as well as take your own packaging.
C New clothing is a big problem for the environment. Pollution, toxic chemicals going into the skin, let alone the earth, water waste. The only people profiting are at the top. Did you know it would take three years to drink the same amount of water that is needed to grow the cotton for one t-shirt? Did you know that the average woman wears her clothing just seven times, before discarding it, often in the bin? Charity shops are on every corner, selling bargains galore, and they often have sale rails (my favourite!) I spent £4 on three dresses and a top yesterday, all from decent brands. The RRP new would have been around £150, I just can’t see how anyone can afford to waste money like this. Have a read of this piece about fast fashion, which might make you think twice about your next splurge.
D Perhaps the biggest problem for most, when it comes to being eco conscious, is the inconvenience. When you’re used to having a car sat outside your front door, and you’ve paid for that car and all it’s associated costs, it’s your right to drive it. Right? Trouble is (pretty sure you’ll already know) carbon emissions are bad for the environment. Even if it’s just once a week, or one drive a week, please have a think about leaving the car at home.
E I’m a huge fan of home made toiletries and cleaning products. At the base of every recipe are essential oils. Providing you are buying good quality, ethically harvested oils, they will be a great investment for your health. Here’s the recipe for my home made mouthwash, which not only is non-toxic but very inexpensive. Have a read of this fascinating report on how effective essential oils can be in protecting against disease.
F With poverty sky high and so many relying on food banks, wasting food is absolutely, totally and utterly unacceptable. Meal planning is a highly effective way for many to manage their weekly meals. I also find that writing a list of everything that’s in the freezer helps to ensure nothing gets wasted. If all else fails, and it looks like you have food that’s going to go off, just chuck it all in a huge pot with some seasoning and stock and turn it into a big casserole. Once it’s cooked it can be frozen into smaller portions if you know it won’t get eaten immediately.
G Growing my own food is something I’ve been wanting to do for years, but have only properly got to grips with in the last two. I don’t have a massive home growing operation, but I’m trying and learning. I am not naturally green fingered, I genuinely killed a cactus about five years ago, so enjoying gardening has come as quite a shock to me. People often talk about its therapeutic benefits, and coupled with the usefulness of being able to eat what is grown, it’s a great recipe for happiness in my book. Check out this fab video, which shows how much it’s possible to grow in a very small garden. This channel has lots of tips for growing in small spaces, pots and windowsills.
H Last Christmas I wrote this piece about being more eco when it comes to gift giving. Home made pressies are the absolute best way to show a person you truly care. When you give a home made gift you are telling the giftee you value them so much you have donated your most precious asset: time. Which leads me straight onto my next point.
“I don’t have the time to be eco conscious” is the lamest excuse in the book. We all have time, we just need to use it wisely. There is a great quote that I refer back to whenever I convince myself the T word is the problem. “If it’s important you’ll find the time, if it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.”
J Keep all your glass jars and use them for storage pots. Rather than chucking them in the recycling, use those jars over and over again. I use them for my bulk bought items: dried fruit and nuts, rice, etc. Instead of sticky labels I write the contents on with the kids’ crafting pens.
K Home made probiotic drinks such as kefir and kombucha are the simplest, not to mention most cost effective, way to balance our gut bacteria and help our brains functions better. Check out my YouTube video below, where I show you how easy it is to make water kefir.
L Local local local! Have I mentioned before how much of a fan I am of locally grown food and supporting local independent businesses? I find they are always greener and more environmentally aware, as standard.
M Markets are a great way to find small businesses as per the above. Farmers markets often sell naturally grown food without the official organic stamp, making it much cheaper than supermarket organic.
N If you have kids, then like me, your mind was probably blown by how many nappies you got through in the time it took for them to get the hang of the toilet. I personally didn’t get on too well with cloth nappies, so opted for compostable ones. There wasn’t too many options back then, but over the last decade many more have come onto the market, check them out here.
O There is no denying organic locally grown food is best all round. Unfortunately the difference in price between supermarket organic and non organic versions can be prohibitive. I’ve also been disappointed recently to see the non organic version coming from the UK and the organic one from elsewhere. There are plenty of other ways to get organic food for a decent price – and veg boxes are great value. Riverford have a brilliant selection, including a 100% UK grown organic veg box.
P Say not to plastic periods. Be it switching to organic cotton or washable sanitary wear, or using a menstrual cup. Do whatever you are comfortable with, but please do not let your children start their womanhood with toxic chemicals going into their vaginas. Not to mention all that plastic going into our seas. This infographic from Natracare says it all, check out the hugely inspiring story behind the people making these brilliant organic sanitary products. Not only are they free of plastic, they are also chlorine, dye and perfume free. I made the switch about ten years ago and have not looked back once.
Q When we start considering the environment in our every day life, it’s more than likely people will think we are being quirky. Own it. Take it as a compliment. And when those same people start making changes on the back of your actions, be proud.
R It’s all very well and good buying reusable bags and cups, etc, but you have to actually remember to take them out with you. I made a pact with myself recently and decided if I forget to take my coffee cup out, I simply won’t buy a coffee. No matter how much I might want it. Check out the amazing GlobalWAKEcup for their range of stunning bamboo zero waste products.
S Say no! To straws and carrier bags and extra packaging that just doesn’t need to be there. Make a statement with your bank account and stop spending your hard earned cash on brands that aren’t doing their bit.
T Now I know it’s nice to have super soft and fluffy toilet paper, but the recycled stuff is so much kinder for everyone involved. There are amazing organisations out there like Who Gives a Crap doing incredible things (such as donating 50% of their profits so that toilets can be built for those who need them). You can bulk buy 48 rolls for as cheap as £31. If you don’t have the money or storage space, then bog standard recycled from the supermarket is readily available.
U Using less takes practice, but is so worth getting into the habit of doing. I am constantly explaining to my kids that they don’t need to use half a roll of toilet paper for one poo. Or half a bottle of hand soap afterwards. This is a work in progress for my little angels, but well worth continuing to bang on about. Not only is it kinder to the environment, but it will save us a fortune over time. Take a look at Less Plastic for lots of tips on using less packaging.
V Use your voice. Don’t shy away from your outlandish friends who are going against the grain. Don’t be a secret supporter, shout about it from the rooftops. Worthy change happens when messages start filtering down to people who previously had “deaf ears and blind eyes”.
W Beeswax wraps (or soya if you are against animal producs) are a wonderful alternative to cling film. These ones are British made and very reasonably priced. I’m also a huge fan of good old Tupperware. The idea of wrapping anything in single use plastic in 2019 makes me really sad.
X XR aka Extinction Rebellion. Nuff said.
Y YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for your own decisions. We can argue everything to the hilt and claim that the earth is simply going thorough a cycle as it’s done many time before. People claiming to be experts can tell us the scientists are wrong. Pres. 45 can deny climate change all he wants. When all is said and done, the consequences of our own actions are what will determine whether we can sleep at night. End of story.
Z Zzzzzz! Totally cheating here, but we really do need to save the bees. Without those lovely little guys we are going to be well and truly foobarred. In return for whatever you are comfortable with donating, Friends of the Earth will send you a Save Britain’s Bees kit.