Sustainability is the buzzword of the moment. As we become more informed about the state of our planet and the ways in which we can help to try and save whatever little resources we have left, an increasing number of us are starting to embrace a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and perfect our sustainable living at home.
From supermarkets charging for, or in some cases no longer supplying, single use carrier bags through to David Attenborough’s shocking videos of the plastic that plagues our oceans, our eyes have certainly been opened. If we want the next generation to live in a world that isn’t threatened by global warming, depleted resources, and the devastation of the natural environment we all need to do our bit.
Some of you may already be making changes here and there, but there is always more that can be done. We’ve put together a few simple ideas of the ways you can make some small eco-friendly changes at home that if everybody started doing would have a much bigger impact on the future of our planet.
Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
OK let’s start with a nice easy one that hopefully all of you do already. Recycling. Now, depending on where you live and the recycling services offered in your particular county you may not be able to recycle as much as you’d like to. Many councils offer fortnightly recycling pick ups where the binmen come along with their lorries and empty your recycling bin in much the same way as they do with the standard waste bins. This is then taken off to a main depot where items are separated out and then sent off to be recycled. In the area I live in they also do a monthly glass pick up and we get given a small black box to put our washed out glass bottles and jars in. Weirbags offer recycling box lids for your home, which is a great way of preventing rain from getting inside the box if it is stored outside and also helps prevent any nasty whiffs escaping into your kitchen. Paper, card, plastic bottles, glass are the obvious materials that the council will pick up to be recycled from your home, but there may be more. Information about what you can and cannot recycle should be available on your local council’s website, so check it out for a more comprehensive list.
What do you do if you can’t recycle? You upcycle that’s what, which basically means you take an object, for example an old piece of furniture or item of clothing that you no longer like and you turn it into something you do like. That old oak dresser you’ve had sat in your dining room for ages but no longer goes with your new decor…. why not split it into the top and bottom parts, sand them down, give them a lick of paint, change the knobs and et voilà you’ve got a new drinks cabinet and a wall hanging bookcase.
And that dress you’ve got with the broken and frayed straps… why not buy some cord or ribbon in a contrasting colour and make some new straps to create a truly bespoke piece that will get all your friends talking. Or why don’t you throw a clothes swapping party with your friends, where everyone brings one or two items of clothing they no longer wear. Throw it into a big pile and let the rummaging commence!
Re-useable Bottles and Cups
Are you a slave to your morning coffee? Do you often frequent your local coffee shop before work in a bid to get yourself ready and caffeinated for the day?
If the answer is a giant YES then this is the sustainability tip for you – take your own coffee mug. Simple right? But the act of you taking along your reusable cup and getting that filled up at the coffee shop instead of one of their disposable cups is enough to help. Admittedly a lot of places now use recyclable cups and that’s great, but it is still resources none the less and it is still money going into transporting that waste to be recycled. It should also save you money as most places charge less for refills than they do if they serve you coffee in a disposable cup. And of course if you want to save even more money, why not make your own coffee at home and take it with you.
Then there are single use plastic water bottles. Completely unnecessary and yet one of the key offenders in plastic pollution. Invest in a good quality metal water container that you can carry around with you and refill as and when you need to. These not only help keep your water cool, but they are also a good way of helping you keep track of how much water you’re drinking.
Grow Your Own Food
Have you always fancied living the good life, well now’s the time. No matter how small your outside space there is always a way to grow food at home, even if you just have a window box. As you become a more experienced gardener you will start to reap the benefits of your labour. Your grocery bills should start going down and you will learn which fruits, vegetables and herbs grow best and which ones are in season. Also by getting the kids involved, it should hopefully help inspire them to try out those veggies they may have otherwise turned their noses up at.
Say NO to Single Use Plastic
Just say NO. We simply don’t need single use plastic so stop using it and eventually as more of us do this it will hopefully stop being used. Make sure you take your own bags with you whenever you go shopping – I find keeping a stash in the boot of my cars means I’m never caught out. They will last a lot longer and will look better too, plus they are way stronger and so you will never have to experience those bottom falling out moments again.
Say no to plastic straws, to plastic cups, plastic plates and plastic cutlery. Don’t buy fresh produce that has been wrapped in unnecessary plastic – fruit and vegetables have peel for a reason, THAT is their packaging.
There are lots of shops and market stalls popping up that allow you to fill up with your own containers. Products like washing up liquid, fabric conditioner, soap, shampoo etc. can all be dispensed from the large containers in the store into your own bottles. Likewise rice, pasta, flour, and heaps more dried goods can be scooped either into paper bags or into your own pots. It works out cheaper because there are no packaging costs and is absolutely key to leading a more sustainable lifestyle.
Walk When You Can
I am such a big advocate of walking and will only ever use the car if I really need to. Yet many of us rely on getting about on 4 wheels way more than we should and it is slowly but surely choking our planet.
Car sharing is a great way to reduce this, or planning family timetables so that multiple drop offs to work, school, clubs etc. can all be done on the one journey rather than lots of shorter ones. If walking is completely out of the question, why not think about cycling or perhaps driving to a certain point and then walking the rest of the way?
Clean Up Your Act
Let’s talk about baby wipes. They’re literally every mum’s dream product right? From cleaning up messy bums, messy mouths, messy fingers, in fact messy everything, there is nothing I repeat NOTHING that a baby wipe can’t get rid off. However, they are a big problem especially when they are flushed down our toilets, as they collect in pipes and drains eventually clogging up our sewers and causing all kinds of environmental damage. Instead of forking out for single use baby wipes, why not consider using flannels or washable cloths instead. OK so it’s not as convenient and yes it involves some pretty horrific washing, but it’s worth taking one for the team if it will help save the planet.
I remember having a conversation with a friend when my two kids were younger about how she used a wet flannel after mealtimes for the kids to wipes their mouths and hands and it was a real lightbulb moment for me. We had been using wipes for this job, literally going through hundreds of the things, when in actual fact I could have bought a few flannels and they would have done the job just as well. It seems so obvious now, but at the time it was a revelation and we have never looked back. Again a simple change that came with so many benefits.
Habits are hard to change, but it is by no means impossible. All of us are responsible and all of us need to take responsibility for our decisions and our actions. Sustainability is 100% achievable if we are open to change; change for the better.
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