In recent months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the changes I could make to my lifestyle to make it more eco-friendly. The planet is struggling with pollution; 8 million metric tonnes of plastic winds up in our oceans each year, and carbon dioxide levels in the air are at their highest in 650,000 years. Whilst I believe a huge part of halting climate change is putting pressure on governments and big businesses to change their emissions, water usage and sustainability policies, I’m learning more about the things I can do at home or when I’m out to help make a difference. I’m not kidding myself that I can become zero-waste overnight – let’s be real, that would be a serious practical challenge when we live in such a plastic-heavy society – however I am all about doing what you can. So with that in mind, here are some of the changes I have made to my lifestyle to work towards eliminating single-use plastics, reducing my waste and becoming more sustainable.
Sidenote: the photos for this post were taken by my lovely friend Georgia, who brought me to this incredible plastic-free cafe in Clapham. It’s called Common, and if you’re ever in the area it’s a great spot to do some work, pick up an eco-friendly product or restock your grains in the bulk dispensers!
Anyway, cafes aside: here are eight steps I’m taking as I move towards a lower-waste, more sustainable lifestyle.
Bamboo Cutlery For On The Go
I recently watched a great video from Wear I Live on how to become low-waste, and carrying a set of clean cutlery with you when you’re on the go was one of her suggestions. I thought this was such a great idea – if I’m running to a meeting or working out of the house, I sometimes pick up a snack pot in M&S or a salad in Pret. Bringing reusable cutlery will mean I don’t have to use a plastic single-use fork, which is a massive win in my eyes. I picked up this set from Amazon, which has chopsticks too
(again, perfect for my occasional sushi habit.)
Giving My Clothing A Longer Life
So I’ll be the first to admit that I love clothes, and whilst I still buy from high street stores, I try to keep my purchases limited and focus on items I will get a high cost-per-wear out of. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be expensive, I just assess how strong the fabric is, whether it will fit my style for at least a couple of years and whether I can keep in good condition. Some items are definitely second-hand buys – vintage 501s, oversized shirts, and short-term fashion pieces that you can catch on Depop once someone has worn it on one night out. I bought my leopard-print satin skirt from Depop, and I’ve seen a hundred and one bead bags that are still in stock in Zara on there.
If I’m buying an item that doesn’t have a huge shelf life (the white tees with the inevitable pit stains, I see you,) I am going to choose organic cottons so that they do as little damage to the environment as possible. I want to hold onto items for as long as possible though; I’m not bad at this, many of my tees and jumpers are years old, but I want to consider the longevity of items and their style as I buy them too. If I get it tailored to fit me, I’ll get twice as much wear out of it, and if I take care of it, debobbling my jumpers and dry-cleaning my coats every so often, everything will feel good as new for much longer. And of course, when an item does reach the end of its life, I’ll either give it away, sell it, or recycle it like I am doing now. Hopefully those small steps will keep my wardrobe sustainable.
Buying Veg In Boxes
This might seem super-specific, but hear me out. As I live in a slightly difficult area for groceries, I generally order my weekly food shop online. However, it feels like no matter where I shop, my veg is always wrapped in a whole load of plastic that’s completely unnecessary. It’s the same in my Sainsburys Local and my Amazon Fresh orders… there doesn’t seem to be a great option for plastic-free shopping when you don’t live near a place with affordable, loose veg on sale. So while I’m living in this area, I’ve decided to start ordering veg boxes in my weekly shop. A veg box usually has seven or eight veggies in them, or potentially ten items including fruit, and the only packaging they come in is the cardboard box for transportation. And buying a veg box doesn’t always mean an expensive, organic, yummy mummy experience (although I do love a bit of Abel and Cole); Oddbox do a small fruit and veg box for just over £10, Morrisons sells a British veg box for just £5 and Asda sell a “Wonky Box” in their larger stores. For someone who doesn’t live in a great area for plastic-free fruit and veg, these boxes are fab and if you’re in the same position as me, I’d recommend getting on it.
Bringing My Water Bottle
There really isn’t any excuse for how inconsistent I’ve been with bringing my water bottle out with me during the day. I am perhaps the thirstiest woman alive, so I always need water beside me and if I forget to bring my bottle I will often end up buying a disposable bottle so I don’t dehydrate. This pattern has to stop, so I’m committing to bringing a bottle with me every time I’m going into town during the day.
Reducing My Meat Intake
When I was involved with the Quakers, we spoke a lot about sustainability. I remember first meeting a vegan when I was eleven years-old and having my little mind blown when they told me they couldn’t eat Nutella. At one particular talk I went to, I was told that the most impactful changes you can make to your lifestyle to help the planet are to stop eating beef and avoid air travel. I used to be pescatarian, but when my diet became increasingly limited through giving up gluten I didn’t want to restrict it any more and so I cut myself some slack in the meat department. Then I started to cut myself too much slack, so I think it’s time to get back on the low-meat bandwagon. Although I eat vegetarian when I’m cooking for myself, I am opting for the veggie option more often when I’m out, and I think I’m going to brave the topic of, “maybe we shouldn’t eat so much bacon when we cook together,” with my boyfriend. I’m not sure how it will go down, might have to make a Powerpoint to convince him…
Keeping An Eye On My Flying Habits
Now this isn’t a huge concern for me, just something I’d like to be more mindful of. I don’t tend to fly very much and I never take domestic flights, however I think it’s important to be conscious of not increasing the amount of air travel I do. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, and that’s okay, but where I can avoid it, I will. Eurostar all the way.
Using Cling Film Alternatives
Again, perhaps a slightly odd one, but I’m unfortunately one of those uses-half-an-onion-and-then-wraps-the-rest-in-foil kind of people. But I recently learned that this can be avoided! There are reusable sandwich bags for storing half-eaten veg in your fridge, and weird onion-shaped trays for all those half-onions I leave for tomorrow’s cooking. This has been a fab discovery for me, and I’ve proudly ordered a reusable sandwich bag this morning.
Switching To Coconut Milk
Now I’m not sure if quantifiably, this makes much of a difference to my overall impact when you take into account the energy used to transport the coconuts, but hopefully it makes a slight difference. When it comes to cutting down on dairy I thought I had it down. I was on my almond milk and soy yoghurts, and rarely had dairy other than cheese. However, I recently learned that almond milk creates a lot of waste, which isn’t ideal. I wanted to switch to soy, but I’ve started reacting to it, and oat milk is obviously a no-go for my digestion. So I’ve switched to coconut milk, in the hopes that it’s slightly better for the environment than almond. One small step for man, am I right?