Last year I wrote a couple of blog posts about #smallchanges we can all make to live a little greener. They went down quite well and some people even made life changes as a result – hurray!
For 2019, I’ve combined and categorised the two posts for your convenience and added new content in bold…These tips are geared for busy people like us – but are easy, affordable and sustainable ideas which all add up.
Consuming less meat and dairy is the single biggest way to help the planet so I made a concerted effort to do this all year.
Now, I do love a steak but decided to only buy organic from now on and to cook meat much less frequently.
I’ve been stealthily turning my meat-loving boys a bit more veggie.
Here are some of my wins:
- Tivall soya hotdogs. Thaw and heat through in boiling water. I refuse to buy in ‘meat’ hot-dogs (full of what?!) but with ketchup, in a bun, we can’t really tell the difference.
- Cauldron sausages – luscious, flavoursome and ‘meaty’ (vastly better than the dry Linda McCartney ones). I did cheat a bit, using a chicken Oxo cube to add a meatish hit to the gravy. My 8-year-old and I are total converts, but my hardcorenivourous 6-year-old screwed his tiny face up at the very idea and Andy said they were, “OK, but never going to be as good as a real sausage.” I disagree. They’re yummy.
- For family fave spag bol, I brown 400g lean mince then grate the same weight of veg in i.e. a 250g punnet of mushrooms and one or two courgettes. Doubles the volume and veg, halves the meat and calories! I crumble two Oxo beef cubes and add other things (ketchup, tomato purée, Worcester sauce, balsamic vinegar glaze and Marmite!) to add depth, colour and umami. My mushroom-and-courgette-hating boys wolf it down. (PS I did try turkey and Quorn versions but they were just not the same.)
- In 2018 I used Gousto to reduce our meat-intake by choosing at least two vegetarian meals per week. Pick your recipes and they deliver fresh ingredients all measured out – no food waste either! My only gripe is all the packaging but most of it is recyclable. Get a discounted trial here with no tie-in (I’ll get a kickback too).
- I’m going to give Mindful Chef a go this year – they donate a meal to a child in poverty for every meal sold – I love that.
In 2019, I’ll continue to check labels and swap out food brands for more sustainable choices.
Easy food swaps: Lurpak for Kerrygold butter, made from grass-fed cows and a recyclable paper wrapper. We leave it out in an insulated butter dish so it’s always spreadable.
Swapped out Knorr Stock Pots for Oxo cubes – no-plastic minimal and recyclable packaging. I also love using the collectable retro tin I bought last year.
I’d love to find the time to shop at farmers’ markets but for now try to buy seasonally and get ‘wonky veg’ from Ocado.
Any food waste goes into our green bin and everything else (paper/card, plastics, aluminium, even fabrics) gets recycled. As a family of four we generate only a shopping bag of rubbish a week.
My lovely friend Emily gifted me these Bees Wraps to cover dishes, wrap foods, sandwiches, etc. I use them all the time instead of cling film. Just wash with warm soapy water to clean, dry and reuse.
I got SO much better in 2018 at remembering to take a fabric bag with me to the shops. I keep one in my rucksack/laptop bag, one in the car and one hung with my coats. If I do forget, Ocado pays 5p per bag – any brand – to recycle them, but obviously fewer plastic bags are always better.
- We use Milk & More to deliver milk in traditional, reusable glass bottles. In 2018 we also got our apple and orange juice delivered in glass too. No more cartons!
- We also all use aluminium water bottles, healthier than plastic ones too which can leach BPAs and harbour bacteria.
- Andy and I have been using Contigo cups for years. Drinks stay hot and spill-proof in your bag, on your desk, or around children. Saves money and time too (Andy grinds his own coffee).
- Tea: I did try going loose-leaf in 2018 but couldn’t find a decaffeinated breakfast tea. I got some mint tea and some cute infusers, but I found it all a bit too much hassle and the leaves leaking into my drink ruined it. #ecofail. There are a few including TeaPigs who do biodegradable teabags but I’m waiting for a plastic-free decaffeinated tea bag – PG says they’re coming in 2019!
- I finally invested in a SodaStream with the glass bottle option. I’d felt bad denying my boys carbonated water (we dilute their juices 50:50 for a healthier ‘fizzy drink’) because of the plastic. Bonus: they love using it for the farty sounds the machine makes!
- And of course, I stopped buying straws. Not even paper straws which take more trees, water and energy to make – don’t believe the hype. I did buy some cool aluminium ones, but the boys seemed to grow out of straws just as I bought them – doh!
- *UPDATED!* I had said, only half-jokingly, that I even upgraded to Fever Tree tonic with my gin because of the glass bottles. One of our readers pointed out that glass is only eco-friendly if it’s reused 20-30 times. Oh well, I did try, but I’m not going to stop having the odd G&T – these changes have got to be sustainable after all! (I do buy the large bottles, in my feeble defence!)
Marie Kondo changed our lives in 2017 with her book about Tidying Up. We got rid of everything that didn’t ‘spark joy’ and ended up with an organised, uncluttered home which tidies easily, despite children. The extra headspace, time and calm this creates is amazing.
- Having less makes us buy less because we realise how little we need – and we know what we’ve already got. We also buy higher-quality longer-lasting items when we do – less throwaway stuff.
- Our kids pass on outgrown toys and books to their school, charity shops or sell them on before Christmases/birthdays (the cash incentive helps! :))
- I’ve started asking for ‘experiences‘ for the kids off the grandparents. No clutter or plastic, just great memories.
- Andy and I tend to gift each other tickets to events, memberships (I got a V&A one last birthday) and meals out instead of more ‘stuff’.
- This year I suggested an Amazon voucher option for my 8-year-old’s birthday party. About 90% of the parents went for it! So we got three Nintendo games he and his brother play loads rather than boxes and boxes of soon-discarded plastic.
- This Christmas, I also instigated a Secret Santa for my family get-together so each adult only needed to buy one present for one other adult. (I’d happily go without any presents for the grown-ups, but I didn’t want to be a total Grinch!)
- Shiny, metallic or glittery, sparkly papers don’t recycle. I use plain-coloured or brown paper and traditional brown parcel tags with string, and stamp them to decorate.
- This year, Andy & I both had a stylist do our ‘colours’ and a style edit. We’re shopping less but this now saves us time and costly mistakes. Ironically, I wear more of my wardrobe now it’s edited because I can find everything and am rediscovering and restyling old faves!
- I found a great local seamstress who also breathed new life into existing pieces. Larysa shortened a jumpsuit that swamped me to a cute playsuit and radically altered (shortened, nipped, embellished) a worn-once dress I found on eBay (£12) into a ‘made to measure’ one for a beach wedding (alterations £35). She even tweaked an ASOS linen suit Andy bought for the occasion and made it look bespoke.
- I spotted a few silver moths when I pulled out our scarves and hats this year – ick, we’d been attacked! Put the damaged garments in sealed food bags and freeze for 24 hours to kill off any larvae before putting them in your fabric recycling. Then wash all the rest (add vinegar to kill eggs). Mothballs are highly toxic but I read that moths also avoid cloves and cinnamon. Our coat cupboard smells delicious now!
Did you know that up to 95% of fabrics that go into landfill could be either reworn or recycled? We recycle 100% of ours:
- I get too overwhelmed in second-hand stores – but I’m a new convert to eBay – and it feels great to buy ‘greener’.
- Host a ‘Swish’ party. My friends and I used to do these: bring a bottle for a fun night, a free wardrobe boost and anything left goes to charity.
- Take any old bras to Bravissimo – they ship the reusable ones to women in developing countries, others get recycled and they make a donation to charity.
- Take all unwearable, worn, holey clothes (even socks, tights, pants…) to H&M for recycling and you get a £5 voucher per bag. Yes, they are responsible for a lot of fast fashion, but for my fast-growing boys it makes financial sense to shop there.
- We resell ‘higher-ticket’ clothes on local Facebook pages, hand-down kids’ clothes (those H&M goodies at least get worn by four boys in our family!) or charity-shop them.
- I used to buy 0-4 yr clothes and toys – often unused – from local NCT Nearly New Sales.
- You can also use old garments as cleaning rags as my friend Lynne does, and several friends have started using nicer fabric scraps to wrap presents.
- I was finally persuaded by Andy to make the switch to Kindle – and I read so much more! I’m also listening to more books on Audible and Blinkist. Less paper = greener all round.
- Swap CDs and DVDs (charity-shop or Music Magpie) in favour of streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix.
- The British Heart Foundation will collect your old sofas and beds for free and you can donate your old working electrical goods too.
- Batteries: We’ve been using recyclable batteries since the kids were tiny and kept leaving their toys on and running batteries out. They cost more initially but we didn’t have to replace all the batteries all at once. We have a Universal battery charger (buy here) and as normal batteries died, we just replaced them with rechargeables, so the cost has been spread over time. We keep spare ones, ready-charged in our ‘dad drawer’. Some new toys still come with disposable batteries, so we just take those to our local Sainsbury’s when they run out. They have a battery recycling bin by the till.
- We got a Smart Meter which displayed how much energy we were using. I was finally shocked into buying a retractable double washing line and pegs (these are recycled and recyclable) when I saw the readings rocket every time we used the tumble dryer!
- We also got energy-saving LED Hue lighting through most of our house/garden and motion sensors in the hallways, bathroom and understairs cupboard. They do need some outlay and set-up, but proved their worth to me as they’ve stopped me huffing at my family for leaving lights on! They’re also great if the kids get up at night – the lights come on at a dimmer level so as not to wake them up too much. We can even control them from our phones when we’re away (the lights, not the kids, obviously, although that would be awesome).
- Our Nest thermostat also smartly regulates our heating via an app, so when we are out of the house it turns the heating down.
We managed to halve our energy bills in a year 🙂
BE A GREENER CLEANER
Microfibre cloths although synthetic, rate really well from an eco-friendly perspective. They wash well, last for years and are super absorbent so we need little cleaning product – or kitchen roll. These glass cloths polish mirrors/windows with only water too.
I buy 5l bottles of white wine vinegar and reuse old spray bottles for my potions. I’ve spent only £20 on cleaning stuff this year and the house sparkles! My cleaner even carries vinegar to shine her other clients’ taps now.
(And yes, I’d always worried about the smell too, but it fades as it dries).
Anyway, my friend Rosana tipped me to scent it with lemons. Cut any squeezed lemons into wedges and push them into the vinegar bottle. Just keep adding over time – it gets less vinegary and more citrusy as you go.
BONUS: Prise them out when the vinegar is gone and you have preserved lemons! I chop them up and use them in couscous, chicken or fish dishes. Zero-waste and delicious.
- For burnt-on pans/kettles/toasters and tough stains: bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Mix into a paste, rub on, leave for a bit, elbow grease, wipe/rinse. Or make a more liquid mix and let it fizz away. Easier still: I burnt a pan and just put water and vinegar in immediately. After a few minutes, the gunk just lifted off with a gentle scrape and my pan’s shinier than ever. Magic!
- All-purpose cleaner: for tiles, sinks, glass, mirrors and worktops (not granite): 50/50 vinegar/water and a good ‘squidge’ of classic Fairy liquid in a bottle. Tip gently back and forth to mix.
- Granite or marble: a drizzle of washing up liquid and a hot damp microfibre cloth. Wipe, rinse, squeeze, repeat. Lift stains with a gentle paste of bicarb and water. Don’t use anything acidic on these surfaces.
- Magical limescale remover (bathrooms, tiles, taps): 50/50 vinegar and classic Fairy. Heat the vinegar gently to combine it more easily and tip bottle back and forth to mix. Spray on, leave overnight. Rinse and scrub taps with an old toothbrush or wipe off surfaces. Admire your reflection. Use the all-purpose cleaner for maintenance.
- Toilet bowl descaler: Use a loo brush (this is the best and most hygenic one ever) to push as much water as you can down the U-bend. Pour a kettle of hot vinegar (cleans the kettle too!) and close the lid. Leave overnight. Scrub – the scale will just lift off. Repeat if needed.
- Drains: Commercial drain cleaners are so toxic to our waterways! De-clog smelly drains with dry bicarb down the plughole, pour vinegar over it to make it fizz. Leave 1/2 hr and pour a kettle of boiled water down to flush everything away. Repeat if needed.
- Furniture polish: 50% olive oil, 25% water, 25% vinegar. Shake well before use. Store in a cool, dark cupboard.
- Floors: for tiles, linoleum, sealed wooden floorboards and laminate. Fill a mop bucket with hot water, add enough Fairy to get a lather and a good glug of vinegar to cut through the grease, dirt and germs. Wring the mop as dry as possible on the final wipe.
- Dishwasher: put half a teacup of vinegar in the top rack. Everything sparkles like new and it descales your machine. Also use vinegar instead of expensive commercial rinse aid.
- Washing machine: add half a cup directly into the drum or the fabric-conditioner drawer. Whitens whites, removes soap scum so darks look darker, softens fabrics, descales, deodourises. kills germs and prevents scum/mould build-up.
- Algae: on paths, walls etc. Paint/spray neat vinegar on the areas and leave for a few days to work. Wash off with a hose and broom/brush.
- This year I switched to soap bars over plastic bottles of shower gel. An affordable, easy change – I just use good old Dove. (Yet to find an affordable shampoo bar that appeals – one for 2019!)
- I do however buy the biggest size bottles of shampoos and conditioners (one 900ml bottle uses less packaging than three 300ml ones), and rather than buy travel-sized anything, I decant products into small re-usable bottles/tubs for trips.
- Cotton buds with paper ‘sticks’ are a no-brainer – buy here
- Cotton wool takes a huge amount of water and land to produce and wipes don’t biodegrade. Use a washable cleansing cloth or natural facial sponge and facewash/bars instead.
- Plastic toothbrushes don’t recycle and will be here longer than our grandchildren’s grandchildren. So I switched to biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes. Wish they did bamboo electric toothbrush heads though!
- We switched from tubes of toothpaste to pumps as surprisingly, they are recyclable but tubes are not. Still seems like a lot of packaging though, so I’m tempted to try this homemade toothpaste in 2019.
- My husband bought an electric water flosser earlier this year. Far more efficient and dental floss and interdental brushes are harmful to wildlife.
- Get a water-saving kit FREE here – if you’re metered, the tap aerators and shower timers will save you money too. (Oh and you don’t need a meter to tell you to turn off your tap when you’re brushing your teeth!)
- #PlasticFreePeriod: Wooooah: Ladies, we typically spend £18,000 and use up to 11,000 sanitary products in a lifetime. I’ve been using a ‘Mooncup‘ for over a decade. Hygienic, zero waste, and saves a fortune. There are also other alternatives on the market too including Thinx and ModiBodi pants.
- InnerVisions ID runs a virtually paper-free business – everything is digital and backed-up in the Cloud, including our accounts in XERO. We generally work from our homes – no commutes! – but have weekly meet-ups (which we usually walk or bus to).
- As a member of ZEN (Zero Emissions Network) we have a partnership with Calverts printers who only use recycled or FSC-accredited papers and non-toxic inks. Our clients get a 10% discount and we waive our 15% handling fee if you use them. You can also use the FSC logo on your marketing.
- Join the Guardian Sustainable Business Network like us, to keep up-to-date with other ethical and sustainability innovations.
- We reduced our impact further in 2018 by creating a digital Christmas e-card and making a donation to our charity CARE.
Living life more sustainably is a great way to approach the new year.
How will you go more green in 2019?