Achieving perfect zero waste is just not possible for most of us in modern society, but there are things that we can all do to reduce our impact. I am a big believer in making small changes for a more sustainable life, so with that in mind, here are 31 ideas to green up your life.
🌿 Love Your Leftovers
It is estimated that here in the UK, we already waste a whopping 22% of the food we buy. This year, with Christmas plans changed at the last minute, you might have found yourself facing a mountain of sprouts intended for a larger feast come Boxing Day. Love Food Hate Waste has a great recipe finder, put in an ingredient (sprouts) and you will get a list of alternatives to the compost bin, like this delicious curry
🌿 Smellies that do good
The unwanted beauty gift set seems to be as much of a Christmas tradition as the office Secret Santa. Before you throw it out, consider donating it to a beauty bank instead. It is estimated that over a ⅓ of people in the UK have gone without hygiene essentials due to a lack of money. The Hygiene Bank and Beauty Banks are aiming to redistribute unwanted toiletries to those in need. If you have any unopened toiletries or beauty items that you wish to donate, you can find drop off points in Superdrug and Boots or via their websites.
🌿 Turn January to Veganuary
If we all went vegan, the world’s food-related emissions would drop 70% by 2050. Whilst committing to a vegan lifestyle might not be a change that you want to make, Veganuary makes it easy to trial it for a month. You might find that some alternatives to animal products work for you long term.
🌿 Air the house
When it’s cold outside, it can feel natural to use draught excluders and keep windows tightly sealed to trap all the wam air in. However, opening windows for just five minutes a day can clear the build up of harmful air pollutants and allergens from things like cleaning products, cooking and woodburning stoves and reduce humidity which can lead to harmful mould. Start each day by flinging those windows wide and letting the fresh air in.
🌿 Read an inspiring book
If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by eco-anxiety or just knowing where to start, read a book that gives you a big boost of green positivity. There are some great titles out there to get you started, like The Joyful Environmentalist by Isabel Losada, who I spoke with earlier this year (you can find the video of our chat on the Facebook page).
🌿 Switch to solid soap
The carbon footprint of liquid soaps is around 25% higher than soap bars as they are less economical to transport, they have considerably more packaging and derive from synthetic, petroleum based detergents. For more reasons to make the switch, check out the blog here.
🌿 Plant Power
Research by NASA in the late 80’s found that plants improved air quality in the home by removing pollutants. Even though this research has since been debated, there is evidence that houseplants can lower stress, improve your mood and increase your brain power, so bring the outside in, with an air purifying plant for your home.
🌿 Flick that switch
By turning off devices at the plug rather than leaving them in sleep mode, you could save 10% of your household electricity and 1% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Remember especially to unplug chargers when not in use as they not only drain energy but are also a fire risk.
🌿 Let the light in
The short days of winter can affect our mood, eating and sleeping patterns. A study found that darker days even makes our pets gloomy. Let in all the daylight available by cleaning your windows with a spray solution of equal parts water and white vinegar. Rub clean windows with scrunched up newspaper to remove all water marks.
🌿 Save water
Waterwise estimates that the average person uses 143 litres per day in England with the Scots averaging 165 litres. Save money and save water with free water saving devices for your home from Save Water Save Money.
If Veganuary felt like a step too far this year or you have already slipped in your plant based diet goals then don’t be too hard on yourself. Committing to just a flexitarian diet could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% and the more meat free days you introduce, the better. Part-Time Vegetarian by Nicola Graimes has some great recipes for those trying to reduce their meat consumption.
🌿 Think dirty
The so-called ‘dirty dozen’ are twelve potentially harmful ingredients in skincare and beauty products and fear over their impact on human health has created a massive clean beauty industry. Clean beauty, however, has no strict definition with products labelled ‘green’ and ‘natural’ without any regulation. If in doubt, check your products on the Think Dirty app to get the true story.
🌿 Switch your sponge
Most kitchen sponges are made from plastic. They contain polyurethane made from petroleum which is responsible for a third of global carbon emissions. Make the switch to a compostable sponge like our Compostable Sponge Cleaning Cloths which are made from natural renewable cellulose and cotton ingredients, can be washed regularly with your normal laundry and can be composted at the end of their life.
🌿 Organise your recycling bins
Even the most experienced and motivated recycler will occasionally stand with some errant packaging in their hand whilst trying to work out which bin it should go in. Organising your recycling bins will make the process easier and encourage the whole family to ensure recyclable items are not thrown in the general waste bin. Contact your council for up-to-date bin labels to show what can and cannot be included and brush up on your recycling icons with this handy guide.
🌿 Sew spinach and lettuce seeds
Gardening is good for the soul and those without a garden can still reap the benefits. Research found that home gardening in a window box or pot was just as beneficial as a walk in nature. January may not be the most fruitful time in the garden, but there are things that can be grown right now. Sew spinach and lettuce seeds in January and you could be having a winter salad by February.
🌿 Switch to a green energy provider
The UK is now generating more than 45% of its energy from renewable sources and supporting green energy providers can fund even more projects away from fossil fuels. Green energy is no longer the expensive option either, with green tariffs at competitive prices. Octopus Energy came out top in a Which? Energy survey of customer satisfaction in 2020.
🌿 Look for the RSPO label
WWF estimates that palm oil is now found in 50% of packaged products in our supermarkets, from food stuffs to beauty products. This is down to its versatility and efficiency as a crop, but it’s success has brought deforestation and a loss of habitat of endangered species. WWF believes that instead of boycotting palm oil, consumers should look for RSPO (Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil) certified products instead.
🌿 Switch to solid soap
The carbon footprint of liquid soaps is around 25% higher than solid bars of soap due to a combination of factors; weight, transportation costs, packaging and their synthetic, petroleum based detergent ingredients. All the soap bars that I stock are made of pure natural ingredients right here on Dartmoor within 20 miles of the No Plastic Shop HQ meaning no unnecessary shipping.
🌿 Go organic in bed
We spend a third of lives asleep and our beds may be exposing us to harmful chemicals every night. There have been concerns that flame retardants added to mattresses and volatile organic compounds in polyurethane could be released during the night and affect health. Organic mattresses made from wool, cotton and latex offer a clean and comfortable night’s sleep.
🌿 Use a milkman
Our local milkman has become indispensable during lockdown, delivering milk, non-dairy milks, juice and yoghurt in glass bottles, as well as fresh bread, fruit boxes and more. Milk and More, the UK’s largest milk delivery company also stocks refillable laundry and cleaning products.
🌿 Find the perfect temperature
This last year has seen us all spending more time at home which has meant higher fuel bills. Rather than leaving radiators on low all day which is inefficient, set your home thermostat to a recommended 18℃ at night and 19-21℃ during the day for occupied rooms. If you need tips for keeping warm whilst home working, there are some tips here.
🌿 Green movie night
If you feel that you have already binged everything that Netflix has to offer, then try one of these eco watches instead.
– Blue A journey into the depths of the oceans exposing the effects of industrialisation, commercial fishing and plastic pollution.
– Before The Flood Even if celebrity endorsements aren’t your thing, this is a well researched exploration of the ongoing effects of climate change.
– Anthropocene: The Human Epoch Humans have changed the face of the planet irrevocably and this documentary explores this in stunning and terrifying cinematography.
– Wall-E One for all the family. Surely there is no better film for inspiring hope than Pixar’s tale of a lonely robot on a polluted Earth. The silent movie segment at the start is one of my favourite moments in animation.
🌿 Take your shoes off
Never has a debate raged as fiercely as that between shoes-on and shoes-off households. Whilst I am not going to even dip a (shoe clad) toe into the etiquette of asking guests to remove footwear, there are a couple of sustainability reasons to switch to slippers inside. Tracking dirty shoes through a house means that cleaning is likely to be more regular and more intensive, which increases the use of potentially toxic cleaners and reduces the longevity of flooring. Bare feet or slippers are softer on carpet fibres and can keep them looking fresher for longer.
🌿 Meal planning
I have learned over the years that I should never shop for food when hungry if I don’t want to end up with a random tiramisu that was definitely not on the list. BBC’s recent programme ‘Feast To Save The Planet’ had some eye-opening stats on the impact that household food waste has on the UK’s carbon footprint and it’s definitely worth a watch if you didn’t catch it. One way to avoid a third of your shopping ending up in the bin, is to draw up a two week meal plan and shop accordingly. It might sound dull, but if you can get the whole family involved in picking recipes and do your weekly shop online, it will avoid the last minute impulse buy.
🌿 Use a nappy library
It is estimated that a baby will go through an average 146.5kg of disposable nappies by the time they are 2 and a half. These can take up to 500 years to break down leaving microplastics in their wake. Reusable cloth nappies are no longer the fiddly, cumbersome options that they once were. Cloth nappy kits can be borrowed from a nappy library or you can buy a starter set like this one from Baba and Boo.
🌿 Bank ethically
Ensure that your money is not financing fossil fuels, the oil and gas industry and the arms trade by switching to an ethical bank. Triodos Bank and the Ecology Building Society are both widely recognised for their environmental ideology, socially responsible investment and fair payment of tax. You can view the ethical rankings of all UK banks at Ethical Consumer.
🌿 Switch to food wraps
If you still use cling film, then now is the time to make the change from this plastic peril. Aside from the concerns about harmful chemicals from cling film leaching into the food it is protecting, cling film is difficult to recycle and releases a toxic chemical called dioxin when thrown in landfill. Switch to reusable food wraps that are fully recyclable and biodegradable. We stock both beeswax and vegan food wraps in a variety of sizes.
🌿 Ditch toxic cleaners
The Hinch effect of cleaning influencers has led to a boom in sales of cleaning products with bleach, Zoflora and highly scented laundry detergents topping the list. As well as ending up in our waterways and posing a threat to wildlife, this increased toxic load in your house could lead to negative health effects with hormone disrupting phthalates, volatile organic compounds and chemical skin irritants all present in common household cleaners.
Clean a gentler way with natural products that you can make at home, there’s plenty of inspiration to be found on Instagram and former Bake Off winner Nancy Birstwhistle has shared some ideas from her new book Clean & Green here.
🌿 Compost at home
If you have any outdoor space then you can discover the joys of home composting. The simple rule of thumb, is that, if its vegan it can be composted (adding meat products would attract rats and make you unpopular with your neighbours), the exception being egg shells which add useful minerals. Get the lowdown on nature’s own efficient recycling system here.
🌿 Clean up your inbox
It is estimated that 306.4 billion emails were sent and received every day in 2020. With each standard email contributing to the equivalent of 4g of CO2, it is easy to see how our individual digital carbon footprint can build up. Ovo Energy have developed a free Chrome plugin called Carbon Capper to help people think mindfully about their email usage and helps idenitify potentially unnecessary emails before you press send.
🌿 We are better together
We all need inspiration to stay motivated, discover new ideas and move towards a more sustainable life. It has been found that social influence is a powerful motivation for behaviour change. By continuing to share what we are doing on an individual level to be more green, in a non judgemental way, we can be a force for good.