With the sometimes frightening headlines regarding climate change, masses of information and conflicting arguments. Trying to do your bit and knowing where and how to start can quickly become overwhelming.
However taking a greener step forward and having a mindset change in how you manage your life, home and consumption can help both the environment and often yourself on your greener living journey.
The important thing is not to be put off, just by living we create waste. None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes, perhaps even often! Throw in some conflicting choices, when you’re under pressure and before you know it you’re wondering if you can consider yourself to be Eco-Friendly at all! It’s OK, just start and keep on going.
Think Slow & Sustainable
Some of the choices we make are habit and others practicality or even emotional. If your green light bulb moment has gone off, that is fantastic. However please don’t immediately start replacing everything with an ‘Eco-Friendly‘ alternative and throw perfectly usable items away unnecessarily.
Alternatively if you’ve been wowed by a zero waste video (some are seriously impressive!) but now frightened to throw anything in the trash! Filling your garage or basement with unloved items or worse, garbage, isn’t a great idea either. There is a transition period.
I can assure you, these people didn’t get there overnight. It’s a journey. Everyone’s lives, households, jobs and passions are different and in fact frequently changing. You could be trying to alter behaviours you have been doing for years, and also have other family members that are sadly not really on board with your new found ideas!
Making things manageable, small habit changes that you can build on, is likely to be more successful. Go easy on yourself, you’re in it for the long haul. You are much more likely to stick to sustainable thinking and living if you don’t try and do to much too soon.
We don’t need a few people to do Zero Waste perfectly, we need loads of people to do it imperfectly.Author Unknown
Use What You Have
The chances are you have much of what you need in your home already. Many things can be multi purpose. Yes beautiful curated images with lovely green plants, bamboo bowls, shelves of suitably filled mason jars, a highly polished sustainable wooden coffee table, look stunning; even possibly something you would like to aim for.
The reality is though, you’ve probably already got glass jars, shoe boxes, metal tins or plastic containers that are ideal for what you need, even if your just using them temporarily. Whether that’s to hold your pens, knickers or a plant!
Think Before You Make A Purchase
Just stopping and thinking about what you are buying or planning to buy, can help you shift a mindset. We are all very good at seeing something we think we need, before we know it, excited in the moment, whether in the store or online…. browsing becomes buying!
Whether you get into the habit of pausing, and asking yourself – ‘Is this item a need or a want? ‘ Make yourself have a delay period or go for an all out ban. Putting some sort of distance between seeing something and making that purchase too quickly, can help prevent over consumption and ultimately save you money and the environment.
Is There A More Sustainable Alternative
This may seem like a pain in the beginning but you do get quicker at it. Considering each item with the question if what your buying is the most sustainable item you can buy for you at that time?
For a whole host of reasons, whether it be practicality, cost, length of use, availability and others. Just questioning for a moment is being greener and may open up other alternatives.
If the item you’re considering is not reusable, biodegradable or recyclable it will head to landfill if not either kept or diverted by you the consumer elsewhere. Considering the length of life the item will have with you and the options for it’s disposal after use, may help you decide if you really want or need to purchase at all.
Loan & Hire
We have lived so long in a throw away society that other alternatives can often get forgotten. Whether its an outfit for a special occasion, the annual hedge trim or the household carpet deep clean.
The chances are the outfit or equipment needed for the job are rarely used. Whether you hire from a professional or loan from a friend, neighbour or group. Yes it may take some planning, possibly even a little research, but it also avoids the cost, repair, upkeep and space of something you may only use once a year…or even just once!
What Can You Re-Purpose
The web is full of articles and videos on how to re purpose and up cycle. Whilst some things may take a little more skill, others are literally using an item in a different way.
As mentioned you’ve probably already got glass jars, shoe boxes, metal tins or plastic containers that can be re-used or re-purposed.
Jumpers or tops made into cushions. Pet beds made from duvets, linen and curtains. Clothing used to make face masks or cut up to make cloths and re usable wrap. Old sinks, wellingtons, buckets and pots become ponds, planters and water features.
There are so many ideas, so thinking outside of the box, using a little imagination and giving something a 2nd life, particularly if it is likely to just end up in landfill.
It’s worth taking the risk and who knows you may find you have a hidden skill!!
Reduce Your Purchase Of Plastic (Particularly Single Use)
It can be hard to stop completely single use plastic coming into your home , but you can drastically reduce it. Planning ahead, taking a water bottle or flask with you can help prevent having to stop and purchasing a plastic bottled beverage or other plastic covered consumable.
Some countries and grocery stores are better than others in what they offer with and without plastic. Bulk stores, farmers market and reduced plastic packaging are on the increase but not available to all.
Thinking and planning your food shop and how you can reduce the plastic purchased each week. For my post on reducing plastic in your food shopping click here.
Think seriously before buying a plastic item. Plastic is durable and often practical. We have many plastic items in our own household. However disposing of them after use can be difficult. Not all plastic is recyclable, and most recyclable items can only be recycled once into an item which then becomes non-recyclable and subsequently will sit for centuries in landfill.
Used Goods Buying, Selling & Donating
Whether you prefer to buy online or visit stores. Buying a used item has probably never been easier, with Ebay, Craigslist, Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace to name but a few. As well as thrift and charity shops and initiatives local to you that are often also online.
There are many options to check out before making a purchase and likewise many options to try first before throwing an item in the bin or sending an item to your local waste management centre.
‘One persons trash is another person’s treasure’ is so true. I have often been amazed at the items people have purchased or if offered for free, have taken once listed on a local platform. Its a good feeling to know that something you once loved or utilised is getting another life elsewhere.
Reducing Meat Consumption
Whilst all meats have a higher land, water and climate footprint than the equivalent plant based foods. The arguments from scientists, environmentalists and nutritionists can be confusing and including and not including various factors skewing data.
As with many green issues there are differing views and it can be complicated. Whether intensive farming, low and high impact production, transportation, right down to the methane produced and well managed pastures and the carbon needed in soil.
One thing that seems to be generally agreed is that reducing your meat consumption. For both health and environmental reasons is of benefit.
If eating meat, eat less but better quality, knowing where it is from and how it has been raised. Avoiding over processed intensively farmed produce which tends to be linked with rain forest clearance to produce animal feed.
For further information and expert advice from all points of view see https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/articles/meat_environment
Growing Your Own Veg Or Planting A Tree
There are huge benefits physical and mental in gardening and spending time in outside space. Growing your own vegetables has the added advantage of not only tasting great but knowing exactly where it has come from and how it has been cultivated as well as the distance travelled and transport used from harvest to your plate.
As a general rule where food items are being imported particularly from another continent. Items that can be stored for a few weeks are more likely to come by sea such as apples, oranges and bananas and dried items such as pulses. However quick perishables such as fruits like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, are more likely to be air freighted.
It is amazing how little space you need to start growing food. A window sill or balcony can be enough, especially to just test the water.
At the time of writing this, my spinach and swiss chard have made an appearance. I will be out with my scissors shortly cutting the baby leaves to add to a salad for lunch.
Trees are amazing, removing pollution from the atmosphere and improving air quality and human health. According to the Abor Day Foundation trees not only provide better health and oxygen, they help clean our drinking water, help reduce the effects of climate change and energy usage around a building as well as supporting wildlife and even preventing crime.
Write It Down
Writing it down, making a plan, and visualising what you would like to change are all helpful in changing something from just thinking about it into action.
The chances are if you even start with a list of things you think you may need to start doing, possibly want to stop doing or amend, its likely to quickly become a long list. Possibly overwhelming.
Don’t be put off, its fine to make that list and keep it. Any kind of action starts with one small change. Perhaps starting with the area that interests you most or where you think you can create the most gains, that will build momentum. You will learn as you go and perhaps find some tips here!
Hold any big expensive decisions until you have done your research, and you’re really confident the change is right for you and your situation.
Don’t Give Up
Please don’t don’t give up. If anything has been learned by recent events, it’s that life and situations can change very quickly. You’re best efforts can be undone by other events and overtaking for a while.
Unfortunately that is life. Don’t beat yourself up or feel guilty. The important thing is to get back on track and do what you can when you can.