As my old favourite Kermit once said It’s not easy being green. But we’re trying right! I’m really trying to change my ways but it’s not always successful. My recent attempt at starting a compost heap resulted in my dog and all the neighbourhood foxes digging it up to get the scraps. This ended up with my husband chasing the dog round the garden at midnight, stepping in fox poo and me not being very popular.
So I’ve kept it easy for me and I’m starting with little ways to save resources. When running a tap or shower have a jug or bucket handy while you wait for it it to get hot or cold, then you can use the water for rinsing dishes, cooking, filling your dogs bowl, watering your plants and even flushing your toilet. If you have a garden you can also use your leftover washing up water (grey water) to water your plants - it won’t harm them.
I’m a massively boring fan of residual heat too - turning cooking off a few minutes before the meal is ready. These are such obvious things aren’t they but I feel like David Attenborough would approve.
Another thing is picking up litter, I love the #2minutebeachclean idea and the recent #trashtag challenge where people take a photo of loads of litter then another photo an hour later when they’ve picked it all up. Imagine this craze really taking off!
Litter drives me mad and it can spoil the most beautiful places and have devastating effects on wildlife. Selfishly it can also spoil your views and your day but if you pick it up then you’re stopping it from spoiling anyone else’s day. It’s not always possible but if we all picked up just one bit of rubbish when we saw it then what a difference it could make.
I asked a few people who I think are really inspiring and here are their tips…
Help the little guys - Esther
Insects are in great peril. A decline has been happening for some time but now it seems to have accelerated, with recent news that if the current rate continues, many insects could be extinct within the next 100 years. Mindblowing stuff. This is driven by many factors, but we can have some impact on their (and our) future with the choices we make.
Wildlife is lost when land is used for intensive food production. If we can all move towards a plant based diet, we would need much less land to feed ourselves, leaving more space for wildlife (a plant based diet cuts the use of land by 76%). We can also choose organic food wherever possible which means a reduction in pesticide use.
We can lobby our local councils to stop using herbicides like glyphosate in our parks, playgrounds and streets and also stop using any pesticides in our gardens or balconies... Pest numbers can be controlled naturally as long as there's enough bio-diversity without needing to take such drastic action. Plant pollinator friendly plants wherever possible and a range of native plants for more fussy insects that depend on certain plants for their life cycle like the Brimstone butterfly that needs purging buckthorn and alder buckthorn for its caterpillars to feed on
We can stop mowing our lawns as much, leave a strip (or more), nice and long for insects to enjoy and you won't believe the impact such a small measure can have on the number and variety that come to visit. If you don't have your own garden, work with a local park user group and the council to encourage a more relaxed mowing regime in some areas of a local park and urge the council to let grass verges grow wilder.
Also encourage dead wood to be retained if they need to fell a tree in the park for example. If you have a garden, make some nice log piles and whilst you're at it, consider making a pond - even a bucket pond or one in an old ceramic sink - many insects like dragonflies need water for their incredible carnivorous larvae to grow in.
Nature really needs us to be less focused on manicured tidiness (and artificial grass!) and go a little bit wild!
Ownership vs Consumption - Caroline
Have you ever considered the idea that when we shop, when we buy food or clothes or coffee, we are venturing into the territory of buying something we will then own, or buying something that will have to be replaced infinite times?
If we concentrate on this for just a second, considering that when you own something, it’s yours. You paid for it. You have spent money on this item and it now belongs to you. You can keep it and use it whenever you want.
But, when we consume, it’s not quite the same.
We pay out time after time for products or items that need replacing so that we can “have” them again. Perpetual spending and consuming, often adding a plastic waste product into the mix, and that’s the last thing this planet needs. More waste.
Ownership makes more sense to your wallet than consumption. You work hard for your money so why be so quick to give it away?
Let’s now consider how we might be stuck in this cycle of consumption without really connecting with that idea. Let’s look at some ways we consume that could be traded for something we pay out for only once, items that we would actually own, and see how that lessens our impact on the planet.
The easiest swap you could make is buying a good quality drinking canteen. Pay out once, choosing carefully, investing in your purchase, and you’ve already saved yourself money in the long run. Grabbing a plastic wrapped drink when you are out and about might seem harmless enough, but all those bottles add up, both in cost and as a waste product.
Taking your reusable bottle with you when you go out means you can fill up when you are out and about but also you can fill up from home. This might seem obvious but you’ve already paid for the water that comes out of your tap, so why wouldn’t you use it. Why pay extra for something you already own?
Refilling single use plastic bottles as a way of reusing isn’t advised. Chemicals from plastic leach into the water over time, because these bottles were not designed to be kept and reused in that way. But there are some that can.
There are brands that offer refills on washing detergents. Because the bottles are being refilled and reused without anyone ingesting the contents, you pay a bit more for your first bottle but are then given refills at a discounted price. Owning that one bottle and refilling it infinite times, instead of consuming by buying new bottles time and time again saves you money, reduces your waste impact and gives value to that bottle as a useful container, as well as valuing plastic as a resource rather than a throw away waste product.
Imagine the impact if all detergent companies switched to this method of selling. Imagine the waste that wouldn’t be being created, the money they themselves would save through not having to perpetually produce plastic containers to wrap, litre after litre of, soap inside.
Another simple, affordable investment is the reusable cup. Consuming coffees in single use cups, instead of owning your reusable cup, turning up with it and enjoying the discount aimed at you for just that, makes no sense for your wallet or the planet.
Pay out once for your own, good quality, cup and effectively save money on each refill you get. You are no longer paying extra for that disposable cup in the price of your coffee-to-go, and you are no longer contributing to the problem these cups pose for our planet when they enter landfill. This cup can be used for other things too. Soups and even ice cream can be popped inside so you again aren’t adding to the waste pile. Investing in a good set of bamboo cutlery is good too, you probably won’t be getting a discount for bringing them but you’ll feel better knowing that you aren’t contributing to the waste problem when you are consuming food on the go.
Making a switch on your menstrual products is another great argument for ownership in place of consumption. Pay out once for a menstrual cup or reusable, washable pads and completely knock out that entire mountain of waste generated by just that one aspect of your life. Constantly paying out for all those applicator tampons and all those pads every month of your menstrual life from beginning to end really doesn’t make money, or Mother Earth, sense.
Ownership vs consumption.
Investing in reusable products that can be reused or refilled really will benefit both your wallet and the planet. So let’s consider the areas in your life where you could make some changes and swap the costly habit of being an unconscious consumer, for the benefits of becoming a more eco conscious and better off, owner.
You can see more on this at Caroline’s TEDx talk in Brighton here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apqRK_nndu0&list=PLsRNoUx8w3rO67pG13-Ji1_IP5VaHuzlu&index=4&t=0s&app=desktop
Sustainable living with Children - Helen
It's seems almost impossible to live sustainably and eco friendly with children, they seem to come hand in hand with excess! I am definitely still learning but I feel we live more sustainably then we used to. There are 5 areas i've tackled and hopefully you'll find something you can do. It's not about being perfect, if everyone did their best it would make such a difference.
1. Nappies and Wipes
For at least the first 2/3 years you'll need nappies and wipes! I didn't use cloth nappies with my daughter (I definitely will next time) but I did always try to use the most environmentally friendly option. I used compostable baby wipes, and switched to cloth for hands and faces. Now she's older I've actually started using the cloth wipes for removing my make up! You can just pop them in the wash with everything else!
Toys are definitely one of the hardest areas to tackle. Especially as they get older they want everything they see! We do have some plastic toys but the majority of Alice's are wooden. I've always tried to buy from ethical companies. There are quite a few now and buying an ethical sustainable option is easy. Just recently I bought Alice a vet kit, it's all wooden or cotton and is more hard wearing than any plastic option I've seen. Once she's grown out of it they hold their resale value well, or pop them in the loft for grandchildren. If you are toys hoarders like my family, Alice is playing with some toys from my mum!
Children love snacks, I always try to make sure I have at least 3 different options on me! There are so many great alternatives to plastic wrappings. Material sandwich wraps, soy wax ones or pouches with zips. It means I can bulk buy and take out with me! Saving money and not using single use plastics.
Speaking of food shopping, I try and buy from local businesses where possible and if we had one I'd visit a zero waste bulk buy shop! I buy vegetables out of plastic and pop them in cotton bags.
Clothing is definitely a hard one, and it can be expensive. Where possible buy from charity shops, on the High Street you cam shop from the H&M conscious range or really research and buy from companies such a mini stitches, frugi, bobo choses, mini rodini. There really is an option for every price point!
Eating Sustainably - Katy
I’m often asked whether living a vegan lifestyle is expensive - there are a lot of misconceptions of vegans eating unpronounceable grains and an excess of avocados, shopping in exclusive food stores and having high energy bills due to boiling all those pulses. But the honest, surprising-to-some answer is: no.
My own journey into veganism has humble beginnings, when I moved to London as a student back in 2006. With just enough money to cover rent and bills I started shopping at a local fruit and vegetable market to make savings.
Here are 2 of my tips for cooking sustainably on a budget:
When meal planning, consider breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks so you can stock up on ingredients you need for trying new recipes, or creating your family favourites. It’s also worth noting how many portions the recipe makes; if you make more than you need, don’t forget to freeze the left overs and you have a homemade ready meal available for another week’s meal plan. The short investment of time it takes to create a weekly meal plan can really make financial savings. Think of a meal plan as a list of what you’re going to cook and eat for the week - it’s simple and effective.
Before writing a shopping list, take a look inside your fridge, freezer and cupboards. Note what you already have and think about how to use it while creating a meal plan for the week. For example, you may already have half a bag of onions from the week before, along with frozen peas and rice in the cupboard, so you’ve already got the basic ingredients for kedgeree with paprika yoghurt. This reduces waste and the cost of your food-shop bill.
Pea Guacamole on Toast
· 200g of frozen peas
· 1 small red onion, peeled & finely chopped
· Small handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
· Juice of 1 unwaxed lime
· Generous pinch of sea salt flakes
· 2 slices of thick white toast
1. If you prefer a smoother spread, simply blitz the peas in a blender before adding the other ingredients.
2. Defrost & simmer the peas in a saucepan of hot water for 2–3 minutes, then drain & tip the peas into a mixing bowl.
3. Use a potato masher to crush the peas until semi-smooth, then stir in the onion, tomato, & coriander.
4. Load generously onto hot toast.
Excerpt and recipe from 15 Minute Vegan on a Budget - out now - http://littlemissmeatfree.com/
I hope you enjoyed this post, follow the contributors for great tips and some gorgeous pictures. I’d love to hear what you thought about it and any changes you’re making.