I’d like to live safe in the knowledge we’ve not completely fucked up the planet. I’m sure you would too, but, alas, the compounding evidence suggests otherwise. Though there are the deniers out there (some even run countries!), latest polling from YouGov confirms 70% of the UK agree the weather has changed in their lifetime. The reason for experiencing 20-degree heat in February and snow in March isn’t rocket science. Though I can’t deny I prefer sunny weather to dismal, my priority is an intact planet, thanks.
My book is set in the future and as such, I did a fair amount of research on what the future could look like. I’ve sprinkled some creative license here and there for sure, but the broken world depicted is a very real possibility. It scared me into making some immediate changes to my lifestyle, and that continues to be a work in progress. I could do better vocalising my concerns for a start. High fives to the kids who protested about climate change (and their environmental inheritance), showing more leadership than the measly 610 MPs who skipped a climate change debate on the 28th February. Only 40 bothered to show up. It was the first debate on climate change for two years. Am I the only person horrified and disgusted?
(You can see if your MP represented here, find out more about how they generally vote here and write to them formally here. My local MP Stella Creasy was unable to attend, but she responded to my email, and we are in communication on the matter. Will you send an email to your MP?)
I was also upset to learn via the Walthamstow Echo that my local recycling department sends 62% of the borough’s recycling material overseas to countries like Germany, Indonesia and Turkey to be reprocessed, via a third party, of course. Why are we exacerbating the problem, sending waste abroad, without knowledge of what happens to it next? Our Government must make better choices – if they don’t, then there is little hope of enforcing reform in businesses.
As individuals, there’s a lot we can do, but we need legislation to activate real change, as well as pressure on corporations and commerce to evolve their business models. When the Government want to, we see a demonstrable difference. Anyone who remembers smoking in bars and cigarette packets without pictures of mutilated lungs on them can appreciate how public consciousness can shift. As the Government disregards the severity of the situation, scrapping Gordon Brown’s Zero Carbon Home policy, limiting onshore wind farms and progressing with the onomatopoeic-ly scary fracking, despite widespread public opinion against it (read Caroline Lucas’ op-ed on the situ here), individually we must take responsibility to make greener and sustainable choices, as well as put pressure on the Government and businesses to do the same. Money might make the world go around, but what good will it do if it’s broken? I for one know I absolutely can do better and must, for example, I have a penchant for exotic destinations as much as the next person (though I realise the impact and am horrified at the prospect of swimming past a plastic mass instead of fish). Side note, kudos to Iceland who has promised to go plastic-free on its own range of products by 2023 – the first supermarket to commit to that globally. Where is everyone else? Businesses and Government’s need to put sustaining the planet above bottom lines, budgets and shareholder profits.
Sustainable living isn’t the only factor in climate change, but it’s a pretty big slice of the pie. We can all make contributions to that shift, though there is a long way to go and it won’t happen overnight, but fundamental changes must happen – if not now, when? We have no time to delay.
The answer isn’t solely reducing our dependence on plastic, but using products that are kind to the environment (and kids and pets!), cutting back on meat (or going veggie!), and being carbon-footprint ‘conscious’. The fact is, making ‘conscious’ choices (i.e. eco products, plastic-free food) takes more time and is more expensive. Because ‘conscious’ choices often aren’t widely available – we must hunt them down at multiple, disparate retailers – in a time-poor world, for some, it simply isn’t a priority compared to juggling family, job and home. It needs to be easy for people, but it’s a chicken and egg situation because if there isn’t the demand or the products don’t sell, why would supermarkets/retailers stock them?
From a price point of view, there are going to be some hard costs that are unlikely to change, regardless of the scale of distribution and increased sales. Labour/sourcing time, the cost of quality ingredients for example, might not change. I’m no financier, but logic tells me if there were wider distribution and sales channels, some costs would come down, though I recognise it’s likely they might still be out of budget for a lot of people.
I’m no hemp-wearing (don’t mind Lyocell though 😊) vision of sustainable perfection, but between us, I’m sure we can make some habit-changes here and there. It’s a process for sure, and things don’t happen overnight, but it must start somewhere.
I thought it might be useful to share some products/ information that I’ve integrated into my lifestyle, or plan to. Please leave comments or share any other useful suggestions!
- While researching my book and started to gain a real understanding of the severity of the situation beyond headlines, I switched to Good Energy. They use renewable energy generated in the UK; it’s super simple, and I can’t say I’ve noticed much difference in cost
- I’m lucky Walthamstow has a brilliant market, and I try to shop there as much as possible because it’s mostly zero packaging if you take your own reusable grocery bags (oddly, there is a bit of plastic-wrapped produce at the farmer’s market). Not everything I want on my list is always available there, but you quickly notice the difference of how much less packaging you’re putting in the bin
o I’m dying to use FarmDrop. It’s a bit more expensive, but there’s an appreciation of provenance and supporting local that I love, as well as options to buy organic and pesticide free. There lots of eco cleaning/household products that are difficult to find elsewhere too. Their delivery vans are electric
- Appreciate the carbon footprint of some of your food choices here and you might be inspired to look for some alternatives. I enjoy avocados (big carbon footprint) as much as the next weekend-bruncher, but I’m making a pledge to be more responsible with my diet and try and eat more seasonally. This handy chart lets you know what’s in season for the U. K
- I was disappointed to learn that Method and Ecover were bought by SC Johnson, a company that openly admits to testing on animals – which is disgusting and unnecessary. It’s a real shame as Ecover was one of the only brands (that I’ve seen) that offers re-filling as an option
o I’m quite taken with Delphis Eco – they are free from phosphates and a lot of the nasties you find in other products, they’re vegan, use recyclable plastic and are 100% made in Britain – and Tincture. They have similar awesome credentials but take the biscuit in that they’re derived from monastic herbal remedies. I have bought some products from these brands and will update when I’ve trialled
Side note: I love the Young Living Thieves range. It’s expensive but provides unparalleled cleaning without using harsh or abrasive chemicals
- I’ve just bought and road-tested and Ecoegg which is a mineral-based washing system that doesn’t use chemicals and is kinder to the environment and your pocket. Buy a little a 210-wash refill pack (egg with mineral pellets) and it works out at basically 3p per wash. I like how my clothes didn’t have that detergent smell. Even when using eco products, there can be a hint of fragrance, and I’d just rather there wasn’t, so it works for me. I didn’t buy the fabric-softener pellets, but my clothes are soft without it using, and I’ve certainly had towels come out ‘crunchier’ post-wash with other products. My whites, as well as colours, look great. I haven’t had to deal with any difficult stains yet though, so that’s something to be mindful of.
I also bought Ecoegg’s washing machine cleaner and it was brilliant. They do have a wider range of cleaning products too.
- I’ve recently purchased a Wiz Mop, and it’s an absolute dream. It comes with a washable microfiber pad (or you can use your own cleaning cloth) which means you can pop it in the washer and reuse it. It has a handy spray, so you don’t need a bucket, so you literally squeeze and go. It’s a dream. There are lots of similar products out there in the market, but because you can wash the cloths, it’s a long-term solution, that makes life so much easier
- Toothpaste – I use Euthymol because it doesn’t contain fluoride and because I assumed that as the tube is metallic, it would be the only toothpaste I could recycle. Looking into it a bit more, apparently, all toothpaste tubes can be recycled
- Shampoo and conditioner – I have started using Lush’s package-free products. I’ve used organic, mostly natural shampoo and conditioners for a while, so I’m happy to say Lush’s shampoo bars lather more than some other natural shampoos I’ve tried and are comparable to ‘ordinary’ ones. This one makes my hair look and feel super clean. My hair goes greasy quite quickly on account of it being a bit thin. I’m happy to say this lasted two days quite well.
I was dubious about the conditioner bar at first – I use this one – as not much seemed to gather in my hands, and I even tried up putting the bar directly on to the hair, BUT, it is effective. I think we’re just used to conditioner in certain formats and then have specific expectations. My hair is soft to the touch after using, and smells gorgeous, without that synthetic ‘fragrance’ kinda-smell. Appearances can be deceptive!
You can buy a little cork (or metal) pot to keep the shampoo bar in (great for travelling) – I bought the cork one –, but sadly they don’t have relevant-sized pots for the Conditioners. Buying soap dish holders is an easy solution for in the bathroom, but you might have to freestyle a bit when travelling.
Side note: there is a bigger range of shampoos and conditioners online than I found in store, even though I went to the one on Oxford Street which apparently is the biggest in Europe!
Lush do a great range of soaps instead of plastic-bottle-shower gels – I love the Parsley Porridge one to feel uber clean.
- Make-up – Lush has a small range of package-free make-up. Foundation, concealer, highlight/blush, eyes and lipstick. I’ve only tried the foundation, which comes in a recyclable paper box, the foundation stick has a wax end on it, so you can of apply it like a wand. It’s a bit thicker than the Bare Minerals light cream my skin is used to, but it has good coverage and they feel quite hydrating on the skin
- I got a Face Halo a few months ago in replacement of cleanser/toner/cotton wool pads (or use a flannel). The Halotech fibres remove and unclog make-up and dirt with just water, and you can pop it in the washing machine up to 200 times.
It’s very effective but it can leave my skin dry. I also need to buy a few more as cleaning it after use every day is a bit of a faff, but also an incentive to not wear make-up every day (apologies in advance :P)
- I’ve been buying organic tampons for years, but I wanted a more sustainable option. Though I’m a bit apprehensive, I’ve ordered a menstrual cup from Intimina – wish me luck!
- Work/Laptop – I bought a new laptop because my other was literally limping along (to be recycled). The new purchase means I had to buy a new case to protect it (size discrepancy). It’s a simple thing, but buying a felt one instead of neoprene, for example, means I can protect my laptop with a something that’s 100% biodegradable
- Cat/pets – I adopted my ex-neighbour’s 12-year-old cat, Gerty, in August 2018. Aside from being a beaut, there are environmental impacts I need to consider with her too. I’ve tried to buy and cook a chicken for her several times (fun for a veggie) but often she isn’t that fussed, and so doing that isn’t a sustainable long-term option for her it might be for your pet, though I appreciate that’s not a cost or time effective option for everyone.
At the moment I buy tinned or tray stuff, as at least it’s recyclable (I love Applaws, but it is quite expensive), but need to think about other options. According to Lily’s Kitchen (which I have trialled and will blog about in a separate animal/pet post) a cat can eat 1460 pouches a year; with approximately 7.5 million cats in the UK, that means there are 11 billion foil pouches going to landfill every year (a slightly punchy assumption on their part, surely, as not every cat will eat from pouches)
I bought wood pellets for her cat litter tray, but she was scared of them and didn’t use it! No problem in the summer, but when it’s cold and raining, that’s not fair. I’ve taken to combining traditional cat litter with the wood pellets to ‘soften the blow’ and I’m trying to wean her off the litter.
I also bought some All Natural Flea Remedy. You just pop it on the back of their neck. I tried a chemical version first – because, to be honest, it was easily sourced – but she kept on trying to lick her neck because she knew it wasn’t nice stuff on her fur! I don’t like the idea of giving her chemical tablets if I can help it, but I have to say I’m not 100% convinced of this natural remedy. I use a flea comb on her as well, but I do want a comprehensive, sustainable solution.
- Terracycle – offers free recycling solutions, which is great for big, mid or small business. Brands like Whiskas, Colgate and Ella’s Kitchen have programmes with them where you can recycle their ‘non-recyclables’ i.e. pouches
- And Keep – is a plastic-free retailer for home and lifestyle solutions – v useful!
- In Habitat and Green Choices are great for advice, tips and eco-friendly products
- My friend recently shared the news that researchers have discovered a species of fungus that ‘eats’ plastic – interesting, but I’m not sure a fungus is going to eat us out of this!