13 easy eco swaps that won’t cost the earth
- Credit: Lush UK
Sometimes, despite all its wonder, the world can feel like a very scary place. Take right now, for instance. We’re still battling Covid-19, atrocities continue in Afghanistan, and in the lead up to the COP 26 UN conference we’re being told our planet is heading towards a climate crisis...earlier than predicted.
We have reached a time when we all, each of us, needs to seriously consider what we’re doing and how we can, in our own homes, make sustainable changes for the better.
Running a busy house with two messy teenagers and having a hectic work life, I know first-hand how hard it can be to make a change and stick to it. But I want to share with you just a few of the tips and products I’ve picked up over the last few years, all of which have minimised the amount of plastics and chemicals we have at home.
Even if you change just one thing you are making a difference.
In the kitchen
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1. Swap clingfilm for foil or reusable beeswax wraps. Beeswax wraps not only look pretty (you can get hundreds of different designs) but they are so easy to reuse too. Wash them out, warm them slightly and simply mould to fit around your sandwich, cake...or whatever. There are even online tutorials showing how to make your own – a good use for a bit of beeswax and old fabric.
2. I often batch cook and used to rely on plastic freezer bags to divvy the food up. Now I have a trusty selection of reusable silicon bags from brands including Stasher and Green Island. They seal nicely, wash well by hand or in the dishwasher, and don’t hold on to smells. While we’re on silicon. I have a set of silicon baking mats from Lakeland Ltd (£6.99 each). These are almost infinitely reusable and have saved me so much money in baking paper. I use them to line trays to make biscuits and bread, and even pop them under any food I know will be sticky in the oven, to protect my tins!
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3. Get into composting. We’ve significantly slimmed our black bin by investing in a cheap trug that lives under the sink. We put all our fruit and veg peelings, egg shells, egg boxes and plastic-free teabags inside, destined for the compost heap or brown bin.
4. It is hard, but try where possible to buy fruit and veg loose. If you can get to a greengrocer or market, brilliant, otherwise, what is the one thing this month you usually buy in plastic or netting, that you could swap? I, for instance, have stopped buying potatoes in plastic bags – I pick up a huge sack from the local farm shop for about £3 and it lasts us all month...and beyond.
5. Buy seasonal and local. This will instantly lower your carbon footprint. If you live on a plant-based diet, choose seasonal fruit and veg over anything that’s flown in. Avocados, for example, produce around 846g of CO2 per pair! Did you know you can make a brilliant guacamole with broad beans? If beef is your thing, give wild meats a go. Venison is abundant in the UK and the culling of deer is essential for maintaining the balance in our woodlands – helping to bring back birdlife, insects and bats. You can use venison in place of beef in any dish...visit your local butcher. It’s comparable price-wise too.
6. I’m certain I could sell Koh cleaning products. I was exposed to the Australian brand via one of those persistent and pesky ads that always pops up on social media. At just under £20 for a starter kit of 4l of product, a few cloths and special scrubbing sponges, I could hardly resist could I? And I haven’t looked back. There’s something a bit magic about this stuff – to be honest, I’m not sure how they do it. It’s vegan, fragrance-free, eco-friendly and contains no nasties. Three years on, despite a bottle of Ecodrops (see below), I’ve not bought any other cleaners, and the thick, high-quality cloths still wash like new. The 4l box (you use it to fill up the provided spray bottle) lasts us at least six months – and that’s to clean a four bedroom house. Not bad. It makes the shower, bath, kitchen surfaces, windows, floor – everything – sparkle. But what really got me hooked was its use on the oven. My double ovens were caked with debris and grime and I was about to shell out £100 to have them cleaned. A spritz of Koh, and gentle rub with the black sponge, and the dirt was lifted.
7. It was the gimmick that got me with Oceansaver’s Ecodrops. There are three types – anti-bacterial, bathroom and kitchen degreaser. You buy the tab, drop it into a spray bottle with water, let it dissolve, and get to work. There’s something quite mesmerising about watching the tab disintegrate in tap water. And they’re only £1.50 each. I swear by the planet-friendly kitchen degreaser. It really does what it says on the tin.
8. Fill Neroli laundry detergent is gorgeous stuff. I’m quite picky about this kind of thing. Certain household brands irritate my skin. And I’ve got a 13-year-old football player in my house – that means loads of grass stains. I’ve tried quite a few natural/eco-friendly detergents and have found this to be by far the best. Made in the UK, and available from lots of refill stores, as well as online, and via your milk delivery with Milk & More, it does just the trick on 30C and 40C washes, and the smell is divine. When clothes are drying in the house over winter it doubles up as a room fragrance!
9. I haven’t bought a washing up sponge for three years. Three years! We bought a batch of Scrub Daddy, scratch-free sponges and simply put them through the washing machine throughout the week. They work hard, lifting most grub from washing, or the floor/shower, and look good as new after they’ve been cleaned. There are lots of alternative, reusable scrubbers on sale now, from silicone, to others made with natural materials.
10. Last Christmas we switched entirely to solid soap (or refill soap in a glass bottle). Looking at the plastic containers by the bathroom sink made me feel guilty every time I went to the loo. And you know what? It lasts longer. We have lots of fun picking ‘flavours’ as well. I've got eight bars under the sink now – I think they could last me to retirement. Just invest in a nice glass or ceramic soap dish to present it in. Or try (we have one) a natural Safix coconut fibre soap rest – its texture means the soap never slips away after use.
11. Despite my daughter’s protests, we’ve also switched to solid shampoo. Like laundry detergent, it took trial and error. Some brands I found weren’t very effective – especially against our hard water. Faith in Nature’s bars are excellent, but the very best have to be from Lush (whose bottled shampoos and shower gels can be returned to store for recycling). I’ve been using Lush products since the brand was called Cosmetics to Go when I was a student. The bars are packed with natural scent, bubble well, and clean brilliantly. My favourite is Honey I Washed The Kids (£8), with honey, bergamot and citrus scent. I find the metal pots from Lush dent easily, but they now do a cork version for holding your shampoo bar.
12. Gross out alert. I suffer from horrendous periods. In fact, at night I have to wear two pads. Those moon cups and other devices are never going to work for me. But I have had success with Modibodi. Their period pants come in sizes 8 to 26 and from bikini cut to high waist. They are seam free, feel very comfy, and have technology that prevents them leaking or giving off odours. The heavy/overnight full brief (£25.50) really did keep me dry for hours, and the pants washed (after a pre-rinse) out well at 40C. They’re also made from three quarters recycled nylon. Around seven pairs (washing and wearing) is recommended, so these are a big investment, but I love to think about all the sanitary products I’m saving from landfill. Maybe give a pair a go. While we’re on the gross out road, if you use wet wipes at home, look at wet wipe sprays. Fresh X’s natural, no-nasties spray is simply spritzed onto toilet paper. It does the work of 200 disposable wipes.
13. Another product that gives me eco guilt is the collection of disposable razors piled up on a shelf in our bathroom. Recently we switched to a fully recyclable bamboo razor with a single blade. They cost between £12 and £18, but replacement blades come in at around £5 for 100! That’s one hell of a saving. No complaints here. We use the Bambaw brand – but Bulldog have one too.