As a kid growing up in the 1970’s, we were way ahead of the game being eco-friendly compared to where we are now. I remember being dragged into town by my mum, pulling along her shopping basket on wheels. We used the same dedicated, strong-handled shopping bags each trip. We walked to the shops because families had one car and Dad usually took it to work, unless it was nice and he cycled. Our car was kept for best and fuel was never wasted on needless, short trips.
Glass was used a lot because it could be reused – we would return our empty milk bottles to the milkman and our fizzy drink bottles returned to shops for our 10p deposits. You see, return schemes and recycling is not new!
We did not live in a throw away society. Dad would rummage in scrap yards for replacement car parts to keep our vehicles on the road. Tatty items of furniture were refreshed with a lick of paint and broken items fixed up as good as new – upcycling was a thing then long before it was a ‘thing’. When our sofa became tatty, we got it recovered – my parents had the same three-piece suite for 30 years or more.
I remember when plastic bags became popular. We were encouraged to use them rather than the paper bags we had been using, because using paper was considered bad for the rain forests. In fact, even during the 1950’s and 60’s, we were being encouraged to use plastic once and just throw it away.
Surely from a hygiene point of view, it was much better for us to use a spoon that had never been used before? And even better, no washing up! Sadly, nobody ever considered how we were going to dispose of it.
Plastic was not everywhere as I was growing up like it is today, and I don’t think a total ban is the answer. Used mindfully, plastic can have it’s place as it can be incredibly useful. We need to instead, rethink our relationship with plastic, trust our judgement and only use (and of course reuse) when necessary.
Sadly, plastic waste is now damaging our ecosystems and marine life as it becomes litter in our towns and cities, our countrysides and our beaches. We need to turn off the tap and reduce our use of single use products. Any step we can make is a positive step.
We’ve all seen volunteers in our local communities who litter-pick and try and make a difference. One such group of volunteers is Rise Up Clean Up, a group set up in the summer of 2020 in response to the dreadful litter crisis we have on our beaches. They campaign to educate visitors to a beach and encourage them to take their plastic and litter home.
Many businesses are trying to make a difference, too. For example, Boston Tea Party are a chain of individual cafes determined to serve their local communities in an ethically, affordable and healthy way. Back in 2018 they banned single use coffee cups and proudly display a counter on their website showing how many they have saved. They monitor everything they make to ensure they can reuse, reduce and recycle their waste. They have even partnered with charities to ensure that food still fit for purpose is enjoyed and any that isn’t is used to create biomethane or fertiliser.
You might not even be aware of your plastic use, how much you reuse and how much you send to landfill. Why not do an experiment and save all your plastic waste for a week or even a month. Take a look at what you collect and then think about where it goes. Does it get recycled? Can you make any changes to help cut down on your plastic waste?
We all want to do our bit for the environment, but sometimes things are just out of our control no matter how hard we try. It’s not just Kermit the Frog that finds life difficult being green. But by making small changes to our behaviour, we can all make a difference. Here are some of the best tips we have found online:
Not everything at home requires a large financial outlay to make a difference and many companies offer incentives to help you. For example, you may have a boiler in your home that is getting on a bit. While boilers themselves aren’t cheap, old boilers are inefficient to run and costly to repair. Speak to your energy supplier as they might surprise you with the help they can provide.
Review the products you use to clean your home, from the cloths to the chemicals. Are there greener or less damaging options available? Or maybe you can buy refills for your favourite products rather than new bottles each time you shop?
Reduce the amount of water you use – the average person uses 150 litres each day. Simple things like fixing a dripping tap and turning off running water when you clean your teeth will save thousands of litres a year. Install a water butt and use the water you collect to water the garden, clean the car and wash the windows. And if you need to water the garden, use a watering can rather than a hosepipe.
We’ve found this great article by Country Life that is definitely worth a read, providing 60 simple sustainability tips to make your home, garden and life better.
Reuse then Recycle
We can all be guilty of throwing something away because we don’t want it anymore, when in fact the item has not reached the end of it’s useful life. Reusing is not recycling, which can only really be done when the original item is beyond repair or no longer fit for purpose.
For example, you can sell unwanted items online or at a car boot sale. You could donate the item to charity as well as consider buying items second-hand to save money and reuse them. A great example we’ve seen online was a tall bookcase that had been converted into a beautiful coat and shoe rack, simply by moving a few shelves, adding some hooks and giving it a lick of paint.
When it comes to recycling, your local council will be able to help you. Many provide a range of kerbside collections covering paper, plastics, bottles and garden waste. For a fee, they will also collect larger items such as mattresses, sofas, fridges and washing machines. Many local charities will also collect items for free, as will the company who have delivered/fitted your new fridge or cookers.
Cut Back on Travel
We can do so much to reduce our travel and use of cars. For example, try and combine errands into one trip, walk, use public transport, or dust off your bike and cycle. As well as improving our health, there are financial savings to be made if we can replace our short journeys by walking instead.
Many school runs are unnecessary and are often done for convenience – see if you are able to walk or cycle to school or maybe there is a school bus you could take. Something to consider as more and more schools implement car-free zones in a bid to reduce emissions and improve safety.
There are a number of projects that may appeal to you that you can get involved with:
- www.naturevolunteers.uk offer a range of projects so you will easily find something that suits your interests, from beach cleans to butterfly surveys
- The Wildlife Trust believe we should enjoy nature as part of our daily lives and encourage you to get involved, be a member and volunteer with them
- Keep Britain Tidy have been working hard since the 1950s to influence our attitudes and behaviours when it comes to litter and littering
You may know a mum or dad, or you yourself could even be considering living more sustainably. From washable nappies, packed lunches and even advice on how to have conversation with children with eco-anxiety, there are a number of resources available. We have found this interesting article full of green parenting tips, or you may want to check out The Sustainable(ish) Guide to Green Parenting book, written by the Knackered Mums Eco Club, aiming to help ‘stop the planet from going to hell in a handcart’.
Develop New Green Habits
There is no need to make massive and unsustainable lifestyle changes. We can make a big difference with small, simple changes such as reducing the waste we send to landfill and changing lightbulbs to more energy efficient versions. As appliances break, we can replace them with greener models, change the way we drive to be more fuel efficient, turn lights off and so on.
Sometimes all we need to do is make small changes to our lifestyles, routines and habits rather then being overwhelmed by it all. Don’t be unrealistic and aim for zero-waste overnight, as that will just feed your eco-anxiety and set you up to fail before you have even started.
Fashion & Beauty
Not an area we look at on a regular basis at So Just Be, and probably not a topic that immediately springs to mind when you are trying to improve your eco-habits.
We really need to rethink our relationship with clothes. As a child, my mum would repair my worn and torn clothes, I had to keep certain items for best and shoes were always polished, repaired and reheeled.
Sadly, many of us will now know of friends and family who can’t even sew on a button, let alone own a needle and thread. Instead they will jump into the car and replace items with another set of ‘bargains’ from a budget retailer, that will lose their shape and colour in their first wash. Instead, we should be embracing our wardrobes, wearing natural fibres, buying the odd vintage item and learning to sew.
When it comes to beauty, how many lotions and potions have you got on your dressing table or stashed away in cupboards that you never use? Have you got a stash of ‘beauty wipes’ when really all you need is a flannel and a simple cleanser? Us ladies are also big users of single use sanitary products and there might not be a whole lot you can do about that if the alternatives really don’t work for you, but do you always dispose of your products properly? Don’t flush ladies!
If the terms ‘slow fashion’ and ‘green beauty’ have got your attention, you might want to check out The Sustainable Edit, a blog dedicated to showing you how you can ‘enjoy life’s little luxuries in a more natural and sustainable way’.
We hope these tips and links have given you some good advice and inspiration if you are looking to do your bit for the environment. Being green doesn’t need to be difficult… sometimes we just need to make better decisions.