Living sustainably is the greatest challenge we face today, but preservation of our natural resources will provide even greater opportunities for us all. The European Environment Authority (2019) states “Today, Europe continues to consume more resources and contribute more to environmental degradation than many other world regions. We do not only have to do more, we also have to do things differently.”
You can make your home more sustainable and reduce your impact on the surrounding environment in many ways. Some simple ideas are listed below; even one change will make a difference!
Buy cosmetics in bulk. Shampoo, conditioner, washing up liquid and even hand wash can all be bought now in 5L drums. Decant into your previous bottles and even share between friends! If you would like to go fully plastic free then shampoo and conditioner bars may be of interest. Friendly Soap and Faith in Nature are brands that receive popular reviews.
Use eco friendly cleaning products. Laundry powders, capsules and liquids are available from brands such as Bio D, Ecoleaf and Lilly’s but if you want to go a step further - consider an Eco Egg! Inside the recyclable plastic egg shell are natural biodegradable cleaning pellets. The product is very eco-friendly, contains no harsh chemicals and causes far less pollution than standard washing detergents. More information is available at www.ecoegg.com
Sanitary products are the fifth most common waste item found on Europe’s beaches. A culture change has been happening across the sector in recent years and options such as reusable tampon applicators, cloth pads and silicone menstrual cups have come to the market. Over ten years a silicone menstrual cup is estimated to create 0.4% of the plastic waste generated by single use pads and 6% of that produced by using tampons.
Dog lovers could try Maistic biodegradable bags for dog poop. There are a variety of alternatives to bin liners now too including a range from If You Care. But a simple task such as not using a bin liner in a bin could be a huge win for the planet if each household could commit to doing this in just one appropriate bin.
Maistic also do bamboo and wheat drinking straws which are available in your local health food store. There are also metal, glass and silicone straws available which come with their own cleaning brush. Look up ecostraws.ie for more options than you could ever imagine!
Wherever you can remove hard plastic try to do so. Bamboo toothbrushes are widely available now in a variety of brands. One such brand is Woobamboo, who use naturally grown and sustainable Mosa bamboo to make their biodegradable toothbrush handles. Furthermore the brushes contain no toxins, glues or paints. Wooden toys are also more environmentally friendly. You can also get toothbrushes made from plants that are processed into bioplastics. They even come with replaceable heads - check out TIO from your local health food store.
Use cloths instead of face wipes, hand wipes, baby wipes, kitchen paper etc. You can buy kits to start you off (for example Cheeki Wipes) but realistically cotton or bamboo face cloths and a storage box or two is all you need!
Zero waste stores are now more common. Shop in quantities that you need, not what you are forced to buy off the shelf. If you only need 50g of linseed for a new recipe then buy just that much, by weight at your local zero waste store. Unless you plan on using the remainder of a 500g bag it is wasteful to purchase that quantity on the outset for a single recipe.
When shopping for groceries bring your own bags. Avoid “long life” plastic bags and use canvas instead. Don’t use single use plastic for loose fruit and veg, carry some woven bags instead (Maistic), and remember to re pack them for next time!
Try vegan food. Each day you leave meat off your plate you can reduce your carbon footprint by 8 pounds, so once a week or even once a month - it all adds up! Lentils make a nice substitute for meat in a dish like Shepard’s Pie, and jackfruit is a really good replacement for meat in terms of texture. Banana Blossom is the new kid on the block, and seems to be the choice of vegans for a lighter, softer ﬁsh like consistency.
Grow your own! If you don’t have the space to dabble into growing fruit and vegetables, you can try sprouting seeds and/or growing herbs in a pot or two on a window sill.
Consider how you cook. If you are making a meal, cook double where appropriate and freeze a batch. In terms of energy consumption a slow cooker uses the same wattage as a fridge bulb! Slow cooking is becoming hugely popular and lots of recipes are available on line - everything from satay to casserole and even a joint of beef!
Buy and use glass jars with lids instead of plastic. Use beeswax wraps to cover dishes if you don’t have lids. Alternatively, try products such as 'If You Care' aluminum foil which is made from 100% recycled aluminum and uses 95% less energy to produce than traditional aluminum foil.