17 March 2021

Small Things You Can Do To Live More Sustainably

Georgie in her bedroom wearing a colourful second-hand striped top

It can be really overwhelming when you are looking at living more sustainably. That's partly why I follow imperfect sustainability, which is where you try your best to be as sustainable as possible, but don't beat yourself up or have a major guilt-trip if you stumble sometimes. 

Regardless of whether you are just starting your journey, or are well on the way to living more sustainably but feel like you're missing some things, we can all easily implement really small things that can end up making a big difference. I'm certainly not perfect at doing all these things all the time, but they are certainly great places to start if you're feeling a little lost

GROW YOUR OWN


Growing your own is something that some people believe they can't do because they don't have a garden or enough space, but you can be growing your own even if you live in a flat! If you have a balcony or even just a spare windowsill near a window, then you can be growing your own.

The joy of growing your own is that you get such a thrill from seeing the first little shoots coming through the soil, and when you actually get produce, it gives you a real sense of achievement. Start off small, and if you can't get hold of any terracotta trays or pots (don't buy any plastic ones, I'll cover why in my next point) then reuse any yoghurt or butter pots you've just finished with! Punch some holes in the bottom for drainage, pop it on a makeshift tray (again, you could use the yoghurt or butter pot lid for this) and you can start planting away!

Obviously, if you have larger spaces, you can start growing more things, but remember to choose watering cans or rainwater butts over hoses as they can be really wasteful on water. Once you start getting produce from your plants, you'll also be saving money on what you'd normally buy at the supermarket. 

REDUCE YOUR SINGLE-USE PLASTIC WASTE


Single-use plastic (and products in general) cause so much damage to the environment and most of the time can't be recycled so end up in landfills or the oceans. Plastic also takes much longer to degrade than other materials, so trying to cut it out as much as possible is a great way to live more sustainably. 

Think about where your single-use plastic is coming from. Is it from your food shop? This one is a really hard one to tackle, as I don't think I've encountered a food shop where I don't end up with at least one bit of single-use packaging, but there are certainly ways we can reduce how much we end up with. When you're doing your food shop, check to see what packaging it's in and whether it can be recycled. I've actually noticed some shops like Tesco choosing paper and cardboard packaging over plastic which is a great start!

Also, it may be worth seeing whether other places offer plastic-free alternatives. I've found especially with more local independent businesses and wholesalers that they don't have as much single-use plastic packaging as the supermarkets do, so it may be worth doing a little research to see if there are any near you. 

When it comes to other aspects of your life, I find that trial and error is the best practice. If I buy some beauty products, for example, and it all comes wrapped in loads of plastic, I make a mental note to try and avoid buying from them again if possible. Quite a few beauty sites like Boots are adopting recyclable packaging, and I've noticed that ASOS have started to use recyclable bags with their products. 

I also try and prioritise buying products with less plastic waste e.g. metal straws, solid beauty products like shampoo bars, reuseable bottles and cups to reduce the amount of single-use I use. 

SWAP OUT SINGLE-USE PRODUCTS


Single-use plastic isn't the only problem - I'm talking cotton pads, buds, kitchen roll, cleaning cloths, wipes, razors, toothbrushes...I could go on! 

Cutting out as much single waste as possible is a great step that you can do fairly easily without spending a lot! I've swapped out cotton pads for washable ones, using old towels and flannels as cleaning cloths, wipes for muslin cloths and flannels, disposable razors for ones that last longer and have a head recycling scheme (Estrid is a great place to start, and I've also heard great things about FFS), and plastic toothbrushes for bamboo ones (if you use an electric toothbrush, there are recycling schemes through Terracycle or you can buy specific recyclable heads that are compatible with your brush). 

I'm still on the hunt for a solution to single-use cotton buds, as the few reusable ones out there don't have great reviews, but even just starting with these other things have certainly helped reduce my single-use waste and has saved me a lot of money in the long run too!

RECYCLE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE


I was brought up by eco-loving parents, so practising recycling is very much ingrained in me! Recycling as much as you can allows you to know you've done your bit to try and reduce the amount of waste in the world. It is known that sometimes plastic doesn't get recycled by the councils so I try to cut down as much plastic that I use as possible, but with other things like paper and metals I religiously recycle them. 

You can also recycle things by finding other purposes for them (like with the yoghurt pots for growing your own) - clean out nice candle jars and bottles to make decorative storage jars, upcycle things in your wardrobe, use gift boxes as pretty storage boxes...most of the time your unwanted item can be turned into something new!

BEING CONSCIOUS ABOUT OUR ENERGY USAGE

Things like solar panels are an obvious choice for this one, but if you don't have the money right now to invest in some, then be aware of the amount of energy you're currently using. Turn lights off when you leave the room, turn things off at the wall instead of leaving them on standby, get some thermal curtains if you don't have the money right now to fix your double glazing or insulation and try to use less water. These are all easy simple things we can do without spending a penny (or only a few) to reduce our energy. 

If you're not sure if you are using too much energy, then look at your bills. Are they ridiculously high? If so, that's probably a good indicator to look at that area and see how you can reduce it to save you money at the same time!

FOCUS ON BUYING SECOND-HAND OVER NEW

I think we all know by now how much of an impact fast fashion has on the planet (if you don't look it up, it's a lot) but I know from experience how hard it can be to break up from it. The convenience of being able to grab the latest styles is very tempting, but you can still stay on trend while not buying into fast fashion. 

Shopping second-hand is a great way to stop clothes from ending up in landfills. I'm talking about charity and vintage shops (less reliable, but you never know what treasures you might find) as well as apps such as Depop, Vinted, Etsy and eBay. Now, they are my first port of call when I'm shopping for some new bits to add to my wardrobe, and the great thing is sometimes you'll find items that are still being sold on the original site for much cheaper if someone has forgotten to send it back!

The great thing about buying vintage as well is, most of the current trends right now have already happened (fashion is very much influenced by our past) so most likely you'll be able to find an item from the 1970s that wouldn't look out of place on a fast-fashion site now!

Even though you can't always try second-hand before buying, the joy of these selling apps is that if it doesn't work, you can sell it on! Also, if you have something that hasn't sold, you can always take it down to the charity shop. 

Buying second-hand doesn't just have to count for clothing, it can mean anything! So don't be afraid to look for what you want to buy second-hand before looking for it new. 

SHOP IN YOUR COUNTRY

This last one comes down to air miles. I used to really underestimate how much of an impact what I got delivered to me had on the planet. It's something we don't always think about first when we think about being sustainable - we order something and then it magically turns up at our door a few days later. 

To reduce your carbon footprint when it comes to ordering things, try and look to see whether the company offsets it's air miles and carbon footprint, but even better, think about buying locally! If it's really local to you then the better, but even shopping within your country reduces the impact that flying the package over, or having it shipped via freight would have. 

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Thanks so much for reading this post! I hope you found it useful, and I'd love to know whether you use any of these techniques already, or if you do other things to live more sustainably. 

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2 comments

  1. These are all great options, I'd love to try and grow my own but my gardening skills are non-existent and I'm not sure that would work too well for me I've been making a real effort to try and eat seasonally over the last couple of years to try and reduce the air miles of my food as much as possible. Plastics are something I seem to constantly be working on but there's a long way to go there x

    Sophie
    www.glowsteady.co.uk

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