I’ve been meaning to write this blog about sustainability in the home for a while now. I’ve always been a keen recycler, upcycler and try to buy second hand where I can. I’m not really one for fast fashion, I’ve had my winter coat for 6 years and it’s seen me through 2 pregnancies, but I know I need to be better. The more I read into the damage we are doing to our planet, the more I want to help so I thought I’d put together a list of simple changes we can all make.
A – Awareness
It all starts with awareness. You have to be living on the moon to not know that we are facing a climate crisis at the moment and I think the best quote I’ve heard recently is “We can’t do everything, but we all can do something!” and sustainability in the home is a good start. The thing is, it can be totally overwhelming so hopefully this little list will help you on your way and if you need any more inspiration, the book 50 Ways to Help the Planet is a great start.
B – Bottle
Buy a reusable water bottle and use it! Make it a habit to always have it on you, just like your wallet or keys. There is an increasing amount of cafes, restaurants and shops that will now let your refill your bottle for free when you are out and about so you are never caught short.
C – Cleaning Products
Over the last year I’ve become quite concerned about the rise in bulk buying cleaning products for the home which are not eco-friendly or sustainable (never mind the waste when it comes to the plastic!). The biggest culprit has to be cleaning wipes which (shock horror) people flush down the toilet and can be devastating for our environment.
Choose eco-friendly products like Method Anti-Bac all purpose cleaner or the Ecover products. If you still have to use wipes, go for the Ecover multi-action wipes as these are completely biodegradable and contain no toxic chemicals. You could even go one better and make your own cleaning products! Bicarbonate of Soda, White vinegar and baking soda are all amazing natural substances that will get rid of any stubborn dirt.
D – DIY
One of my favourite phrases (and probably because I’m a stubborn so and so), do it yourself! Don’t throw out that jacket because it’s got a hole in the arm pit, sew it! (Or get your mum to do it like I did!) Hairdryer broken? Perhaps it’s just the fuse or plug.
There are plenty of tutorials out there these days to fix small electronic items. If you’re like me though, your hair dryer is probably the only thing that still exists from your teenage years. My hair dryer is indestructible!
E – Energy Efficiency
When choosing appliances, like your washing machine or fridge freezer, make sure you look at the energy rating before purchasing. Energy efficient products use less power and water and they don’t necessarily have to be the most expensive appliance on the market!
Think of the money you will save by using a highly efficient machine whilst doing your bit for the environment. An A rated machine is better than a D and there are now A+++ appliances on the market.
F – Furniture
Buy furniture that is built to last! A bit like Fast Fashion, we have become a nation that also buys into Fast Furniture, a Flat pack society where the furniture is cheap but doesn’t last. I have definitely been guilty of this in the past, I always had a look around for the cheapest product to satisfy my needs, but it was always a flat pack MDF mess and would only last a year or two and I knew I had to change my habits to increase my sustainability in the home!
I now make sure I buy furniture that has been built from sustainable materials like reclaimed wood, bamboo, rattan, marble and wood that has the FSC certification.
G – Green Energy supplier
Green energy is generated from completely renewable resources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power. As of March 2018, 33.1% of the National Grid’s electricity has come from renewable sources and it’s now even easier to change tariffs to a company that provides 100% electricity from renewable sources. These include Bulb, Co-operative Energy, Ecotricity and Good Energy.
Of course, you could generate your own green energy by installing solar panels or small wind turbines in your garden! Grants may be available to help you do this, the Energy Saving Trust is a great place to start.
H – Heating
Using energy to heat our home plays a huge part in increasing our carbon footprint on the world by increasing greenhouse gases. We can do our bit by making sure we turn down our thermostat, radiators and making sure radiators are turned off in rooms that are not used very often or at all.
Smart thermostats are now widely available which means we can now turn the heating system off remotely when you’re not going to be home and can also detect the amount of heat that is required in each room. If you don’t want a smart thermostat, go put that big thick jumper on, layer up and invest in some cosy winter blankets for the cold winter evenings.
I – Insulate
Make sure your home is fully insulated, this will also contribute massively to how you heat your home. Ensure the loft is insulated, consider insulating wall cavities and make sure you use thermal curtains to reduce the heat that is lost through the windows.
You can draft proof your doors by making sure there is a letterbox flap or brush and getting a hinged flap draught excluder for the bottom of your doors. You could even purchase a draught snake!
J – Jars
Don’t throw away these useful items. Jars can be used to take your food to work for lunch, store crafty items like buttons or ribbons and even used for planting a herb garden!
K – Kettle
Choose an electric kettle over a gas fired one as this is much more energy efficient. Don’t overfill the kettle either, use just enough water needed. According to the UK Tea Council we drink 165m cups of tea and 70m cups of coffee each day, but over half of us overfill the kettle. This leads to extraordinary amounts of wasted energy and decreases our sustainability in the home.
L – Lighting
Swap all your light bulbs for LED lighting. These are so much better in terms of energy efficiency; they use 85% less energy than traditional incandescent or halogen bulbs and can last up to 20 times longer. Need I say more!
M – Milk
Are the old ways the best way? Growing up, getting our milk in a plastic bottle from the supermarket was unheard of, having milk delivered to our front door every week was just a way of life. Back in 1975, 94% of UK milk was delivered, but that has now decreased to just 3%! We switched back to having our milk delivered with Milk & More and have not looked back since. It is more expensive but, the more people sign up, the cheaper it becomes! It’s a great start to cutting back on plastic.
N – Natural Beeswax Wraps
Ditch the cling film and aluminium foil and invest in some natural beeswax wraps. they are reusable and sustainable and a fantastic alternative to cut out plastic and waste. You can use them to cover a bowl to put in the fridge, wrap up leftover ingredients or even pack up a picnic and enjoy outdoors. You can also get them in lots of different fabrics to brighten up your fridge!
O – Outdoor clothes line
That’s right, ditch the huge energy consuming tumble dryer and get the washing outside. Now, I know this is a problem in damp, wet Britain, but there are solutions. We have an awning built on the side of our house with wishing lines hanging under so when it rains, the washing stays dry.
You can also buy rotary line hoods so you can hang your clothes out without the fear of the rain! We ditched our tumble dryer back in July and although it has been challenging at times with a household of four people (and a daughter that likes to wear her dinner on her school uniform), we have learnt to adapt.
P – Paint
Choose eco-friendly paint. Many conventional paints contain VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds which can include formaldehyde or heavy metals. Not only are they bad for your health, the processes involved in manufacturing the paint often use non-sustainable resources and can create huge amounts of toxic waste.
Q – Quit the Fast fashion
I’ll admit, this was an easy one for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like to look good, but I’ve never really been all too bothered about fashion. I’m always on the hunt for new clothes in charity shops and the jeans I am currently wearing I’ve had for around 10 years. I can’t remember the last time I purposely went into town to “shop” and will only really buy something if I desperately need it or I’ve got an event to go to.
Apparently, £140 million worth of clothing is sent to landfill every year in the UK and the fashion world’s textile production produces global emissions equivalent to 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 every year. This is an eye watering amount and the industry needs a drastic overhaul.
R – Reuse, Reclaim and Recycle
If I have unwanted pieces of electrical items or furniture, I take them to a charity shop. If I want a new piece of furniture for the house, I always look at what I already have and see if I can upcycle the furniture or I go to a charity shop and buy second hand. I love bringing old bits of furniture back to life by painting, wallpapering and adding new accessories.
Biophilic design has seen a surge in popularity in recent years due to it’s sustainable practices, read my blog post on biophilic design here.
S – Showerheads
Installing low flow shower-heads in your bathroom will reduce the amount of water you use during your normal shower. In turn, this will also reduce the amount of energy you use to heat the water.
T – Tumble Dryer
I know how hard it is when you’re a family of 3 or more but ditch the tumble dryer! It is estimated that the tumble dryer emits more than a ton of carbon dioxide every year and can also be extremely damaging to your clothes.
Make a conscience decision to wear your clothes more than once, this cuts down on the amount of washing you do and will actually help your clothes last longer.
U – Use
Make it your mission to use and use again! Buy a reusable coffee cup and take it with you wherever you go. If you forget, insist (where possible) that the coffee shop uses cups and mugs and not disposable coffee cups.
Purchase metal straws which you can put in your bag for the kids, therefore reducing the need for plastic straws. If you know you are going somewhere that will serve you plastic cutlery (I find theme parks are notorious for this!), take your own cutlery. These are all small steps to the war on plastic.
V – Vegetables
Eat more vegetables! Trying to cut down on meat eating and dairy is probably THE most important thing you can do to help the environment. Our insatiable appetite for beef and meat has been a huge contributor to large scale deforestation and contributes enormously to carbon emissions.
Either adopt a flexitarian diet or replace meat with meat free substitutes. If you can’t give up your weekly steak and chips, just try and swap one meal that contains meat for a vegetarian version once a week.
W – Waste
Food waste is also a huge problem when it comes to climate change. Not to mention all the energy it takes to produce the food in the first place, or the plastic packaging it takes to transport the food around, we apparently waste about a third of all food produced for human consumption.
Would you believe me if I told you 100 million pints of milk are tipped down British sinks every year? So, stop and think before you bin that out of date cabbage or courgette. Turn it into soup or stews (Nadia Hussain has a fab book out – Time To Eat – with great recipes for leftover food). Get a compost which in turn can be used to improve your soil (the RHS has some great tips here), freeze food you haven’t used by the use by date.
I always freeze any leftover bread which in turn I use to make breadcrumbs. When bulk buying meat, separate the portions and freeze what you don’t need. Probably the best way to cut down on your food waste is not to buy too much food in the first place, plan your meals ahead and only buy what you need.
Don’t be sucked in by supermarket 2 for 1 offers and try to stick to a food shopping list when in the shop.
X – Xeriscape
I know, Xeri- what? I’ve just heard this word for the first time as well. It means to landscape or choose plants that eliminate the need for extra water from irrigation. Plant shade trees to protect your plants in the garden and drought-tolerant native species that will not need extra watering to survive!
Y – You!
It starts with you making small changes to how you live your life. Whether that be ditching the tumble dryer, steak supper or weekly clothes shop. As I said at the beginning, we can’t do everything, but we can all do something.
Z – Zero to landfill
And last, but not least, if you take on board all the tips I’ve written about in this blog post, hopefully you will reduce what you send to landfill. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to send zero to landfill, but every little helps!
Two-thirds of landfill waste is biodegradable, but unfortunately this results in methane gases being released into the atmosphere. Methane is a toxic greenhouse gas and traps up to 20 times more heat than carbon dioxide. Not to mention the hazardous impact it has on the environment around it and the leftover third of items that do not biodegrade!
We can all make small changes to our life to try and halt the speed of which the climate is changing. The planet is already suffering hugely because of our insatiable appetite for consumerism.
This is only a small list of what we can do to help, there are also other huge impacts on our environment, like travel, holidays and deforestation and the only way we can change this is by putting pressure on the government and taking action in our community.