Hello 2020! We’re a week into a brand new decade, and a lot of us are using the opportunity to make some changes for the better. This year I’ve noticed a significant surge in sustainability-driven resolutions. And I couldn’t be happier! It’s great seeing others embrace a sustainable lifestyle.
If you’re here, I’m guessing you want to do the same. Which is why I’m going to help you. None of us are perfect and we all have areas we could improve. So I’m going to start with the smallest changes and build up to the bigger ones. Because sustainable living is a long series of baby steps.
Switching to a more eco-conscious lifestyle doesn’t mean throwing all your non-sustainable items away. I’m sure a lot of us have a cupboard or box of shower gels and body lotions from past Christmas’ somewhere. Don’t rush out to buy bar soap without first using what you’ve already got at home. Got an excess of old plastic bottles? Find a creative way to reuse them before you resort to the recycling bin.
Bamboo toothbrushes have really made a place for themselves in the dental world. You’ve even got mainstream brands like Colgate jumping on the bamboo brush wagon! These can be easily sourced online in bulk packs or in your local supermarket (potentially) or zero waste shop (if you have one).
Go and invest in a reusable bottle. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – they have tons of options in the pound shop (or dollar store – location permitting). If you do find yourself slipping up (it happens to the best of us!) then use the bottle as many times as possible before throwing it away after a single use.
Another great investment are reusable coffee cups. Especially if you’re a regular in your local coffee shop. I love to grab an americano on my way to uni if I have the time, and I soon found that the coffee cup waste was piling up. A lot of places now offer biodegradable takeaway cups, but they’re still not the best option. A plastic, metal, or bamboo coffee cup is the way forward.
This is a point which I feel has been massively overhyped in the past. Those of us who are able bodied have no requirements for straws, we simply allowed ourselves to get lazy and opted for convenience. So try ditching plastic straws altogether, or invest in a metal/bamboo alternative.
If you regularly carry a handbag or backpack, keep an emergency tote bag in the bottom. I can’t stress enough how helpful this has been for me, especially when I find myself unexpectedly popping to the shops. Since I’m not fantastic at planning ahead, keeping one on my person at all times ensures I haven’t been caught short.
Instead of buying plastic pump bottles of soap, why not opt for bar soaps? At first, the transition can seem awkward after being used to bottled soap for so long but before you know it, you’ll forget you ever used anything other than bar soap! I’m currently using a selection of 6 that were gifted to me last year by Soap Folk.
Try to implement a little more public transport into your routine. Or better yet, why not walk short distance journeys? Transport currently accounts for roughly 33% of carbon emissions in the UK, according to motorway. Cutting down on a journey or two here and there can massively reduce your carbon footprint.
Beeswax wraps are often an alternative I see floating around on social media and blogs alike. But there are plenty of other options too! Such as silicone lids for keeping contents fresh in a bowl or mug, and various other forms of storage containers.
This is a handy eco home change which you won’t even notice! We’ve had energy saving lightbulbs in our house for years and I never even knew until recently.
Although made from paper, paper kitchen towels are incredibly wasteful. You can avoid this through purchasing their reusable counterparts. Or if you prefer a more thrifty option, you can simply opt for a dish cloth and/or towel. In our kitchen we have a cleaning cloth and a dish cloth, and we repurpose old bath towels as cleaning towels. It works in exactly the same way while reducing waste.
This one can be tricky for a lot of people, as we all have vastly different hair types. I know people struggle to find shampoo bars that are compatible with their hair/scalp, and have found the transition leaving them with greasier hair than they started with.
Though finding the right shampoo bar can be difficult at first, it becomes a breeze once you incorporate it into your routine. Apple cider vinegar rinses can also massively relieve any scalp build-up or excess greasiness. Plus, think of all the bottles you’d be saving! How many shampoo and conditioner bottles do you currently throw away?
If you’re not quite ready for the switch to period cups or cloth pads, then you’re in luck! There’s a whole world of organic and sustainable period products out there to suit everybody. So you don’t have to part with hygiene products you’ve become familiar with over the years if you don’t want to.
This one’s for those who live near a zero waste or eco conscious shop with a refill station. One has recently come to my town and I’m incredibly excited to use it to refill a few old shower gel bottles I’ve been keeping.
It often works out cheaper to refill old containers than it does to buy new, and you get the satisfaction of doing some good for the planet while you’re at it!
Rid yourself of those disposable plastic razors and invest in a safety razor. I purchased mine last year from Naked Necessities and haven’t looked back. Most safety razors also come with a small packet of replacement blades for when yours eventually dull down.
They also guarantee a much closer shave in comparison to disposables, although they can be tricky to get to grips with at first.
Technology is a particularly difficult hurdle when it comes to sustainable living. In our current climate, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to function without a smart phone of some sort. And with the ever-looming death of our smart phones’ lives, we’re often looking to replace them.
But what do we do with our old ones? If it’s in good enough shape then they can be sold on second-hand, or your can send it to a company that will recycle or repurpose it. The same also applies to tablets and computers – technology is a big polluter in our planet, so we need to do everything we can to try and combat that.
Keeping with the tech theme, I recently found out about a company called Fairphone who make sustainable, and fully repairable smart phones. As far as I’m aware, they’re one of the only options available in terms of tech at the moment, but hopefully that will change with time!
Their phones run on an Android 9 system, has a fairtrade gold accreditation integrated within their supply chain, and sell the spare parts to make repairing your phone the first port of call as opposed to simply buying a new one! They retail for 450 euros, approximately £382 (GBP).
Why not swap out your typical laundry detergents and fabric softeners for a more sustainable alternative? A lot of people vouch for soap nuts, which are 100% natural and can be used multiple times before being thrown away. Other options include products like the Eco Egg, which is refillable pellet detergent system. You can even have a go at making your own! Pinterest is full of zero waste recipes and how-to guides.
This is one of those daunting ones – especially for those without a garden. I have yet to give this one a go myself, though this may be the year I bite the bullet!
If you’re unable to travel without a car, maybe think about opting for an electric or hybrid model. Although more expensive than your average fossil fuel run car, they’re incredibly beneficial in the long run and will save you a few pennies on petrol.
*This is obviously an ‘optional’ swap rather than an essential one, don’t think that you need to go out and buy a new car just for the sake of it.
I’ve left this one ’til last because food can be a sensitive topic. I’ve recently made the decision to join in with #Veganuary, with my carbon footprint at the forefront of my intentions. That’s not to say everyone can make the choice to go vegan. We can all do what we can, and Meatless Mondays are a great way of doing that.
I'm Elen Mai, the brains behind Welsh Wanderer and 20-something human biology student from (you guessed it) Wales! Welsh Wanderer is designed with the eco-conscious adventurer in mind. So stick around for tips & tricks on living sustainably.