• Small Sustainable Swaps

My Little Everyday Eco

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

Inspired by a month of posting on Instagram, I thought I would compile My Little Everyday Eco actions into a post to share here. Some of the ideas included are ones that I have shared before but I feel it is important to remember these everyday eco actions. So often making sustainable choices can be seen as expensive or difficult. Now this may be true for some actions but it is not true for all eco steps. My key message always is make small sustainable swaps - and that means sustainable for you and your situation.

1. Laundry

Washing at 30°. According to the Energy Saving Trust, washing your clothes at 30° can save around 40% of the energy used each year. We do a mix of temperatures depending on what is being washed.

Most modern machines and detergents can cope well with a cooler wash. For things that have tougher stains or towels/bedding we will use a higher temperature. What temperature do you wash at? Have you tried washing at 30°?

Line drying. Another action linked to laundry is drying your clothes on a washing line or airer. I know this isn't always possible for some and tumble dryers can certainly be useful.

We don't have a tumble dryer or washer dryer so this is our only option. But to be honest I prefer it. When I was at uni (many years ago) I had to use a tumble dryer during my first year in halls. I found it a bit of a hassle. I love the smell of clothes dried on a washing line. And the sun can help to get rid of any pesky stains. Also it's free!

In the winter (and other times too thanks to the great British weather!) it isn't always as easy to use the line so we have a couple of airers up in our bathroom. This is slower and does take up some space but it saves energy and is also free. The sun and wind are great sources of energy.

2. Kitchen

There are lots of things you can do in the kitchen as part of your everyday that are sustainable and good for the environment.

Cooking with lids on pans. This is a great way to save energy as it helps to retain heat within the pan. Depending on what you are cooking you may not be able to do this but it is a great option when you can.

Freezing leftovers. When cooking, I often end up making more than we need (sometimes intentionally, other times not). To avoid this being wasted we will usually freeze these leftovers to use at another time. Having left overs in the freezer also means that we can sometimes have a night off cooking or they can be handy as a quick lunch at work.

We make good use of the pots we've got from having the occasional take away for freezing. They are the perfect size for portioning up left overs. One thing I have learnt is, it is important to label the leftovers 😆 If you don't it can be a bit pot luck! We just use a sharpie on the pot or on a bit of tape.

Yellow sticker foods. I'm fairly new to buying yellow sticker foods but after a few fellow Eco instagrammers talked about them I thought I'd check them out. These items will have best Before or Use By on that date, which means if they are not sold they may end up in landfill (unless that supermarket has an arrangement with a charity or maybe @olio.app).

Often the best before foods will still be fine for a few days. I've had tomatoes that lasted another week after the Best Before. Use by foods can either be cooked on that day or frozen to make them last longer. By doing this we are helping to reduce wasted food or items going to landfill. Also we save a bit of money.

Meat free Meals. We are not a meat free family but I do understand the benefits of plant based but for now this is not for us. However, I am introducing the occasional meat free meal and where I can going plant based.

There are some really good options out there which does help. When we go out for food (rarely at the moment but it sometimes happens) I am looking more at the veggie and vegan options for me. Just reducing your meat consumption a little will help (it doesn't have to be all or nothing).

Food packaging. We're not a 100% plastic free family but we try to make switches where we can. We have two children and we live within a certain budget. Therefore we have to make certain choices.

If I can get something in non plastic packaging, I will try to opt for that. I will go for tins, jars or cardboard. But these all still need to be correctly disposed of through recycling (or reuse). If we can get something through refill or without any packaging then that is a bonus!

Jars! Since thinking about more sustainable living I seem to have developed a bit of a jar problem (anyone else with me on this?)! Jars are a great storage option however I'm having to take control and not save all of my jars 😂 Thankfully glass is recyclable.

The jars don't all match but they do a great job of storing different things. I use them for storing all sorts of loose food items, making my own pickled beetroot, storing bath bombs and even for giving gifts. At Christmas we filled some jars with loose sweets and wrapped them with a personalised label.

Wax wraps. I started using wax wraps a little less than a year a go. I really like them. We have some beeswax wraps and some vegan wax wraps. Both work really well. They can be used to wrap a variety of things. We've used them to cover bowls, wrap left overs, cover the end of cucumbers, cover a icing pot etc. There are a few things you can't wrap with them - hot food, raw meat. But they can be used for most other things.

They just need washing in cool soapy water and left to drip dry. We store them rolled in a couple of jars on the side (sorted by size). This means they are ready to go.

Using wraps saves money and plastic waste as I don't have to keep buying cling film which would then end up in landfill. You can rewax them and when they eventually reach the end of their usable life they can be composted.

Growing your own. I'm not the best at keeping plants alive but I give it a go! I try to focus on plants that we can use - rosemary, thyme, bay etc. We're also trying tomatoes and some other bits this year too. We have a small strawberry plant and some raspberry canes too. Just these few plants help to reduce our need to buy things. Something I want to try and learn more about and get better at!

Packed lunch. Taking a packed lunch to work or when you're heading is a great way to avoid lots of single use plastics and waste. Due to the pandemic I have been much better at this. I will be honest I used to pop to the local supermarket (near work) frequently at lunch times. When covid hit this changed and I've tried to stick to this.

Instead I bring something from home. Sometimes it's sandwiches or soup but often leftovers. I'm lucky that we have microwaves at work so can heat things up as needed. It can sometimes be a pain to prep a lunch which is when I'll end up with soup as that's easy!

3. Waste

Composting food waste. Our local council don't currently collect food waste (I think they are thinking of trialling it). So we have a compost bin in our garden that my hubby built. We then have a smaller counter top bin in the kitchen which we fill before then adding to the outside bin.

We also have a Bokashi Bin (see a previous post if you'd like to know more). This is a great addition to our food waste management as you can put most food items in it including meat and dairy products (if you eat them).

By composting food (either at home or through your council) you save that waste from ending up in landfill. If food goes to landfill it releases greenhouse gases as it breaks down in non-ideal conditions. Home composting also means you end up with a great source of compost for your garden.

Waste. We recently reached the point where we not longer put out a weekly bag of household waste but only need to put out a bag every other week or sometimes even less often. We are trying to think about the packaging we buy food and other products in. Some packaging does have to go in the bin but a lot can be recycled, reused or composted. Food waste goes in our Bokashi bin which means the bin doesn't get smelly anymore as there isn't anything in there to go bad.

Recycling foil. Another way to reduce landfill waste is to recycle foil. It is recyclable but it can't be just thrown in. We wash used foil and leave to dry. We then have a small bowl on the side where we screw up the foil and leave. Each time more foil is added the ball grows. When we have a large ball of foil this can then be added to the recycling bin. We will sometimes reuse foil too which reduces are use of new foil.

4. Bathroom

Showers. A few months ago we needed to replace our shower head as the old one was coming apart a bit. Hubby was left in charge of sorting a replacement and he got the one shown in the picture. It apparently does something with the ions in the water but that wasn't the reason we ended up with it.

It helps to increase the pressure of the water coming from it but also reduces the amount of water being used. So this shower head helps to reduce our water use when having a shower. We also try to keep showers reasonably quick and I don't usually shower every day (shock horror 😂).

Solid bars. Shampoo bars, conditioner bar, shaving soap and regular soap - all alternatives to products in bottles or cans. I've been using shampoo bars for quite a while now. The ones from @zerowastepath are my favourites but I also like the ones from Lush. They wash brilliantly and don't leave my hair feeling funny in anyway.

I only discovered this conditioner bar last year after trying some others which just didn't work for me. What I like about the @friendlysoapltd bars is you can mix them with hot water to make a liquid. This works so much better than keeping it as a bar.

I also only switched to solid shaving soap last year when I switched to using a safety razor (one of my favourite Eco swaps). Finally, soap bars instead of shower gel.

Hair drying. I hadn't really thought about this being an Eco tip but in a way it is. Unless I'm going out for an event and want super smooth hair, I tend to just wash my hair and go. I'm fortunate that it dries relatively straight so it doesn't matter that I don't use a hair dryer. For me this came more out of not having the time to dry it. But it does mean I'm saving energy (and money) and also probably reducing the damage to my hair from repeated heating.

5. Household

Repairing items. Sometimes the temptation to throw things away when they're broken is strong. I will be honest and say that sometimes that is what we end up doing. Obviously in some situations things cannot be repaired but I am trying to think more about repairing what we can.

Most recently I was able to repair a rip in a puddle suit. I was very grateful to some lovely Insta people for their suggestions and tips helping me to a successful fix 😊. Last year, a part of my daughter's PE trainers broke. I was able to resew the loop and they were perfectly usable again.

I'm still working on being more confident in repairing things but what is great is that feeling of pride when you do fix something. I also need to think about asking others (with more skill) to fix things when I can't. Another bonus with fixing things is it can save you from having to buy replacements this means saving money too!

Borrow Items. My hubby is currently working on a 'little' project of building a playhouse for the girls. This involves a lot of materials and tools! We had some of the tools necessary but not all so we have borrowed some. This has saved us from having to make do with what we have (and it being a lot harder work) or having to go out and buy the tools needed.

If we can, we do try to borrow things that are needed for one off tasks or for just the short term. This saves resources and again like many of these little Eco swaps saves money.

Switch off appliances. I never used to do this. It was my hubby that highlighted this issue to me when we first moved in together. We try to make sure any device that isn't running is switched off at the mains. There are certain things that are always on and that's OK. It's things like the TV or Microwave (unless you use that for a clock) that can be switched off. By doing this they aren't in standby mode where they will be passively using energy.

Secondhand clothes for kids. Children grow so quickly and there are so many good quality secondhand clothes out there that it seems a bit mad to buy new. I will be honest and say with my first I did buy a lot of new clothes but I look back now and wonder why. Luckily, the youngest now wears all of those clothes and we pass them along and sell on when they are outgrown.

Outfit repeating. I've never been into buying lots of clothes and I'm not a trend setter or even a trend follower. I wear what makes me feel good. I've never had an issue with wearing the same outfits on multiple occasions. Most of the clothes in my everyday wardrobe are worn multiple times a month (sometimes even multiple times a week).

Repeating outfits or wearing your clothes a lot reduces the need for new clothes to be bought. This means less new resources are needed. It'll also save you money. Are you an outfit repeater? What's the most times you've worn the same outfit?

Reuse single use items. Single use plastic doesn't always have to be single use. Before thinking more about our Eco choices I used to buy these plastic table covers for birthday parties. But even then I didn't throw them away. These make great table covers for art and messy activities. A quick wipe or shake and they are ready for reuse. They fold up fairly small so can be stored easily.

This can be applied to a number of different so called single use items. A bit of creative thinking can prevent these items from ending up in landfill.

Use up what you have. When I started my Eco journey, I had lots of products in plastic that still had lots of product left. I have slowly been using them up and making swaps as I need. For some products this happens quicker than others. By only replacing products when I need I'll save money and avoid products being wasted. When I do eventually finish up the products I will make sure I recycle what I can.

Walking. We are really fortunate to not live too far from our daughters' school or from the local village shops. This means we are able to switch some journeys from car to walking. This is something that I know not everyone can do but if you are able, switching short car journeys to walking is great for the environment and for your own health.

Much to the girls displeasure we do the school run in all weather! I just make sure we have the right clothes and footwear. I also like that I don't have the hassle of trying to get parked anywhere near the school!

Small Business. Supporting small businesses doesn't mean you have to buy from them (it can be that too). There are other ways to support them as well.

Things I do to support small businesses:

1. Like their posts on social media

2. Save their Instagram posts

3. Share their content on social media

4. Comment on posts

5. Tell other people about them and what they offer

6. Buy from them (if I need something/can afford it)

7. Share my experiences of their product

8. If I have issues, I go to them direct before complaining in public

6. Online

Emails. When I found out that having old emails hanging around on your account actually has an impact on the environment I was shocked. I hadn't really thought about it before. I think it's easy just to think of everything we do online as being virtual and not having an impact. In fact, all that data is stored on servers which require huge amounts of energy to run. This has a significant impact on emissions. One way to reduce emails is to unsubscribe from junk emails as sending email also has an impact.

Ecosia. Considering using the Internet does have an environmental impact I have started to use @ecosia when searching online. Using Ecosia, results in trees being planted. Ecosia use the money from Ad revenue to fund this. I love that you can see the total number of trees Ecosia have planted as well as separately being able to see how many my searches have resulted in. The Ecosia app can be found in app stores. Do you think you might try it?

Final thoughts

Switch over slowly

Some sustainable products can cost more in initial outlay but can end up saving you money in the long run. But you don't have to get everything all at once. Making small switches as you need and when you can is completely valid and important.

It took me almost a year to build up my cloth pad collection as I bought just a few at a time. This was what worked for my budget as I wanted to go with a UK based company that is really transparent about its product and makes a quality product that will last.

I was so pleased to find @tcs_eco and I do have to resist the urge to buy more than I need! But for now I do have all the pads I need and they should last me another 6 years. This is 6 years without sending single use pads to landfill.

It's almost two years since I first tried them and about a year since I had my first completely reusable cycle. Switching over slowly meant this was affordable for me.

You don't have to be all or nothing. It may be that you just have a few pads to reduce your single pad use. I just found once I started I preferred using the reusables and so wanted to have enough for my whole cycle.

Sharing Ideas

During May, I've really enjoyed sharing the everyday things we do to be a bit more Eco. So thank you to @littlepackofvegans and @our_little_eco_steps for starting the hashtag and inspiring people to think about the everyday things we do.

We are not the perfect Eco family by a long way but I really do believe that all the small things we do have an impact. By sharing the things we do, I hope that a few others may be inspired or sparked to try a few things out too. The small actions of a few will then hopefully ripple out and have a bigger impact.

Also I hope to show that being Eco doesn't have to cost lots of money and in fact it can save you money 😊

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