When I moved house, I was determined to overhaul all the bad habits inherited from/allowed by my parents, and my previous excuses during student life. I thought it would be a tall order, but with shops like Nigel’s Eco Store, and a wealth of useful articles online, it’s been quite straightforward
- eCover – Living by the Thames, it’s quite obvious how much crap (figuratively) gets flushed away by us every day – cleaning agents being the main avoidable culprit. eCover’s been a fantastic eco-friendly replacement for bleaches, and are quite hypoallergenic. I currently use their bathroom cleaner, toilet cleaner, cream stain-remover, washing machine tablets, and washing up liquid, and so far can’t see any deterioration in the quality of my cleaning
- Recycling – There are very few areas in the UK not served by some sort of recycling facility, be it a bottle bank or home collection. My recycling bag is right next to my bin, so all it takes is an extra split-second move to the right to get rid of cereal boxes, tins, coke cans (of which there are a LOT), and empty bottles. It’s cut my usual rubbish load by half, and, as there is a recycling centre outside my building, doesn’t take me too far out of my way to get rid of renewable waste. The recycle more website is great for tips on reducing waste, and there’s probably something out there that we can all do to improve things!
- Low-energy appliances – Ok, so I haven’t been able to find an eco-friendly computer just yet, but Nigel’s Eco Store and Ethical Superstore have a number of good electrical goods that don’t use up much energy. Their ecokettles is great, and these solar-powered mood lights are easy on the electricity bill and the eyes. My iHome stays on even when it’s unplugged (more on this later), and of course, being one tiny lady living alone, I have no use for a dishwasher.
- Unplug your appliances – Even when switched off, appliances continue to eat up energy through what’s called a “phantom load”. While it may be unrealistic to unplug some appliances, things such as TVs, lamps, and microwaves can be unplugged to save on energy costs. I used to laugh at my grandmother for doing this (ok, she used to do it because she thought the house would explode) but it’s a good habit that will literally pay off in the end.
- Eco bulbs and candles – they’re right next to the normal candles, and last much longer for just a few pennies more – which you will make back through your electricity bills. My eco bulb doesn’t work quite so well with the dimmer switch in the living room, but my eco mood light is in the same place, so it’s no big deal.
- Grow your own – I definitely haven’t inherited my father’s green fingers (he grew up on a farm, I can’t keep a pot of coriander alive!) but it’s cut down on the cost of buying herbs while adding to the convenience (the patio is far closer than Sainsbury’s) and quality (fresher is better) of my food preparation. They keep the kitchen windowsill looking quite nice, too.
- Homewares and furniture – Here’s where i give in to style over substance. Everything in my home needs to be representative of who I am, to the extent that it took me 8 months to find an acceptable tv table. However, I make up for my high-maintenance style by using my (already documented) thrift skills. Photo frames borrowed from relatives, second-hand furniture and glassware from ebay (which is far easier for finding what you want than walking around the shops anyway) and car boot sales, and decorative items from charity shops. Most eco-friendly and sustainable furniture is too modern for my taste, but the (f)re(e)cycle approach gives my stuff the history I want it to have without waste.
- The wider picture – Of course, this thriftiness and fuel efficiency means I have a little extra money left at the end of it all. This has gone towards shopping for more organic, sustainable foods, which living in this part of town is hard to ignore. I’m strolling distance from two Whole Foods stores, there are Farmers’ markets on almost every weekend, and every station has a Marks and Spencer, which advertises itself as being exclusively organic and fair trade. For armchair shopping, SimplyFair is also great.
I’m no ecological guru by any means, but I’m getting there! Any further suggestions are most welcome.