Why living sustainably is good for you and the planet
Written by Hannah Robbins
Seems like an obvious question, right?
How many of us have seen the horrific images plastered online of seahorses carrying cotton buds, and turtles caught in plastic bags? Or more recently, birds with disposable surgical masks wrapped around their feet and wings?
They convey the stark truth of what our fellow inhabitants on Earth are coping with – they’ve served their purpose in opening our eyes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only thrust this into the limelight further. This year has probably been the most challenging for us all, but it has shown us that it’s not too late to change. In fact, it’s more important now than ever because whilst some damage is sadly irreparable, there’s more that we can undo.
Having spent 7 weeks stuck at home in full lockdown, many of us are now reconsidering the way we live our lives and how this can change for the better; for ourselves and for the planet.
Changing for the better
According to Google Trends, between mid-January to mid-April, search interest in “How to live a sustainable lifestyle” had increased by more than 4,550%.
Over the last decade, we as consumers have been slowly turning to more sustainable ways of living in our home lives. The world of business is catching on and finally hearing environmentalists, scientists, conservationists, and eco-conscious consumers calling out for change. We must still do this, putting pressure on our favourite brands, corporations, businesses and the government to do better.
But it’s also vital we look closer to home and ensure we’re all doing what we can to help contribute.
The interest is there, the desire is clear – the challenge is where to get started?
Minimising our impact
Combatting climate change is not just about reducing our energy and water usage in a bid to reduce our carbon emissions (although that’s not to say they’re not important).
It’s about ensuring the goods we use on a day to day basis are as robust and sustainable as possible, made from sustainably sourced materials. It’s about reusing, repurposing, and repairing wherever we can, recycling as much as possible and using landfill as a last resort – minimising our impact on the environment.
It’s all about balance
Now this isn’t to say you need to rid your home of every type of plastic, nor make drastic changes to your routine or way of life. It doesn’t have to break the bank, nor be difficult, and you most certainly don’t have to compromise on quality or desired results.
We always say that a lot of small changes make a big impact and that’s especially true when it comes to leading a more sustainable lifestyle.
Over the next 12 months of your Club membership, we will be taking you through many easy ways that you can start to look out for the planet, giving you the tools to succeed.
First up is your Sustainable Swap Box which is packed to the brim of our top sustainable swaps to get you started, including:
Reusable, natural kitchen products
Probably the biggest area of your home that uses the most single-use plastic items and other plastic-based disposables is in your kitchen. Bin bags, clingfilm, sandwich bags, kitchen roll – all costing shedloads in plastic, and almost all are destined for landfill. There are however some clever, easy swaps for all of these, you’ll be glad to know.
Beeswax and vegan wax wraps are great alternatives to clingfilm & sandwich bags. Beeswax or vegan wax wraps are reusable, long lasting, and fully compostable at the end of their life. If you haven’t used them before, they can look a bit “alien” but they’re easy to get used to and are incredibly versatile. When they (eventually) need replacing, they can even be (eventually) used as natural firelighters – now that’s pretty cool.
Compostable bin and caddy liners are another great, natural option. Made entirely from vegetable starch, they degrade much quicker than plastic’s 450 years, and better yet leave behind no chemical residues or harmful toxins.
Plastic scourers and sponges are similarly wasteful – they shed fibres and micro plastics throughout their life and cannot be recycled. This means you’ll end up forking out cash on a regular basis for landfill-destined sponges. Worse yet, they are made using fossil fuel-based elements – which are not renewable enough.
This is where compostable sponge cloths come in. The compostable sponge cloths are made from natural materials and are reusable to the extreme – they’re washing machine and dishwasher safe, so you know they’ll be clean when you next need them and that they’ll last lots and lots longer than their plastic alternatives. When you eventually (and we mean, eventually!) need to replace them, they are entirely home compostable.
Eco-friendly cleaning products that reduce plastic and carbon
Cleaning products are a big plastic problem too. Traditional cleaners sold on supermarket shelves encourage wasteful use of plastic and can actually contain up to 90% water. Not to mention the harsh chemicals and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that aren’t actually necessary to clean with.
OceanSaver EcoDrops are a simple alternative. They’re plant based, non-toxic and are super concentrated, so all you’re paying for is the cleaning solution itself. They give a powerful clean despite their size and are designed as cleaning refills, so you can use bottles you already have, or get one of their Bottles for Life (which, as the name suggests, are designed to last a long, long – LONG – time). Simply dissolve the EcoDrop in 750ml of water at home and get cleaning.
What’s more, 1 lorry shipment of OceanSaver EcoDrops is equal to 12 lorry shipments of traditional spray cleaners, so not only do they help reduce plastic, but they also contribute less carbon emissions in the supply chain.
I don’t think we’ve ever seen such a small product that reduces impact on so many different levels. A win-win if I ever saw one.
Reusable laundry and fabric softener alternatives
Laundry is another chore in the house that gets through lots of plastic bottles, but it’s not just the plastic that’s bad. Traditional detergents and fabric softeners contain harsh chemicals, phosphates and in most cases unsustainably sourced palm oil – and even animal fats. Yuck, I gagged even writing that last part.
What’s more, these ingredients don’t break down fully in the wash, so they go on to contaminate water systems. Phosphates, for example, can build up in waterways and lead to big algal blooms that can starve fish and other plant life of oxygen.
Ecoegg’s Laundry Egg is an eco-friendly solution to this and arguably makes life easier than measuring out detergent and softener for every wash. The Laundry Egg is a refillable egg-shaped container that holds 2 different kinds of mineral pellets. Simply pop the egg in the drum of your machine and start your cycle. The mineral pellets will work to draw dirt from clothing fibres, softening clothing by changing the pH, leaving your laundry clean and fresh.
It’s designed to last a very long time, with a 10-year guarantee and is made from fully recyclable BPA-free plastic. So, at the end of its life you can dispose of it by putting it in your recycling bin.
Pair it with the Dryer Egg, and you’ve got the ultimate dynamic duo – wave goodbye to those tumble dryer sheets. No more will they get caught in your lint catcher. You might as well call yourself an eco-laundry guru and be done with it at this rate!
Swap from the most common bathroom plastics
If we were all a dentist’s poster patient and changed our toothbrushes every 3 months, that would send 264 million toothbrushes off to landfill (aka the ocean) a year – and that’s just the UK. Dental floss is also a big concern as when it reaches our seas it can tangle and wrap around things, harming marine life. It also causes issues blocking pipes where people dispose of it improperly by flushing it down the toilet. (Really, I’m shaking my head in disbelief).
Then you’ve got your single-use cotton culprits – cotton buds and rounds. Cotton needs an astronomical amount of water to grow, with 1 T-shirt equating to the same amount of water one person would drink over 3 years. I can’t even picture that in my head. And ultimately, these cotton products get used once and are discarded.
As for cotton buds, I’ve got another whopper of a stat for you. The UK use an astounding 13.2 billion buds annually (more than any other European country). Many of them are disposed of incorrectly down the loo, (again, *sigh*) and because they’re so small it’s easy for them to get through sewerage systems and end up in our rivers, lakes, and seas. They also have chemical coatings that make them even more harmful to wildlife.
So, your bathroom swaps are important. Bamboo toothbrushes are a no-brainer. They’re strong, with a biodegradable handle and recyclable bristles. They even feature an anti-mould base coating to help protect it. Swapping to biodegradable silk dental floss will help too, as it’s a strong and effective material to clean your teeth, and if it does invariably end up in the sea, (don’t do it) it will biodegrade.
For your cotton products, bamboo is a fabulous alternative. It’s tough and enduring with a water-efficiency twice that of trees – no more 3 years’ worth of water malarky. it’s able to adapt to extreme weather conditions like high temperatures, droughts and floods so can grow almost anywhere. There are many more benefits, but more on that later.
Reusable bamboo facial rounds are an obvious choice– the velvety soft pads are gentle on skin and can be washed and reused time and time again. Bamboo cotton buds are robust, natural, and completely biodegradable – and for the most part can outperform the bendy plastic ones as well.
Don’t forget about your water and energy usage
We mustn’t forget about managing our energy usage and water consumption, as those can have just as much of an impact on our carbon footprint as our waste does.
How many lights do you have in your house – 7? 10? Maybe even more than 15 if you count all your lamps? (I like lamps, don’t judge me). Imagine how much energy and money you could be wasting by using inefficient bulbs. LED technology can provide an excellently bright light for 80% less of the consumption. Reduced energy consumption plus reduced carbon emissions equals a very happy pocket and a much better planet.
Similarly, our consumption of water needs just as much attention. Say you have a pretty efficient standard showerhead – either fixed or hand-held – that has a water flow of 12 litres, with just one average 8-minute shower every day, you can see that you are going to be using 35,040 litres of water a year.
By choosing fixtures and fittings that reduce your water consumption by up to 60% with no loss of quality or experience, it reduces the pressure on services that clean, distribute, and manage water. Using our previous example, you could instead be using just 14,016 litres of water showering, reducing your water bill as well as protecting our arguably most precious resource.
So, there you have it, easy changes that will help you live a much more sustainable lifestyle, whilst providing excellent results. All help you save time, waste and ultimately money that you’d have to pay out time and time again for your single-use alternatives. It’s also not about overhauling your complete routine overnight – making these small changes gradually over time will have a massive impact, especially if we all do just one of these swaps.