Where on earth do I start?
Updated: Apr 13, 2020
So you've decided to read (maybe even to follow!) my blog, which means you're interested in what a sustainable lifestyle might look like. But I know what you're thinking: this all sounds very interesting, but where on earth do I start? It's a great question. One I hope to answer in this blog post.
First things first, lets have a look at what your lifestyle currently looks like! Below I've given some advice on how to identify your habits so you can find those that could do with some (loving) tweaking. And then I've suggested some swaps that you could start making!
Get up close and personal
When I was on my placement two years ago, I had a long commute into work (an hour and a half, and 3 trains! London life 'ey...). I would often buy a coffee at Waterloo station, and I realised that this habit accumulated a lot of paper cups. So the first sustainable swap I made was to buy a KeepCup (it cost me about £15 on Amazon, but you can buy them all over the place now they're so popular). This meant that if I got a coffee on my commute I wasn't creating unnecessary waste (plus Nero gave me a discount for using my own cup!). Being aware of my habits and wanting to make my life less taxing on the earth meant that I was able to recognise this habit as one that I could easily fix. (Honest moment: now that I am no longer commuting, and my schedule is a lot less regular, I do not always remember to bring my KeepCup out with me. This is a habit I am trying to get back into properly!).
So, a great first step is to have a look at your routine. How do you travel to work (or school, or university)? Do you buy a coffee on your commute, or do you regularly buy lunch out? Where do you do your weekly food shopping? What kind of products do you use at home? Looking closely at your routine (A.K.A. your lifestyle) in this way helps to identify your habits and also the places where you may be able to make some swaps.
DON'T throw out all your plastic. I know that might sound counterintuitive, but throwing out all your plastic items doesn't do any good. If they are still usable, working, or full of product, then don't throw them out. When the time comes to say goodbye (when they are broken or empty) try to find a place where you can recycle them so that they don't sit in landfill forever. (Just to say I don't know everything there is to know about this, but if you're wondering what to do with your plastic then drop me an email and I'd be happy to have a go at giving you a hand!).
My advice would be to take some time to think about your habits and identify some that you know create a lot of waste. It sounds like work (trust me I know), but you could probably identify a handful of things right away, and taking the time and effort now will save you later.
That is what I love about this sustainability journey - so many swaps that we make actually end up saving us time and money in the future. Let me explain. So many products that we use in our everyday lives can't be recycled, which means we contribute to landfill every day. Therefore, sustainable swaps are designed to last longer; often they are made out of better materials and can be reused many, many times. So upfront time and cost often turn into long term saving.
Here are some swaps that I have made, or am in the process of making, that are great when you're just starting out (by the way, I am going to do more detailed posts about a lot of these things so don't panic - this is just to help you get started).
In the bathroom
Safety razor with a bamboo handle: these are great because they're made from sustainable materials, plus the only thing that you replace are the blades (brilliant!).
Shampoo and conditioner bars: these are quite self-explanatory. It's shampoo and conditioner in bar form (think bar soap). According to an article in the Independent shampoo bars can last you three times longer than a normal bottle of shampoo!
Bar soap: another obvious one. Instead of those (admittedly convenient) plastic bottle, pumping liquid soaps, buy an old fashioned bar of soap.
You can buy these everywhere...Again, the tins from Lush will make these so much less messy!
Bamboo toothbrush: similar to the razor, this toothbrush is made from bamboo which is a recyclable material.
Reusable face wipes: I recently bought some of these, they are amazing! They remove make-up really well (I just pour a little micellar water onto one round and wipe away!), they actually remove my waterproof mascara better than cotton wool did. And they feel great on my skin, for someone with sensitive skin this is awesome. After using I just chuck them into my laundry basket and add them to my wash.
You can buy these at many Etsy stores, as well as on Amazon. Package Free Shop has some really nice looking ones.
Mooncup and cotton pads: I have to admit I haven't yet made this jump. However, a few close friends of mine (who I trust, and hope to follow soon) strongly advocate for the Mooncup.
In the kitchen
Just a warning: this room is so much harder to tackle (again I'll be doing more detailed, focused blog posts around this).
Bring your own bags: who doesn't have a cupboard, stuffed to breaking point, full of plastic bags? Keep a load in your car boot, or one or two in your handbag, so you're always ready for an impromptu shopping trip. Even better, spend a little money on those 'for life' bags or on some tote bags. They will last you longer, and carry more too!
You can buy these cool net bags from Etsy and Amazon (they seem to be on trend...). Package Free Shop also sells tote bags.
Shop loose: where and when you can choose fruit and veg that hasn't been packaged - and then instead of putting your chosen items in one of those little plastic bags that the supermarkets conveniently provide, just pop them loose into your trolley. Your own bags will keep them safe on your way home, and you'll have to wash/peel them before eating anyways!
I am aware that this is a lot of information to take in (thanks for sticking with me!). However, I also know that starting out on a journey of sustainability is really hard, and most of us just don't know where to start (I certainly didn't!). So I hope that this post gives you something to think about, and is a helpful starting point. Also, just an FYI, I will be turning this blog into a permanent page on my website soon (read: in the new year...). So you will be able to find this easily should you ever need it again.