When I travelled to Costa Rica back in January, I was impressed by the dedication the government had to being environmentally friendly. Costa Rica is leading in terms of eco tourism and the whole country this year was powered by renewable energy. Incredible, especially, since Costa Rica’s GDP is far lower than many countries. Having visited Tourtugero, the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges and the Cloud Forest in Monteverde and seeing all of the beautiful wildlife I made a pact that myself that I would make a conscious effort to be more environmentally friendly when I got back to the UK. I also have a Geography degree and my dissertation was focused on if being environmentally friendly was important to university students. Therefore I should practice what I preach!
Back in the rainy West Midlands the reality is different but I still had a mission of making a difference. You may want to sit with a cuppa for this one! Here are my attempts at making a difference.
Starting at home with the everyday task of washing your hands
I have been keen on using more environmentally friendly cleaning products as I do think about the amount of chemicals that run through the drains and the damage this causes. My first foray in this is hand wash from Bio-D. My biggest peeve with being sustainable is that it can be costly. Considering hand wash at Aldi is less than a pound it can be hard to justify spending lots of money on hand wash. I had a google around and found Bio-D. I like Bio-D’s mission statement which is ‘We believe it is possible to have effective, natural, safe cleaning products that don’t cost the earth. You have nothing to lose, our world has everything to gain. There products seemed to be good value so I gave their hand wash a go.
I purchased two bottles of the unscented version off the Natural Collection site, which is slowly becoming a site I do a lot of shopping at. Bio-D claim that there hand washes do not contain Phosphates, E.D.T.A, Enzymes Optical Brighteners, Chlorine Bleaches, Petroleum-derived Additives, Chemical Plasticisers, Formaldehyde, Glycerin or Glycerine, Lanolin, Sodium Tallowate, Synthetic Dyes, Synthetic Perfumes and Titanium Dioxide. Essentially nasty chemicals. The packaging is 100% recyclable as well – bonus!
The hand wash did the job and I felt was very good value as both have lasted absolutely ages.
Kitchen Cleaning spray
Next on my hit list was cutting the amount of chemicals I use to clean my kitchen. I got the Tesco Eco Active Spray as it was in the sale. The pink grapefruit smells amazing, the ingredients are plant-based and non-toxic. The bottle is made with up 45% reusable plastic and is 100% recyclable packaging and has the EU eco label. Its great that I can get this from Tesco, therefore not having to purchase from a different site and contributing more to my carbon footprint.
Soap nuts – an alternative to washing powder?
Normal – everyday washing powder contains lots of nasty chemicals and thinking about it, do you really want that on your skin? When I found Soap Nuts by ecozone from the Natural Collection site I was interested but skeptical. There are meant to be enough nuts for 330 washes making that about 3p per wash and four nuts in a cotton bag lasts four washes – bargain! There are naturally and sustainably sourced – another bonus in my book. My scepticism The cotton bag is reusable however the nuts are contained within a plastic bag on the inside.
My scepticism came from at first seeing the nuts and I wasn’t sure how clean they will keep my clothes but I have had soap nuts for about six months now and they are good. I find that they do clean the clothes well. They don’t leave a smell if you don’t use fabric conditioner. Its not a bad smell, like if your clothes haven’t been cleaned but I do like my clothes to smell nice.
Again, I was concerned about the amount of chemicals that I put in my hair and consequently drain down the pipes. I chose Faith in Nature shampoo’s in Rose and Neroli and Grapefruit and Orange. Faith in Nature claim to be free from Parabens and SLS, Vegan and Cruelty-Free and 99% Natural Origin. If you like or expecting a soapy lather – don’t expect it from this shampoo, but I think it is because the chemicals make it into a lather and we are conditioned to expect this!
I did find the shampoo made my hair dry, to be fair it did coincide with me going to the pool – ALOT more. But I found once I switched back to my usual shampoo the dryness ceased – even with my regular pool visits. So I don’t think I will use Faith in Nature again.
I remember going on a school trip to Glasgow and we were in a museum (cannot remember for the life of me which one it was! I was reading something that said they had dredge part of a river and found a strata of condoms and sanitary pads, a strata! Sanitary pads are made of a bunch of plastic which away from the environment can irritate the skin. Not good, I switched to Natracare and found them to be a lot better than the standard pads and tampons you can get in the shops. I have used both and found them to be really effective. They decompose so won’t damage the environment. They are reasonably priced and you can use them once which satisfy those that may not want to use mooncups or reusable tampons and sanitary pads. I just make sure I put in a order regularly enough as I have had to buy shop ones when I have ran out.
I do buy second hand clothes however struggle so much in charity shops. Being a common size I find it hard to find nice clothes second hand. I am not committed to the cause to the extent that I am willing to compromise on wearing clothes I want to wear. I got very interested in ethical and sustainable clothes. Having watched documentaries on Netflix such as The True Cost I wanted to see if I could make a difference.
BUT I found the clothes in charity shops again to not to be to my taste and I wasn’t keen on the style of a lot of ethically produced clothes. I feel that the clothes I do buy even though they are from the high street I use until they are fallen apart, I repair or pass them on either online selling or to a charity shop. I purchase off ebay clothes that are factory seconds, second hand or ex-season which is better than them being thrown away or burnt to protect the brand like Burberry did but obviously I appreciate purchasing online adds to the carbon footprint.
I have always given to charity shops or sold online as well. I don’t purchase according to ‘the latest in fashion’ well not often anyway. So I feel although I am not buying ‘ethically’ I am not being wasteful either.
Away from clothes I love reading books and pretty much always got my books from either the library, charity shops or swapping with mates. I have set up a sort of book club with my friend so we swap books quite often and I purchase a lot of board games second hand.
Eating and drinking
I tried to go veggie, it didn’t work!
Let me explain, again influenced by my sister who is a full blown vegan and watching numerous documentaries on Twitter I changed my milk to a nut version, cheese to a vegan version and quorn meat. Other than the quorn meat I haven’t stuck by the others.
I have always been good with plastic bags, we have tonnes of reusable bags we use for our weekly shopping, I have loads of bottles I use to refill with water and I don’t use straws that often. I make my own lunch most days for work and reuse plastic tupperware boxes (I have some stretching back years) and even gave the ones I was not using away. I need to cut down on using plastic freezer/food bags. I tend to use these over my lunch boxes if something is leaking (such as pineapple juice). I am not sure on what the best solution for this is yet. I have looked at beeswax paper but I don’t think it is quite right. I shall have to see.
So you can see I have a long way to go!
Are you making steps to be environmentally friendly? Let me know your steps below.