Although we haven’t actually had Christmas yet, I’m already thinking about the things I want to see and do next year; places I want us to visit together, books and magazines I want to read, things I want to learn more about; ways to really make the most of our time during the evenings and weekends. One thing I am really intent on, though, is stepping up all of my eco-efforts – we already do all the usual stuff, but I’m really set on looking into gardening and growing more effectively (no more shrivelled courgettes, arrghhhhh) and I want to look into rainwater harvesting, even if it does only end up being a large bin in the back garden!
I know a lot of people are keen to be a bit greener, but aren’t really sure where to start, so I thought I’d do a little post on my five top ways to help limit your impact on the planet – and the best thing is, they’ll all cost you next to nothing. High five!
1. Get composting
I tried to think of a reason why you wouldn’t want to compost, and I just couldn’t; by either buying or making a simple composter, you can reduce your daily waste and give your plants a little treat in one easy move. You can compost almost everything from your kitchen that isn’t cooked; fruit and vegetable peelings and offcuts, tea bags, cardboard, eggshells…. there’s a great guide to what you can and can’t put into your bin at Get Composting, which is where we got our compost bin from (it’s a beauty, and it got us off to a great start). If you’re a bit handy with some chicken wire and a hammer, there are plenty of tutorials online that show you how to make your own – my own adventures in construction came to a pretty abrupt end when I dropped a paving slab on my foot. Eye-watering.
2. Limit your consumption
This is something I get pretty irate about, especially at this time of year; people buying tonnes and tonnes of stuff that they don’t need, just because society has told them to. I’ve always championed buying second-hand and making things myself, so I was pretty pleased to stumble across Sarah Lazarovic’s ‘Buyerarchy of Needs’ on Pinterest; based on the psychologist Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, the buyerarchy is a good tool to use when you suddenly decide you need something new. Another good resource to learn about massive, continuous production and consumption is The Story of Stuff – an ace video which tells what our yearning for more, and bigger and more often is really doing to our planet.
3. Give up plastic bags
When I see people loading their shopping into those flimsy plastic bags at the checkout in the supermarket, it makes me want to run over and smack them – especially when they’re only putting a few things into each one. It’s really not hard to buy a few of the bags-for-life, which are stronger and last longer, can hold more, and can be recycled when they eventually wear out – if you take them back to the shop, they’ll even swap them for brand new ones at no extra cost. If you want to ditch plastic completely, there are so many great reusable bags for sale, and if you’re crafty there are some great knitting and crochet patterns for traditional string bags online. If you have basic cutting-and-sewing skills, it’s fairly easy to make your own tote-style shopper, and I love this ace tutorial on how to turn an old t-shirt into a reusable shopping bag. Down with plastic! (If you need any more incentive to give up plastic and plastic bags, check out the films over at Journey to Midway. Horrifying.)
4. Change your laundry habits
Until recently I was part of frugal group on a certain popular social networking site, but I left when I discovered that most people washed their laundry at 60 degrees, and their towels at a whopping 90 degrees. NINETY DEGREES. Holy moly. The easiest way to make your laundry habits more earth-friendly is to simply turn down the temperature on your washing machine; we usually use the eco-cycle which operates at 30 degrees, and then for wool we use the cold wash. Next year, I want to seriously look into making my own washing powder as well; this is something I experimented with over the summer, but I couldn’t quite get the mix right – there are absolutely LOADS of recipes on Pinterest, designed for all types of water and all fragrance preferences.
5. Help the bees (and butterflies)
Bees and butterflies are an absolutely essential part of nature; they’re largely responsible for pollinating crops and plants, and reports have shown that they’re seriously dwindling in numbers. A lot of people don’t realise how terrifying this is; put simply, if there are no bees to pollinate our crops, there will have to be alternative manual methods, which will cost more and impact on the environment, and also raise the price of food significantly. Bees are vital, and it’s pretty easy to encourage them into your garden; we plant mostly bee-friendly plants and flowers (there are heaps of resources online which list the best things to plant – they LOVE lavender), and we also have a bee-hotel, which provides lone bees with all-important shelter.