Plastic Free July has officially come to a close. Last month saw people from all over the world make a conscious effort to reduce their use of plastic products. Social media was awash with #plasticfreejuly highlighting the efforts of individuals worldwide in their move away from single-use plastic. So what happens now? How do we keep up the momentum that #plasticfreejuly started?
The first thing we need to do is have realistic expectations. Long term behavioural change is dependent on creating positive habits. Turning an action into a habit takes time. There is a common misconception that new habits are formed in 21 days when in fact it takes an average of 66 days. The point is that long term behavioural change is dependent on integrating positive habits into our everyday lives. The good news is that if we stick with the changes we made during the month of July soon enough these efforts will before second nature. We will be doing the planet a service every day without it feeling like an effort.
To keep our sustainability wheels on track post #plasticfreejuly I’ve compiled a list of my 6 most successful efforts for eco living. I hope you find them useful!
1. Think Before You Buy
Before any purchase, I ask myself one question. Do I really need this? If I already have something at home that could do the job then, the answer is probably no. If the answer is yes, then I check to see if what I’m buying is the most sustainable option in terms of materials, life-cycle (what happens at the end of its life) and quality. This simple check has saved me from making lots of purchasing mistakes and helped me to differentiate between ‘want’ and ‘need’. Let’s face it there are only so many breadboards one family needs.
Why is this important? Roughly 40% of our carbon footprint is created from the items we buy on a daily basis. To put this another way our consumer choices are directly contributing to nearly half of our total annual carbon footprint. Small changes we make really do add up. Here is a great link if you’re looking for some more tips for sustainable living.
2. Baby Care & Sustainable Living
I only made the move to cloth nappies after the birth of my second child. Cloth nappies are great but they are a big financial outlay especially if you might only get one round out of them. After a lot of internet surfing, I found The Cloth Nappy Library who offer long term nappy rentals. They made the switch to cloth nappies affordable for us. They also offer a wealth of knowledge and tips on getting started. In the spirit of transparency, we use disposables at night and also when my daughter is in creche. I also made the move away from single-use plastic baby wipes to reusable wipes with my second child. They are fantastic and a worthwhile investment. You can easily do a DIY version of these with facecloths, water and essential oils but I love the kit that Cheeky Wipes offer. It makes the whole process very easy.
Why is this important? In Ireland alone, we throw away a staggering 1 million nappies a day! The only place for nappies is landfill where they rot and create methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2. That’s hardly considered sustainable living now, is it?
3. Eco Living while Out and About
We live in a culture of convenience where all our needs and wants are readily available. This is particularly apparent when it comes to purchasing food and drink. Unfortunately, convenience comes with packaging, lots and lots of packaging. Making a simple change to reusable coffee cups, water bottles and lunch boxes can make a massive difference. Everyone in our family now has a stainless steel water bottle and lunch box and the grownups have a coffee cup. I manage to remember to bring them with us about 90% of the time, which I think is a pretty good success rate!
Why is this important? Over 9 billions tonnes of plastic has been produced since its invention. A whopping 3.24 billion tonnes of this is single-use plastic packaging. This includes our single-use water bottles, disposable coffee cups, sandwich packaging and salad clamshells.
4. Sustainable Living in the Bathroom
Our bathroom used to be a clutter of half-empty shampoo bottles, body wash containers, toothpaste tubes and mouthwash bottles. Now we just have two bars of soap one for our body and the other for our hair. We have switched to bamboo toothbrushes, buy toothpaste that comes in a glass jar and make our own mouthwash (here’s a great recipe from The Zero Waste Chef ). The result is a tidier, less cluttered bathroom filled only with products that are good for the planet and us too. Note: I still have a lot of work to do on the cosmetics front, if you have any tips please let me know in the comments below!
Why is this important? If everyone changed their toothbrushes 3 or 4 times a year this would equate to 23 billion plastic toothbrushes going to landfill each year. Yikes.
5. Eco Living & the Food Shop
In order to cut down on unnecessary packaging, we always try to buy loose fruit and vegetables without packaging. We get a weekly delivery of fresh fruit and vegetables from Green Earth Organics to our home or else buy from our local farmers market. In order to cut down on packaging we started making a lot of things from scratch such as bread, yogurt, treats (biscuits, cakes, flapjacks etc.) and condiments such as ketchup and mustard. We don’t have a zero-waste shop close to our home so we either buy online from minimal waste grocery or else buy in bulk. We are by no means a zero-waste household but we are certainly making steps in the right direction.
Why is this important? Buying locally produced foods has heaps of benefits these include; reduced carbon footprint as food is transported only short distances which means you also get the health benefit of maintaining the nutritional value in the food. Not only that but you are also supporting independent food producers and the local economy. Win, win and win.
6. Cleaning Hacks for Sustainable Living
For about the past 3 years I’ve been making my own cleaning products. There has been a lot of experimenting in this time (I once had the experience of my toilet overflowing after a put a DIY toilet bomb in it, not pleasant). I’ve finally refined it to a point that I make batches of product and it doesn’t seem like a chore anymore. All the recipes I use I found online and then honed them through a process of trial and error. Michelle Fallon a Green Cleaning ambassador has a great resource on the Roscommon County Council website. I don’t make washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets (can’t find a recipe that gets tea stains off cups) and washing machine powder. Instead, I use shop-bought eco-friendly products but if you have any recipes do let me know in the comments below!
Why is this important? Making your own cleaning products is a lot safer for you and your family as you are not being exposed to harmful chemicals, they are also a lot cheaper too!
I’m always on the hunt for new ways to eco-fy our house. So if you have any tips or ideas that you think I could benefit from please share them in the comments section below. If you want to keep up to date with my eco-home adventures (and mishaps!) please follow us on facebook and Instagram @weareobeo. Thanks for reading.