Updated: Dec 4, 2018
This week's post is a few days late because I've been busy selling prints and cards at my final market of the year, taking product shots for a new range of cards, and preparing some boxes of cards to hand deliver to my first ever stockist! When my eco-conscious mini-series is finished I'm going to be sharing my experiences with developing my fledgling photography business, because it's been one hell of a journey over the past six months.
Continuing on from last week's post about consumer choices you can be making to reduce your impact on the planet, this week I've put together five things you can do to reduce the environmental impact of your lifestyle. I've done a lot of research along the way on my own environmentalism adventures, and the most effective changes are things that we can all do. None of us will do it all overnight, so I encourage you to read through, pick one thing that you're not already doing, and make a start.
For more on why I'm running this giveaway, have a read of the first post in the four part series.
Alongside this mini-series you have the chance to win one of two prints, worth £65!! Read to the bottom for how to enter the giveaway!
1. Stop buying bottled water
We should all know to do this by now, but the sad fact is that the picture just keep getting worse. The number of single use plastic bottles used annually worldwide continues to rise, with a million bought every minute, and the total is set to increase by 20% by 2021. Clearly, the message isn’t getting through.
Get yourself a nice reusable bottle. If you invest in one that you really love, you’ll look after it.
I’ve used various bottles over the years, each one lasting a few years before finally being retired. The only reason I’ve ever retired a bottle is because it developed a leak, and to be honest this is probably because I bought relatively cheap bottles. Buy from a reputable brand and if yours leaks, then hold the company to account.
I backed an awesome bottle on Kickstarter last year which is self-cleaning. As a bit of a germophobe, that’s a huge plus for me.
On the subject of water, if the sparkling stuff is your thing then get yourself a carbonating gadget like Soda Stream and ditch the bottled fizzy water.
2. Reduce your meat intake or go altogether vegetarian
This one's for you, carnivores! Even if you're just dipping a toe in the plant-based waters and experimenting with Meatless Monday, you're doing a good thing.
I feel like this one is the first tip you see on any list of ways to reduce your impact on the planet, and for good reason! It’s incredibly well documented by now that the intensive farming practices required to feed a meat-eating nation are absurdly bad for the planet’s health. From the resources used to grow the feed for the animals, to the methane produced by herds and flocks, no part of meat production is healthy for the environment.
Happily, Britain has recently had a huge surge in plant-based diets, with one in three drastically reducing their meat intake, 14% following a meat and fish free diet, and 7% on a totally vegan diet. That’s a massive boom from 2016, when only 1% of Brits followed a vegan diet.
Personally, I’ve been fully vegetarian for a decade. It didn’t happen overnight, though, and I’m a big advocate for making small changes on your path to a more environmentally conscious diet. Be kind to yourself as you make changes in your diet, and listen to your body. A vegetarian diet can be as well rounded and nutrient-rich as any other diet, but it can take time to make that transition and educate yourself on plant-based sources for all your nutrients.
One last note on diet: though adopting a vegan diet is a personal decision, consider reducing your dairy intake, even if it’s just switching the milk you use on your cereal to start. A good way to think about it is to make sure you’re having one totally dairy free meal a day.
You might have heard that drinking milk and consuming dairy is good for your bone health, but actually the opposite is true. Too much dairy isn’t good for you.
There are so many plant milks out there… almond, oat, hemp, soya, coconut… the list goes on. Five years ago I had to make a special trip to Holland & Barrett for my plant milk, but they’re ubiquitous these days, and even small local convenience stores tend to carry at least one variety of dairy free milk.
I’ve recently gone one step further and I make my own oat milk to use on my muesli in the morning. It’s so blimmin’ simple and I wish I’d done it years ago, as it massively cuts down on packaging, it all but eliminates the carbon produced by transporting what is essentially mostly water, and it’s SO cheap and easy to do.
To make your own oat milk, pop 1 cup of oats and 3 cups of water into a blender, and whizz on a medium speed for 20 seconds. Don’t overdo the blending. Then pour out into a jug through a nut milk bag, squeezing the liquid through. Then either compost the oat pulp left in the bag, or use it in a smoothie (it contains LOADS of fibre!). Your oat milk will last 5 days in the fridge. A word of warning, don’t use it for making warm milk drinks like hot chocolates… oat milk isn’t great at being heated!
3. Green your groceries
Almost everywhere will have a grocery delivery service these days - here in the UK all the major chains offer a delivery service, with either a minimum spend for free delivery or an annual delivery charge. Think about the huge savings on fuel emissions of one van driving around delivering 20 household’s weekly shops versus 20 cars each making an individual journey to the supermarket. It also saves you time and means that you’re less likely to impulse buy and more likely to plan your meals, leading to less food waste.
As for anything that does go bad before you are able to use it, put it in your kitchen caddy for composting along with any scraps or leftovers that can’t be put to use in a future meal. Many councils in the UK now offer weekly kerbside composting. If yours doesn’t, and you have a garden, then start a compost bin of your own.
4. Stop buying fast fashion
Cheap fashion is a serious blight on the environment. Clothing is produced cheaply, with only one thing in mind: a short life cycle. That mean you’ll be back in a month or two, looking to replace clothes that have worn out, fallen apart or simply become unfashionable. Great for CEOs bonuses, not so great for the planet.
Fast fashion is finally being recognised by the UK government the ecological nightmare that it is. As Mary Creagh MP put it: “Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth. But the way we design, make and discard clothes has a huge environmental impact. Producing clothes requires toxic chemicals and produces climate-changing emissions. Every time we put on a wash, thousands of plastic fibres wash down the drain and into the oceans. We don’t know where or how to recycle end of life clothing.”
A single wash can release 700,000 microfibres into our waterways, and when the bulk of our clothes are made from plastic or synthetic blends that won’t break down naturally, that’s a huge issue for our seas. I recently heard about something called Guppyfriend, which is a laundry bag that you place your clothes inside when you wash them. It catches all those little microfibres and micro plastics and collects them in the corners of the bag, diverting them away from our waterways altogether.
Then there’s the issue of how energy and resource intensive it is to produce a single item of clothing. The cotton required to produce a single cotton t-shirt takes 2,700 litres of water to grow. All the more reason to buy high quality garments and take good care of your clothing to make sure it looks good and holds up to the daily grind for many years, not just one season. Personally, I still wear some dresses, t-shirts and jumpers that I bought in my teens, and I’m 30 now. Some of those items have been repaired, but they’re still holding up!
And while we’re talking about clothing, always wash on 30. Detergents used to need a little warmth to get the maximum washing action, but modern detergents are just as effective on a cold wash. Bonus points if you use an environmentally friendly detergent and fabric softener!
When it comes to drying your clothing, get yourself a clotheshorse and put it out in the sun to dry in the summer, and in the winter pop that clotheshorse near (but not on) a radiator. If you absolutely must tumble your clothes, select a low heat cycle. Heat can damage elastane and degrade other fibres quicker than they ordinarily would. Not only will air drying your clothes save energy (and therefore money) on tumble drying, but it will also preserve the life of your clothes, meaning you need to buy fewer new items of clothing.
Put the money you save towards buying fewer, higher quality and ethically produced clothes, and then take good care of them.
5. Spread the word
I might lead a fairly eco-conscious lifestyle now, but I didn’t get to this point overnight. The environmentally friendly choices I make now are in part down to the inspiring conversations I’ve had with those whose paths I’ve crossed at various points in my life.
It’s the reason I’m doing this blog series, and by running a giveaway alongside it I’m hoping to drive people towards these posts and hopefully inspire others to start by making small, easy changes. Sharing this post is a great way to spread the word (and also be in with a chance to win one of my two most popular prints!).
I’ve met people who are pretty militant with their stance on lifestyle changes, but the truth is that nobody arrives anywhere all at once. We all have a journey, and the path we take might be slightly different, but the point is that we all need to be way-markers for each other to move in the right direction.
If somebody asks why you have chosen to start eating less meat, or compliments your reusable bottle, let them know the reasons why you’ve made that choice and have a conversation with them about it if they’re interested.
That's the end of week three of my eco-conscious series!
For the duration of this series I'm running a giveaway, giving those who share this post the chance to win one of two prints, and it's still running for another five days until the end of December 8th.
To enter via Instagram, make sure you're following me on Instagram, then like the post announcing the third week of the giveaway, and tag two people who are embarking on their own eco-conscious journey. That’s it! Remember you can enter via Instagram once per blog post, so you can enter four times total on Instagram!
To enter via Facebook, follow my Facebook page, like this post and share it to your own Facebook page. Also make sure you let me know in the comments that you've shared the post - due to privacy settings it tells me that somebody shared the post, but not always who shared my post! You can also enter once per blog post for Facebook! Like and share up to four times for Facebook.
The point is to share each blog post as far and wide as I can to get people talking about how we can all make a difference.
On Thursday it's the final post in the four part series, and I'm talking about changes you can make in your household to make your home a greener, healthier, more environmentally friendly place. See you then!