I'm sure I'm probably teaching you all to suck eggs here, and that everyone is already a convert to re-usable cups, and always remembers to take their own ( 😉 ) with them when they think they might need a coffee fix, but just in case...
1. TAKE YOUR OWN COFFEE
Yes, I freely admit that this doesn't really have the same allure of a posh coffee, but it doesn't have the price tag either. If I am ever travelling by train, I usually take a thermos of coffee with me to drink on the way, but it is a bit of a pain then lugging the empty flask around with me for the rest of the day.
2. UPCYCLED JAM JAR
If you really want to be down with the kids, then using an old (cleaned out!) jam jar is the way to go for your re-usable coffee cup. It costs you nothing (assuming you've bought and eaten the jam/marmalade etc anyway), and has the advantage of the lid that you can put on when you have drunk your coffee, so that the dregs don't spill all over the contents of your bag.
The downsides however would be I would imagine it is quite hot to hold once it is full of coffee (this can be overcome by DIY solutions like this one, or you can knit/crochet yourself a hand protector thing), and that being made of glass, it might be prone to breakage in your bag.
3. STANDARD REUSABLE MUG
You can usually pick these up from charity shops if you keep your eye out, saving the planet the resources needed to make a brand new one. Some of them are insulated to help keep your drink hot, and you can pretty much take your pick of designs and colours.
If you don't fancy a second-hand one, then try an Ecoffee cup, made from organic bamboo.
4. KEEP CUP
Keep Cups were originally designed by Melbourne cafe owners, and are specifically made to be 'barista friendly'. They have since sold over 3 million cups, and have plastic versions, as well as glass ones. I think they are still made in Australia, so getting a cup from the other side of the world might not be the most sustainable option, but they really do seem to have put a lot of thought into making their cups as eco-friendly as possible. They have set up UK warehouses, which lessens the impact of the shipping and distribution of them.
Hubby bought me one of these when they were running a Kickstarter campaign. It's collapsible which means that I find it easier to carry round with me all the time without really noticing it taking up lots of space in my bag.
These are made in the USA, so again possibly not the most sustainable option, but they do win out for convenience.
I'm super excited about these and may well be getting some to gift at Christmas time. They're made from recycled disposable coffee cups, are insulated, AND leak-proof!
I'm not really a coffee drinker, but I am something of a tea-aholic, and my cup has helped me avoid unnecessary waste when I have been out with the family (usually at events where there isn't an option for sitting down with my drink).
Do you have a favourite re-usable cup? It might be be fun to find out who has the oldest re-usable cup still in use! Do let us know your re-usable coffee cup tips in the comments.
School (or work) lunchboxes - the bane of every parent's life each morning!
It's hard enough sometimes to find a) things that the little darlings will actually eat; and b) things that will survive a day rattling around a lunchbox, but when we add a desire to reduce our plastic consumption into the mix it really can feel all too much for a Monday morning.
Whilst there is a lot more choice for healthy (and not so healthy) lunchbox options than I remember when I was at school, they all seem to come wrapped in gaudy plastic. Even sticks of cheese come individually wrapped. What is all that about? And the plastic, as we all know is non recyclable and destined to just sit in landfill for the next few thousand millennia.
If you're struggling with inspiration for plastic free packed lunches, here are some ideas:
What do you guys do for school/packed lunches?
Any recommendations for plastic free luncboxes?
Eating sustainably will mean different things to different people, and it's such a complex topic that it can sometimes feel hard to even know where to start.
Here are 10 easy things we can all do to eat more sustainably.
1. MEAL PLAN
This is something I resisted for a very long time - it felt far too sensible and grown up, and there was something in me that rebelled against it. But honestly, it's one of the most useful things I do, both in terms of helping me feel more in control of life in general (I know, who knew a meal plan could do that?!) but also in terms of reducing food waste.
We get a veg box, so I generally wait until that has been delivered and I know what I have to work with, and then create a meal plan and shopping list from there. It doesn't need to take hours poring over recipe books - I have a basic repertoire of recipes up my sleeve that I regularly trot out, varying them depending on what veg I have e.g. risotto, some form of pasta (usually with a cheese or tomato based sauce), frittata, quiche/pie etc etc.
Having a meal plan makes it easier to generate a shopping list, and to know that I will use up what I buy. It also means I can cut down on the amount of cooking I need by making double batches of say mashed potato, and then have potato gnocchi as one of our meals a couple of days later.
2. MEAT FREE MONDAY
Or Tuesday, or Friday. It doesn't really matter which day of the week it is, the idea is just to have at least one meat free day a week.
Livestock farming accounts for up to 25% of global carbon emissions, so simply reducing the amount of meat we are eating is a really simple way to cut our 'food footprint'.
I have a copy of the Meat Free Monday cookbook which has loads of ideas for veggie meals, and includes breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as puddings/snacks as well. Their website also has some great recipes to inspire you on your meat free days.
3. EAT SEASONALLY
Many of us have lost touch with the seasons and what they mean for the food that should normally be available at particular times of the year. We have become so used to being able to get whatever we want, whenever we want, that we forget that if we tomatoes in the middle of winter, they will have been grown somewhere halfway around the world and then shipped or flown in to our local supermarket.
Eating seasonally requires quite a shift in the way we think about food, but after the initial research, it can easily be incorporated into weekly meal plans. Knowing that you can only have British strawberries for a relatively short window in the Summer makes them so much more of a treat, and something to really look forwards to!
There are lots of resources available online - the BBC Good Food site has a handy 'seasonality table' that shows you when different things are in season, and when they are at their best. The Eat Seasonably site has a section for what to eat now, as well as what to grown now for aspiring gardeners too!
4. GET A VEG BOX
We get our fruit and veg from Riverford, delivered to our door every week, and I have to say I love it.
It ticks so many of my 'sustainable eating' boxes - it is organic, the fruit and veg is seasonal, most of it is local and the stuff that isn't is never air-freighted, and it cuts down hugely on the amount of plastic packaging coming in to the house.
For me, it takes some of the hassle out of trying to eat seasonally - if something is in season it will be in my veg box, and if it's not, it won't. Simples!
5. COOK FROM SCRATCH
Cooking from scratch is cheaper, and you get to retain control over exactly what is going into your food. I started cooking more from scratch when we first had kids and started weaning - it felt really important to me to know that the food I was giving my precious baby was as natural and chemical free as possible. And I've just kind of carried on. I will admit that some things take a little longer and a little more effort than simply heating up a ready meal, or opening a jar of pasta sauce, but doing things like batch cooking, and meal planning can really help to streamline the whole process. If I'm doing anything in the slow cooker, I will double up and then freeze for another day when I am short on time. I regularly make a massive batch of tomato sauce for pasta or pizza toppings and freeze whatever we don't use, and if I make biscuits I always bake a double batch and stash some away.
6. REDUCE CONSUMPTION OF RED MEAT
As well as having a meat free day at least once a week, cutting down on the amount of red meat we eat is another really simple way to quite dramatically cut the carbon footprint of our diet.
Lamb and beef are the biggest culprits in terms of greenhouse gas emissions - simply eating chicken instead of beef can cut emissions by up to 25%. We do eat meat in our house, and we do love a roast lamb, or a chilli con carne, but we eat it sparingly. If I do a roast, I make sure that my meal plan for that week incorporates at least one meal that will ensure any leftovers are used up (these 'bestover' pasties are a fave). Another way to sneakily reduce the amount of red meat in a meal is to substitute up to half of it with something like lentils - this really bulks up the dish, and most of the time no-one even notices!
7. GO ORGANIC
I always try and choose organic options wherever they are available - the organic system is not perfect, but I do believe that in general terms it is much kinder to the planet and more sustainable. More and more organic products are becoming available and the price has really dropped in recent years. I imagine it will always be more expensive than conventional products, but the same issues apply to 'fast food' as they do to 'fast fashion' and we have lost sight of how much food really should cost. Organic food is produced less intensively, and with less potential for exploitation of either the land or the producers, and for me, that's a price worth paying.
8. SHOP LOCAL
In an ideal world, we would all shop from our independent butchers, greengrocers and fishmongers, but this is becoming increasingly difficult as these small local businesses get squeezed out by the supermarkets.
Shopping locally is a great way to incorporate sustainability into your diet - money spent in the local economy is far more likely to stay within the local economy, rather than go towards lining the pockets of share holders and CEO's.
Keep your eye out for your local farmer's market, or seek out an independent butcher. Going supermarket free would be a big step for many of us, but could you commit a certain proportion of your weekly spend to local shops? If you are in the supermarket, then look out for British meat and veg, which will have lower food miles (British farms usually have higher welfare standards too).
9. CHOOSE FAIRTRADE
Fairtrade is really taking off and the range of products available is expanding every day - from coffee to bananas, and chocolate to peanut butter, there are so many more options available now.
Buying products with a fairtrade certification means that the producers have been paid a fair price for their goods - this means that they can afford to send their kids to school instead of sending them out to work, then can pay off any loans associated with their businesses, they can put food on their own tables. Again, I feel like the slightly increased costs of fair-trade goods is simply a truer reflection of how much things really cost to produce. The peace of mind that comes with knowing that other people aren't being exploited or suffering as a result of my choices makes it a premium I am happy to pay.
10. LOVE YOUR LEFTOVERS
Getting canny with leftovers, and those slightly limp veg left at the bottom of the fridge, or the over-ripe bananas in the fruit bowl is a brilliant way to not only eat more sustainably, but to save money too.
And the good news is that these uninspiring leftovers can be turned into delicious meals and snacks with relatively little effort.
The Love Food Hate Waste site is also a great place to look for inspiration.
What are your favourite ways to eat more sustainably? Do comment below, or hop over to the Facebook group to join in the conversation!
I was going to start this post by saying "there's nothing wrong with supermarkets", but that would be wrong. There is a lot wrong with supermarkets, but I guess what I want to say is that I accept that supermarkets are a part of most of our lives. They have done good things in terms of making good food cheaper, and they are the place that the vast majority of us will do our weekly shop.
And that's ok.
But there are other ways to shop, that are built on more sustainable models that fit with our ethos of sustainable food, and that have a focus on people and planet as well as profit.
Here are twelve of them:
1) FARMERS MARKETS
Find your local farmer's market. Most towns of any size will have one happening at least once a month. You will find inside a collection of amazing fresh produce direct from the producers in your local area, everything from bakers, to beef, and veg to local honey.
The money goes straight to the producers, there is no middle man taking a cut, and you get to support farmers directly.
2) FOOD ASSEMBLY
The Food Assembly is a great concept that is like a farmer's markets but with the convenience of online shopping. Each local assembly creates an online site where local producers come together to display their wares in a virtual store. You can order online and then collect from a designated pick up point once a week, where you can also meet the local producers and do some taste testing too!
3) VEG BOX SCHEMES
There are some national veg box schemes such as Riverford, where you can not only get fresh, seasonal, organic veg delivered to your door, but also organic meat and dairy products too.
But if you do a little bit of research, you will undoubtedly uncover a local version, run by local growers and producers. You can search for organic veg box schemes here.
4) LOCAL SHOPS eg BUTCHERS, BAKERS ETC
Take a walk down your local High St and see how much of your weekly shop you might be able to source from local independent retailers. Do you still have an independent butchers, or a greengrocers, or a bakers. If you do, then support them! They are a font of knowledge about their own products, and will often be comparable on the supermarkets, if not cheaper. And your money stays in the local economy, and helps a local business put food on their family's table, rather than lining the pockets of supermarket shareholders.
5) GROW YOUR OWN
When I posted last week with Ten Ways to Eat Sustainably, and asked "what have I missed off the list?", the answer that kept coming back was "Grow your own"!
Most of us won't have the space to be entirely self-sufficient, but we can all devote a couple of pots on the patio to some herbs, or a tray on the windowsill for some cut and come again lettuce. I am not green fingered at all, but along with the satisfaction of eating something you have grown yourself, I love the feeling that what I am doing is like a gentle form of activism. Like mending, it is quietly disrupting the status quo, and I love that!
6) COMMUNITY FRIDGES
The first of these in the UK opened in Frome last year and one has recently opened in Brixton in London. They aren't yet commonplace, but should be because they are a great idea! If people have food in their fridge that they know they aren't going to eat because they are going away on holiday, or have just misjudged their shopping, they can simply pop it into the community fridge and anyone who wants it can take it. Local businesses also use it to get rid of any leftover fresh goods at the end of the day, and it seems to work really well.
7) PAY AS YOU WISH SUPERMARKET
The Real Junk Food Project recently opened the first pay as you wish supermarket stocked with food that would otherwise end up in landfill. Customers shop for food that has been thrown out by supermarkets and other businesses, but that is still entirely edible, and they are then invited to pay as they see fit. It's a brilliant idea and one that could be replicated up and down the country.
This is slightly dependant on the time of year and your enthusiasm for all things foraged, but even those who shudder at the thought of nettle soup must still delight in the thought of fresh blackberries plucked straight from the bush in the Autumn sun.
Autumn is the best time to take advantage of nature's larder - here's an article I wrote for the Mirror with some things to look out when the time is right.
Olio is a food waste app, where you can sign up and post any food that you have that you need to get rid of, as well as keep your eye out for things that your neighbours might be offering up. It is still getting off the ground in many areas of the country, and needs to reach a critical mass for it to work well, but it's well worth signing up for.
I will admit that freeganing is only for a few hardy souls, but it's worth a mention. Amongst other things it involves 'urban foraging' aka dumpster diving into the bins and skips round the back of supermarkets. I understand that there can often be lucrative pickings, but it comes with Health and Safety, and legal implications...!
11) FARM SHOPS
Local farm shops can be a brilliant way to source your weekly shop from local producers and seasonal produce. Some of them have policies of only sourcing things from within a set distance away to limit food miles, and others will grow a lot of the produce right there on the farm. You probably already know where your nearest and best ones are, but just in case you don't you can search here.
12) INCREDIBLE EDIBLE
If you are lucky enough to live near an Incredible Edible project, you could have all the benefits of Grow Your Own, with much less effort. These community growing projects use communal land, and small spaces within towns to grow fruit and veg that is available for anyone to help themselves to.
OK, so what have I missed?!
Has all this inspired you to think about exploring some other options for your weekly shop? If you fancy a challenge, think of a goal (e.g. one shop every month, or sourcing all your meat from the local butchers, or starting up with a veg box scheme) and do share below in the comments, or pop over to the Facebook group to join in!
For me, making sustainable changes is all about 'chunking it down'.
1st picking an area you want to focus on -whether that's food, or fashion, or plastics, or something else.
And then picking ONE thing, one action, one change you want to make THIS WEEK.
To help you get started here are 12 ideas for 'quick wins' that you can put into action pretty much straight away - which one will you do this week?!
1) Making Do
Pick an area you want to focus on - it could be food, or clothes, or maybe even your craft stash.
Do a quick inventory to take stock, and then set yourself a challenge of how long you can 'make do' and not shop for - you could aim for a month of only shopping for fruit/veg/milk, or how about year without buying any new clothes (I did this in 2016 and it was a real eye-opener!)
Do a stock take of your cupboards and fridge, and put together a meal plan for the week. Think about how you can use up any leftovers, or cook cannily - for example if I'm making a white sauce, I will always make double and then use it again later on in the week.
If you have school aged children, then you will undoubtedly face the challenge of birthday parties and what to take as a gift.
This is my ultimate quick win:
Take a 100g bar of fair-trade chocolate and melt, then use a teaspoon to dollop chocolate onto a baking sheet and smoosh it out into giant chocolate buttons. Add sprinkles to the top and leave to set, then package up in a cleaned out jam jar (there might even be some spare, for testing purposes, obvs...!)
Set aside some time to go through your wardrobe. Make 3 piles: one of the keepers, the things you love and wear again and again; one of anything that no longer fits or that you no longer like (to go to the charity shop); and one of anything that needs mending and repairing.
Look at what you have and think about how you can mix and match different combinations to give you 'new' outfits.
5) Mending and Repair
Get a box and put in it all those things that are scattered around the house that need mending.
Then tackle just one - you will be amazed how little time it takes you and will wonder why you put it off for so long!
Could you swap your energy supplier for a renewable tariff?
It always feels like a very intimidating thing to do, but is actually a really smooth process (in my experience) and is one thing you can do that really will make a huge difference to your carbon footprint, all in less than half an hour!
Check out Ecotricity or Good Energy if you're in the UK.
The big three single use plastic bad guys are plastic bags, plastic bottles, and straws.
And they are so easily combatted!
Make sure you have your re-usable bags, your re-usable bottles, and either just ditch the straws, or check out some of the alternatives (you can get bamboo, stainless steel and even glass straws)
8) Travel and transport
Have a car free day - take public transport, bike or walk.
Could you commit to one car free day a week?
Take a peek in your bin - what makes up most of it's contents?
Is it food waste? Is it plastic?
What ONE thing could you do to start to make progress on it?
10) Body and Soul
Ditch the body moisturiser, the night time cream, the day time cream, the aftershave balm (all in plastic bottles) for one magic solution - coconut oil!
But be aware, not all coconut oils are created equal, and some really aren't especially stainable - I use this one from Lucy Bee.
With Christmas just gone, it might feel a little strange to be gearing up for it again already, but don't ditch those Christmas cards - cut them up and make them into gift tags or cards ready for next year. Just think how smug you'll feel next year when you pull them out all ready to go!
How and where can you find the support that you need to keep you motivated and to keep you going?
Lots of you will already be in my big A Sustainable Life FB community which is a brilliant resource and a great place to connect with like-minded people.
For anyone who would love a bit of extra support and all the resources they need in one place, my new membership community, the Sustainable Living Hub, might be what you've been looking for.
Phew! That turned into a bit of an epic blog post - don't feel overwhelmed and try to do ALL the things today!
Pick ONE thing to do today, and schedule in the others over the next few weeks. The key is to chunk it all down and keep taking baby steps forwards.
Leave a comment below to let me know what you're going to do first!
Spending a whole year buying nothing new was the starting point for my personal sustainable living journey, so it should come as no surprise that I’m a bit of a fan!
I’ve written a whole post about “Why Buy Nothing New” but in essence, it’s a brilliantly simple framework to use to start to change your buying habits, at the same time as keeping stuff out of landfill and saving a shed load of resources.
If you’re thinking you might like to dip your toes into the wonderful world of Buying Nothing New, here are some tips to get you started!
1) If the thought of a year Buying Nothing New is making you feel a little trepidatious (I assure you you will find it easier than you think!) then why not ease in slowly, with a Buy Nothing New week, or month. Or aim to do a day every week, or a week every month and see how it goes.
I am a bit of an all or nothing type, so for me it was easier to commit to the whole year, but I guarantee that the very act of Buying Nothing New even for some of the time, will make you reflect more on the ‘normal’ purchases you are making. And you may find that you automatically cut down on what you are buying new without even thinking about it.
2) Avoid the shops!
For example-one of the things I found I missed the most was crafting mags like Mollie Makes, and Simply Crochet, but I found I didn’t miss them as much, if I didn’t torture myself by going in to the newsagents and browsing them each month!
Or, if you find that you often buy the odd item of clothing when you go to the big supermarket to do your food shop, you could change supermarket to a smaller one, or just change your route around the supermarket so you don’t cruise the clothes aisles!
3) Hit the shops! The charity shops.
You can find all kinds of things in charity shops-most of which you don’t need, but quite often there are little gems.
They are great for clothes, and for kids toys/clothes, as well as lots of household items.
I always check out the duvets/sheets etc as sometimes you can get really cool retro bedding sets, which give you LOADS of fabric for making, for very little money.
4) Make a list
Because you can’t just pop out and buy whatever you want/need, I found it useful tokeep a list of the things I was on the look-out for, and keep it with me. Then the next time I was doing a round of the charity shops, I could consult my list to see if there was anything I could cross off.
If you let people know what you are doing, you may find that people start giving you first dibs on anything that they are getting rid of. We were given bags full of boys clothes, fabric, etc.
Facebook is also a great place to ask-just posting on your own personal page saying what you are looking for, especially if it’s just something you need to borrow for a short while.
6) Join your local Freecycle/Freegle group
If you aren’t already a member, you NEED to join!
You can post any items you are de-cluttering and people will come to your house to collect them, saving you a trip to the charity shop. AND you can post WANTEDs for things you are looking for-you will be amazed what people get rid of, and are happy to let you have for free.
7) Be prepared to think outside the box
Having to source things second-hand makes you far more inventive and resourceful.
I found this decision making flow-chart on FB a while back on the Story Of Stuff page (I think they got it from GOOD) It’s slightly tongue in cheek, but it made me giggle, and makes some very good points!
Ask yourself if you really NEED something. If you are going to have to put time and effort into finding it, you will be surprised how often you don’t seem to NEED something quite so keenly..!
If you really need/want it, ask yourself if you can repairthe thing you need to replace? Or can use something elsein it’s place?
I found that by the time I actually found what I thought I so desperately needed/wanted, I had either learned to make dowithout it, or to make do with something else instead.
8) If you really need something specific, then sites like eBay and Pre-loved are great. You can search for what you want and set yourself a budget. Just remember to tick the ‘Used’ box in the search options, otherwise you could end up inadvertently buying something new!
9) Learn to sew
This is such a useful skill, and allows you to make a whole heap of stuff, and mend lots of things too!
If you don’t have a machine, keep your eye out of Freegle/Freecycle, or post a WANTED, or ask your friends/family if anyone has one taking up room that they no longer use.
If you have no idea how to even thread the machine, or what the heck a bobbin is (this was me 6 years ago..!) then have a look at The Sewing Directory for beginners classes near you, or again, just ask! If you ask around, you may have friends who could show you the basics, or join your local Streetbankgroup, and you may find someone happy to do a skill share/swap
10) Come and join my sustainable living community over on Facebook! It’s a fabulous bunch of people, sharing their ideas, inspiration and top tips for living more lightly. It’s a great place to ask for help with anything you are struggling with, and everyone is very friendly and very lovely indeed!
11) Because all the best Top 10 lists actually have 11 things…
Enjoy it, have fun, be kind to yourself, and don’t beat yourself up if you slip a little every now and then.
And above all, remember:
It’s your money. You get to choose who you give it to, and what you buy.
Not only are these packaging free, they are a million times tastier than their shop bought counterparts!
Recently I made teeny tiny versions of these using my smallest cookie cutter, and packaged them up in jam jars for gifts - they went down a storm..!
This recipe is adapted from “Let’s Bake” by Cathryn Dresser
For the biscuits
For the icing
This is a great bake and since I discovered the recipe I’ve been making a couple of these pretty much every week, (or double the recipe and stash a couple in the freezer).
It is great for an after school snack, or as a plastic free addition to lunchboxes and is delicious spread with butter. It’s also one of those bakes that just keeps getting better as it gets squishier and squishier if you can wait a day or two before tucking in.
The recipe is from one of my favourite cookbooks The Five O’Clock Apron by Claire Thomson, and the only thing I’ve added to it is a handful of raisins.
NB. I normally double this recipe and make four loaves at a time, as it's not really any extra work and then I can pop three loaves in the freezer for busy weeks when I don't have time for baking.