When we spent a year buying nothing new a couple of years ago, lots of people asked me at the end of it what I had learned from the year. And although I learned lots of really useful, practical skills, the biggest thing I learned is that the actions we take every day make a difference. And if we can make better choices everyday, we really actually make big change from quite small steps.
This quote from Jane Goodall that I stumbled across this week sums it up really well:
“It starts very simply. Just take a little time to learn more about the consequences of the small choices you make each day.”
At the start of this year, I decided to embark on a new challenge, to help spread the word that we can all make small changes in our every day lives, that all add up to living a much more sustainable lifestyle. I’m calling it ‘365 Ways to Change the World’, and serendipitously, it fits in really well with WWF’s #greenlivingtips campaign.
Earth Hour is approaching fast, and it’s such a great, simple way for people to show the world that they care, and that they think our planet is worth saving.
There are lots of other easy, simple ways to make small changes for a more sustainable lifestyle, beyond Earth Hour. Here are my top tips:
1. Turn off the lights
And not just for Earth Hour. Turn off the lights in any rooms you aren’t in, and encourage your kids to do the same. You could create a candelit dinner experience instead!
2. Ditch the tumble dryer
As the weather starts to warm up, and the sun starts to peek out from behind the seemingly ever present cloud of Winter, break out the washing line! It saves energy, and the sight of a full washing line whizzing around never fails to make me smile.
3. Sew on a button
One of the facts I learned during our year of ‘buying nothing new’, is that apparently the most common reason for clothing to be discarded is because it has lost a button (shocked face). Next time a button falls off spend five minutes sewing it back on. By extending the life of our clothes by just three months, it can decrease the carbon, water and waste footprint of that item by 5-10%.
4. Buy Fairtrade
Make the switch to Fairtrade for items such as sugar, coffee, chocolate and bananas. It means that the people producing these items for us are being paid a fair wage. The difference in cost is often negligible, but it can make a big difference to people’s lives.
5. Become a conscious consumer
Spending a year ‘buying nothing new’ really made me question everything that we were buying, and still influences the decisions I make every day. A year is possibly a little extreme for most people to contemplate, but I always really encourage people to try out a month, or even a week of ‘buying nothing new.’ Or start with one aspect of your life-lots of people seem to find clothes a good place to start. Once you come off auto-pilot and start thinking about what you are buying, and why, and where you are getting it from, it becomes much easier to make more sustainable choices.
6. Switch to a green energy provider
The perception is that a green energy provider will be more expensive than one of the “Big 6”, but when we made the switch we found that this isn’t the case. Ecotricity and Good Energy both provide very competitive tariffs for renewable energy and also offer excellent customer service.
7. Ditch the disposables
Take a look around your home and make a note of all the single use, disposable, items-things like baby wipes, cotton wool pads, and plastic bags. Then have a think about ways you can replace these items with reusable options. We took a big deep breath and went cold turkey on baby wipes a couple of years ago, making the switch to good old fashioned flannels instead, and I promise it was far easier than I thought it would be!
8. Embrace visible mending
I had never patched a pair of jeans until we were part way through our year ‘buying nothing new.’ Now, as the mother of two boys, it feels like I patch trousers at least once a week! I’m still not the neatest though, so there is no subtlety to my mends – they are very visible, and proudly so.
9. Spring clean your cleaning products
I’ve always been a little bit sceptical of blog posts telling me I can clean my entire house with vinegar and bicarb, but I recently decided to give it a go. And it works! I’ve phased out all of our various cleaning sprays, and replaced them with a spray bottle of white vinegar, and a large pack of bicarb.One or other of these, or a combination of the two, seems to work on most things.
10. Grow Your Own
I am not the most green-fingered of people, and we have a tiny garden, but last year we planted out various seeds to grow some vegetables, and for the first time I started to appreciate why so many people enjoyed this thing called gardening.
Growing your own can be incredibly frustrating when things don’t go to plan, but so, so rewarding when it works, and you get to harvest and eat your own produce. Even if you don’t have a garden, window boxes can be used for herbs, and has the added bonus of avoiding all that plastic packing too.
When it comes to sustainable living, it really is the little things that are the big things. And lots of them are really easy to implement, and cost nothing. Just pick one thing. Make a start. And then keep going. One baby step at a time.
Have you done or are you doing any of these things for your planet or for Earth Hour? Leave a comment and let us know.