It’s been a while since I wrote anything about green issues and sustainability, not because I am not passionate about it, but because I have been focusing on the 2017 Platinum Awards, and promoting natural and organic products and services, and as you know I do believe that if you opt for the natural approach the ‘eco’ box gets ticked in the process.
It sounds cliché, but it’s the little changes that make a bigger difference – take a closer look at your health and personal regimen and I bet you can find a few climate risk factors sitting in your bathroom cabinet and under the sink.
It can seem exhausting thinking about climate change, despite knowing the importance of reducing your carbon footprint for future generations. To really benefit in the here and now, you need not look further than your cosmetics and toiletries in order to make a difference. Ever considered the impact of the deodorant you use? There are a great host of natural and climate friendly products, just by opting for natural and synthetic chemical free products you could save money, reduce your impact, and tick that eco box without trying too hard (and without the investment of solar panels, (or even cutting back on your holiday snaps) to start incorporating greener ideas into your life – it’s the ‘think global- act local’ approach.
Factoid – The average home is more polluted than a busy street corner.
I’ve long advocated how important I believe it is to ditch the chemicals in your home, it’s not just avoiding fly and wasp killer (don’t even think about it – the key is in the name – they kill!). It’s easy to take the opportunity in the summer to rid your home slowly but surely of potentially toxic chemicals. Even if you can’t afford or choose not to spend a small fortune on organic and eco ‘everything’ (who can?) you can make a real difference and save money by removing the toxins from your home.
It won’t have escaped your notice that there is a rise in respiratory problems, insomnia, headaches et al and while not wholly to blame – the potentially toxic chemicals we splurge and spray liberally around our homes are part of the problem. In terms of our furnishings, floorings and fixtures there’s not much we can do without a major eco refurbish but we can at least make sustainable choices with our cleaning products.
Clean up your act
How about trying old style back to the fifties cleaning? It appeals to me, not because I’m a sucker for punishment and I want to be on my hands and knees like a 1950’s housewife scrubbing floors, but because there’s something intrinsically satisfying about cleaning your windows with vinegar and newspaper and your kitchen sink with what’s left over of the lemon that you made your salad dressing from. Knowing that your house is clean – naturally clean, but your family and pets are also healthy, not fumigated from the toxic chemical mix and you are also not contributing to further depletion of the precious planet.
It’s worth stocking up on some natural basics such as tea tree oil, and Bicarbonate of Soda can’t be heralded enough. Buy a big box and use it to make a paste with water to clean most surfaces, it will polish chrome, clean vacuum flasks, neutralise odours, freshen carpets before vacuuming, remove stains from teapots and can even be used as a natural toothpaste.
Regular table salt makes a great abrasive scouring powder and white distilled vinegar has many uses from descaling kettles to cleaning loos. Always hang on to lemons, even when thoroughly used up you can pop it into the cutlery drawer of the dishwasher to add a bit of extra sparkle.
A used grapefruit also makes a good ‘scrubbing mitt’ if you add some salt to really attack the grime, regular household salt is great.
Invest in a microfibre cloth, it’s a general-purpose cloth made of millions of tiny fibres that will absorb the grease and the dirt. You can use it dry to polish furniture but mostly I use it with a drop of tea tree oil and nothing else to clean surfaces, the loo, bath et al.
You can make a simple loo cleaner with plant based washing up liquid mixed with bicarbonate of soda, water and white vinegar. But it’s regular cleaning that’s important and that long forgotten ingredient – elbow grease that’s the key! Check out my previous Spring cleaning blog here>>
Avoid standard air fresheners, most contain CFC’s and all manner of chemicals said to increase respiratory problems and headaches. Open the window – God’s air freshener! Sounds simplistic but we often forget. If you like to ‘spritz’ buy a plant spray, fill it with water and a couple of drops of essential oil, you may want to add a drop of vodka to preserve – that’s it!! (Vinegar will work too if you’d rather drink the Vodka). If you like a fresh ‘antiseptic’ kind of whiff use antibacterial tea tree oil – or you can use citronella for a lemony zing or lavender for a relaxing spritz. One tip, don’t expect this to last as long as a can of air freshener, refill it after about ten days, I left mine too long and my husband declared the hallway smelt like a gents urinal – how would I know?
Amazingly NASA scientists tell us that houseplants are brilliant at removing toxins, check out my blog here>> One humble Peace Lilly can remove formaldehyde to a tune of 30 feet! The spider plant works well too (and they need almost no care and attention, you don’t even have to talk to them!). “Only one problem, it’s thought you need one plant for every bit of electrical equipment; your home office could become Kew Gardens!
In order to shop sustainably the best way is to ask yourself where the produce has come from and how much ‘intervention’ has there been – the closer to home and the least intervention / processing the most ethical it’s likely to be. Organic means products that have been grown / produced etc. without the use of synthetic chemicals, food and skincare products that are certified organic often carry a symbol of certification such as the Soil Association Accreditation or Ecocert. Fairtrade goods are not necessarily ‘organic’ but have been traded fairly with an agreement with the farmers / growers / producers to earn a fair price for their produce. Eco- friendly products are those which leave a minimal carbon footprint, i.e. are sustainable rather than damaging, an example of an ‘eco-friendly’ product would be cloth nappies which can be washed and re-used as opposed to disposables which can take – literally – 200 years to decompose in landfill!
When you are food shopping and want to make sustainable choices, I would opt for the least food miles, if you can’t grow your own, or be part of a local organic gardening co-operative, buy at a farmer’s market and ask if the produce is grown organically (they often can’t afford certification).
As you know I am ‘imperfectly natural’ and in terms of food, it’s definitely beneficial not to expect your vegetables to be perfect, when your veg and salad is looking a bit droopy, pop it into a soup and definitely remember to plan your meals and batch cook to avoid waste.
In the 1950’s recycling meant getting back on your bike when you’d fallen off, but back in those days the average family would have had a tiny amount of waste compared to our mountainous overflowing waste bags and recycling bins. Not, I believe because they were overly conscious or eco warriors (the term wouldn’t have been coined) but because they grew their own food in their garden or an allotment or bought locally. There was almost no ‘junk’ food and very little packaging leading to little waste.
There have been some innovative businesses recently; I can’t wait to check out Silo in Brighton which looks brilliant in both culinary and ethical terms. Most of their ingredients are locally sourced and even the alcohol is brewed onsite. They recycle all their waste (they have a special compost machine which processes food scraps) – it’s a bit more ‘acceptable’ than the wormeries often recommended for the home (we had one but it scared me quite frankly).
They are of course linked to the Too Good to Waste Campaign, loved by chefs, their aim is to raise both consumer and industry awareness about the appalling scale of restaurant waste, alongside offering viable alternatives for diners and for restaurants. It all came about because it’s thought that for every meal eaten in a UK restaurant, almost half a kilo of food is wasted, so across the UK 600 thousand tonnes of food waste is chucked out from restaurants alone filling up landfill space.
Diners can get involved too as it’s suggested we ask for a doggy box, and take our left-overs home – simples!
Make do and mend
Of course, back in the 50’s they had the ‘make do and mend’ attitude too, and fortunately that’s starting to make a comeback, we’re getting fed up with the disposable high street fashions and choosing to buy from vintage and charity shops rather than chain stores. Upcycling has become popular again too and there are even workshops popping up to show people how to give new life to a worn out item of clothing.
Till death do us part…
The end of our lives can be a costly affair, both financially and in terms of impact to the environment.
Often simpler ‘greener’ funerals are desired, and can have just as much meaning as ones full of pomp and circumstance. Eco coffins have become increasingly fashionable as more and more people appreciate the unsustainability of burying new wood in the ground or burning it in a crematorium. The problem is that many coffins are made from chipboard with wood veneers, which are usually sprayed with formaldehyde. During a cremation, a high percentage could be released as toxic fumes but you can get coffins that don’t contain any substances that pollute when burnt. For burials, you can now get eco coffins made from simple unvarnished pine, cardboard or even bamboo. You can also go really green with a kind of shroud or ‘sleeping bag’ called an Ecopod.
One ‘green’ option is to choose to be buried in land that can be converted to natural woodland. Mintel has published some research that said that 64 per cent of people liked the idea of being buried in a woodland or meadow, but there are currently only about 200 natural burial grounds in the UK, and many of these are privately owned. The Association of Natural Burial Grounds has more info on this.
Companies like Memorial Woodlands specialise in these personalised funerals and they plant hundreds of trees each year, which are protected in trust from future development. Rather than erect a tombstone, people are encouraged to select a tree and wildflowers instead to mark a grave.
I attended an incredibly peaceful ceremony in Cornwall and can really imagine my friend resting in peace under the tree chosen specially for her.
I really don’t think anyone can get it all right, that’s why I think its ok to be ‘imperfectly natural ‘and do the bits we can, small change – big difference and all that …