The Best Sustainable Changes I Made in 2018

2018 has been an incredible year for me. I’ve made a lot of changes in my life and while I’m not going to lie – they’ve certainly not all been easy and they’ve not all stuck 100% – I’m really happy with the direction I’m moving in. Some of my favourite changes from this past year have been in regards to me living a more sustainable lifestyle, and I wanted to share them here with you today, in case you were looking for inspiration to make some sustainable changes yourself.

Eco cleaning products reusing old bottles vinegar spray

1. Cleaning my house almost exclusively with white vinegar and water

I say “almost” because I do still have some nasty chemical cleaner that I keep on hand for, you know, cat vomit. But other than that we basically wipe everything down with diluted white vinegar and reusable cloths. We’re also technically re-using an empty bottle of Astonish cleaner to house the new vinegar spray in. We buy our vinegar in huge bottles from Amazon – and while yes, obviously they’re still plastic, we’re doing a lot better than we were at this time last year when we bought about a dozen different, but equally toxic cleaners… which were also all in plastic.

I actually now can’t imagine why I ever wanted to have a whole bunch of different cleaners, I’m lazy with housework as it is and so the idea of having to change cloths and product every time I move from glass to wood to flooring is just super unappealing.

Eco period reusable sanitary towels sustainable period

2. Using Reusable Sanitary Pads

This is a newer change, and I’m still in the process of building up a big enough collection that I can use only these, but already I’m LOVING when I get to use these instead disposable ones. They’re so much more comfy, they’re breathable, they’re more flexible, there’s not random plastic wings to work their way loose and chafe mercilessly at your inner thigh for hours… and mine have sharks on them. Oh yeah.

I feel like we hear a lot about re-usable menstrual cups, and a lot less about pads. I think the cups sound great, but due to previous health complications I can’t use tampons or menstrual cups, which is a bit gutting really, but at least there is an eco alternative out there for pad users too.

I bought my first lot of pads from a seller on Etsy, but honestly didn’t have the best experience with service or product quality and so I’m on the hunt for some other ones. There are loads of people selling them on Etsy in all different materials, sizes and patterns – it’s actually amazingly fun choosing sanitary pads… which is a sentence I never thought I would write.

eco makeup removal sustainable living

3. Swapping to reusable cotton pads

Much like with the sanitary pads, I made the switch to using homemade, reusable cotton pads for environmental reasons, but now that I have and have realised how much softer and better they are for taking off my makeup,  I can’t imagine ever wanting to use disposable again!

I know you can buy these kinds of things online, again, in all sorts of different patterns, materials and sizes, but erm, I’ve just been sewing my own together from old pyjama bottoms? They may not look super sexy, but they get the job done, and I do love a little sewing project.

Sustainable living eco hair care

4. Giving up my Head and Shoulders Conditioner

I have huge, thick, curly hair and over the years I’ve tried what feels like hundreds of different conditioners, from budget high street to fancy salon stuff and everything in between – finding conditioner to give my hair just the right amount of moisture is tricky. A few years ago I started using, of all things, one of the conditioners from Head and Shoulders, and it’s literally the best thing for my hair. But let’s face it…they’re not exactly a brand I’m proud to support.

In 2018 I finished my last bottle of Head and Shoulders and starting making a move to find a more sustainable and ethical alternative. I haven’t found my holy grail yet – I do like this one from Faith in Nature though – but hey, it gives me something to research and at least now I don’t feel guilty every time I wash my hair. Please leave any and all suggestions for good conditioners below in the comments folks – my frizz halo and I thank you!

Sustainable living aluminium water bottle

5. Buying my Sigg Bottle

I had tried a number of times over the years to start carrying a reusable water bottle around with me, and I always failed miserably. Now, I think I know why – I was always using a plastic bottle – and I think drinking water out of a plastic bottle (especially if it’s been in my bag for a few hours) tastes absolutely revolting. But honestly, I just didn’t really know there was another way!

Unsurprisingly, after even a little research I came to realise that both glass and aluminium are much, much better alternatives to plastic bottles. Glass was right out for me as broken glass is one of my major anxiety triggers – so that was just an accident waiting to happen – and so aluminium it was to be. I really wanted to buy a quality bottle that I liked the look of and could use for a long time – imagine my joy then when I found my Sigg bottle on clearance at TK Maxx for £6.00. *Hallilujiah Chorus plays*

Like a lot of the other changes on here, now that I’ve gotten used to having my Sigg bottle, I can’t imagine not carrying it with me. Like what did I do before if I was out shopping and needed a drink? I probably just dehydrated to avoid having to pay for and generate the waste from a bottle of soda. Looking back that’s a fairly moronic life plan, so I’m glad I’ve finally gotten on board with the alternative – and what’s even better, Kenny and my mum are on the aluminium bottle train too, yay!

6. Swapping to using handkerchiefs

Okay, yeah, I can get that this isn’t the sexiest of sustainable changes. I can get that, and I can see why for some people it might just be a hard no, but for me, swapping from disposable tissues to reusable handkerchiefs has been brilliant.

I get hayfever throughout the Spring and Summer (…and Autumn fml) and so I have a runny nose a lot. It’s not infectious or anything, it’s just, you know, snot. When I was using disposable tissues I would go through a pocket pack a day, easily. If you add that up over time it’s a) really wasteful and b) frigging expensive.

Now obviously if you’re someone who uses a tissue like once a week, then this may not be a high priority for you, and that makes sense, but I have to say, even if I stopped needing handkerchiefs for err.. “volume” reasons, I would still keep using them because I think they’re a lot softer and more pleasant to wipe my nose with! Who knew?!?

I knew nothing about handkerchiefs when I went to buy them (in fact, it’s only now as I sit down to write this post I realise I’ve been spelling the word wrong my whole life), but I’ve been using these ones and they seem pleasantly soft and a good size and stuff (not really sure what the official criteria for measuring the quality of handkerchiefs are tbh).

Vegan junk food Oreo cookies

7. Transitioning to Veganism

This is definitely in the “work in progress” category for me, but I’ve come on leaps and bounds compared to where I was last year and I’m really proud of myself. Moving towards being a vegan has been really rewarding, both in terms of helping me feel like I’m really making a difference in supporting the environmental causes I believe in and also, nutritionally. Although I admit, I’d be doing a lot better on the latter point if Oreos weren’t vegan. Dammit Oreos.

I’m sure I’ll write plenty of content in the future about my journey to veganism, the struggles and the successes, so I don’t want to rabbit on here too much, but I had to include it in this list as it’s one of the biggest life changes I’ve made this year, and it was defintiely to do with sustainability.

So that’s it then, the best sustainable changes I made in 2018. It’s funny, because writing it all down like this, it seems like a lot (or at least, it does to me), but actually, it hasn’t felt like a lot because honestly most of these changes have been so easy to make, and in the long run are actually less hassle than their non-environmentally-friendly alternatives.

Have you made any moves towards a more sustainable lifestyle in 2018? What changes have you made?

Do you have any changes you’d like to make going forward into 2019?

 

 

 

 

What Does Sustainable Fashion Look Like?

Sustainable fashion fast ethical fair eco style shoppinh

If you’d walked up to me in the street a couple of years ago and asked me to describe what sustainable fashion looks like I know exactly the image I would have had in my head.  Long, flowing layers, a very washed-out, neutral colour scheme, lots of linen – basically a very wholesome, hippie, Earthy, boho look. And you know what, I have always liked that look, it can be completely beautiful… on other people.

What can I say? I’m short and curvy so I need mo

re structured pieces to emphasise that – I look about 10 stone heavier if I wear loose, flowing layers. I’m very, very pale with darker features and so I best suit stronger colours – jewel tones and charcoal over here – I look positively ill in pastels or muted shades. And you know, because I was so utterly convinced by this singular image I had in my head of what sustainable fashion looked like, for years, I just assumed I couldn’t have any part in it.

If I had to describe my style (which I sort of hate doing because I’m bad at it), I’d say I dress sort of urban-edgy with maybe some grunge or goth vibes thrown in. I like tartan and (faux) leather, ripped denim and graphic tees – are you getting the picture as to how far away I am from that “typical” sustainable fashion image I had in my head?

Well, the good news is that I was very wr

ong about the whole thing. Turns out, shockingly enough, that there are many people all over the world with an interest in sustainable fashion and that they are all individuals with different tastes and styles. The more I actually looked into sustainable fashion – rather than just flicking through my mental slideshow of 70’s hippie outfits with Fleetwood Mac playing on a loop in my head – the more I realised that you can dress in basically whatever style you want – and still take a stand against fast fashion. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Sustainable fashion eco ethical fast fashion shopping style

1. Shop second hand

I actually always loved charity shops – just not for ethical reasons. I loved finding quirky pieces and not being dressed the same as everyone else, and most of all I loved the prices. But one thing that is always annoying about charity shops is that if you’re looking for something specific, sure, you might find it in the first shop you go in… or it could take you months to find the right piece in the right size, in the right condition.

For that reason, I strongly suggest trying out second hand shopping online – whether that’s using an old classic like eBay (link to my shop, if you’re interested), a more modern app like Depop, or, the one I’m still finding my way around – ASOS Marketplace.

Rummaging through boot sales or charity shops can be so fun, but it can definitely be easier to find a super cute, fun piece, than say, a pair of jeans in exactly the wash, style and size you need – so definitely familiarise yourself with some online platforms and save yourself a lot of frustration in the long run!

Shopping second hand might not seem as intensely sustainable as shopping from a brand that produces locally, ethically and is high quality – but the thing to remember is that even a product that is produced in an environmentally friendly manner still uses resources – whereas buying something second hand uses no additional resources.

If you have concerns about buying second hand pieces in fabrics that may release microplastics in the wash – you can purchase a pretty affordable Guppyfriend laundry bag for all your synthetic materials, that will catch those microplastics during the wash cycle and stop them from entering the water supply.

 

 2. There ARE a range of brands out there producing different styles, and even some brands you may have written off may sometimes contain hidden gems.

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that when I’m browsing online and looking at sustainable fashion websites… I don’t like most of what I see, or rather it’s just not “me”. People Tree, for example, is a brand that I love – in theory – but most of their designs really don’t call to me. Sometimes I’ll love the print and not the cut, and sometimes, it’s the other way round – but every once in a while, there is a piece that would work for me.

For example, these trousers I would totally wear, and I’ve actually had my eye on this tee for a while now. My point is, that even if an overall brand aesthetic doesn’t match up with your own, if the quality and the ethics are something you support then it’s worth keeping an eye on them – seasons change, cuts and styles and colour palettes change, and as with People Tree, every so often you might find something that makes you go all heart eyed emoji.

On the other hand, doing further research may mean that you find a brand you love the look of and are therefore overwhelmed with choices! It took me quite a long time to stumble across sustainable UK brand Rapanui (and even longer to work out how to pronounce it). A lot of what they make is much more “me”, including some great basics like hoodies, and some super-awesome graphic tees – they’re definitely not a brand I’ve heard much about but I’m so glad I came across them – this octopus tee for example, it’s like they know me!!! I (definitely) don’t currently need any new tees, but when the time comes this is definitely where I’ll be heading for some cute graphics and environmental messages.

3. YOU get to decide for yourself what constitutes “sustainable” and what brands and products you’re happy to support.

We seem to be living in a time where sustainable fashion is finally (finally) starting to be talked about by influencers and brands in the mainstream. While it’s great to think that big brands are catching on, if you’re going to be shopping more “Eco” ranges from bigger brands, I definitely recommend checking out this video from My Green Closet on Greenwashing, to familiarise yourself with what it is and why it’s such a problem.

My point though, is that it’s pretty much impossible to buy clothing that is perfectly ethical. Maybe the workers are paid fairly but it’s not organic cotton or eco dyes, maybe it does use great materials and fair labour… but you have to ship the products half way around the globe to get them. Everyone has the right to decide for themselves what cause they most support, or what their number one priority is, and to shop in line with their own beliefs.

For example, if organic materials is something you’re really passionate about, H&M Conscious Collection might really speak to you. If you love wool, but don’t support buying it new because you’re a vegan, then some of the pieces from Mango’s new Committed Collection – like this recicled skirt – might be a great fit. Personally, I’m still conducting my own research into what big brands I will and will not support – and like I said, it’s everyone’s individual decision anyway. One thing I did pick up recently which I thought was quite cool, these gloves from ASOS that are made from 3 recycled plastic bottles. Pretty neat.

Sustainable Fashion Fast Fashion Style Shopping Eco Environment

So, that turned out longer than I was expecting – 10 points if you made it this far – but I hope it gave you some food for thought if you’re new to the world of sustainable fashion and not really sure what to make of it or where to start.  As always, I love discussing all aspects of style and the fashion industry, so if you have any questions, comments or corrections you’d like to put to me – comment down below or come say hi over on Instagram!

 

 

5 Easy Ways I’m Reducing My Food Waste

The amount of food I waste has always been something that has made me feel uncomfortable. Not that I  throw out bags full of food or anything, but most of it just seems such needless, avoidable waste. I used to feel like I was trapped in a sort of cycle where at the end of each week I’d discard leftover food and think; “okay, right, bit of a fail this week, I’ll definitely get a handle on it next week though”, and I’d feel guilty, I’d spend ages checking my shopping list to make sure it was adequate and well thought out… and then life would get in the way again and I’d end up forgetting about that bag of lettuce, or reaching for my avocado only to realise it was a big ol’ squishy mess. From rotas changing days after they were “finalised”, to last-minute plans with friends, I think we’ve all encountered a bunch of reasons why Taco-Tuesday might get disrupted. And obviously, I’m human, I still make mistakes, but this year I’ve been making a concerted effort to cut down on the amount of food I waste, and I thought I’d share some of the things that are helping me do that:

baking supplies, bananas and eggs

1. Baking with fruit that is “past it”

While this has definitely been causing me to eat more cake – I’m a huge fan of baking with over-ripe fruit. I’m still only making a couple of different things – but already I’ve noticed that it has basically eliminated the fruits in question from ever being wasted again! The first recipe, and my favourite thing that I bake, is the Banana Butterscotch Muffin recipe from Nigella Lawson. I tweak this a bit because I can never find the butterscotch morsels, and so I just use chocolate (white, milk and dark are all great in there), I also never fancy the faff of all the little muffin cases, so I just make one giant muffin loaf in a tin – works perfectly!
The other thing I’m prone to baking is a good old simple crumble (which I don’t have a recipe for); apples or berries that are going past it can easily be baked into a delicious after-dinner pudding.
The best thing about both of these recipes, is that the other baking supplies needed are things I keep on hand anyway – so it’s not a case of “oh, I have some bananas I need to bake with… better head out to 3 supermarkets and see if I can find these 12 ingredients I’ve never heard of”.

how I'm reducing food waste

 

2. Preparing my fruit and vegetables when they arrive

I know you’ll probably have heard this one before, but I’d heard it at least 100 times before I took the advice – so I’m saying it anyway in case you’re like me!
While I don’t peel/wash/prepare every single plant-based product as soon as it crosses my kitchen threshold (well, actually, our kitchen is so small we have to store most of our food – including our fridge – in the living room, but that would have been a less clear statement), I do find for a lot of things it really is the best option. Broccoli is chopped, red onions are diced, and berries are washed and put into glass dishes.  It really does encourage me to reach for things – I will 100% always chose strawberries as a snack if I don’t have to faff about with a knife and a chopping board every time, and I will always add red onion and bell peppers to my eggs if I can just tip them out of a dish and into the pan.

3. Going vegetarian

This method works two fold for me. Firstly, I was always a bit stressy about cooking with meat: wiping surfaces and dishes like mad, trying to be completely confident a chicken is cooked through and wondering if I really could eat those sausages in the fridge that I cooked two days ago. Removing meat from my diet means I no longer throw out salmon that “maybe smells a bit too fishy”, or pork chops one day past there expiration date, because it’s not worth the risk. The other benefit of a vegetarian diet, for me, has been that I’ve relaxed the structure of my meals a lot. What I mean by that, is that when I was eating meat I was cooking very distinct, complete meals – bolgnase one night, chicken curry the next – and so it was less appealing to eat the mish-mash of leftovers a couple of nights later. Now that my diet is largely plant-based, it’s so much easier to recombine some roasted veggies from last night with a bit of couscouse to make a new, tasty dish.

red onions in a bowl of fruit and vegetable

 

4. Eating several meals a week at Kinning Park Complex who use “surplus food” to prepare their meals

I initially wasn’t going to include this point in here, because I thought it was too specific and nobody else would have access to a place like this. While, unfortunately, not enough places like this *do* exist, one of the charities that Kinning Park Complex work with is Fare Share – and they are a national charity here in the UK helping get surplus food to more than 1,000 locations around the country, so it’s definitely worth looking into. For me, eating my meals at Kinning Park Complex not only gives me the ability to support a cause that I believe in, in helping reduce food waste, but it’s also allowed me to try so many different types of food, and to enjoy them in the company of amazing people from all over the world.

5. Making pizzas from scratch

Those who know me will probably know that pizza is my favourite food. Hands down. No Contest. Fortunately, not only have I been able to continue eating pizza now that I’ve transitioned to being a vegetarian – if anything, it’s actually *better* now that I have a fridge extra-full with veggies. Got two leftover mushrooms at the end of the week? A handful of sweetcorn? A morsel of feta? Chuck them all on a pizza. I’ve been enjoying making dough and sauce from scratch – to get things *exactly* the way I want them – but of course, you can also use a cheese and tomato store bought pizza and just top it yourself if that’s easier. This option might not sound like much, but as I said at the start of the post – food waste isn’t always about whole bags of this or tubs of that – it’s about all the little bits we just never get round to finishing, and honestly, most things can be put on a pizza!

There we go, that’s five of the steps I’ve taken recently to try and reduce the amount of food I’m wasting. Some are more elaborate than others, and some are healthier than others *cough* I have a banana muffin loaf in the oven as I’m typing this *cough*, but I hope that you found this post useful all the same. If you have any tips or tricks for reducing food waste, please do share them down in the comments below – I’d love to hear them!

baking supplies with white chocolate chips

 

Starting from Scratch: Learning to Sew

I worked in a craft studio for seven years and completed an honours degree in art, so, while I’m certainly not claiming to be any sort of expert – I think it’s fair to say that I’ve always been a relatively arts and crafty person, obtaining a relative level of proficiency in working with various media from acrylic paint to clay and silk to glass… but put me near anything “string-ish” and I’m hopeless. This includes sewing, embroidery, crochet, knitting and yes, even pom-pom making was beyond me. I’m not sure why, but I can cause a sewing machine to malfunction from 100 yards away. My mum is a fantastic knitter (is that the technical term?) and my maw-in-law (who was also the owner of the craft studio where I worked) is a dab hand at most things, but especially good at sewing (and baking, but that doesn’t seem relevant here), anyway, my point being that both of these skilled women invested significant time over the years trying to teach me “the way of the thread”… and they both gave up, and remain a little traumatised from the experiences.

close up shot of the foot of my sewing machine, with fabric in the background.

There are a lot of things in life that I’ve realised I’m not good at and have happily walked away from (mum told me I would regret giving up the violin when I was 10… STILL WAITING MUM), but sewing is not one of those things. Not only does it open up so many cool doors for me, a mixed media artist, but when you start tying it in with an interest in sustainable living – the idea of being able to repair and alter my clothes seems too good an opportunity to just give up on.

Fortunately for me, and somewhat by random chance, I found myself at the Kinning Park Complex (my local community centre) a few weeks ago, taking part in a patch-making workshop as part of Fashion Revolution Week – it was a spur of the moment decision and I’m so glad I jumped at the opportunity. I met the lovely ladies from Kinning Park Couture, who make amazing up-cycled jewellery from waste plastic materials, and also have incredible patience and enthusiasm for helping newbies like me get comfortable with a sewing machine. At the end of a couple of hours not only had I not somehow managed to burn the place down or kill someone just by my being in proximity to a sewing machine, but I had also made my very own activism patch, and learnt to thread a sewing machine, and to not scream audibly every time I put my foot on the pedal.

Well, after that I was hooked, I was back at Kinning Park Complex a few days later for Social Sunday, and Kinning Park Couture helped my fix up a pair of Kenny’s Levis jeans which he had managed to somehow entirely rip the crotch out of (?????). The satisfaction I got bringing those jeans home to him and knowing that I had salvaged them and saved all that fabric from being wasted, was so immense, so much greater than if I had gone into a store and just picked him up a new pair of jeans. And not only is it so “worth it”, I also find sewing incredibly therapeutic: time somehow flies by and I just sit absorbed, stitching away (then unpicking, then stitching again… I’m enthusiastic, not skilled).

close up of all the bits and pieces in my sewing box at the moment
Ah, a box of sewing bits and pieces that was passed on to me – let’s just pretend I know how to use any of the things in this box…

I totally lucked out as well, because, after telling my mum about my sewing (and reassuring her no lives were lost in the process), she suddenly realised she still had her old sewing machine buried in a cupboard somewhere (hurrah for my mum never having read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that I gave her 18 months ago), and so she fished it out and brought it to me and now, sitting proudly on my dining table is my very own sewing machine. Old, strangely creaky, but working perfectly fine – and I couldn’t be more excited!

Currently, I’ve gotten as far as making reusable cotton pads to take my eye makeup off each day, using scrap fabric from a pair of Alice in Wonderland pyjama bottoms that I had somehow managed to completely rip the crotch out of (????? seriously, why does this keep happening to our trousers?!). While not exactly a technically ambitious project, it’s a good example of how learning a skill like sewing to even the most basic level can make allow for the making of something that is actually useful in every day life. No more wasting of cotton pads and the plastic bags they come in for me, no sirree (and yes, my sewn ones have survived the washing machine, trust me, I was just as surprised my stitching held up as you probably are after reading this post).

overall shot showing my sewing box, machine and fabric.

While it’s obviously still early days for me, I do have my sights set on making a sort of “zero waster companion pouch thing” (erm, still working on the name there). Basically I want to make a type of roll, like a jewellery roll, but something that will have a section for me to store a reusable straw or two, some metal cutlery, and also a couple of cloth napkins – all things I’m trying to get in the habit of carrying, but am not quite sure how to safely/cleanly transport them in my hand bags. If you can sew and have any tips or ideas on how I might go about making this please (no seriously, please) share them in the comments below, or, even if you’re not a sew-er (again, is that the right term?), let me know if you have any ideas of other sections I might want in the pouch – I have the overwhelming feeling that I’m forgetting something obvious that “zero wasters” might carry for eating…

So anyway, I hope maybe this post gave you a chuckle at my hopeless sewing skills, but I also hope that maybe you take away from it that if something is important to you, don’t give up, you can find a way. No, I’m probably never going to work as a seamstress (oh, it’s seamstress, not sew-er isn’t it?) for a major European couture fashion house, but that’s OK. With a bit of hard work and yes, 17,000 mistakes along the way, it’s entirely possible that I can become competent with sewing, and like I said, sometimes that’s all it takes with a skill to be able to create something that can improve your, or someone else’s, quality of life.