Over the last few months I’ve been thinking an awful lot about climate change, sustainability and consumption [more than my usual crippling level]. I began thinking of setting myself an impossible New Years resolution of not buying anything new. I thought about it. A lot. I talked to Robert about it and weighed up the difficulties that would arise. I eventually concluded I wouldn’t be able to do it and was actually quite upset. I’m very conscious about what I buy and most times if I buy something new I end up returning it out of guilt [unless I really, really like it]. But it got me thinking about the options out there and changes we can all make. And maybe make one a resolution to start.
We all consume. There is no way to avoid that. But what we can do is become more aware and conscious about how we consume and see what changes we can make. I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but the reality is that climate change and what we do to the planet is everyone’s responsibility. I want to take a positive approach to this. Below are a few of the topics I think about the most when it comes to reducing, consuming and thinking about environmental impacts. Ways we can all kick ass and save money and an idea or two you might like to take on board this year …
Making the decision to buy a second hand item vs. a brand new item does more than you can imagine. When you buy second hand, you’re directly reducing the demand for new products to be produced and reducing the amount of products that get dumped into landfills. Second hand means sourcing something that isn’t new. It doesn’t mean scavenging through a skip [which, for the record, is an awesome way to find stuff but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea], but it does mean you’re not buying directly from a producer. Second hand can be from an antique store, checking out an online marketplace such as Craigslist or Adverts.ie [sometimes with brand new items available at less than retail price], hunting through flea markets, swapping with friends and family, heading to your local charity shop or recycling centre, even choosing to buy a pre-owned car vs. brand new and buying an existing house instead of building a new one. All of these reduce the demand for new items to be produced.
In case I still haven’t convinced you, buying second hand SAVES YOU MONEY [insert statistic of the price of a new car dropping the moment you drive it off the lot + a GIF of someone make it rain]. That’s right. The more money you save going second hand can go directly towards something. Something like booze or tiny outfits for your cat.
Obviously, there are some things it is not advised to buy second hand for hygiene reasons; mattresses, underwear, pillows etc. There are also going to be things you just want to buy brand new. I have my moments when I walk into a shop and see something shiny [I usually say to myself “do I really need this?!” and sometimes I do need it, or it’s just fabulous]. We’re only human. What I want this year is the majority of what we buy be second hand. I’ll of course share my finds which will hopefully encourage anyone out there who may be sceptical! Buy something second hand. Fix it up. Make it yours!
SUPPORT LOCAL + REDUCE AIR MILEAGE
There are huge benefits that come with supporting local retailers, producers, creators and makers. Not only are you supporting their trade and helping to keep people employed, but you’re also reducing an unnecessary carbon footprint. Why buy peppers flown in from half a world away when you can buy locally grown peppers? Are the former peppers cheaper? Probably, but by something like 20 cent. If you decide to buy local, you’re helping a local farmer in your county, province, or country. What happens when you buy far away produce is it’s packed in a refrigerated truck, driven to a warehouse, packed into bigger packing, driven to a port where it’s packed onto a ship, travels X mount of kilometers to your closest port, driven to a warehouse, possibly redistributed to a smaller warehouse and then driven to your local shop. By buying local produce, you reduce this effort and emissions exponentially.
The same goes for retail. If you’re looking to buy new lamp, in stead of ordering a slightly cheaper lamp online from 1,000km away, consider sourcing a similar style much closer to home and from a local designer. Yes, you may end up spending a bit more money but you would be supporting a local designer and would be cutting out a huge amount of unnecessary waste such as mileage and packaging.
There are some things though you can’t avoid buying locally if they’re not native to your country. We’re guilty as we buy food such as limes, avocados and coconut milk – none of which come from anywhere near Ireland. During spring, summer and autumn the vast majority of our vegetables are from Ireland or at a stretch the UK. We make an effort to pick produce as local as possible because in the winter not much is naturally available so we have no other choice than to buy fruit and vegetables sourced from elsewhere. So by buying local, you’re helping people closer to home. Maybe even someone you know.
WHAT WE EAT
This next point will be a touchy point and I’m prepared for that, but I wouldn’t be writing about it if it didn’t have a huge impact. Something for you to consider this year is to become more conscious of the animal products that you use. Unfortunately one of the biggest contributors to methane emissions is livestock agriculture [which are worse than C02 emissions. If you’d like to learn more, I would highly recommend watching Cowspiracy or Kat von D’s video]. I don’t want to get too heavy into the details because I don’t want to sound negative. All I’ll suggest is to consider what you eat. You can make a change as small as you want. Something small like trying something new in your tea or coffee as a substitute for milk, or looking into introducing more vegetable-based meals more regularly in your diet.
We’ve unfortunately become too desensitized with the animal products that we consume. One of the main reasons I became a vegetarian was because I wasn’t comfortable eating something I couldn’t kill myself. That was my personal reasoning. I then made the step to a vegan diet for environmental [and continued ethical] reasons. I don’t want to sound judgy and better than thou because that’s not how I feel. I haven’t always been a vegan. Hell, there are times all I want is a fat steak and scallops! I’m not telling you to stop eating meat or dairy, but just to be more aware of its treatment and impacts and to consider eating less of it. If not for environmental reasons than for health reasons [I dropped 10lbs without even trying by simply cutting out all dairy from my diet]. The food I’ve been eating recently is some of the tastiest food I’ve had in recent years so you sure as shit don’t miss out on flavour on a vegan diet. When people ask “what do you eat?!“, I simply say everything else.
CUT OUT THE TOXIC CLEANING PRODUCTS
This is how I think of it – anything you pour down your sink, toilet or drainpipe will eventually come back through your tap. There is nothing that makes me more upset than seeing toxic cleaning products being advertised so nonchalantly. These products are so toxic that should someone ingest them they’re rushed to the hospital. Products so corrosive the label says to seek medical attention if you get any on your skin. And they’re encouraging us to POUR A WHOLE BOTTLE OF IT DOWN OUR SINK. To me, this makes absolutely no sense.
A toilet cleaner that’s tough enough to kill 99% of bacteria. News flash – no one eats out of their toilet so why should we need to nuke it with chemical warfare? In stead, clean your toilet regularly with an eco alternative so limescale doesn’t build up. Yes, toilets are going to have bacteria. Because IT’S A FUCKING TOILET. People don’t lick toilets so why should we pour chemicals down it? [perhaps you should change your diet if your doing something to your toilet that requires that many chemicals to clean it]. There’s a huge range of eco-friendly cleaning products available nowadays and some I’ve found to be even better than their chemical-ridden alternatives. Think about our future generations. Hell, think of your future self! Down with this sort of thing; just not down the sink.
I don’t mean any of the above to sound preachy, so apologies if you found any of it sounding so. I’m incredibly passionate about these things, always have been and always will. A lot of my reasoning can be paralleled to how I feel about any rental we live in; we try to leave it in better condition than when I found it. And in all honesty, we’re all kinda renting our time here amiright? Climate change is real. It’s already effecting us on a real level [there have been horrific floods here in Ireland and the winter isn’t even over]. So make a point of being more conscious of what you consume, starting this year and lets leave 2016 in better condition than we found it.
I was trying to figure out how to say 'Good for you!!' without sounding like I was being patronising and I realised I don't know how. But I do genuinely from the bottom of my heart think it's awesome that you are making steps in all of this. I mean just being AWARE is difficult because it's so much easier to just to stick our head in the sand – something I'm horribly guilty of! As it goes, I've been looking for some ecological cleaning supplies recently so if you have any recommendations for what you use and like, please share 😀 xxx
Hahahah, I didn't take it that way at all! There are actually a very good range of eco products available in Tesco – I think they're called 'ecover'. Their range includes laundry detergent, toilet cleaner, all-purpose surface spray and washing up liquid – all of which we've been using for years and I can find no fault in.
I've wanted to actually make my own cleaning spray for a while now so maybe I'll finally get around to doing it! A very simple alternative are the basics as Pat says below – vinegar is amazing and baking soda plus lemon are always winners.
Yes. All of it.
I laughed at the non-toxic cleansers… I use vinegar for everything. I keep it in a spray bottle. Using non-toxic turned out to be a good decision this week, when I caught my 16 month old happily sucking the end of the vinegar bottle. Oi… Shakes head.
Oh god Pat that's actually terrifying. The thought of what could have happened to little Millie if she ingested something toxic – another reason why they should all be banned!!! Toddlers, and not to mention pets too, are the most at risk.
You're a damn fine eco momma. Represent.
Yes! – and may I add, get rid of the nespresso machine. Those capsules are not only overpriced, they are water-intense in production and impossible to recycle.
We don't buy Nespresso capsules as I completely agree, they're wildly overpriced. The capsules we buy cost less than 0.10 per cup of coffee. After the capsules are used, we remove the foil seal, take out the coffee remnants (which we then hand over to family to use for compost), the capsule is rinsed and then recycled.
I take reducing, reusing and recycling into account for everything. I don't write about it nearly enough here, but there is little to no waste in our home. We don't have many luxurious items as the majority of what we have and what I buy is second hand or recycled. Robert is the only one in our home who drinks coffee, and a small amount at that, so it's a small piece of luxury he has. We'll keep the Nespresso machine if you don't mind.
That's fair. I didn't mean to come over harshly, but the rise of those capsule machines has been hurting my environment & coffee loving little heart. If there's only one of you drinking coffee and you have come to such a good solution, that's perfect. Now if only more people were as thoughful about their coffee and their waste as you are,that would be awesome 🙂
Your reaction is completely justified because those are all things we take into consideration before we buy something new. Is it something we really need? Is it something we can reuse? Or recycle easily? We rarely impulse buy, so we think everything through. Especially when it comes to a product that needs to be constantly refilled such as a Nespresso machine. It's something everyone should be thinking about before they buy. You're the kind of conscious we need more of.
I think it's great how much you do to reuse and recycle. I've always hated waste, but I feel like I've been wasting more lately than I used to (mainly due to Rob and his extravagant ways!) I need to sort that out – I've tried to get him under control!
I should try that ecover cleaning stuff too. Although, I feel I kind of do my bit by just not cleaning at all…! 😉 Ha!
Thanks for the motivational post xx
HAHAHAHAHA oh Maria. My love for you has no end. I think that's the way forward – just not cleaning at all. It's going places. Great places. #GoGreenDontClean #Ever
I was going to ask about eco cleaners cos that's something I've been thinking about a lot but you already answered my question in your reply to Kimberly so off to Tesco I go! I try and have a few meat-free days a week and try to eat in season (for both environmental and budget reasons!) and I really don't miss it. but dairy is a hard one for me!
Also, I'm with you on the nespresso, I don't think I could give that up!
Oh dairy has been so hard for me. It took me about a month to mourn dairy. I find going vegan incredibly tough in Ireland in general because bar hipster hot spots, everything has butter sneaked into it or rolled all over it. Ireland is just not open minded towards vegan diets. Even the health food shops have very limited choices and I'm already getting annoyed.
Grumble, grumble, grumble. Now that that's out of my system, I do have good days! And make really nom food at home! Promise! 😛
Great post, it has inspired me to come up with some environmental resolutions of my own. We introduced a meat free day last year & I went through a phase of buying mainly from donedeal but I've slipped into old habits again with the new house/new baby etc. Anyway, no excuses, it's a new year so a perfect time to start again! Thanks for the inspiration.
It's always so inspiring when I hear from like-minded people who are as conscious about consuming and their impacts. Genuinely! It's too much part of the norm to have to keep having the newest items and trends, whether they be design or gadgets etc. But knowing I'm not the only one conscious about what I buy is very reassuring. I have faith in humanity 😛 Don't get me wrong, I have my moments of very un-eco choices! But I'm getting better. Represent!
I love, love, love this. As design bloggers I think it's important to discuss thoughtful and responsible consumerism, even though it's not as fun as everything shiny and new. I personally have hesitated to write about it because of this. I buy a lot of second-hand, mostly because I think you get more bang for your buck, but also because I feel better about recycling pieces. I've cut back on meat eating a lot in the past couple of years, but this year I'm making a concerted effort to eat vegetarian except on rare special occasions, and ideally when I know the animals have been cared for ethically. I also have found myself caring more about where I spend my money. I feel better splurging on something from a local or small business than I do from a big box store. My goals for the new year are to get a composter for our yard and to finally make our vegetable garden something we can use regularly. Now I may have to add DIY cleaning products to the list. Thanks for sharing your practices!
Yes, yes, yes. SO much all of this Arielle! I sometimes get quite upset when a blogger or designer writes about their brand new solid gold coffee table that was harvested from children's tears and flown in from a remote mountain. None of that is impressing me. And even worse – they then get a new coffee table the next year because that gold one is no longer in trend. I cry on the inside. Good design does not need to be that greedy. And I wholeheartedly agree that second hand is way more awesome! Preach it!!! I'm going to try to buy as much second hand as possible this year and I'm genuinely looking forward to it.