Mother Earth does a lot for us, and a lot of us try to do bits and pieces to look after our planet in return. Yet with all our to-do’s, reducing our carbon footprint is often the last thing on the list… Furthermore, the words ‘green’ and ‘living’ might inspire images of self-sacrifice and inconvenience rather than fill us with enthusiasm. But don’t fret… there’s no need to turn into a passionate eco-warrior overnight or move into a yurt in the countryside to make a difference. (Though spending a weekend ‘glamping’ in an eco-yurt with a special someone would certainly make for a memorable holiday!)
Making earth-friendly choices can be surprisingly simple and, with a little repetition, new habits can quickly become (excuse the pun) second nature. Taking positive actions can also help us feel more optimistic and resilient in the face of a constant stream of gloomy news about the threats our planet is facing.
Read on for a round-up of five ways to honour Mother Earth in your own home. You could save money, get healthier, make new friends and even embark on a culinary adventure in the process… And… just maybe… you’ll find there’s an eco-warrior in you after all?
Jump on the green cleaning bandwagon
Here’s a way to give Mama Nature a helping hand and improve your own health at same time: head over to your cleaning cupboard and take a look at those labels. Many modern detergents contain harsh chemicals that are not only toxic to aquatic wildlife when washed down the drain but can leave long-lasting residues on surfaces with the potential to irritate skin and lungs – the less-than-friendly line-up includes asthma, eczema, allergies and other disorders. Plenty of efficient earth-friendly products are available these days – even on the supermarket shelves – which makes switching to eco-friendly cleaning super-convenient. Many independent health food stores offer cheap refills that further cut down waste and costs.
If you have the time (a few minutes that is!), consider taking the DIY approach. Simple soap, baking soda, vinegar and a few key essential oils like lemon, lavender and tea tree will take care of most of the cleaning needs around your house and using them works out very economical. And while you’re at it, cut up some old t-shirts and you shall not want for reusable cleaning rags!
The green heart of your home
Kitchen is the true heart of many a home – and it’s also where a lot of the eco-friendly magic can happen. Making sustainable choices about the food we buy and prepare often goes hand in hand with eating better and saving money, too.
Supermarkets don’t make it easy for us to avoid unnecessary packaging, but we can do our bit to reduce the amount of plastic we bring home. Make a habit of taking a reusable carrier bag with you every time you go shopping and choose loose fruit and vegetables over plastic-wrapped ones when possible. If available, signing up to a veggie box scheme or buying produce at your local farmers’ market is even better! For dry goods like rice, lentils and muesli, many health food stores have their own bulk bins that allow you to refill your own containers at a bargain price.
Avoiding ready-made meals and cooking from scratch provides another opportunity to zap waste and save money. When planning your meals, take advantage of the boom in vegetarian and vegan food blogs – finding exciting veggie recipes to try has never been easier and incorporating a few plant-based meals into your week will help shrink the carbon footprint of your kitchen.
Check out The Veg Space
Discover your green fingers
No farmers’ market nearby? Go one step further and slash down the food miles by growing your own veg! There’s no better way to connect with nature at home and you don’t need a large garden to get started as many crops are more than happy in containers. Cherry tomatoes will merrily grow in a hanging basket, roots like carrots and potatoes can be grown in pots on the patio, beans and peas will climb up a wall with a bit of support, and herbs and salad greens don’t ask for much more than a sunny spot by the window. To add a splash of colour and provide food for you and pollinators alike, sow a few edible flowers like nasturtiums too.
Fresh food lovingly grown and picked when perfectly ripe could be the most delicious thing you’ve ever tasted. As a bonus, you’ll be eating food guaranteed to be free of pesticide residues. Get the kids involved as well and they’ll learn a lot about nature – and perhaps even start eating their vegetables… Give them their own seeds to sow or a strawberry plant to look after, then sit down together to count the bumblebees and butterflies that visit your crops. You can even record your findings in a survey (such as this one by the Polli:Nation) and contribute to scientific research.
Become mindful about energy
Reducing energy use in our home is one of the best ways to do our bit for the environment and it’s great for our wallets too. Some of the simplest ways achieve this include unplugging our appliances when not in use and washing laundry at lower temperatures. Other methods may require some funds initially – think of insulating the loft, buying energy-efficient appliances, even installing solar panels – but if we’re able to fork out the cash, we’ll be rewarded with significant savings in the long run.
You could help our planet even more by powering your home with wind and solar energy – now’s a great time to think about switching if you haven’t already. Green energy has become more accessible as well as affordable in recent years with many new energy companies offering renewable energy at competitive prices. Switching is easy too – your new supplier will handle the entire process once you’ve signed up – making it an eco-deed you can accomplish within minutes.
Get into the spirit of sharing
With online stores at our fingertips 24/7, it’s easy to buy anything under the sun, whenever we want it. But what if we pooled resources instead, donated, shared and borrowed items more? We’d all likely save money, reduce the amount of clutter in our homes, help each other out and possibly even make new friends – all this while saving raw materials and keeping usable stuff from ending up in landfills.
Got a bread maker gathering dust on a shelf? A bike your child’s outgrown? There’s someone in your local community who’ll gladly take your unwanted stuff off your hands. Freecycle and its many incarnations exist for the sole purpose of moving goods locally to where they’re most appreciated. Charity shops will love your used books and bric-a-brac, and if you have a stash of clothes you don’t get around to wearing anymore, a clothes swap is the perfect eco-friendly excuse to get your friends together.
When buying things, consider if you can borrow or share first. Sharing with neighbours is a great strategy when it comes to power tools and other items that are needed only occasionally. It can also be a great way to get to know them better! Refurbished technology can be every bit as good as brand new while buying designer clothes has become a lot more affordable with online boutiques selling pre-loved items for a fraction of the original price. It’s a world of possibilities and once you get into the swing of reducing, reusing and recycling, you might even find it gets a bit addictive…1