Sustainability – 5 easy ways to start
can transform the world.
Newsflash! You don’t have to be 100% perfect to make a difference. If that was the case, nobody would even bother starting ever. Just think about it for a second – what has a bigger impact? – one out of 10 persons living a picture-perfect sustainable life, or 10 people making their lifestyle 20% more sustainable? I know this a very basic example but what I want to emphasise is that every little change of behaviour is worth it as it does make a difference.
There are plenty of ways how to make your life more sustainable: clothing, cleaning, shopping, transport, just to name a few. In this post, I want to suggest 5 easy ways to start your own journey to a more sustainable lifestyle.
HAIL THE VINEGAR!
Okay, let’s start with my absolute favourite liquid of all time (next to gin-based cocktails) – vinegar! Plain, simple household vinegar. It’s cheap, it’s readily available – and it’s my personal holy grail. Screw that thing Indiana Jones risked is life for! Vinegar is a thousand times more useful and I’ll tell you why.
If vinegar was a Pokémon, his attacks would be Decalcifier and Sanitizer. Combine it with baking soda and you can expect a mighty Bubble Beam.
Ok, enough nerdiness. Let’s talk about some hands-on examples of where vinegar can be used as a sustainable option in your household.
Some examples of how to use vinegar
- Fabric softener
Yes, it works! I hate the artificial smell of fabric softener (allergies and asthma are another topic) and by now everyone should be aware that the ingredients of fabric softener are bad for the environment (#tensides). I add vinegar in the dedicated fabric softener compartment of my washing machine whenever I wash sheets and towels. They come out super soft and without smelling like vinegar. Bonus: Less calcium builds up in your washing machine.
- Rinsing agent
Instead of buying rinsing agent for your dishwasher in the store, make your own using vinegar. It will help to get rid of the limescale build up on your glasses and dishes. You can – and should – also let your empty dishwasher run on a hot water cycle with vinegar once in a while. The vinegar will break down any remaining bits of food, grease, soap scum, residue, and any other leftover grime. There is plenty of advice and recipes to be found online.
I am not a fan of using chemicals to clean, especially in the kitchen where my food could come in contact with them. Yuck! It’s super easy to make your own detergent by infusing plain white vinegar with orange, lemon, or grapefruit peel. I collect the peel from my citrus fruit, cut away the remnants of flesh and put them in a jar with vinegar. I store it in the fridge and change the peels from time to time. If you are setting up your jar for the first time, let the vinegar infuse for about two weeks. Afterwards, you can fill it in a spraying bottle and mix it with dishwashing liquid and some water. As easy as that.
No matter if an electric water kettle, a thermos bottle, shower head, or your faucets – vinegar is all you need to get rid of any build up limescale. Jeps, you don’t need any hardcore chemicals from the store, all you require to descale your kettle and everything else, is vinegar. It’s cheap, and efficient.
SOLID AS A ROCK
When I started travelling more, I got tired of dragging a huge suitcase or bag with me so at one point I purchased a nice hand luggage-sized backpack and it became my best travel companion. I became a master in downsizing and as I was on the road so often, I didn’t even unpack my little zip-loc bag full of liquids anymore.
WHY I WILL NEVER GO BACK
However, the space in the zip-loc was vital so I eliminated as many liquids as I could – and shampoo & shower gel were the first to go. So began my journey of using shampoo and soap bars. They are perfect for hand luggage – and hey, they are also perfect to use at home in your own shower. Honestly, I have never looked back.
Seeing every day how little space I use on the shared shelf compared to my flatmates with their collection of plastic bottles, confirms that I have made the right choice.
By now, there are many companies making awesome shampoo, conditioner, and soap bars and they are in no way inferior to their liquid counterparts.
IS IT FOR REAL - OR IS IT JUST GREENWASHING?
Green is cool. And many companies want to hop on the sustainability bandwagon – without actually being sustainable.
After reading that you may have an inkling – and you are right: it’s a freakin‘ rabbit hole. My best advice is to question the statements from big corporations. Be more sceptical. Sensitise your bullshit radar.
Fast fashion is never sustainable, neither is conventional farming. Not all „green labels“ are legit, some are just industry inventions. Some companies claim their beauty products and similar are made without animal testing – well great, ALL such products in Europe must not be tested on animals. I could go on like this.
Support those who make a difference
Keep your eyes peeled for companies and start-ups that are trying to make a difference in the world and support them by purchasing their products. Yes, those products are usually more expensive but then again, this will make you consider if you really need another pair of jeans and another eye shadow palette.
Chances are, when an item is sold at a ridiculously low price, it contains cheap, nasty stuff and someone had to be exploited somewhere along the supply chain.
SWAP TIL YOU DROP
There are every-day items out there that can be substituted for a more sustainable version. Mostly, it’s about less plastic but some can also help to save significant amounts of water (think cotton production).
A FEW IDEAS FOR WHAT TO REPLACE
Here are a few examples for items that I have already swapped for a greener alternative:
- Razor – I don’t use plastic razors anymore but bought a sturdy safety razor instead that will last for a loooong time.
- Make-up remover pads – I made my own using left-over fabric. Again, I am not a perfect human so I still use the cotton ones now and then to clean my face, however, I use fabric ones to take off my eye make-up. I chuck them into the washing machine with my bed sheets and towels – et voilà, they can be used again. And again. And again.
- Dish cloths, sponges, and brushes – In the kitchen, cloths, sponges and brushes can be swapped for alternatives made out of natural fibers, wood, or other renewable resources.
- Coffee filters – If you drink filter coffee, swap the filters for re-usable ones.
- Shopping bags – Bring your own bags to go food shopping. And by that I don’t mean the tote bag you’ll bag all your items in but also smaller bags/nets for fruit and veg. Some shops even have soap, laundry detergent etc. on tap and allow you to refill them using your own bottles
- Drinking bottles – Stainless steel or glass bottles are a great alternative to plastic bottles. I always have a 0,5 litre bottle of water with me to avoid that I need to buy plastic bottles while I am out and about.
- Tampons & Co – A few years ago, a friend told me about the cup she uses instead of tampons. I wasn’t even aware of this option as tampons are the standard and alternatives didn’t have any exposure back when I started using hygiene products. Out of curiosity, I ordered a cup for myself and here I am three years later, not looking back.
- Bonus tip: chewing gum – Yes, you read right: chewing gum! Pretty much all chewing gums contain plastic. Yumm! Look out for more sustainable options; they are still rare but on the rise.
I DON'T WANT NO SCRUB - OH WAIT, I DO!
Who doesn’t enjoy the smooth feeling after a good peeling. There’s a ton of products out there that you can use – but you can also do your own body and face scrub in no time.
After all, a scrub is only a mechanical peeling for your skin that removes dead skin cells. Of course there are all kinds of other ingredients in „proper“ skin care products (if they are actually beneficial is another discussion) but if you are only looking for the gorgeous post-scrub feeling, than coffee grounds are perfect.
While micro plastic is already prohibited in many countries, a lot of scrubs (and even shampoo, conditioner, and mascara!) still have micro plastic in them. So using coffee grounds is a great way to avoid them. As a bonus, the smell is divine and doesn’t even require any artificial fragrances.
HOW I USE COFFEE GROUNDS
I recommend using organic coffee (and fairtrade, of course). I simply mix mine with sea salt, some sugar, and good quality olive oil. You can either make it fresh every time, or you store it in a jar in the fridge. I usually use this as a body scrub.
If you want to use the peeling for your face, use finely grounded coffee. I have a jar of dried coffee grounds that I keep in the bathroom and now and then mix into my face wash gel.
DO YOU HAVE MORE TIPS?
Alright, I hope my 5 suggestions of how to be more sustainable in your everyday life will inspire you to try another approach. Remember that being more sustainable isn’t a competition and every little bit will make a difference. The hardest part is to get started and then you will soon realise that it’s not that hard.
If you have other easy tips of how to be more sustainable, let me know in the comments!
– M a r l e n e