How Can We Live More Sustainably?

*This post features a gifted item, which I was not paid or asked to feature*

Hey, loves!

Sustainability. It’s a word that is everywhere at the moment – on social media, in magazines, on TV and even on the sides of busses. A little ironic, but whatever. It makes me happy that everyone is becoming interested in the topic, but it can be a little overwhelming having so much information thrown at you. It’s almost become a buzzword; people are either very concerned, or know they should be, but what does it actually mean to be sustainable? The definition from http://www.dictionary.com reads “sustainability is defined as the quality of not being harmful to the environment, depleting natural resources and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance”. Erm, yeah. Basically, stop treating our planet like it’s a cat with nine lives; we need to be pro-active at reducing waste, emissions and protecting all living species, and that’s just the basics.

I seen a quote online that said ‘There is no Plan(et) B’ and it really struck a chord with me; we’re literally destroying our planet and a lot of the damage is preventable. The reality is, we need to do a lot more than we currently do, and that can start with just the most simple things. We can’t take on the stress of our broken planet on our own, but in today’s post I’m sharing with you small changes you can easily make, to live a more sustainable life. These small changes actually can create huge impact, and within no time at all you’re helping not just the planet, but the people and animals who live on it. In my opinion, I think we should all begin with little changes in our day-to-day lives, and encourage others to do the same. Collectively, we can make a difference and work on building up to make even bigger changes. It’s genuinely amazing how all of us doing one little thing can make such a huge difference!

Also, I’d just like to re-inforce that my blog is a safe space. A no judgment zone. This post is not at all to cause offence or shock people, it’s literally a way to raise awareness, and to encourage people to see the bigger picture when it comes to the ways in which we can all make a difference.

Purchase makeup and skincare from cruelty free beauty brands. This was one of my resolutions for 2019, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve stuck to it 100%. There are so many of your favourite brands already ticking the necessary boxes, it’s really not as difficult as you think. Look for organic ingredients, the leaping bunny logo, PETA certified stamp and items that state they’re anti-animal testing! There is a slight grey area here, in my opinion, as lots of brands are cruelty free in the sense that they do not test on animals themselves (so they’re ‘good’ in the UK market), however they allow testing to be carried out in countries that require it by law. A general rule of thumb is if a specific brand sells in China they knowingly allow animal testing – as all beauty products sold in China require animal testing by law. Lots of companies are working with authorities to try to phase this out, but I’m not sure on the practical or ethical implications of this. I’d love to know any thoughts you have on this in the comments.

Buy from zero waste shops. Anybody else constantly frustrated with how much plastic is in the normal supermarkets? Thankfully, a brand new innovative way to shop is upon us! Your proximity to one will vary on wherever you live, as I know in London they’re seemingly popping up everywhere. We have one in Tynemouth that just opened last month, and it’s such a breath of fresh air to the area. Matt and I are hoping to visit very soon, and I’m so excited! The whole concept is that you take your own bags, pots, jars or containers to fill with whatever dry goods you need. You only pay for the amount you’re buying, there’s no waste from these items (hence the zero waste label) and you’re also supporting local businesses.

Save water. Shower together. Sorry, I had to. But seriously, cut down on your shower times, take less baths and never leave the water running whilst washing your face or brushing your teeth. Matt and I are bath obsessed (literally, we spend so much time in the bath and so much money at Lush, HAHA) but we’ve definitely cut down on our water usage in recent months.

Invest in re-usable bags. Since the UK implemented a charge for using plastic bags, our consumption has gone down 86%*, yet I can’t believe how many people I see still using plastic bags in supermarkets on a daily basis. Buying fabric, re-usable bags (that you can forever get replaced if broken, as they’re bags for life!) is such an important thing we should all be participating in. My re-usable bags live in the boot of my car, meaning I always have one to hand and I’m never caught out. Trying to get my boyfriend to do the same is a work in progress – I’m forever buying more when we go shopping! I also have a small canvas tote bag in my boot for when I go clothes or toiletries shopping and I’d definitely recommend this. Also, when buying individual fruit or vegetables in the supermarket I never pick up the plastic bags – they’re so unnecessary! You can buy produce bags (these ones look pretty good) but in my opinion they aren’t a necessity.
*Information from gov.uk

Stop buying fast fashion pieces. I’ve already talked about this in so much detail in this post, so I’m not going to bore you too much here. Buying less clothes, of better materials from sustainable, ethical brands is the way forward in my opinion, and I’m so happy to see so many people changing their thought process. I will be sharing with you some of the fashion items on my Spring/Summer wishlist in the next few weeks, featuring lots of sustainable brands! Again, I highly recommend the Good On You app for all the basic information you need on your favourite brands, and background on their part in becoming more sustainable. Also, I mentioned this briefly in my post all about fast fashion, if it’s something you’re interested in I highly recommend joining the Slow Fashion Exchange Facebook group, run by the wonderful Venetia Falconer.

Take re-usable water bottles and coffee cups out with you. This takes a little forward planning, but if you already have a container to fill, you’re certainly not going to go for the plastic option. General water bottles and coffee cups are not recyclable, and all head straight to landfill. Often, they find their way to our waterways and into the ocean, causing mass-scale pollution. As pretty as a Starbucks cup may look on your Instagram feed, you’re so much better off investing in a re-usable cup you can take anywhere with you. Also, most coffee shops offer discount when using your own cup as an incentive to stop people buying one-use options. I love the KeepCup and Stojo options personally, but there are SO many out there and prices start from just a few pounds!

Invest in re-usable straws. When bars and restaurants around the UK began to filter out plastic straws in early Summer last year, I was not a happy bunny. However, after finding out that one plastic straw takes FIVE HUNDRED YEARS to decompose I was so shocked, and totally understood the move to stop selling straws. As an avid straw user, it makes me feel a little bit sick to think how many plastic straws I’ve sent to landfill. A lot. I’m really not a fan of the paper straw alternatives as they literally turn to mush mid-drink not using a straw doesn’t work for me because my teeth are super sensitive to cold. Last year I purchased metal re-usable straws from Amazon that come in so handy, and I use them at home and work. Recently I was very kindly sent these pasta straws by the amazing guys over at Stroodles… straws made from pasta?! What?! I was so intrigued by the concept; they’re perfect for taking on the go as they’re single use, yet completely bio-degradable and compostable. I love that 25p per straw is also donated to local charities! Matt and I love to use these for homemade smoothies especially as they’re the perfect size.

*Use code GF10 for 10% off your first purchase at Stroodles*

Save electricity by turning off items you’re no longer using. Anyone else guilty of leaving lamps on when you pop out of the room? Or even the house? Yep, I was too! If you’re not using an appliance, switch it off at the wall, and only switch it back on when you’re going to use it. This is an easy one and something we should all be doing out of habit by now.

Sell and donate items that no longer benefit you. If we’re ever going to encourage others to purchase second hand, there has to be a continuous supply of goods to purchase. It’s important to pass on items that no longer have a purpose to us, a) to reduce the likelihood of becoming a hoarder and b) to encourage the cycle of donation/second hand shopping. Charity shops, eBay, car boot sales, Depop, Vestaire Collective etc are all great places to sell your unwanted items, and as the old saying goes, ‘one man’s tat is another man’s treasure’! Also, this is a great way to add extra pennies to your pocket.

Make use of technology. It’s one of those tasks you’ve probably been meaning to do for a long time, but change your mailing preferences once and it’s done forever. To reduce the amount of paper sent your way, opt out of any post unless it’s something you absolutely need (I can’t think of any instance of this, to be honest!), and instead direct everything to your email, or turn on notifications via the app.

Eat less red meat. Eating less red meat can be good for your body in lots of different ways, which you can read about here. Matt and I are big fans of #MeatlessMondays, and over the past few months I’ve generally eaten less meat each week. I feel better when I eat more vegetables, and I’m enjoying experimenting with different vegetarian and vegan foods. Matt and I love cooking, so changing up our diet has been fun and we’re finding out what works for us and what doesn’t.

Save up your plastic closures to recycle. Lush UK have an amazing recycling program where you can take in your plastic bottle tops, caps or lids, which they recycle and create more of their black pots. The pots are also recyclable; every time you return five pots you get a fresh face mask for free! (They’re the best face masks too, and made from all natural ingredients – I talk about my favourites in this post).

Grow your own herbs, instead of buying pre-packaged ones in store. I can’t wait for Matt and I to buy our future home for approximately 10,000 reasons, but this is one of the top ones! (He’s not as excited HAHA). Growing your own herbs ensures you know exactly where they’ve came from, you have much less wastage and they’re always to hand. They also would look so cute in adorable plant pots along your kitchen windowsill. This point could be applied to vegetables and fruit also if you have space to do so!

Recycle, recycle, recycle. Separate your household waste, recycle clothing that cannot be donated at clothing banks and recycle used beauty product packaging separately. L’Occitane are running a program with TerraCycle, ensuring those hard-to-recycle products are disposed of properly. They accept items from any brand, and there’s locations all over the UK – this is a fantastic initiative and I hope more brands develop a similar system. There is an incredible contact lens recycling program, also with TerraCycle, for any of us daily lens wearers. Of course a better alternative is to wear monthly lenses but they just don’t work for me, which annoys me so much. I also seen a recent campaign to recycle old mascara wands (washed in warm soapy water) to animal sanctuaries, so many across the UK are appealing for more, so be sure to get in touch with local sanctuaries to see if you can send yours their way.

Carpool when necessary, and drive less. The reality is it’s not feasible for many people to walk to work (it’s certainly not for me!) but little things like carpooling with your friends can make a huge difference. During the week, Matt and I always use both of our cars as we work in different directions, however during the evenings and on a weekend if he’s off work we only use one as we’re together anyway. Walking more, or taking up cycling is a great option if you live in a close proximity to work.

Buy zero waste beauty products where possible. It’s a little harder than it may seem, but it’s definitely do-able in time, and remember, every little thing helps. Lush have an amazing selection of zero waste products, their shampoo bars are incredible, in design and effectiveness. Buying re-usable ‘cotton pad’ alternatives is something that’s been on my mind for a while, I’m just unsure on how well they will work as I’ve seen very little people recommend them. Do you have any thoughts on this or have you tried them?

Thank you so much for reading! Did you find any of these tips helpful? I’d love to know any extra things you do to live more sustainably? Remember, the little things make a huge difference!

-G x

What’s The Deal With Fast Fashion?

Happy Wednesday, loves!

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week! This week Matt and I been cooking new recipes and spending our evening’s watching our new Netflix love, Inside The World’s Toughest Prisons. It’s such an interesting show, we’re genuinely shocked at 99% of each episode! I’m so excited for this weekend; Matt and I are spending it attending an NUFC game (our win yesterday made us very happy campers!), having dinner and drinks at our favourite restaurant in the city centre, and hopefully squeezing in a nice long walk down by the beach on Sunday! We’re hoping to KonMari our lives a little more too, it’s a never-ending task! Matt is at a work event on Sunday evening so I’m going to spend a few hours having a serious pamper night before I pick him up, I can’t wait! (Let’s hope the snow forecast is wrong… anyone else terrified at the thought of driving in it or getting stuck? Just me?!) What are you looking forward to this weekend?

*Vanilla chai lattes and vegan Biscoff donuts highly encouraged as the perfect snacks to get you through this post*

Please know I’m definitely not an expert on this topic, and I’m still learning every single day. This post is written based on opinion yet includes facts, all with good intentions, to inform and encourage people to research for themselves.

I have to begin this post by saying a huge thank you to Niomi Smart, Venetia Falconer, Stacey Dooley and Emma Hill for inspiring me to learn about fast fashion, and for setting an amazing example in their everyday lives. One of my favourite Instagram hashtags to search through is #OOOTD (Old Outfit Of The Day) which is something Venetia started to encourage people to shop their wardrobes, and to advocate slow fashion. I’ve shared an OOOTD in this post – Matt took this photo last weekend when we were on our way to brunch!

If you’re a regular reader here on my blog, you’ve definitely seen the words ‘fast fashion’ mentioned a fair few times in recent posts. Fast fashion is quite literal; it’s a term that means clothing pieces created – usually from Designer catwalk inspiration – to be made in large quantities, generally for very little money. On NYE I posted on my Instagram story that I was shopping my wardrobe not the high street for my outfit this year, and that’s a mindset I’m so happy to now have.

Fast fashion is all around us, and us millennials buy in our droves on a daily basis. We’re of course not the only ones to blame for the incredible rise in fast fashion brands’ popularity over the past few years, but we’re certainly not helping the situation. There has been a lot of controversy regarding fast fashion over the past year, which was only heightened by Stacey Dooley’s Fashion’s Dirty Secrets documentary that aired on BBC2 in September 2018. It’s currently unavailable on BBC iPlayer but if you can find it, it’s so worth a watch. As any regular readers will already know, I adore Stacey! She is brilliant at investigating varying topics around the world, and shedding light onto just how serious these topics are. I learned many things from the FDS documentary, and aside from the people directly affected by pollution one of the biggest shocks was that a whole sea in Kazakhstan has almost completely dried up due to the amount of waste produced by surrounding cotton mills. The documentary is eye opening and jaw dropping for us as consumers to watch, and I guarantee it will leave you shocked at your hand in this epidemic too.

So, what is the deal with fast fashion? Is epidemic too strong of a word? Why are we all boycotting it? Basically, it’s killing our planet. It has a detrimental affect on so many factors of life; human rights due to low wages and long hours, water systems due to dye being dumped into rivers and lakes, and the waste and pollution caused by it is getting larger by the day, among many other things. Not only is the process to make the clothes causing pollution on another scale, but the clothes are generally very cheaply made, and they don’t last very long, even if you take care of them. This means often once we are ‘finished’ with these clothing items, they are not able to be passed on – to friends, family or charity – and end up in landfill.

Many brands are now branching into sustainable materials and ethical trading, which includes being able to trace the origins of clothing items right back to where they first started. These companies ensure staff are paid fair wages, have better working conditions and are taking as many procedures as possible to reduce their pollution. Sounds like a great thing, right? Well it is, but those costs have to be passed onto the consumer, and the reality is for most of us we cannot afford to pay X amount of money for everyday items, such as a t-shirt. There’s a weird lull at the moment, in my opinion, as shops seem to be either steered towards fast fashion and the current trend(s) of the season with little to no care for the environment or it’s people, or they’re doing everything they can to be a more ethical brand, and therefore becoming slightly less accessible to customers with higher prices, and less stock available. 

I am a lover of retail therapy, an advocate even, so what am I supposed to do now shopping is considered ‘bad’ for the environment? Well, I can change the way I shop. I covered a lot of the reasons behind why I’m changing the way I shop in this post, but now I’m more determined than ever to be the change I want to see in the world. That’s how all of this starts, right? Some of these tips and ideas will possibly be repeated from previous posts, but they are so important, and if I can bring awareness to just one more person that makes me extremely happy. So, here’s a few things I’m doing, and you can do them too! This applies to all different budgets, and hey if you have the budget to shop only sustainable fashion brands, then more power to you! (And, are there any jobs going at your place?! HAHA).

#OOOTD (LOL posing for photos makes my toes curl, the only one I could include was one of me looking away from the camera, mid hair tuck!)

Donate and shop second hand. I’m very good at the donating part, but I’m yet to shop second hand. Buying from the likes of charity shops, eBay and Depop are a great start as you’re getting new (to you) clothing items at cheaper prices, and it prevents one more ‘new’ garment out finding it’s way out into the world. I sell mine and Matt’s unwanted/unused clothes on eBay fairly often, and since The Great Wardrobe Declutter of 2018 I’ve decluttered several more times. (Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show has encouraged Matt and I to re-assess not just our wardrobes but our whole lives LOL!) Another great alternative would be to gather a few friends and encourage them to go through their clothing, seeing what items they can pass on. Then, you could all get together and exchange a few pieces, giving them a new home and a whole new way to be worn. I’d love to do this!

Shop less, and always with a purpose. I’m embarrassed to admit I used to be that girl that bought a new outfit, or at least a new top, for every social occasion. I mean, I don’t go out that often, but I still purchased way more items than required for my lifestyle. I didn’t necessarily feel like I needed to for myself, but I did think other people would notice. The reality is nobody cares if you take photos wearing the same pieces, and my boyfriend certainly doesn’t take into account what top I’m wearing for date night! (Nine times out of ten he didn’t even know I was wearing a new top until I told him – “oh, but the black shirt you wore last time looks the same?”) Buying new clothes for each event you go to, whether it’s a wedding or a night down your local pub is unnecessary, and it can also be pretty hard on your bank account. Instead, I highly encourage you to buy (sometimes higher priced) sustainable clothing pieces that you can wear over and over again. The main aim of stopping fast fashion in it’s tracks is to simply buy less clothing, and love/wear what you have.

Buy items with minimal (or no) man-made fabric content. Have you ever been shopping and seen a fairly suspicious girl snooping through the rail of jumpers, reading the labels tucked inside? No? Well you haven’t seen me shopping! It may seem a little strange at first, but looking at clothing tags to see what an item is made of is so eye-opening, and I can guarantee you’ll be shocked at how many items are made out of 100% polyester. *More than 70 billion barrels of oil are used worldwide each year to manufacture polyester, which is then processed into low quality clothing items. Polyester clothing items are then not bio-degradable, and even washing these pieces causes huge pollution. It’s thought that items made with man-made fabrics, such as polyester and acrylic, are the biggest cause of microplastic pollution in our oceans today. That means it’s bigger than pollution caused by plastic bags, plastic packaging and plastic straws!
*Information from EcoCult – this article is a great read.

Aim to buy items of clothing that already go with items you own, and can be re-worn for years to come. I read (possibly in a magazine article, or another blog?) that we should be aiming to buy items we can wear at least thirty times, but I think we can do even better than that. Generally speaking we all have favourite items in our wardrobes – whether it’s a pair of jeans, a snuggly jumper or a silk slip dress – so we should be buying with intentions of working with what we already have. If you’re already shopping with a purpose like I mentioned above, this will begin to come naturally, and you start to keep yourself in check whilst you’re browsing the rails. Next time you feel the need to shop, I’d encourage you to analyse your wardrobe, and see what (if anything) you require to get more wear out of your favourite pieces. Everyone’s basics and essentials are different, so tailor this towards your own wardrobe and needs. Make time every now and then to try on different pieces together and create new outfits, I guarantee there are so many outfit options in your current wardrobe you’ve never even thought to put together before.

Take care of your clothing. Washing your clothes less frequently (especially anything made with man-made fabrics) reduces wastage going into oceans. I’m not saying you have to put the same stinky gym leggings on four days in a row, but hear me out. Lots of clothes do not require washing after just one wear; for example, jeans can be worn at least half a dozen times! This is something I have to admit was new to me last year, I would wear a t-shirt for an hour or so whilst doing our grocery shop, then put it straight into the laundry basket when I took it off. Being more eco-friendly does not compromise cleanliness! It’s also much more beneficial for the environment to hang your clothes (or lay flat) to dry, instead of using a tumble drier. I’d recommend investing in a cashmere comb – it may be the most boring yet best thing I’ve ever bought – as you can de-bobble your old jumpers in an instant. Fixing clothes that are damaged, eg sewing buttons back on or mending holes, is something I think we all need to be held more accountable for.

Research, research and research. Are you feeling intrigued and want to know more? To begin, I’d recommend reading articles, scouring Instagram, watching documentaries and looking at your own current habits. I unsubscribed from all fast fashion websites that were sending me daily emails, and I downloaded an app called Good On You, which has changed how I see brands! (It rates clothing and accessories companies on three areas – Labour, Environment and Animal. Matt and I check their information on brands whenever we’re shopping!) One thing that surprised me a little is that the more I’ve read, and the more people I’ve found who think similarly to me, my need for change has filtered through to beauty products and food. I’ve vowed to buy only makeup and skincare from cruelty-free brands moving forward, I’m beginning to explore natural and organic beauty products, and I’m enjoying experimenting with vegetarian/vegan food options more and more. I’m so excited to see where I can go on my journey to sustainability!

Thank you so much for reading, I’m so excited to hear your thoughts on this topic. Are you on your own journey to living more sustainably? Did you find this post helpful, or do you feel inspired to change? Who inspires you? I can’t wait to share some of my tips and opinions on being sustainable in all aspects of our lives over the next few weeks!

 -G x