A beginner’s guide to an eco-friendly lifestyle: Did you know that 12-15 MILLION tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans every year killing millions of seabirds and 100,000 marine animals?
Or that Illegal fishing accounts for an estimated 11-26 million tons of the annual catch of fish globally?
These are some of the statistics shared by Sea Shepherd, the international conservation movement that recently debuted on Netflix’s compelling documentary – Seaspiracy.
I watched the documentary myself a few weeks ago, and I felt a wave of emotions throughout the documentary. From sadness to anger and frustration and everything in between. By no means would I consider myself an environmentalist. I eat meat and fish, I buy fast fashion and although I do basic recycling, I’m not very conscious about the huge amount of plastic I throw away, or what happens to it after the bin men have taken it away.
This documentary, and many others I have seen before it, did make me sit back and think about the damage that food and fast fashion is doing to our environment, and the poor animals that rely on it.
Therefore, I decided that for the first time, I would make a conscious effort to make sure I live my life in a much more sustainable fashion. Although, the question did remain, where do I start, and how far do I take this?
The answer for me, of course, was baby steps. Changing one’s entire lifestyle at the drop of a hat was way too much, too soon. However, I figured that by making some small changes here and there and by being more conscious of my shopping habits, over time those small changes would equal big results in terms of my impact on the planet.
My first change was cutting fish out of my diet. I’m not a huge fish lover anyway, so it didn’t mean a massive change for me. The only fish I was sad to see go was Tuna. One of my favourite go-to lunches is a baked potato with tuna and sweetcorn.
Luckily, I found a plant-based tuna alternative, which I never knew existed! The Good Catch, which can be found in Tesco supermarkets and retails for around £1.50 is a plant-based protein blend that looks and tastes just like the real thing. I was surprised at how good it was. The fishy taste comes from the Algae oil they use, not only does this add to the taste but it is also high in Omega oils, so a win-win. A swap I am more than happy to continue with.
As I began to explore other meat substitutions, I came across a fantastic chicken alternative, that I genuinely prefer to the real thing. The Heura range is a soy based alternative and is packed with flavour. The texture is on point and there’s no nasty chemicals involved. In fact, even the soy they use comes from crops that do not promote deforestation.
It’s not just meat substitutes that help save the planet. Rubies in the Rubble is a on a mission to save food waste, one condiment at a time. They make a range of condiments, (including the best tomato ketchup I have ever tasted, move over Heinz!) from surplus wonky veg, that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
The good news is that over a quarter of Brits are opting to follow a more sustainable diet, and the plant-based market is continuing to grow and innovate. But it doesn’t stop there.
It’s not just the food we eat that can make a difference, but I’ve learned that we can also be more mindful about what we use in the kitchen.
Amazon have a great range of plastic free dishwashing sponges and brushes which look more aesthetically pleasing than their plastic counterparts and tend to last a little longer too.
In terms of appliances, I recently needed a new kitchen scale. I was so happy to come across an eco-friendly version from the popular brand Salter. Made with an 86.3% bamboo construct, the scale itself contains only 2.5% plastic and includes a USB rechargeable battery. It’s great to see a big brand like Salter jump on the eco-friendly (electric) train.
Another great sustainable and eco-friendly alternative I found and now use daily is a bamboo charcoal water filter that is made from 100% bamboo charcoal to filter and provides great tasting water. Plus it’s fits perfectly in my fridge drawer!
It’s not just about what we eat and drink when we are in the home, there are plenty of ways we can do our part when we are out and about too. A fantastic brand I came across was a very unique Cornwall-based company called Circular&Co. They are the only company to launch a completely circular product in the form of a coffee cup, made entirely from single use paper cups. So, not only is their reusable cup recyclable, but it’s also actually made from already-recycled products to make it a completely circular system.
I am also a big fan of the reusable SHO water bottles and I love their new turtle designed bottle. They have also recently introduced a brand-new reusable food flask, which even comes with a fold out steel spork. Perfect for picnics, a working lunch or a days hike.
So far, all the changes I’ve made have been very minor. I’ve simply been more mindful of the products I’ve been purchasing, and I’ve tried to keep my plastic waste to a minimum.
Another area in my life I did want to tackle, but felt a little apprehensive of, is the bathroom. Shampoo and conditioner bars have been around for a long time, but I never really trusted they could do a good of a job as the liquid we are all so used to.
First, I tried out Gruum shampoo and conditioner bars. Packed with natural ingredients and filled with moisturising ingredients like coconut and shea butter my hair came out clean and not overly dry. They also have an incredible smelling body bar, derived from all-natural ingredients.
Gruum aren’t the only bars on the market, Ethique have a range of solid bars from haircare, skincare and even laundry and deodorants.
Honestly, overall, I think there is still a little work to be done on the conditioner bar front, it may just be the fact that my hair gets very dry, I am quite happy to use them in between days. However personally, I do still need a deep conditioning treatment, which unfortunately the bars just don’t quite do for me.
I did however have a lot more success with the skincare bars. I tried the Lamazuna make up removing bar along with their reusable cleansing wipes and I’m completely sold. My face felt deeply cleaned with all traces of make-up gone, plus the pads come in a lovely wooden box to keep them safe and in one place.
In the UK it is estimated that conventional disposable sanitary products, and their packaging, generate a mass 200,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year, based on a figure of 4.3 billion menstrual products used annually by Britons.
I found a unique brand called Modibodi who have developed an alternative to sanitary pads that is not just more comfortable than the disposable counterpart, but a lot more discreet. The growing range features a host of products and styles in a choice of colours, as well as a vegan range made from bamboo and spandex rather than wool.
With the average pad estimated to take up to 500 years to breakdown, it’s easy to see how numbers quickly stack up to cause a deluge of landfill waste, which has a huge impact on our planet. And it’s not just landfills issues, as disposable menstrual products increase each of our carbon footprints by 5.3KG annually, and for every 100m of beach cleared, more than 4 pieces of sanitary plastic is found.
One of my favourite brands I use to help ease my time of the month has also come up with a biodegradable helper. The Oh My Flo Wellness Tea (RRP £6.49) is an adaptogenic tea packed with herbs and botanicals. Perfect for when period cramps hit. Oh My Flo is environmentally friendly, with a recycled card box, 100% biodegradable tea bags and an insert that may look like plastic but it’s actually made from wood pulp!
Did you know that fast fashion produces over 92 million tonnes of waste a year? I didn’t!
First up I found a great little brand called Boody. They are a sustainable clothing line, made from organically grown bamboo that creates high quality loungewear. Think of them a bit like a sustainable SKIMS. I have an underwear set that is super comfortable and super flattering from Boody that I absolutely adore.
As the gyms have now reopened and the weather is finally beginning to brighten up, I was lucky enough to get my hands on the new range of shorts from TALA. TALA is a great activewear brand that boasts slow, sustainable style. The quality is far better than any activewear brand on the high street, and the prices are super reasonable too.
There are many other sustainable fashion brands that don’t cost the earth, so when you are shopping for your next outfit, it’s worth spending an extra few minutes researching the ethos of the brands you are wanting to buy from. Or better yet, choosing to shop from quality slow fashion brands as ultimately, they are much better quality and the clothes will last a lot longer.
Overall, I’m still not the eco-warrior I hope to be, I have changed my mindset and I feel as though as a consumer I am making more informed decisions about where and what I buy.
Ultimately whilst none of these changes are drastic, they as come as a result of a moving documentary, which I urge you all to watch. If we can all be inspired to do a little bit, a little will go a long way.