Our impact on the environment is considered in all we do, and we are proud to sport a green ethos alongside our green vans and uniform. Over the past year, we have seen the world stand up and demand that governments and citizens alike make changes to ensure our planet is preserved. However – as anyone trying to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle will know – change is hard. Our world is driven by convenience and our life choices are often limited as a reflection of that. ‘Buy loose fruit and veg!’ is all very well on paper, but if your local supermarket only stocks pre-packaged items, and you work during the week when the nearest market is on, your hands are metaphorically tied with a plastic shackle.
It not all doom and gloom. It is becoming more widely recognised that we do not need a few people ‘living green perfectly’. We need millions doing it imperfectly. Small changes that build up over time can have a lasting impact. In today’s blog post, we look at our first three steps that anyone can take to start their own eco-friendly journey.
1. 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The phrase is probably the oldest one in the book, but it still stands true. Before you skip ahead to number 2, we delve deeper into this alliterative phrase in ways you may not have thought of.
Plastic reduction is hitting the headlines for our produce, and many of us now stop to think twice before buying plastic-wrapped food items. However, the bathroom is another huge source of plastic packaging – and according to Tap Warehouse, 90% of people recycle in the kitchen but only 50% recycle in the bathroom. Items such as toothpaste, shampoo bottles, and even make-up wipes are made up of (or contain) plastic – and often these items cannot be recycled.
Bamboo or organic cotton make-up pads are a reusable alternative to wipes. Throw them in the laundry basket in a zipped mesh bag and use them time and time again. Consider moving to a shampoo bar, rather than a bottle. If this doesn’t work for you, try to buy shampoo in bottles that are clearly labelled as recyclable and are easy to clean out when empty. Invest in a reusable, washable alternative to a plastic-stemmed cotton bud, or choose buds with bamboo sticks instead, which can be composted with your food waste. Opt for a natural floss, which can also be added to your compost bin.
Interestingly, plastic-free products are often formulated with less chemicals too, which means less toxins entering the water system to be ingested by aquatic life. Double win!
The second R is all about reuse, and particularly for those interested in gardening, there are very few single-use plastics that really need to be used only once. Yoghurt pots and butter tubs make great plant pots for little seedlings, and small bottles can be used as cane toppers. Larger bottles can be cut in half to use as cloches over tender plants in the colder months, and other containers can be cut into strips and used as plant markers rather than buying purpose-made tags.
If plastic packaging cannot be avoided or reused – and sometimes it can’t – effective recycling is essential, which leads us to our third R. This means more than just putting it in the right bin. Many people are unaware of the impact of ‘contaminated’ recycling. Last year over 500,000 tonnes of recycling had to be dumped in landfill due to the recyclable items containing food residue, unrecyclable packaging or lids. It is worth taking that little bit of extra time to figure out if the item is ready to be recycled to make sure your waste is not contributing to this.
We are proud to stock many plastic-free, natural products in our shop and are looking to expand our range all the time.
Leo Buscaglia sagely advises that ‘Change is the end result of all true learning.’
A huge step to becoming more eco-friendly is to expand your knowledge and understanding of the issue. For every six lifestyle changes that are not possible to undertake in your own, personal circumstances, there will be one that you are able to adopt. The more awareness around the cumulative effects of small changes, the more likely it is that people will make them – adding up to a much larger impact overall.
Changes to everyday life can be made in all areas of the home. Taking slightly shorter showers, unplugging electrics when they are not being used, turning off lights when not needed, switching the washing machine temperature down to 20°C or 30°C and airdrying laundry rather than using a tumble drier all add up over time – and will also reduce your bills as an added benefit!
Keeping a plant nursery of 40,000 specimens watered and thriving would not normally be possible for anyone looking to conserve water. However, in 2007, we installed a 6,500m3 reservoir at the south-east corner of our site. This reservoir collects rainwater and runoff from our buildings and carparks, and this means that we are able to water our whole nursery without tapping into the mains.
A little rainwater harvesting is possible in the garden, without the need to excavate 6,500m3! Even placing a few buckets out on a rainy day will collect some useable water, which will reduce the amount you need to draw from the mains next time you water the plants. If you move over to completely natural bath products, you can reuse the water from baths or showers too.
3. Buy better
Becoming more eco-friendly can be as easy as asking yourself if there is a better alternative when you buy a new product. Over the past few years, more and more products have been developed with better environmental credentials, packaging and ingredients. From low wattage lighting (designed to reduce energy usage over incandescent or CFL bulbs) to loo roll made from recycled paper, many of our everyday items now have a better, greener alternative. Labelling is becoming clearer too, with so-called “eco-labels” starting to appear in support of various good causes. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified items identify products made with materials from well-managed forests, and / or recycled sources. The Fairtrade logo ensures that farmers are paid a fair and sustainable price for their products. These are just some of the 88 eco-labels making a difference – look out for them when you next go shopping!
Our next blog will follow on next Friday with steps 4, 5 and 6.