I recently turned 27 and I can’t quite believe it. What a dynamic, turbulent, eclectic 27 years it has been on this earth thus far…

I thought in celebration of my aging (and impending wisdom that I swear should be appearing on the horizon sometime soon) I’d share with you 27 things I do to try not to be a douche bag to our planet. There might be something in there that you haven’t thought of before, so without further ado:

  1. Switch to natural cleaning products. The amount of carcinogens and endocrine disruptors in modern-day chemical-laden household cleaning products is not even worth looking at. Opt for environmentally-friendly store-bought blends, or DIY your own with ingredients like baking soda, and apple cider vinegar. You’d be amazed how well these two work on pretty much everything in your life.
  2. Use bamboo toothbrushes. I change my toothbrush every couple months. That’s approximately 6 x a year. That’s a lot of toothbrushes headed straight to landfill if I were to still be using traditional plastic ones! I am in love with bamboo toothbrushes because they clean just as well and can be composted when they come to the end of their life. Totally biodegradable, no microplastics in sight and my dentist says my teeth are shit hot so, I’m happy (BTW that’s 4 years of using these bad boys that I’ve got under my belt, so I’m fairly confident they do the job just fine).
  3. Support slow fashion. The fast fashion industry is one of the most polluting on our planet. By switching to buying only second hand or ethical brands, you are choosing sustainability over wasteful and mindless consumerism.
  4. Opt for organic. Wherever possible in my life, I now choose organic over pesticide-laden. Whether it’s the food I eat, the skincare I use, the clothes I wear or whatever else. While it isn’t always possible, I try to buy organic versions to look after my health and the environment.
  5. Use mesh bags or food wraps. The number of times that little plastic baggies are used for carrying snacks, purchasing loose produce from the grocery store or pastries from a coffee shop is staggering. I keep a spare mesh bag or two in all the places I might need one and use again and again.
  6. Prepare real food. There is nothing worse for an aspiring zero-waster than being hangry, realising you have to purchase something wrapped in single-use plastic and then beating yourself up about it. Be sensible and prep food beforehand (carrying around snacks in one of your mesh bags!) and avoid this happening to you again.
  7. Do less laundry. You’d be amazed at how many wears you can get out of clothes if you simply air them out between wears. Don’t worry, I’m not encouraging you to wear your undies more than once between washes, but for many items, this works a treat.
  8. Use bulk bins. For nuts, grains, pulses and seeds, find a local bulk bin store (take your mesh bags with you!) and load up to avoid plastic packaging.
  9. Purchase a safety razor. These things look terrifying, but as soon as you use one, you realise that they aren’t at all. Purchase one that’s well-made with a long handle, a heavy weight and good grip and it will last you a lifetime. All you need to do is change the inner stainless steel blades (which can be purchased wrapped in recyclable paper!) and be sure to lather up first with lots of soap.
  10. Support innovative textiles. I love a good vintage leather bag, but at the end of the day it is still leather and if someone sees it and wants something similar, they’re likely to buy a new leather version, thus keeping the demand there for these goods. Support alternatives like piñatex, cork or mushroom leather where you can, to show others that there are sustainable alternatives.
  11. Learn about the Venus Project. An incredible resource-based economy model created by the late architect, Jacque Fresco, The Venus Project is an incredible insight into how our economy could operate free of the limitations of capitalism.
  12. Cycle or walk. I know it isn’t always possible with the circumstances you find yourself in (hence why we desperately need electric, self-driving cars already!) but cycle or walk wherever possible. It’s better for your health and the planet’s.
  13. Choose vegan. The animal agriculture industry is incredibly wasteful from an energy point of view, but also a place of great cruelty. Have a watch of Cowspiracy, What The Health, Forks Over Knives or In Defense Of Food for food for thought (see what I did there?)
  14. Use reusable cloths. While there are some great brands of paper towel like EcoLeaf who use 100% recycled paper, 100% renewable energy and 100% biodegradable packaging, consider cutting up old towels, t-shirts and other textiles and using to mop up spills, clean surfaces etc. Simply toss into the washing machine after use and they’ll last you years to come.
  15. Use reusable cotton rounds. These can be bought in some larger healthy living stores or purchased online. Ideal for removing makeup, cleansing, removing nail polish. Use, wash, reuse.
  16. Paper cotton buds. Most cotton buds have a plastic stem that runs down the middle. Yuck! If you feel cotton buds are absolutely essential to your routine, opt for completely biodegradable ones.
  17. Change your gift-giving. Unless you know that special person is in desperate need of (fill in the blank), give them something edible, drinkable, or experiential instead and watch them beam!
  18. Learn about minimalism. And the joy and liberation it can give you in your life. As well as the psychological benefits, it’s environmentally-friendly because it places emphasis on less, not more.
  19. Upcycling for your home. If you’re in need of furniture or decorations, consider recycled materials and get creative! No one likes a show-home. Make your space unique and truly reflective of you as an individual. Use recycled wood to save demand on tree-felling and recycled scrap metal to add a modern, industrial aesthetic.
  20. Grow your own veggies. Even in the tiniest of apartments you can find a windowsill to grow some herbs. Plant, nurture and watch flourish. It’s good for your mental health, diet and wallet.
  21. Support vegan & cruelty-free cosmetics. Unfortunately, many cosmetic brands are tested on animals in some parts of the world. Choose a kinder option for your moisturiser or mascara by using the guidance that can be found here.
  22. Sustainable holiday decor. There’s a lot of pressure to fill your home with an array of trinkets for each and every holiday occasion. From Halloween to Christmas, the shops are filled with aisle upon aisle of cheaply-manufactured, plastic-based rubbish. Get in the spirit by focussing on seasonally-appropriate plants and flowers, foods, scents and music rather than a bunch of ‘stuff’ that you have to find place to store for the majority of the year.
  23. Support plant-based candles. Most candles are made of paraffin wax which is derived from crude oil (the same stuff that makes our petroleum fuel). Instead of burning that and contaminating your home, opt for candles made of sustainable beeswax (if non-vegan), soy, flax, or other plant oils for cleaner burning.
  24. Have a zero waste period. Ladies – forget tampons and nasty plastic sanitary pads. Have a read of my post here all about how to have a cleaner period without any throwaway items.
  25. Use bamboo water filtration. Forget plastic cartridges. Try charcoal water filtration for a completely biodegradable, waste-free way to purify your water.
  26. Say no to hormonal birth control. A recent gripe of mine, but consider the Fertility Awareness Method instead of your current hormonal birth control. Resources to look into here.
  27. Item swaps. Whether it’s amongst colleagues or friends, swap books, clothes and other unwanted items to cut down on waste and save you money.

The amount of microplastics that we are releasing into our waterways each year is truly terrifying. I mean, it’s at the point now where we may as well call this planet ‘Plastic’ rather than ‘Earth’. Dreadful, I know.

Kynance Cove

A main culprit is clothing made of synthetic fabrics. Nylon, polyester, and acrylic are in so many of our clothes and they shed tiny microplastic fibres in the washing machine when on a cycle. Hundreds of thousands of them – microscopic in size – make their way into our water supply. Did you know that 72% of UK tap water now has microplastics in it? The percentage is even more alarming stateside, with 94.4% of tap water contaminated across the pond.

So while you might be making steps towards consuming less plastic packaging (which, don’t get me wrong, is fecking awesome), the very garments you’re living your ‘aspiring zero-waste’ life in might be undoing all your hard work.

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you care about making the world better in more ways than one. So, as well as reducing your plastic consumption, you likely also support renewable energy, fair trade and the slow fashion movement amongst other things. You just want to be a good human, in other words.

If there’s one change I could encourage you to make, it would be to only introduce natural fibres into your life from now on. When the time comes to purchase a new garment or textile in the form of a towel, cleaning cloth or bedding, consider something made of biodegradable materials.

It can be really confusing when you see things like ‘recycled plastic’ on the label. Whether it be plastic bottles recycled into a fleece jacket or into a kitchen sponge. On the one hand, it’s commendable that a company has taken a waste product and created something out of it. However, whether it’s new plastic, or recycled, if it’s going to be washed, it’s going to pollute our seas. That’s the simple truth of it. Until someone invents a ridiculously fine mesh filter and fits all washing machines with it, our synthetic fibres are doing no good. Therefore, might I suggest that when the time comes, you look at something, well, better?

Sustainable textiles brands are already limited, so to throw this into the mix as well I realise is frustrating. However, the more it becomes common knowledge of this way that we’re polluting our water with clothing, the more brands are likely to jump on the bandwagon and support the natural fibre movement.

Support cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp, silk, wool, rayon, jute, ramie, lyocell and tencel. And a nifty little one to introduce into your kitchen and bathroom cleaning stash is a luffa – totally compostable scrubby vegetable fibres. Scrub away, and when it’s knackered, compost it and get a new one. Forget all these synthetic cleaning cloths and scourers – opt for natural instead.

 

 

 

 

Photos: Sphynx

These past few weeks have been a rollercoaster. In a good way. I’ve been touring Ireland with my family and it has been utterly incredible.

Cliffs of Moher

But I’m currently on a zero-waste journey and so being out of my natural habitat was a challenge when it came to regulating my plastic consumption. At home, I believe we can all quite easily take leaps and bounds towards living with less waste. Or rather, consuming less waste, I should say. But that’s because we’ve learned how to do exactly that. We know where to go, what to do, and essentially which resources to use in our area. It’s the element of familiarity. It’s not always so easy when you’re out of town.

Travel is a sure-fire way to put you out of your comfort zone and force you to be present. The environment is new; the flavours, the smells, the dynamics and the language. You’ve got to stay focused in order to be able to navigate your way from A to B and digest those experiences you are encountering. So in that respect, being out of your comfort zone is incredibly satisfying. It’s also a potent way to grow and develop yourself.

But then, on the other hand it’s really difficult traveling if you’re trying to maintain a particular kind of lifestyle. For me, that’s vegan & low waste. I am always hesitant to say I live zero waste because in truth I don’t. I’m not sure that any of us actually do. But I am fully determined with every ounce of flesh and bone in my body to reduce my footprint on this planet. Every day is a new challenge and there are obstacles aplenty. But I want to know that when I leave this Earth, I’ll have made my very best efforts to have not left it worse off.

Plastic waste is the one. The baddie. Not so much the recyclables (although let’s be honest – they’re pretty ugly and horrid) but really the single-use stuff. The non-recyclable packaging that will go straight to landfill. That stuff is the bane of my life. And well, the whole planet really. And it’s everywhere I look: in every person’s hand and every supermarket shelf. It feels like all the odds are stacked against me, but by hook or by crook I’ll be damned if I give up the fight to live in a way that means I’m not having to consume it.

I’ve modified my lifestyle and consumption habits so that I’m using biodegradable or packaging-free alternatives to commonplace items. I’m still very much on a journey and learning of new solutions every day, but I’m trying. After doing my research and familiarising myself with where I can go for bulk bins, loose produce, raw materials for DIY cosmetics etc. I’d say that I’m bossing Bristol pretty well. But throw travel into the mix and it’s a bit of deer in headlights action. It’s also incredibly difficult when you throw family into the mix, or a group of friends who all have different priorities. You can love them to the moon and back, but still not see eye-to-eye on fundamental things.

So with this trip around Ireland (and our first family vacation in 2 years), there were definitely times when I had to refrain from getting angry about the consumption habits of my family. I didn’t want to rock the boat too much; after all, we were there to enjoy ourselves. However, there are some knacks to keeping the sea smooth while still living in alignment with your values. If you’re an aspiring zero-waster, these might just help you too.

  1. Do your research & offer to do the buying. It’s not that your family and friends don’t care about your values; it’s just that they have other priorities and unfortunately don’t understand the pressing desperation that some of us feel to not leave behind a large plastic footprint. To avoid confrontation and any defensiveness, it’s a good idea to offer to be in charge of the food shopping while you’re away. Ask them beforehand to put the money into a kitty if they’re happy to do so and let them know that you’re very happy to do the shopping. Chances are, they’ll be relieved that they don’t have to think about doing any grocery-shopping while on vacation and instead sit back and relax. You’ll have saved yourself the stress of a mountain of plastic packaging in the process.
  2. Prepare snacks for the day. If you get hangry anything like I do, then you’ll know that it’s not a pretty sight or any fun to be around in the slightest. Avoid stressful situations of feeling starved to death but having the inner turmoil of not wanting to consume plastic packaging by making sure to have a stash of loose fruit and nuts to keep you going until you can find a café or restaurant for something more substantial.
  3. Take produce bags with you. In some countries, supermarket produce must be put in plastic bags and priced before paying. Avoid this by being sure to have your trusty cloth bags in tow.
  4. Have your zero-waste essentials kit on you at all times. This is part of the daily life as a zero-waster, but when traveling be sure to have a reusable bottle, cup, tupperware, silverware and a stainless steel straw (if you can’t be without one when consuming your beverage of choice). This way, your family and friends can do their thing, but at least you know that you’re prepared. You might even spark some curiosity when they see your swanky little kit and see how easy it is to package take-away options.

For more zero waste tips, check out one of my latest on Peaceful Dumpling: Still Think Zero Waste Is Hard? 6 Easy Steps To Make It Work For Your Life

Are you passionate about low-waste living? What are your tips for making it work when you’ve got company?

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Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse

I’ve kind of reached this point now, where if there’s a beauty product that I can DIY, I will. It almost always costs less money and it means I know exactly what’s in it. Therefore, I’m not buying ‘filler’ ingredients. It’s pretty much the same principle as cooking with whole foods. If you prepare a meal made from identifiable fruits, vegetables, grains and pulses, you know what’s in it. This is contrast to a processed alternative.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are so many incredible brands out there producing high quality, beautiful products. And many of these I like to indulge in. But for something that’s needed in bulk, such as body lotion, deoderant, shampoo or conditioner, I choose to save my money. I’d much rather splurge on facial products or cosmetics where you really do get more for your money when it comes to the ingredients used. And these products use ingredients that I don’t have at home in my DIY stash and wouldn’t invest in.

Today’s recipe is nothing revolutionary, but it works for me and I know it can work for you too. It’s an apple cider vinegar conditioning rinse and this is how we do.

Yes, you’re going to be spraying vinegar on your hair. If this seems utterly ludicrous to you, let me shed some light. The pH of our skin and hair is about 5.5. Anything below 7 is acidic. Apple cider vinegar is acidic of course due to its acetic acid content. It has a long history of treating all sorts of skin ailments with its antimicrobial properties. It’s also clarifying, so that means it’ll help with any build-up that’s clogging your cuticles from hard water. This in turn will add volume. Think about it. If your hair isn’t weighed down with build-up, it’s free to bounce around in the breeze. This is what the vinegar rinse will do. It also adds shine and detangles.

What you’ll need:

  1. Spray bottle approx 250ml in size (I opt for a stainless steel bottle)
  2. 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  3. Filtered Water
  4. Essential oil of choice (I opt for lavender)
  5. Funnel

Here’s how we do it:

  1. Begin by adding your vinegar to the bottle via the help of a funnel
  2. Add water to just shy of the top of the bottle
  3. Add about 4 drops of your essential oil
  4. Replace lid, gently invert to mix, voila!

How to use it:

  1. After you’ve shampooed your hair, rinse and sqeeze out excess water
  2. Liberally spray the rinse and allow to do its thing for as long as you can (at least a couple minutes)
  3. Rinse with cold water. I know, this part sounds awful, but the cold water will help to seal your hairs’ culticles, thus making your hair less at risk of breaking and much shinier! It helps to flip your hair upside down and only rinse what needs rinsing. Don’t let that shit freeze your spine!

The mix will last anything from a couple weeks to a couple months. It all depends on how frequently you wash your hair and how much hair you have! Don’t worry about it spoiling for a few months though. This also works really well as a treatment if you prefer using more conventional conditioners. Use as an intermediate step between shampooing and conditioning to remove the build-up and strengthen the hair. Then, rinse and go in with your regular conditioner.

Apple Cider Vinegar
apple cider vinegarlavender essential oilHave you ever messed around with DIY hair recipes? If so, let me know what you recommend!

 

 

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Essential Oils

I think back to the time before I used essential oils and I am truly horrified. OK, perhaps that’s a smidge farfetched, but what I mean is that they are such an integral part of my wellness routine these days that I can’t imagine not having them in my life now. They are natural, versatile and enjoyable gifts from nature. Plus, there are so many to experiment with. Effects range from uplifting to soothing to relaxing to, ahem, sensual and if you study your oils, you’ll soon get to know the best combination for whatever ailment or requirement you have. Failing that, let your nose guide you. It seems to know what’s needed, somehow. Call it intuition or simply nasal mystery. Yes, I’m making that a thing.

Essential oils are derived from aromatic plants found across the globe. They may be harvested from the flowers, leaves, roots, woods, seeds or fruits. Extraction occurs through steam distillation, pressing or by solvent extraction. While there are many ways to use essential oils, it is worth knowing that they are not water-soluble, but can be readily carried in a base oil. Base oils are the thicker oils used for massage and typically include coconut, avocado, almond, jojoba and the like.

So how do they work? When inhaled, essential oil aromas trigger the nerves in our noses and give direct feedback to the brain. This is why they are able to make us feel certain things, such as relaxed, soothed, uplifted etc. But their benefits stretch further than this. Essential oils have good skin penetration and can heal damaged cells, increase cell turnover and make our skin more elastic. They can cleanse and detoxify us and aid in the healing of conditions such as eczema, acne, dehydration and psoriasis. But in addition to all this, they are excellent for their antimicrobial capabilities, making them an integral part of any skincare formulation.

Essential Oil Beauty

The Oils

So, let’s break it down. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but here are some oils and what they can do for you:

Anise – Used in massage, can help indigestion & colic

Basil – Vapourised or used in a chest rub recipe, helps with sinus congestion and asthma. Emotionally, it clears the head, strengthens memory and increases alertness (use if you’re studying for an exam!)

Bay – Massage onto the scalp to clear dandruff

Benzoin – Vapourised or used in a chest rub, helps to expel mucus and calm chesty coughs

Bergamot – Emotionally uplifting and calming. Used in lotion recipes, great at healing acne breakouts. It can also be applied neat to treat cold sores.

Black Pepper – Massage for increasing circulation and soothing achey muscles (post-workout essential)

Cajeput – Inhale to relieve congestion, or vapourise to keep insects at bay.

Cardamom – Massage for helping with indigestion, bloating and heartburn

Chamomile Roman – Use in a DIY cream for soothing irritated, sensitive and dry skin. It’s great for soothing wounds and sores too. A relaxing aroma, it’s can also relieve depression and tension.

Carrot Seed – Use in creams to restore elasticity to aging skin (hello DIY gift for mama!)

Cedarwood – Another scalp-massage soother for clearing dandruff and relieving itching

Celery – Massage for helping with high blood pressure and relieving arthritis

Cinnamon – Vapourise for healing cold and flu symptons, and massage for cramps

Citronella – Excellent antifungal and deoderant for topical skin conditions. It’s also well-known for keeping insects as bay during the warmer months. Dilute in a water spray and use as required.

Clary Sage – Massage for deep relaxation and vapourise for relieving anxiety and tension.

Cypress – Use in DIY deoderants or body sprays to help with excess perspiration. Emotionally, it is soothing in times of change or grief.

Eucalyptus – Vapourise for a decongestant aid, as well as chest and throat infections

Fennel – Massage for body detoxification

Frankincense – Vapourise for asthma relief, or massage into the skin for anti-aging properties

Geranium – Use in a massage formula or cream to treat menopausal inconveniences like hot flushes. It is also a great emotional aid for depression and anxiety.

Ginger – Ideal for travel and morning sickness when inhaled, it can also be used as a massage aid for increasing blood flow.

Grapefruit – Vapourise or add to a bath for uplifting and mood-boosting benefits. Or, massage to relieve water retention.

Hyssop – Vapourise prior to meditation to clear the mind, or inhale to relieve cough and bronchitis

Jasmine – Heady and exotic and slightly sedative, it can aid sleep when vapourised or massaged and also promotes skin elasticity.

Juniper – Massage to treat UTIs and kidney inflammation

Lavender – Massage or vapourise to calm the nervous system and aid a good night’s sleep. It can also be applied neat for any kind of skin inflammation, burns, scars or insect bites

Lemon – Use in DIY beauty to brighten the complexion and mood

Lemongrass – Use in DIY deoderants and vapourise in your home to clear out unpleasant cooking odours

Lime – Vapourise or use in the bath to uplift the mood and kick depression in the booty

Mandarin – Use in DIY body products to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy. Also known for soothing and calming, so great massaged or used in the bath.

Marjoram – Massage into tired or stiff muscles

Melissa – Vapourise to settle panic attacks and hyperanxiety

Myrrh – Use in a DIY cream to speed up the healing process or wounds and reduce inflammation

Neroli – Use in DIY beauty to stimulate the production of new cells and improve skin elasticity. It’s also great vapourised to calm the mind and relieve insomnia

Nutmeg – Massage to help with rheumatic pain, or vapourise to boost the immune system during the winter months

Orange – Bright and cheery to help combat depression, or massage to relieve constipation

Palmarosa – Massage into stiff muscles, or use in DIY beauty to promote sebum production in dry skin

Palo Santo – This holy wood essence is the perfect meditation aid, while also serving to relieve stomach aches and stress

Patchouli – Vapourise for calming the nervous system

Peppermint – Vapourise for helping with indigestion, bloating, nausea and stomach aches. Use in a DIY cream for skin irritation, itching and rashes.

Petitgrain – Use in DIY beauty for breakouts, or in the bath to calm nerves

Pine – Inhale to help with colds, catarrh and sore throats

Rose Absolute – Use in DIY beauty for skin rejuvenating and regenerating properties. Vapourise to aid sleep.

Rosemary – Use in DIY hair products to promote hair growth and tackle greasy hair and scalp. Massage to soothe over-worked muscles.

Rosewood – Vapourise for headaches and nausea, or use in the bath to calm without causing drowsiness (good to use prior to a big event)

Sage Dalmatian – Inhale to help with coughs and colds, or massage to help over-worked muscles.

Sandalwood – Massage or use in the bath to calm and comfort, or use in DIY beauty to help dry and dehydrated skin.

Tea Trea – Can be used neat on skin to antibacterialise wounds. It’s also great on veruccas and cold sores. Use in DIY cleaning products for antimicrobial properties

Vetivert – Use in DIY beauty to strengthen mature skin and promote new cell growth. Also vapourise to relax and settle the nervous system.

Ylang Ylang – Use in DIY beauty on oily skin, or massage for tranquility

Essential Oil Burner

How to Use Them

So, you’ve had a read of the list and you want to give some of these a go? Here’s how to use them in various ways:

  1. Bathing – Run a hot bath and add about 7-10 drops of the oil of choice. This could be 7-10 drops of one oil, or halve the quantity of 2 oils etc.
  2. Vapourisation – Add 10-12 drops of your oil(s) to an essential oil burner, ensuring water levels are always topped up. This is a great way to alter the ambient mood, serve as an air freshener or keep insects at bay.
  3. Inhalation – Add 4-5 drops of oil to almost boiling water, lean over the bowl and cover head with a towel. Keep eyes closed and breathe deeply for about 5-10 mins.
  4. Massage – Blend oil(s) into a carrier base at a concentration of about 2%
  5. DIY beauty – Blend oil(s) into a carrier base at a concentration of about 1%

Essential oils can be found in most health stores. Some great brands include Miaroma (Holland & Barrett), Tisserand, Fushi, Natural By Nature and Neal’s Yard.

Which essential oils are you using at the moment?

Photos via Sphynx & Unsplash

 

 

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