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  • Anne-Marie Soulsby

Eco Challenge 2021 - One Environmental Change per Day

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

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Here is my list of actions I have taken to be more environmentally friendly:

1. Veganuary

Challenge: To have only plant based meals for the month of January.

Status: Completed.

Why? Adopting a vegan diet reduces your carbon footprint by 1152 kg.

Result: Going forward I will be adopting a flexitarian diet and stick to vegan main meals during the week, allowing wild game meat, white meats or fish on the weekend, and restricting beef to only twice a year.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Medium

Finances: Money saver - generally vegetables and plant based foods are cheaper than meat products.

2. Reduce: Cloud Data

Challenge: To delete unnecessary emails, videos, photos and documents stored on the cloud.

Status: Ongoing

Why? Our internet usage contributes 2% of all carbon emissions, deleting unnecessary cloud storage items will help to reduce this.

Result: I have cleaned up some emails and deleted my icloud storage, however there are still more files to delete!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy - the only issue is time otherwise its very easy to do.

Finances: This did not impact on my finances because I don't pay for storage.

3. Eco Air Freshener

Challenge: To replace a spray air freshener for bicarbonate of soda and essential oil in a bottle.

Status: Ongoing

Why? The original air freshener came in an aerosol package and didn't list the ingredients so wanted something more natural.

Result: It's not exactly working brilliantly, I might have to re-visit this one for another homemade option.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: As these were items already in the house, this was a money saver.

4. Plastic Free Soap

Challenge: To swap liquid soap in a dispenser for a plastic free, natural soap bar.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Single use plastic is not only a problem for marine life but it also contributes to global warming. Plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, from its production to its refining and the way it is managed as a waste product.

Result: I chose Olivia soap bar because it is 100% olive oil and comes in a cardboard box with no plastic. Washing with the soap bar is very nice!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy.

Finances: It is probably slightly more expensive at £2 a bar

5. Menstrual Cup

Challenge: To have plastic free periods by swapping tampons and sanitary pads for a silicone reusable cup.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Period products contribute a huge amount of waste when using traditional tampons and pads, especially plastic applicators.

Result: It is sometimes difficult to fit it every time and needs to be used in conjunction with some period pants just incase there is any leak. It means you are always "period ready" and are never going to run out of period products, which is great.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Medium.

Finances: There is an initial outlay of between £15-20 depending on which cup you choose, however this is repaid over time by not needing to buy period products.

6. Reduce: Toilet Paper

Challenge: To swap to 100% recycled, UK sourced, plastic free toilet paper.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Recycled toilet paper reduces the need for virgin trees to make the paper, uses paper that may otherwise go to landfill and also uses less water than making virgin paper.

Result: I chose Ecoleaf because the wrapper is compostable. The new rolls are working just fine!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: The cost is comparable to most toilet rolls so there wasn't much of a difference. Twelve rolls cost £5.63 plus delivery fee, whereas from the supermarket a leading brand cost £5 with the store loyalty card or £6.65 without, plus delivery fee.

7. Local Community Action Group

Challenge: To be an active member of a local group that champions sustainable changes for the community. I chose to join CAST Sustainable Communities group.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Although you can make lifestyle changes at home, there are other environmental changes that can be made at a larger level. It is also easier to do something when you are in a like minded team all working towards the same goals.

Result: I am an active member and have suggested quite a few ideas. We are moving forward to working with the local council and businesses on issues such as recyclable food packaging, a community wood, improved back lanes, litter picks, more rubbish bins, and a recycling hub.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: No expense required as the meetings are all online.

8. Minimalism - Only Essential Shopping Allowed

Challenge: To not buy anything outside of food and cleaning products.

Status: Ongoing.

Why?: Adopting a minimalist lifestyle is not only better for the environment, it is also great for your finances. Before buying anything the questions should be: Do I really need this? Will I use this? Can I afford this? Can I find it given away through a freecycle website or cheaper second hand? Can I find a more environmentally friendly option?

Result: In January I have only bought some clay and mini cookie cutters for my hobby. I did look to see if the cutters were available second hand first and they were not. They will be used a lot though! In February I have not bought anything non essential.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: Money saver!

9. Renew: Clothing

Challenge: To rescue a dress that has a grease stain which I think can be covered by dying the dress using a hand dye sachet.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Making an item of clothing is very bad for the environment. Fast fashion uses a lot of water and energy to make a garment, plus toxic chemicals are used to dye the items. We need to rescue clothes not wear once and send to landfill. It's a huge waste problem.

Result: I dyed the dress, which wasn't that difficult to do. The colour did disguise the stain to a degree, I will have to look at it again in bright sunshine to see if its sufficient.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This saved me money. The cost of the hand dye was very little, and definitely negated the need to buy a new dress.

10. Recycling: What to do with bamboo toothbrushes?

Challenge: To find the best option for used bamboo toothbrushes.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Toothbrushes are one of the most common items found in ocean trash, plus they are not even recyclable by the local authority. There is no point in switching to a more environmentally friendly product if it is going to go back into landfill.

Result: The toothbrush needs the plastic brush to be pulled out with pliers and the handle can be composted.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: No cost at all.

11. Recycling: Crisp Packets

Challenge: To find a way to recycle crisp packets, which are not recyclable through the local authority.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Crisp packets are very difficult to recycle, but the contents are nice! As they can't be recycled in the normal way they can be recycled through a company called Terracycle. However, this requires for them to be collected and dropped off at a recycling point.

Result: The crisp packets are currently being collected in a small cardboard box.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This doesn't cost anything other than a little space and perhaps a small transport cost when taking the packets to the central point. This will be in conjunction with another trip to reduce carbon emissions through multiple journeys.

12. Armchair Activism: Asking Food Suppliers to Change to Better Packaging

Challenge: To post a simple message on several company's social media pages saying that I love their products but hate their packaging and asking when they can make the changes.

Status: Ongoing

Why?: As a consumer you want to make the right choices. You can make choices by not buying the product, but that would also limit your foods significantly. I am already using a refill store to reduce packaging but that doesn't cover everything. However it is the manufacturer's responsibility to provide more environmentally friendly packaging. Food producers will not make changes towards better packaging unless they get pressure from consumers to make the changes.

Result: So far three large producers have indicated that they are working on these problems which is good, but not good enough. Unfortunately, local takeaway restaurants did not respond. I need to keep up the pressure!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy to do, hard to get a result.

Finances: This costs nothing but time and perseverance.

13. Reduce: Using Smarter Cooking Processes

Challenge: To have more raw food meals, and to use the microwave as the first cooking option, then slow cooker, then stove top and then the final choice being the oven.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Different cooking processes use more energy than others, plus electricity is available from renewable resources whilst gas is a fossil fuel. This makes a difference to carbon emissions.

Result: It doesn't take too much effort to just check if the food can be microwaved over other cooking methods. However, during the winter eating raw foods is harder and you want a warm meal. Plus if you are in a rush you can make a mistake and use more energy than intended. It's a habit change that requires a little bit of a process.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Medium.

Finances: This should save money as you are using less energy for cooking.

14. Reduce: Switch to Recycled Kitchen Roll

Challenge: To switch to recycled kitchen roll.

Status: Completed.

Why?: Recycled toilet paper reduces the need for virgin trees to make the paper, uses paper that may otherwise go to landfill and also uses less water than making virgin paper.

Result: I chose Ecoleaf because the wrapper is compostable. The new rolls are working just fine!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: The price of the recycled kitchen roll is comparable to non-recycled kitchen roll.

15. Buy Local Fruit and Veg

Challenge: To switch to a local fruit and veg box.

Status: Ongoing.

Why?: Eating local produce reduces the carbon footprint of food. Plus it often can reduce the amount of single use plastic compared to supermarket fruit and veg.

Result: So far I have tried to different fruit and veg boxes. Although there is significantly less plastic, there is still some. The box does push for a better diet, as I need to eat the fruits and veg before they go off so it is a great incentive.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy.

Finances: It is a little bit more expensive than shopping at the supermarket.

16: Food Waste: Composting

Challenge: To set up a composting system in a small urban house with only a little garden.

Status: Complete.

Why: Food waste in landfill causes harmful greenhouse gases. Composting is a more natural way for food waste to decompose. It apparently reduces the same amount of CO2 that you produce by using a kettle per year.

Result: This was much easier than expected. I bought a compost bag which is like a tote bag made from a tarp material. It isn't very big and sits just outside the back door. There's a small kitchen waste bin that collects the daily scraps and then every few days this gets transferred to the bag. The worms are added and then have a happy time eating the food waste. As a result, there is much less waste in the regular bin and lovely compost in the bag.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: It was very cheap: £12 for the bag and £6.50 for the worms.

17. Switch to no Plastic Tube Toothpaste

Action: Find and buy a toothpaste that doesn't come in a hard to recycle tube.

Status: Complete.

Why: Toothpaste tubes are one of the most common items that are not recyclable by the local council. Finding an alternative would reduce this difficult waste.

Result: I bought Ben and Anna's sensitive toothpaste. It comes in a nice glass jar with a wooden spatula to apply the paste to your brush. Works a treat and looks really stylish!

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This was quite expensive in comparison to regular toothpastes at around £9.

18. Switch to No Plastic Hair Conditioner

Action: To switch from hair conditioner in a plastic bottle to a more eco friendly option.

Status: Complete.

Why: Although hair conditioner can come in recycled bottles that can be recycled, reducing plastic production is better than recycling.

Result: I bought Friendly Soap Conditioner Bar in lavender and tea tree. Although it comes as a bar you can make it into a liquid by adding warm water. This made two bottles of conditioner and it is nice on my hair.

Easy, Medium or Hard: Easy

Finances: This worked out at slightly less than the average price of a conditioner because it made 500ml.