With thanks to the glorious Eco Warrior Princess for the bedrock of what’s below and the inspiration to share it, here is a simple list of the sort of positive choices you can make every day. There are (around about) 100 ideas here and they’re all good food for thought. I confess that I can’t manage all of these things, but each one is a step in the right direction, and it’s always good to have something to aim for!
1. Every purchase you make is a vote for the world you want. If you buy crappy food, you are telling Crappy Food Inc to make more, the crappier the better. If you buy local organic, you are sending a message that you care about the way your food is produced
3. Think about the messages behind the advertising and ask yourself if you buy into the value system they are advocating (eg I have to look a certain way, I have to own a certain thing).
4. The food industry is geared around providing choice and convenience as cheaply as possible. Only you can decide how much these things are important to you.
5. A lot of personal care products are completely unnecessary, read the labels and understand the ingredients and processes used to make them.
6. Don’t ask why is natural food so expensive, ask why is processed food so cheap.
7. Consider living like your grandparents (do you remember those jars of string, home baking, home grown veggies, the mending pile?).
8. Feel good about the choices you make – they are how you express yourself.
9. Eat the very best, least processed and freshest food you can afford
10. Avoid all GMO products and food likely to contain them – particularly be careful of products that contain corn syrup, soy products, beet sugar. Here is a useful list of the most GMO loaded brands.
11. Think carefully before buying any drink which comes in a can, plastic bottle or tetra-pack. 10 to 1 it is over-processed, contains GMO ingredients, far too much sugar, and/or chemical additives and you don’t need any of that. And the packaging is wasteful and potentially harmful (NB the BPA in plastics is a hormone disruptor and likely contributor to a number of hormone related cancers including breast, prostate, and uterine).
12. Take reusable shopping bags when you go shopping.
13. Shop local wherever possible.
15. Cut down on processed dairy products. The production process is harmful to the environment, the packaging is excessive and often potentially dangerous (eg cling film on cheese.)
16. Cut down your meat consumption. Meat production is increasingly regarded as a major source of climate change and industrialised farming practices are cruel.
17. If you do opt for meat, go for grass fed, free-range and organic. This low density method of farming is far less harmful to you and to the planet as a whole.
18. When eating seafood, eat as low down the food chain as possible as heavy metals concentrate as you go up.
19. Wash your fruit and veg in vinegar solution before eating to remove any chemical residues and wax.
20. Avoid purchasing products/brands that individually wrap and use excessive packaging.
21. Research the brands you buy regularly and understand their policies on labour and the environment (NB John West, most prawn products and most things that come from China need some careful consideration).
22. Buy items in bulk to avoid package waste.
23. Do your research and opt for eco-friendly options that have been externally accredited such as certified organic.
24. Bring your own food containers when going to the deli or market so you can avoid disposable plastic.
25. Avoid anything in plastic cling wrap and opt for storing food in reusable glass containers.
26. Fast food is not really food at all, eat out as little as possible and cook at home whenever you can.
27. Avoid buying stuff you don’t really need. I use the ‘Airport Index’ ie if it’s the sort of thing you can buy in Duty Free (make-up, handbags, sweets, more make-up, luxury tat) chances are you don’t really need it.
28. Familiarisie yourself with the Higg Index.
29. Do your research and seek out retailers, manufacturers and designers who have a clearly articulated policy in regard to sourcing, labour and living wages.
30. If you are concerned about human trafficking and slave labour, play it safe by buying local and avoiding clothing made in China or the Far East, unless the manufacturer has a clearly defined and articulated policy on labour and materials sourcing.
31. Or actively seek out retailers and brands that have a ‘Give Back’ Policy (eg TOMS shoes, H&M, Bootstrap Bazaar!)
32. When in doubt, ask.
33. If the item is really, really cheap, ask yourself why.
34. If the item is really, really expensive, ask yourself why.
35. Only have things in your life that you value and actually use rather than accumulating items for the sake of it. Rule of thumb, only ever buy a piece of clothing that makes you want to do cart-wheels – meh-clothing is a waste of time and money.
37. Mend clothes and try to fix items instead of just throwing them out.
38. Repurpose items where possible (I once made an amazing quilt out of my daughter’s outgrown clothes – she still has it!).
39. Don’t wash clothes if you don’t need to eg jeans can be aired between washes and worn multiple times without needing to be washed. Avoid the temptation to ‘tidy-up’ into the washing machine.
40. Don’t throw materials and unwanted clothing items away. Donate unwanted clothing to charity, sell on eBay, throw a garage sale or give to a designer that specialises in up cycling and repurposing clothing.
41. If you must purchase fashion items, choose items with the least environmental footprint such as eco-friendly fabrics (i.e. linen, organic cotton, hemp), locally manufactured and ethically made. Beware of GMO cotton.
BEAUTY and HEALTH
42. Be aware of what goes into most healthcare and cosmetic products and the animal cruelty involved in researching and testing these ingredients
43. Read product labels and stop using products containing phthalates, parabens and di-ethanols which dis-rupt the endocrine system, cause oxidative stress and interrupt the body’s natural healing abilities.
44. Opt for products using organic and natural ingredients.
45. Never under-estimate the benefits of essential oils.
46. Use coconut oil or Argan Oil for deep hair conditioning if you need to.
47. Make your own face cleanser by using coconut oil, and bring back the face cloth.
48. Be aware of the issues around fluoride.
49. Make your own toothpaste with baking soda.
50. Make your own toner by mixing apple cider vinegar with water.
51. Make your own hair shampoo by using vinegar or just use natural soap (it works trust me).
53. Grow aloe vera and use its gel as a moisturiser and for sunburn relief.
54. Don’t buy any products with micro-beads. Oatmeal is a brilliant natural exfoliator.
55. Use cucumbers or chamomile tea bags cooled in the fridge for eye relief and hydration.
56. Avoid any kind of wipe as it is a single-use disposable product and may contain ingredients you wouldn’t choose (like triclosan). This is particularly important with baby wipes.
57. Resist the temptation to take anti-biotics unless very seriously ill (they don’t work for common colds anyway!).
58. Think about using a moon cup. Tampons and pads are extremely toxic to the environment, expensive and wasteful.
59. If you suffer from indigestion or other digestive issues, a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water taken in the evening is the best cure going. Combine this with a shot of aloe vera gel in the morning and you are good for anything.
60. Re-use everything you can including plastic, cardboard and paper, tin foil and bottles.
61. Don’t buy or trade up to new gadgets just because they become available.
62. Turn electrical items off at the power point as when plugged in can still use energy (particular worth noting in regard to phone charger cables).
63. Use cold water when washing dishes and clothes.
64. Use cloth instead of paper serviettes/napkins/nappies/diapers.
65. Purchase rechargeable batteries so you can reuse. It’s a little dearer but it’s more sustainable.
66. Make your own cleaning products using bicarbonate soda, vinegar, water (vinegar is truly a wonder product).
67. If that is too much hard work, buy and use bio-degradable products.
68. Prepare home cooked meals to avoid disposable takeaway plastic containers.
70. Save glass jars and reuse them. They make perfect containers, particularly for homemade jams and fermented foods.
71. When using the oven, plan to bake/cook several items at once. Baking just one item is a waste of gas/electricity.
72. Instead of buying books think about investing in an e-reader, try to obtain the information online or borrow from your local library. Start or join a book-sharing club.
73. Take shorter showers. Don’t leave water running unnecessarily. For example, when brushing your teeth.
74. Use ‘half’ flush when using the toilet to save water.
75. Invest in solar panels. Live off-the-grid if you can.
76. Use re-washable rags— not paper towels— when cleaning up spills.
77. Before purchasing new, seek out second hand items first such as furniture, clothing and many other items. There are some great bargains on eBay, Gumtree, or FreeCycle.
78. Install a water-saving shower head.
79. When buying white goods and electrical items, read the energy star ratings and purchase the most energy-efficient you can afford.
80. In winter, avoid using the heater. Wear layers of clothing to keep you warm and throw on another blanket.
81. Contact your utilities provider and other companies and request bills be sent via email.
82. Use LED lighting instead of incandescent lighting as it is proven to last longer which reduces the need to keep purchasing bulbs.
83. Use solar energy chargers for iPhones and iPads which are becoming increasingly available.
84. Avoid using the tumble dryer and just line dry laundry instead.
85. Save all gift bags, gift boxes, bows and ribbons so that you can reuse them.
86. Instead of throwing out your veggie scraps, save them for a compost pile. If you live in an apartment building, encourage your neighbours to save their compost. Go one step further and invest in a communal compost bin so your neighbours have more incentive to save their food scraps.
87. Grow your own herbs, fruit and vegetables whenever you can.
88. Use mulch as it protects the soil and conserves water.
89. Avoid synthetic fertilisers, weedkillers and pesticides and learn the principles of permaculture to grow your garden organically.
90. Whenever possible, use organic fertilisers such as manure and compost.
91. Use beer traps to capture slugs instead of using poisons.
92. Pull weeds by hand instead of using chemical herbicides.
94. Plant herbs in your front garden (if you have one) and encourage your neighbours to do the same. Communities with edible gardens foster great camaraderie. Lawns are okay, but a useful garden that you can share with your neighbours is better.
95. Raise chickens if possible, particularly if you enjoy eating eggs. Even in small suburban gardens, it is possible to keep up to four chickens. Plus you get healthy fresh free-range eggs and the kids love it. In the UK you can re-house battery hens and give them a happy life.
OUT & ABOUT
96. Avoid plastic straws when you order drinks at a pub, bar, restaurant.
97. Don’t accept disposable cutlery such as forks, sporks and even chopsticks. Try to eat in where possible so that you are using ceramic dishes and proper utensils to avoid waste.
98. Take your own pic-nics with you to avoid buying fast food in wasteful packaging
100.Take your reusable coffee cup and water bottle to avoid the disposable ones.
101.Instead of buying new things for rare occasions, consider borrowing the items from family and friends instead. For example, if you are going camping and it’s something you don’t often do, borrow a tent and sleeping bags rather than buying a new tent.
102.Try home-made insect repellents to protect yourself from DEET and other harmful chemicals.
If you’ve managed to read this far, I take my hat off to you. There is a lot here, but it is all good stuff and even making one of these positive choices can open the way to a better way of doing things. And there’s nothing wrong with that.