Sustainable is not enough.
Practical solutions that require no investment.
I must have watched, listened to, and researched hundreds if not thousands of articles on this topic, and it blows my mind that so many of them imply that you need to go out and buy certain things to ensure your success.
The best way to be low impact is not to purchase anything at all. The most sustainable option is the option that you already own!
I should also say that I take issue with the word sustainable. It’s too vague. All it means is that something can be sustained. It tells you nothing of how. It’s all too easy to manipulate it to suit whatever your personal agenda is, so I prefer to use the word responsible. We are all responsible! We should be taking ownership and making our decisions based on the impact they have.
So here I have covered ten ways you can start on this path right away. These might seem like no-brainers, but being low impact is very straightforward, it’s just the media have a way of over-complicating and rebranding things until they become so intimidating that no one wants to even think about them any more. Well, the idea behind these is the opposite, they are all super easy, require no outlay, some of them are even FUN — yes that’s right, they are enjoyable!
1. Cook At Home
Seriously this is one of the most underutilised ways that you can be low impact. Write a meal plan for the week; I usually focus on lunches, dinners, and any snacks I might want to munch on throughout the day. That way I can go and buy all the ingredients I need at the beginning of the week (maybe do a midweek top-up) it helps eliminate food waste, it makes it easier to do food prep and just makes me feel that little bit more organised. If you do get take out, please keep and re-use the packaging wherever possible, perfect for propagating some seedlings!
2. Compost Your Waste
You can use an existing bin, bucket, or even jars if you don’t have very much. Stick them somewhere accessible, so you don’t forget and fill them with your vegetable scraps, paper, and leaves. Please note, do not breathe in the fumes when you open. Leave enough room to be able to aerate the mulch. You can then use the juice (I am not sure that’s the proper term) as a powerful fertiliser on all the things you are going to grow; the mulch makes an excellent compost — the clue is in the title!
3. Grow Your Own
I know what you are thinking, I must have to buy seeds to do this, but you don’t; you can use the seeds from your fruits and vegetables. Strawberries, for example, are covered in seeds, tomatoes are full of seeds. Next, you’re going to tell me you don’t have any soil. Well, guess what? You don’t need that either; you can just use a sponge. Really. See the link below to find out more!
4. Pickle Your Vegetables
If you like pickled foods, then this is a great way to preserve any vegetables that you are not going to be able to eat. I use a mix of distilled vinegar, peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, pinch of salt, boil it up, pour over my vegetables (which are in a jar) making sure they are fully submerged. I then leave them at room temperature until they have cooled, transfer the jar to the fridge and I would leave them for about one week before I dig in, they will keep for at least three months (mine are currently at six).
5. Fix Broken Things
You broke your favourite mug/bowl/ashtray (stop smoking it’s a sign)? Glue it back together! Have a bit missing? Fill the gap with clay, grout, putty, Fimo, ramen noodles (yes this is a thing) or if you are really fancy Kintsugi it (the Japanese art of repairing precious pieces with gold). Not only will you get to keep using your favourite mug, but you will also look so incredibly cool you’ll have your friends smashing things all over the place so that they can fix them and be more like you.
6. Re-Dye, Dye, Tie-Dye and Shibori
Your black jeans are a sad shade of grey — redye them! My friend taught me this at college, and I have never looked back; most of my black clothes have been re-dyed multiple times in their lives. You can also dye things to change their colour completely and give them a new lease of life. I bet you’re thinking — but wait I have no dye — right? You don’t need dye. Turmeric is a fantastic dye especially suitable for cotton, just make sure you give it a good wash in the machine before you put it in with anything else. I also love beetroot, but you would be amazed at all the different colours you can make from vegetable waste! Tie-dye is your traditional freestyle version. Shibori is the Japanese version also known as resist-dyeing, typically resulting in geometric shapes, a little less in your face. You can also do this with bleach as a reverse technique. And newsflash — done right this can look chic. I promise.
7. Bleach Things
You can use household bleach to lighten fabrics. You can partially submerge the cloth to get a dip dye ombre effect, spatter it, tie things up to do a reverse tie-dye, the possibilities are endless. Just make sure you keep an eye on whatever you are bleaching as some things will lighten much faster than others.
8. Sewing Is Cool
It sew is. Sorry. Seriously though, another Japanese art that is very much de rigueur at the moment is the art of Boro or Sashiko. To you or I this is the art of visible mending, and if you look at something like Pinterest, you will find countless examples of this stunning art form. It is a little tricky to begin with, but stick with it, and you will create something extraordinary that will get better each time you add more stitching. Also not to forget embroidery, cross-stitch, and the many other forms of visible mending.
9. Cut Up Your Old Towels
You know when your towels get a bit grim, lots of hanging threads, horrible marks, that sort of thing. You’re about to throw them out. DON’T! Cut them into squares and use them as cleaning rags. If you want to be really fancy, you can back them with some cute fabric and zig-zag them around the edges on the sewing machine, but this is going above and beyond and unnecessary.
10. Make Your Own Natural Cleaner
Vinegar, filtered water, and some essential oil of your choosing; I currently have pomelo and sweet orange in mine. If you don’t have any essential oil, you can boil up some citrus skins (orange, lemon, lime, etc.) or even add in some fresh herbs. It’s great for cleaning stuff up, leaving a pleasant odour and if my cats decide to lick it, it won’t make them sick — always a plus! Use your cleaner with the new cleaning rags you made in point 9. Check you out, you domestic human of low impact-ness!
So there we have it, a quick start guide to get you on the right track or get you back on the wagon if perhaps you had tumbled off. Hope it helps!!