Are you ‘wish-cycling’?

Wish-cycling – putting items in a recycling bin when you’re not sure whether they are recyclable or not and just hoping for the best.

According to polls, two-thirds of us (in the UK) admit to being confused about what can and can’t go in the recycling bin.

This does not surprise me at all! I also get confused and there is a lot of misinformation out there that doesn’t make it any easier.

Every year, British households throw away 22 million tons of waste.

The European Union has a target of recycling 50% of that by 2020 but it’s unclear what targets will apply in the UK post-Brexit.

So, how does recycling actually work?

There are 450 councils, each with its own set of rules and regulations so in order to know exactly what your household can recycle, check out the gov website. Pop in your postcode to find a handy guide on what can and can’t be recycled where you live and when they collect.

After collection, items are sorted by machines at recycling centres which separate plastics, paper, aluminum, and other recyclables. These machines are quite complex and if something incorrect ends up in there, it can jam it or even cause it to break. Common culprits for this are soft plastics and small items like bottle tops. Once sorted, recycling centres sell on the materials for the next stage. If a batch is contaminated by something that can’t be recycled, the whole batch ends up in landfill.

Items that often end up in recycling bins but can’t actually be recycled

Pizza boxes – pizza boxes with grease on them can’t be recycled because the oil clogs the machines. However, if the box is just cardboard and has no plastic coating it can actually be put into compost.

Plastic bags – thin, soft plastics like plastic bags and films can get stuck in the machines and jam them. These need to go into landfill so are best avoided wherever possible.

Shredded paper – again, the pieces are too small and can get stuck in the machine. It is still important to shred documents with personal information so opt for paperless where possible so you have less to shred in the first place.

Receipts – most receipts are coated in plastic and contain BPAs. If they get added to recycling, the BPA can contaminate the other materials. Refuse receipts or ask if they can be emailed to you instead.

Bottle tops – bottle tops are too small for the machines to sort. Throw plastic ones in the regular bin and use an old can to collect metals one. Seal it up and put it in the recycling!

How are materials recycled?

Paper – Paper is separated into types and grades. It’s is then washed with soapy water to remove inks, plastic film, staples and glue and then mixed with water. The slurry is spread using large rollers into large thin sheets. The paper is left to dry, and then it is rolled up ready to be cut.

Glass – The glass is sorted by colour and washed to remove any impurities. Then it’s crushed and melted and moulded into new products. Glass does not degrade through the recycling process, so it can be recycled again and again.

Aluminium – In the treatment plant the aluminium is sorted and cleaned ready for reprocessing. It then goes through a re-melt process and turns into molten aluminium to remove coatings and inks that may be present. The aluminium is then made into large blocks called ingots. The ingots are sent to mills where they are rolled out.

Plastic – plastic is the most complex and problematic. While there are some advantages – it’s water resistant, durable – we are producing far too much ‘virgin’ plastic and not recycling enough of what is already in circulation. If you want to read in more detail about how it’s recycled, check out this website – https://www.bpf.co.uk/Sustainability/Plastics_Recycling.aspx

78 million tons of plastic packaging is produced every year!

Of that;

14% gets collected for recycling

2% gets recycled into new packaging

14% gets incinerated

40% goes to landfill

30% ends up polluting the enviornment

When plastics are taken to recycling centres, there are two options. Send to processers in the UK or export it to be “recycled’ overseas. There are subsidies in place which mean than plastic that stays in the UK must be sorted and the subsidy only applies to the recyclable materials. If the full batch is exported, the subsidy is paid for the full amount. The issue is, there is no guarantee that the exported materials it will actually be recycled. Importers of plastic, like China, then end up receiving low quality mixed bales that are totally useless to them and then end up sitting around for months of even years until they eventually get sent to landfill. It also inflates the recycling rates because everything exported is counted as recycled, even when it’s not. More info on the subsidy and exportation here.

What are the alternatives?

Terracycle

TerraCycle is an innovative recycling company that has become a global leader in recycling typically hard-to-recycle waste.TerraCycle was founded in 2001 by Tom Szaky, then a student at Princeton University, on a mission towards Eliminating the Idea of Waste®. From these humble beginnings TerraCycle has grown into the global leader in collecting and repurposing hard­-to-­recycle waste: operating in over 20 countries, engaging over 60 million people, and recycling billions of pieces of waste through various innovative platforms.

https://www.terracycle.com/en-GB/

With Terracycle, you can recycle things like contact lenses, bread bags (soft plastics) and crisp packets. You can use their post code search to find local public drop off points.

Lots of retailers now also have drop off points in store. Pop into your local Boots with your old contact lens packets and The Body Shop to recycle your old toiletry and cosmetic containers.

Ecobricks

An ecobrick is a building block made entirely from unrecyclable plastic. It’s created by filling a plastic bottle with clean, dry plastic until it’s packed tightly and can be used as a building block.

Ecobricks can be used in all sorts of sustainable building projects, which makes them a great way to dispose of plastic waste that would otherwise end up in landfill, and potentially, the ocean.

https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/news/news-archive/2019/what-is-an-ecobrick

Plastic is very durable and eco bricks make great building blocks that last and are also water resistant. Making ecobricks out of the non-recyclable plastic you collect is an amazing way to keep it out of landfill and be give new life in a really useful form.

My Top Tips

  • Embrace minimalism – buying less means less packaging and waste in the first place
  • Use less plastic and opt for materials that are easier to recycle like glass and metal
  • Upcycle/reuse as much as you can so that you don’t have to throw out as much
  • Make Eco bricks with unrecyclable plastic
  • Use Terracycle for hard to recycle items like crisp packets
  • Properly clean and separate everything you put in your recycling
  • Demand a better system – even if you do all the right things, millions of tons of waste is still out there causing havoc so the system has to be changed for the better. George Eustice was appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 13 February 2020 – write to him and let him now what you think!

Follow – @PlasticFreeMermaid

Watch – Dirty Business

Join the “no-resolutions” movement.

You’re probably already seeing the same old shite you see every year on social media and on television centred around generic New Year’s Resolutions.

Lose the holiday weight! Stop drinking for January. New year, new me! 2020 is going to be the year I ……*enter generic resolution*

I’m not saying that any of these are a bad idea, particularly, but are they relevant for you? These are the things we tell ourselves we “should” do but they are so general not really tied to any long term goals. So often, this is why we “fail”. We join the gym because it’s January and we have been told to lose weight because we ate too much over Christmas and not because feeling stronger or faster will be beneficial to our overall wellbeing. 

I think there is a better way to plan for the year ahead and get what you want out of it.

Reflect

This time of year, in between Christmas and New Year, is a perfect time to check in with yourself and reflect.

In a world that seems increasingly chaotic and full of obstacles waiting to trip you up, it’s easy to feel lost and confused or like you are just sleepwalking through life. Life can get really overwhelming and Christmas especially can be a stressful time with expectations and comparisons at an all time high. So schedule in some “me time’ wherever you can manage to squeeze it in, turn off your phone and check in with yourself.

This can look like anything you like. You could take an evening to yourself and go all out; have a bath, light some candles, meditate and journal. Maybe you take a nice long walk and then sit in your favourite cafe with your notebook or your laptop. Whatever feels good for you, just carve out a day/half day/couple of hours to spend some time alone, reflect on the year and how you are feeling as we start a new one.

Use your alone time to look back on 2019 and ask yourself a few questions:

  • What went well this year?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • What do you want more of?
  • What do you want less of?
  • What made you feel proud?
  • What are some of the best memories you made?

Visualise

Go way beyond 2020 and think about what your overall vision for your life is!

It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and forget the big picture stuff so try to zoom out and think about your overall wants and needs. I love to do this visualisation exercise every year to really get me into the right frame of mind and thinking long term.

Close your eyes and think about the kind of life you want for yourself, the life you want to be living in five or 10 years’ time. 

  • Where are you? 
  • Who are you with? 
  • What kinds of things are you doing together?
  • What do you talk about?
  • What does your typical day look like? 
  • How do you spend your time?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What is your environment like?
  • What gives you purpose?
  • What gives you personal satisfaction?

Write it down.

Now, think about what you need to do to be able to live that for real.

  • Do you need to earn more money?
  • Do you need to invest in your education?
  • Do you need to find more people who have the same hobbies as you?
  • Do you need to repair some relationships in your life?
  • Do you need a bigger support network?
  • Do you need to move to a bigger/smaller city?

When we set goals based on other people’s idea of what we should be doing, we find it harder to get motivated or stay on track and we feel bad about ourselves. When we set them based on our own specific needs and wants, we feel more confident, more motivated and are less likely to compare ourselves to anyone else. Your goals should be getting you closer to the life you want, not some arbitrary list of things you “should” be or have.

Take Action

Now that you have a handle on your long term goals, break those down into manageable short term objectives.

What do you need to have done by the end of the year? By summer? By the end January?

Is there something you can do today, right now, that will start you in the right direction? Maybe you want to do a course in a topic you are interested in. So, today you just take the simple step of searching some websites or colleges in your area that do this course. Then perhaps tomorrow you get in touch with them to ask about the application process. 

You might be thinking about getting back into a sport you used to love so you could start there. Find somewhere locally that you join a class or a club. 

It can be scary, at first, breaking your routine to do something new but it’s so worth it! You deserve it.

The end of the year is a nice time to reflect for most of us as work and life slow down for the holidays but it can also be a difficult time so don’t feel pressured to have or be anything in particular. I also like check in on my birthday or the anniversary of moving to London (or whatever city I’ve decided to uproot my life for at the time) because they are significant markers of time in my life as well. You don’t have to have your shit together just because it’s January! And you also don’t have to wait til Jan, just make a decision and start today.

Resources:

Listen: Conversation with YogaGirl – Rituals to Set New Years Resolutions https://www.yogagirl.com/podcast, Affirmation Pod – Motivation for your best 2020 http://traffic.libsyn.com/clean/affirmationpod/228_Motivation_for_Your_Best_2020.mp3?dest-id=291603

Watch: Lululemon Guided Visualisation –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xM_Ztreqjg&feature=youtu.be 

Tis the season for sustainability

Fairy lights. The Rat Pack Christmas album.Endless boxes of chocolates. Regressing back to children at our parent’s house. Cosy PJs and Home Alone on the TV.

Christmas means different things to everyone but for most, it’s cosy and familiar and winds up mostly the same year after year.

It can be really challenging to rock the boat and suggest something different so for a lot of us who have been making more of an effort towards sustainability, the holiday season can be a bit nerve wracking.

For most of this list, it’s really helpful to ask yourself “do I buy/do/use this ‘just because’ or is it something that feels integral to this time of year for me?

Get rid of the “just becauses”! It will save you money and cut unnecessary waste.

For the rest, think creatively about how you can adapt them to keep what you like about them but without as much, or any, waste.

This is kind of a long one so grab yourself a mulled wine and a comfy seat!

We often feel under so much pressure this time of year to be at every party, wearing a new party outfit, eating and drinking and often with a pile gifts in tow. It’s can be a time of huge excess and over-consumption.

To help keep the waste, and expense, to a minimum here are some eco swaps and money saving ideas for the holiday season.

Tree

To understand the sustainability of our Christmas trees, this Solancha article suggests asking three important questions:

  • What are the inputs in your Christmas tree?
  • How long will those inputs last? In other words, for how long can you use that Christmas tree?
  • How will you dispose of your Christmas tree eventually?

Bearing this in mind, both real and artificial trees can be very unsustainable. The most eco-friendly thing you can do is create a tree from upcycled materials so if you are the crafty type this is the perfect time for you to get really creative. Check these out for inspiration – https://www.pinterest.co.uk/GreenEcoServices/upcycled-christmas/

Up to 8 million Christmas trees are bought every December in the UK alone. That’s a lot of intensive production, and potentially a lot of waste.Friends of the Earth

In order to mitigate some of the damage done by our carbon emissions, we need to plant more trees basically everywhere. They are also an important habitat for animals we need to protect for biodiversity. Cutting millions down every year just to put them in our living room for a few weeks, and then have them end up in landfill, has to stop.

Artificial trees may last for years but require lots of energy to produce and are just more plastic to dispose of. If you have one already, keep using it and take care of it – make it last as long as possible. If your situation mean artificial is the best option for whatever reason, you can try to buy a second-hand one on Schpock,  eBay  or Gumtree.

But all is not lost! If you, like me, love the smell of a real tree as one of the best things about Christmas then you will love this alternative options!

Tree rental – Get a pot-grown tree, water it and then send it back to be replanted in the tree farm for the following year. Genius!

https://www.londonchristmastreerental.com

Use (or grow) your own – If you gave garden space you can do the same thing at home by using or buying a tree with roots so you can grow it outside and use it again each year.

Tips for looking after them inside here – https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=374

Presents

One of the most effective strategies for staying in budget when buying Christmas presents is to have a Sinking Fund which you spread out across the year and contribute to every month. When the season approaches, you use the savings to buy presents. 

Low Waste Gift Ideas:

  • Experiences – this is my personal favourite! It’s big bonus if it’s something you can do together because then you are also gifting them some quality time. 😊 Some other ideas are dinner, concert tickets, comedy event, a museum exhibit or a class in something they’ve always wanted to learn. Eventbrite is an excellent resource for events and classes and a whole range of prices as well for every budget.
  • Crafts – make something at home. Cookies, cakes, hot chocolate jar, homemade beauty products – you can decorate and personalise them as well to make them even more special.
  • For the coffee lover who you keep seeing with single use cups – Keep Cup (it’s also great for wine!)
  • S’well Bottle – some people are STILL buying plastic bottles. Gift them a beautiful reusable and they’ll never want to drink out of anything else.
  • Plants – who doesn’t love plants? They look amazing, clean the air and have a calming effect.

*I’m not being paid to recommend any of these, I just genuinely love them but I would absolutely accept payment if they offered!

Wrapping

I cringe when I see people ripping open wrapping paper and bits are strewn all over the floor. There are better options than single use wrapping paper.

Most of us love a bit of festive decoration and fancy wrapping, and who doesn’t like getting Christmas cards? But research suggests that the paper waste over the Christmas period is equivalent to 5-12 million litres of biofuel – enough to power a bus to go to the moon 20 times. – Friends of the Earth

  • Gift bags that get used over and over are the best. Re-use ones you’ve been gifted or invest in some you know can be reused. Avoid writing on the label so it looks as good as new.
  • Get creative – you can use magazine and newpapers to make gift bags or as wrapping paper. 
  • Please don’t buy any wrapping paper with glitter – it’s basically just a load of micro plastics! Besides, it’s impossible to stick anyway. 

Food

Tis the season of overindulgence. And obscene waste. It’s estimated that we waste up to 30% more at this time of year. Please, only buy food you intend to eat. 

  • Leftovers are always the best part.
  • If you have too much – freeze some portions to have later on.
  • Go veggie (or even better, vegan!)
  • Bake your own mince pies
  • Visit your local ‘zero-waste’ store for package-free chocolates and treats

For more on reducing food waste, see my previous post.

Booze

Mulled wine, baileys coffees, hot whiskeys. Mmmmmmm. Festive drinks are one of the best things about the season. Luckily, most alcohol comes in glass bottles so you don’t have to navigate a plastic minefield here!

To find some cheap deals, check out Approved food.

To reduce waste these are my top tips:

  • Try to buy organic
  • Repurpose or upcycle the bottles (Pinterest is your best friend here).
  • Make sure you recycle everything you can (class bottles, cans, recyclable plastic.

Clothes

Around this time of year, you will probably be inundated with emails and seeing ads everywhere for ‘party wear’. Have you ever noticed that it is the same stuff every single year? Sparkly and jewel colours, Every. Single. Year. 

Avoid falling into the trap of buying yet another dress basically the same as the ones you’ve bought every year. Here are some tactics you can try instead:

  • Buy from a charity shop.
  • Swap with a friend.
  • If you love the ones you have in your wardrobe – wear those!
  • Add some festive accessories to a basic black dress. 

Fast Fashion isn’t free, someone somewhere is paying the price – Lucy Siegle

The fashion industry is the second biggest producer of carbon emissions after fossel fuels! Avoid adding to the madness this Christmas.

Cards

According to research 1.5 BILLION Christmas cards are thrown away in the UK each year.

Save trees, and money by forgoing this tradition. Send an e card in stead or better yet, video call and wish them a Merry Christmas face to face!

A zer-waste, or even low-waste, Christmas will be hard! Christmas is a time to spend with family and not everyone is on the same wavelength as you so compromise is important and enjoying each others’ company is the priority. Do what you can to reduce your own waste, be patient with curious (or even judgemental!) enquiries and maybe next year you’ll see some of your loved ones taking a leaf out of your book!

Your End of Year Financial Audit

Now is the perfect time to take stock of your finances before we head into Christmas and a brand new year with brand new goals.

Before you can set yourself some money objectives for 2020, you need a clear picture of where you are right now.

A really useful tool I use is the MoneyGirl (Laura Adams) “Personal Financial Statement.”

Basically, you create a simple table of all of your assets and liabilities and the number you come up with at the end of your ‘Net Worth’.

Net worth: For individuals, net worth or wealth refers to an individual’s net economic position, the value of the individual’s assets minus liabilities. Examples of assets that an individual would factor into their net worth include retirement accounts, other investments, home(s), and vehicles. Liabilities include both secured debt (such as a home mortgage) and unsecured debt (such as consumer debt or personal loans). Typically intangible assets such as educational degrees are not factored into net worth, even though such assets positively contribute to one’s overall financial position. (Wikipedia)

Full disclosure, when I first did this about two years ago my Net Worth was about -£10,000. I had no savings, barely anything in my pension and debt in the form of two loans, a credit card and an overdraft. It’s now in the plus and while it’s still not a lot of money, it’s a HUGE difference and I love watching it grow every month. Getting organised and setting goals is the first step.

No matter how bad your finances are, it’s only temporary. Any sacrifices you make are temporary. You will come out the other side and you will be happy that you took control.

Here is my interpretation of the statement- just a simple table to input your totals. Use a formula to add total assets and total liabilities and then another in the net worth column where you minus one from the other. 

Personal Finance StatementNovember 2019
Assets
Sinking Fund
Travel Fund
Stocks and Shares ISA
Lifetime ISA
Pension fund
Asset Subtotal
Liabilities
Overdraft
Credit Card
Mortgage
Liability Subtotal
Net Worth(Assets – Liabilities)


One money objective – 


Financial goals in 2020
1.
2. 
3.

Your net worth is a good benchmark for tracking your financial progress and goals towards retirement. Do not worry about this too much when you are starting your debt free journey and don’t compare yourself to anyone else! Your finances, like everything else, are personal to your situation. 

Once you have worked out your assets and liabilities, think about what you want to achieve with your finances in 2020. Maybe you want to pay down debt or save for a house or another big purchase? Maybe you want to maximise your money by investing?

To keep you on track, set yourself an intention or a money objective that will inform the rest of your plans. 

Then, to make sure you are actually going to be able to achieve this, set yourself some goals for the year. 

  • Pay off XXX in debt
  • Save XX for XX
  • Increase income by XX

Keep coming back to your “why” whenever you are tempted to overspend or dip into your savings. Is this purchase going to get you where you want to be or is it getting in the way of you reaching your long-term goals?

Once you know what you’re working with and where you want to be in 12 months time, then it’s time to make your budget for the holiday season and the year to come.

Now is also a great time to review some of your expenses to make sure you are still getting the best deal for you.

Some items to look into:

  • Insurance – car, travel, home, contents
  • Gas and electricity
  • Internet
  • Mobile phone

Another area to look at while planning is your savings account. Are you getting the best interest rate? You could be missing out on money by leaving your hard-earned savings in an account with a low interest rate.

Setting your 2020 goals before Christmas will (hopefully) have them in front of your mind and help you to curb any overspending. 

Coming soon – a guide to a low cost, low waste Christmas that should help you minimise spending and stay on track for your money goals.

We need to talk about food waste

Roughly one-third of the food we produce annually is never eaten.

Just let that sink in for a second.

As a society, we have become so disconnected from our food system that we have forgotten all of the resources that went into making it, at every stage, and getting it onto our plates that we have just stopped valuing it.

We use land and water to produce crops. They are transported to factories where they are processed. Then transported from there to be packaged. Finally, packaged items are transported to store. And then we end up throwing a third of it away. 

When you consider that between April 2018 and March 2019 a record 1.6m food bank parcels given to people in the UK (Trussell Trust), it’s obscene. 

Some more facts to shock and disgust you (if I have to be depressed about the state of the world, I’m taking you down with me!):

  • If wasted food were a country, it would be the third-largest producer of carbon dioxide.
  • Food waste generates about 3.3 BILLION tons of carbon dioxide.
  • The annual value of food wasted globally is $1 trillion, and it weighs 1.3 billion tonnes.
  • 25% of the world’s fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten.
  • All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe.
  • An area larger than China is used to grow food that is never eaten.
  • The average UK family is wasting nearly £60 a month by throwing away almost a whole meal a day – that’s £720 a year!

So where does it all go? 

Well, most of it just ends up in our regular bins and then in landfill. 

What happens to food waste in landfill? 

“Food waste is mostly organic material, composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen along with small amounts of some other elements. In a landfill, this organic material is buried and when this happens, microorganisms begin to break it down in a process known as ‘anaerobic digestion’. This is digestion in the absence of oxygen. The microorganisms derive energy from this to support their life cycle however as a by-product of this process, greenhouse gases (methane, carbon dioxide) are produced. If these gases are not captured they are released into the atmosphere. (https://disruptiveenvironmentalist.com/what-happens-to-food-waste-in-landfills-the-full-environmental-impact/)

The gas produced is 21 times worse than carbon dioxide!

It’s well and truly time to stop this madness so……what can you do?

The good news is that now you are aware of this problem, there are actually lots of things that you can do to reduce food waste.

My Top Tips

  1. Eat at home more – the restaurant business is a MASSIVE generator of wasted food. When you do eat out, only order what you can eat. If the portion is too big, take your leftovers home (and eat them!). 
  2. Grow your own food – this is not an option for everyone as it requires some space and time but if you do have a garden, home grown veggies taste incredible and work out so much cheaper than store bought. After seeing the effort that goes into producing just a handful of tomatoes or strawberries, you will have a newfound respect for food! Even if you don’t have a lot of space for vegetables, pretty much anyone can pot some herbs in your garden/balcony/kitchen so you have lovely fresh herbs to hand and you don’t need to go to the supermarket. Start with your favourite one and see how you get on.
  3. Store your food properly – a big part of why we throw food away is because we don’t store it properly and it spoils before it’s time. My favourite place for storage tips and kitchen “hacks” is Pinterest. There are so many amazing ideas there.
  4. Avoid a “big shop” if you tend to have a very busy schedule – did you know that bagged salad is one of the most thrown out items in British households? When I first heard that I wasn’t surprised at all and have thrown away many a sad bag of soggy leaves. I never know if I will have to work late, transport will be a disaster or last minute drinks with colleagues will come up so I only buy what I am going to cook in the next day or two to avoid forgetting what’s there and having to throw it out. 
  5. Use your freezer – If your fruit or vegetables are on the verge of going off, freeze them. Kale and spinach are great to have on hand for smoothies or curries for some extra nutrients. Frozen bananas make delicious vegan “nice cream“.
  6. “Rescue” food before it’s thrown away: there are lots of innovative programmes popping up in an attempt to collect and redistribute food that might otherwise go to waste.
    1. Olio – OLIO connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. This could be food nearing its sell-by date in local stores, spare home-grown vegetables, bread from your baker, or the groceries in your fridge when you go away. For your convenience, OLIO can also be used for non-food household items too.
    2. Karma – Karma is a Swedish startup founded in Stockholm, November 2016. The app connects surplus food from restaurants, cafes and grocery stores to consumers for a lower price. As a result, users eat great food for less and businesses receive an additional revenue stream — all while reducing food waste.
    3. Approved food – specialise in surplus and short-dated stock, food that is either near or just passed its ‘best before’ date – allowing us to pass on huge savings to our customers.
    4. Oddbox – “20-40% of produce in the UK is wasted before it even leaves the farms meaning a lot of unnecessary waste for the planet, a raw-deal for producers and a whole wonky world of missed opportunities for people like us to eat. Determined to battle food waste and give ugly, wonky veg a better, more beautiful future, they visited farms, talked to producers and came up with the idea for Oddbox. “
  7. Reduce your waste by using everything up: Read “More Plants, Less Waste” by Max La Manna for tips on using up everything amazing recipes and ideas for using up everything so there is less to throw away/compost in the first place
  8. Compost – Not every borough in London has a composting programme (10 boroughs don’t collect, 16 don’t collect from flats). If you don’t have composting in your area this is what you can do email your MP and the local council and request it. The more people who ask, the more pressure they will be under to provide it. Council tax is ridiculously high and this is exactly the kind of issue that councils were set up to tackly. To find out how to compost at home follow Amelia Barnes (@ameliakbarnes) on Instagram who has tons of information in her story highlights and on her website.
  9. Clean your recycling – Wash your plastic, cans etc before throwing them in the recycling bin to ensure no rotting food waste is left and causing gas to release as it decomposes.

Read: More Plants, Less Waste by Max Lamanna

Follow: @maxlamanna, @ameliakbarnes, @zerowastecook

The Power of the Holiday ‘reset button’

It’s amazing how much of a reset you get when you take a vacation and really switch off from work. No matter how much you love your job, it’s so important to just take time out, fully.

I work for a charity and so I do have a very fulfilling job. I know I am creating good in the world, I am good at my job and there are lots of opportunities for me to grow and progress. It’s also a very full-on job and I often work much longer hours than contracted in order to make sure everything that needs to be done is done. But I will never be a workaholic.

I will never prioritise my job over my relationships, my health or my wellbeing.

And I will definitely never check my work emails from the beach! I guess for some people, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice but for me, no matter how fulfilling the work is, travelling and spending time with people I love is so much more fulfilling. I want to be present. I want to soak up every second, every smell, every sight on my trips. I will not be on my deathbed wishing I had worked less and enjoyed my life more.

And it’s not just me, this research piece, The Impact of Vacation and Job Stress on Burnout and Absenteeism, shows that a vacation decreases perceived job stress and burnout. 

City life can be overwhelming!

The chaos of London can start to wear me down and if I don’t take time away, I feel depleted easily and often. Thankfully, after two weeks in Canada, I am now returning to my job and my life feeling much more balanced and resilient, and so much more determined to live my life according to my values.

What makes you happy?

It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do but take some time out from your routine to do the things that rejuvenate you. You can’t pour from an empty cup and time off is your opportunity to fill up that cup!

When thinking about what’s important for me and my mental health, I know my main priorities are

  • time with friends and family
  • time by myself
  • time being active
  • time in nature.

I make sure to do all of those things when I am on holiday and I come back feeling amazing!

Time to reflect

I take any opportunity I can to reflect on how I am feeling and what’s going on in my life. Vacations are a perfect time to do this. On past trips, I’ve come home and made some big changes in my life but this year, I’ve come back from both of my longer trips feeling great about the life I’ve got in London.

The biggest thing I am taking from my most recent break, is that I need need to focus more on the goals I already have and try not to let myself get distracted.

Use your vacation time to take stock of your current situation and think about how you want the next couple of months to go. Is there something that isn’t going well for you? Once you are recharged, is there some action you can take to improve that?

Time off boosts your productivity when you return

As well as feeling more positive about life in general, taking time off work actually makes you more productive when you return. Having less time at your desk forces you to be more efficient with that time and just get things done!

I hope you are enjoying summer and making time to do the things you love.

Do what you can, it does matter and it will make a difference.

Climate change and plastic pollution are overwhelming.

Big global issues cannot be changed by one person or one action. So should you even bother?

Climate anxiety is on the rise as is anxiety in general and it’s hardly surprising given our constant updates about large scale global issues. With smartphones in our hands all day, we’ve never had access to so much information and so many opinions. It can feel like anything we do is just a drop in the ocean and won’t make any real difference. 

But, as a fundraiser I know how even the smallest things can have incredible impact.

If you are overwhelmed, one small action is better than total inaction.

We need to feel as though we have some control and the only thing you can ever really control is your own behaviour.

The best thing you can do is to make changes that suit your life. There have been a couple of occasions where I’ve spent more than I can afford to buy the more eco friendly version of a product. Over time, this would really hurt my budget and since I have absolutely no plans to go back into debt, I have to make sure that I am sticking to what I can afford and to make the best environmental choice within that price range. We can’t do everything, we can only do what we can afford with the time, money and energy that we have. 

Honestly, for some people thinking about sustainability isn’t even an option and that is ok. If you are struggling, you are not responsible for cleaning up this mess that was created by big business and the wasteful 1%. 

In saying that, I do think it’s important for your happiness and wellbeing to take action when you care about something.

Stick to some key principles and don’t beat yourself up if you slip up:

  • Use what you have
  • When you make a purchase, try to opt for the product that will last the longest and create the least waste
  • Only buy things that you absolutely love and know you will make you feel great
  • Borrow things you only need once in a while

What I have found is that one small action starts a chain reaction.

The biggest change is the mindset shift that happens over time.

How many sustainability bloggers woke up one morning and decided out of nowhere to go vegan and live a zero waste lifestyle? I’m going to go out on a limb and say none.

When we take a even a small step in the right direction (whether that’s towards veganism, zero waste, debt repayments or whatever) we are opening ourselves up to a growth mindset

When I first learned about the people in the debt free community living super frugally, I thought they would regret it come retirement. Now, I’m making more and more changes towards that because I’m learning so much as I go along. 

Your first change, however small, becomes your new normal and then it becomes the foundation for the next change. 

Other people will become interested in what you are doing and start to make changes themselves.

People are curious and when they see you refusing plastic cultery and busting out your own from your bag, the will ask why. This presents you with a perfect opportunity to share some of the things you’ve learned and what you’ve been doing about.

However (as any vegan will tell you!) people are often not crazy about hearing new ways of living. You may come up against people thinking you are silly, or being ‘a bit extra’. Just shrug it off and take no notice.

People are largely more comfortable with the status quo and doing what ‘everyone else’ is doing so when they see individuals going against the grain and doing something different, they can become uncomfortable.

Remember, you weren’t born thinking the way you do, and it likely took you a while for the messages to sink and for you to change your behaviours.

Most people are doing the best they can from day to day. And for the majority of us, financial education wasn’t a thing at school and neither was sustainability or mental health awareness. Concepts like living zero waste and being totally debt free are not mainstream so even if you have been immersed in something and part of an incredible online community where you have been learning a lot you need to remember that that’s not the case for everyone in your life.

A few tips for dealing with friends, family or colleagues when you are starting to live in a way that feels alien to them.

  • Resist the temptation to evangelise 
  • Talk about the positive impact the changes you made have had on your  life/relationship/wellbeing/health
  • If they ask questions, answer them and provide resources like blogs, books, podcasts and social media accounts they might find interesting
  • If they challenge you, respond patiently and calmly 
  • Inspire them to try things out
  • Understand that they may not stick with it
  • Congratulate them on whatever they did manage to do

Creating Rituals

Athletes are renowned for pre-game rituals. It gets them in the zone to perform.

Starting your own ritual is a great way to boost your overall well being.

What makes a ritual different from a routine is that it’s more intentional and mindful. Mindfulness is a term that has been used so much in recent years that it feels as though it’s losing its impact but essentially mindfulness is the practice of focusing on what you are doing in the moment and not allowing your mind to wander.

While mindfulness is known to improve your mood, mind wandering has actually been linked unhappiness and dissatisfaction. One of my favourite podcast episodes ever is the Happiness episode of TED Radio Hour where they delve into this subject. Actually, that episode is what sparked my interest in learning more about happiness and how to find it. 5 years later, I started this blog 🤣.

Another way to look at a ritual is just taking some time to slow down and enjoy your day to day activities. Instead of hastily chugging down your coffee as you race around the house take an extra five mins so just sit down and savour it. Maybe while also reading your favourite blog…

We tend to focus more on the big stuff to bring us joy and kind of skip past all the “mundane” but we’re missing out on countless moments of magic we could be enjoying!

We all have those little things we love like getting into a bed with fresh sheets, the cold side of the pillow, the smell of coffee brewing. Incorporate some of these things, that your senses enjoy, into a daily ritual.

Morning Rituals

Getting up early and having a routine makes a massive difference to my overall wellbeing.

I am incredibly lucky and don’t start work till 10 am so I get up at (mostly) 6 and really make the most of that time. I often wake up stressed and with 1,000 thoughts in my head about all the things I have to do in the day so I really need to take some time to get some balance before looking at my phone.

Waking Up: I use an alarm app so I am woken up by my music. I used to really struggle in winter when the sun comes up much later so I also have a Lumi light which gradually brightens the room from 30 minutes before my alarm goes off.

Bathroom: I like to brush my teeth before I do anything and wash my face just with water. (See my blog on skincare for the rest of that ritual).

Hydrate: I always drink a pint of water right after I brush my teeth. You get dehydrated during the night so it’s good to get some H2O in first thing

Journal: I take my glass of water and get back in bed and write in my journal. Sometimes, this just stream of conscious writing and sometimes it turns into a list! It helps me organise my thoughts and feel calmer.

Make the bed: I feel so disorganised unless my bed is made! I very rarely skip this and only if I’m in a massive rush to get out the door.

Exercise: sometimes all I manage is a couple of sun salutations but on a good day, I do 15-20 mins. If it’s sunny, I set my mat up facing the window. If not, I set up beside my favourite Monstera plant. Put yours anywhere you like!

Meditate: 5 – 10 mins on my yoga mat after a stretch. I don’t use an app or anything, I just set a timer in my phone and just focus on breathing either in a cross-legged seated position lying down. It took me years and years to even get to 10 mins. I hated meditation when I first tried it and I’m still not very “good” at it but I do enjoy being still and trying to quiet my very noisy mind

Get dressed and do my hair and makeup: No need for any more detail here is there….

Breakfast: This is typically the same every day to keep things simple. I sit down and either listen to music or a podcast and try to enjoy my food slowly before heading out for the commute.

Evening Rituals

Throughout most of my life, I have had various problems sleeping. Insomnia, nightmares, sleep paralysis, you name it, I have had it. Sleep deprivation causes my memory to just die completely so I have spent years working on my ‘sleep hygiene’ to make sure I am getting enough sleep to be able to function like a normal person!

The Space: Creating a relaxing space is one of the best things you can do to help you get to sleep. Every night, I spend a couple of mins just tidying up so that it’s a clear, relaxing space.

Before Winding Down: Before going up to bed, I check my calendar for the next day and pack anything I might need like yoga gear, laptop, mentoring material etc. I usually lay out my outfit for the next day so I have less to think about in the morning. Once I am organised, then it’s time to relax and get ready to sleep.

Lighting: I dim my bedroom lights or use warm, soft lights like a salt crystal lamp or candles at least an hour before bed so that my body knows it’s night time

Bathroom: I have a fairly elaborate skin regime at night but it’s so relaxing and really helps me relax.

Bed: Once my skin has been looked after, I get into bed. Instead of scrolling Instagram or watching Netflix, I try to read in bed for at least 30 mins before I sleep (I regularly fail at this but really do try to make an effort as it seems to make the biggest difference). I really try to avoid the blue lights for at least an hour before I sleep.

If I am having trouble switching off my devices or my brain, I use the 4-7-8 breathing technique to slow down my heart rate and relax.

Disclaimer – In a regular week, I probably manage the entire thing once! But, I try.

Instead of trying to squeeze everything in for the sake of ticking that box, I only do what I need to work on that day. If I’ve gone to a yoga class that night then I’ve already meditated.

Your rituals can be as simple or as complicated as you like. If you prefer to just sip your tea alone by the window in the morning that’s perfect. Or, you could establish a ritual as elaborate as an Egyptian queen complete with essential oils, candles, crystals and pillows. It’s your ritual. fucking go all out!

So long as you are taking a little time for yourself every day and just enjoying the moment for whatever it is, you’ll start to notice a positive difference.

Low waste (and low cost) skin-care swaps

In my quest to create less waste and spend less money, I’ve actually discovered several skin care swaps that have my skin feeling better than ever.

Ice roller -> lavendar infused ice cube

Ice rollers or jade rollers have been popping up on social media a lot of late with beauty bloggers swearing by them. The supposed benefits include

•reducing puffiness

•increasing bloodflow

•reducing appearance of pores

I have no idea if any of that is based on fact but I kinda loved the idea of rolling something cold all over my face! 🤣

A “sustainability influencer” suggested making your own by adding a drop of essential oil into ice cubes so I tried it and loved it. I use it every morning now. It helps me wake up and I feel like it reduces any puffiness. Also, smells amaaaazing. Cheap and easy to do but it feels like a luxury!

Oil-based cleanser -> Almond oil

Every night, I remove my makeup up (which is typically just tinted moisturiser and mascara these days) with Sweet Almond Oil and a hot face cloth. Just work the oil into your skin for a minute or two and then remove with a face cloth (mine are bamboo)you’ve run under the hot water tap. It’s dreamy!

After that, I wash with a facial cleansing bar to make sure my face is properly clean.

Then, cos I’m fancy AF, I spritz my face with some Rosewater.

Serum -> homemade oil blend

Instead of a super expensive serum, I made my own blend of Sweet Almond Oil and Argan Oil (50/50) with a couple of drops of frankincense. I read that frankincense has anti-aging properties and I have no idea whether or not that is total bullshit but it smells good and I cross my fingers!

Homemade scrub

Once a week, I exfoliate with a homemade honey and brown sugar scrub.

It’s so cheap and easy to make and if I accidentally get any in mouth, it tastes fab!

Homemade body butter

For years, I just used Palmers Cocoa butter and it was the only thing that I felt worked. I have pretty dry skin especially here in London where the water is really hard (I actually really miss the humidity of Taiwan!).

That was until I tested out this recipe that I came across on Instagram over the Christmas holidays.

You take equal parts;

• Shea butter

•Cocoa butter

•Coconut oil

Put them in a glass bowl and place over a saucepan of water. Boil the water and wait for your mixture to melt. Once it’s melted, let it cool for a few mins and then pop it in the freezer to solidify it a little. When it’s started to solidify around the edges, take it out and use a whisk to whip it up. When you have a nice fluffy consistency transfer it to a jar. I use a salsa jar because I eat chips and salsa at an alarming rate and always have a ton lying around my kitchen! You can also add a couple of drops of essentail oil if you want to make it scented.

Tranistioning from “normal” moisturiser to oil did cause some breakouts for a couple of weeks but I’ve now followed this regime since last summer and my skin is happier than it has been in years!

Let me know if you try any of these and how you get on with them.

Transitioning to Sustainable Fashion

Fashion.

A seemingly frivolous topic but we all wear clothes and we all have a mixture of emotions connected to them.

Some of us have too many and have nowhere to store them.

Some of us have gained weight and feel self-conscious and uncomfortable in them.

Some of us are struggling with money and our clothes are starting to look worn and old but we can’t afford to replace them.

Some of us buy clothes to make us feel better.

Some of us express our personalities through our clothes.

Some of us are ashamed of the amount of clothes we buy.

Some of us are getting into debt to buy clothes to look like we are richer than we are.

Some of us feel too self-conscious to wear the clothes we want.

I am or have been in a lot of those scenarios and I know I am not alone.

By reflecting on this element of your life and your behaviour as a consumer and making a few positives changes, you can make a very real difference. Cultivating more sustainable fashion habits will benefit your pocket and the planet.

Reducing the clutter in your wardrobe can also help to reduce your overall stress levels.

Triple win!

First, take stock.

As with any changes, it’s always a good idea to look at the current situation before taking any huge action.

You want a clear picture of where you’re at and that will help you identify areas to work on.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of clothes you have, spring is the perfect time to cull your wardrobe!

Get everything out and pile it all in one place, Marie Kondo style, and sort it into categories:

  1. Keep – pretty self-explanatory! These are the clothes you love to wear often.
  2. Repair – many items in your wardrobe can be revived by fixing a zipper, letting a seam out or having the hem taken up. About once a year, I go through my wardrobe and see if there is anything that needs repairing.
  3. Sell – make some extra money by selling things with tags that you are never going to wear or some of your more high-end items that will get a good resale price on eBay, Schpock or Facebook Marketplace.
  4. Donate – for clothes that are in great condition, consider donating them to a charity shop where they can be resold. For things like winter coats and warm clothes, you might want to donate those to your local homeless centre. For torn or unwearable clothes, you may be able to donate them to animal shelters where they can be used as bedding for the animals. When in doubt, give the charity a call to see what they can accept.
  5. Recycle – for anything you can’t donate, find a local organisation that can properly recycle them like Terracycle.

Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit and/or doesn’t make you feel great. You deserve to feel amazing in your clothes!

Find a uniform

A lot of highly successful people have a ‘uniform’ that they wear every day. Mark Zuckerberg wears a grey t-shirt and jeans. Steve Jobs always wore black turtleneck and jeans. Arianna Huffington is a huge advocate for work uniforms and ‘repeating’ outfits.

If you find deciding what to wear in the morning causes you stress or you just can’t be bothered with the extra steps, a work uniform is a great option. (And if you’re lazy like me, you might also have a non-work uniform!).

There is a lot to say for creating a capsule wardrobe of good quality basics that last a long time and fit well.

You have one less decision to make in the morning – during his presidency, Obama said that he would only wear blue or grey suits because “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinise yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

You are wearing something that is comfortable, smart and fits you well – there is nothing more distracting during the workday than a piece of clothing that is too tight or just doesn’t hang right!

Think about your favourite outfit to wear to an important meeting and work from there. Incorporate the colours you love, the silhouette that makes you feel the most kick-ass and you can’t go wrong.

For more on creating a capsule wardrobe, check out Project 333.

Add your personal style

Simple, basic and capsule might sound kinda boring but they really don’t have to be!

You can make any outfit more interesting with your choice of accessory(ies). Lipstick, jewellery, sunglasses, glasses, hair accessories, nail polish.

I LOVE using Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration.

Slow fashion

Last year, I started seriously thinking about the impact our fashion habits have on our mental health, our finances and the planet. After watching The True Cost on Netflix, I couldn’t be willfully ignorant any more and I knew that I needed much more sustainable habits, both for my bank balance and for the environment. And as a proud (loud!) feminist, I also knew that the primarily female garment industry was exploiting women in low-income countries. 1 in 6 of the world’s workers are employed in the fashion industry and around 80% of those workers are female.

In January 2019, I finally made the choice not to buy any more fast fashion.

If I want or need a new item of clothing, I first look in charity shops. There are so many in the UK! As well as tons of great charity shops on the high streets, Oxfam and Amnesty International have also online second-hand shops which are great. I got a pair of vintage Levis for around £25 on the Oxfam website last year and I live in them!

When buying new clothes, have a list of questions you ask yourself:

  • Is this an ethical brand?
    • I use an app, Good On You, which rates brands on their Labour, Environmental and Animal policies.
  • Is this item going to last a long time?
  • What fabric is this item made from and can it be recycled?
  • Can I come up with at least three outfits for it?
  • How can I make some extra money to pay for it?
  • When I feel the impulse to buy something, I wait 30 days to see if I still want it. Instagram makes EVERYTHING look good and half the time, I totally forget.

Consider the carbon footprint

Until I gave it more thought, I exclusively shopped online. I’ve always hated going into shops. The changing rooms suck and I usually feel gross trying stuff on.

But, the delivery has a big carbon footprint so I hereby declare that I will no longer order anything online that I can buy in a physical shop! Feel free to call me out if you see me slip up.

Be aware of “greenwashing”

Companies are aware of the emerging demand for more environmentally friendly and ethically sourced goods.

Many will throw in terms like ‘sustainable’, ‘ethical’ and ‘vegan’ into their marketing without any transparency.

I’ve found Good on You to be such a great resource for sorting through the bullshit.

To sum up, the wise words of Vivienne Westwood;

Buy less, choose well, make it last.

Read: Project 333

Listen: Living Prana Vida “How to Shop Sustainable and Ethical Fashion with Aditi Mayer”

Download: Good On You app

Follow: @bemorewithless @fash_rev