Chloe Bullock and Katie Proctor explore all the ways you can live a more sustainable life from upcycling to updating your wardrobe.
We’re all much more conscious of our impact on the planet in our daily lives and try to live in an environmentally better way. Katie and I have got together to give you some tips on how to live more sustainably. By rethinking our diets and eliminating or reducing meat and dairy, our impact on the planet is reduced greatly. But what else can we do?
I’m Chloe. I’m an interior designer specialising in avoiding animal products. For me it’s impossible to do animal-friendly interiors without doing planet-friendly as well! I really encourage clients to slow down when they update their homes.
Do you need to have a clear-out and reorganise what you have better and appreciate it more? Can the use of rooms be rejigged to make better use of natural light? Do friends or family have unwanted items? Embrace vintage! It’s usually so much better made.
Keep an eye on sites like Freegle and Freecycle – there are some amazing things on there and it’s a great place to give away things you no longer need. A home with collected items from travels, family and friends and has so many more stories to tell, is so much more original looking and it has soul. I really think aesthetically that every room needs a vintage find in it. If you are buying new, please buy the best quality you can afford and buy things you love.
Guides such as the Ethical Consumer magazine and the Good Shopping Guide website are a great help. There are also lots of standards you can look out for such as BRE, Soil Association, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), EU Ecolabel, Declare labels, Cradle To Cradle, Green Screen, Blue Angel, Green Guard and Good Weave. Plus there’s Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) to help transparency as well.
Swap not shop
Don’t buy new furnishings, reclaim them
If you are buying anything made of new timber, please check it is from sustainable sources. Look for FSC or PEFC labels for reassurance. This applies to paper goods too. If it’s not a sustainable source, it could be from an illegally logged area. Unsustainable forest management can mean that natural habitats for wildlife are removed, trees aren’t replanted, and workers are poorly paid and work in poor conditions.
Yearly in the UK we use around 10 million tonnes of wood and wood products – and create wood waste of nearly half of that, 4.1 million tonnes. Use your local wood reclamation yard for timber that’s far cheaper and saved from going to waste.
When you buy upholstered furniture please don’t remove the fire label. Without it, it can’t be resold by reselling organisations, especially charities. The label should be sewn in an out of the way place and you shouldn’t need to remove it. Resist doing it! Yearly we throw away 1.6 million tonnes of bulky waste. If you combine the percentages for furniture and bulk textiles (such as mattresses) it’s over 60%! A huge 51% of this is either instantly reusable or reusable with a slight repair.
Try and repair if you are able to. If you can’t do it yourself, is there a skills swap you could do or is there a repair cafe or ‘mending meet-up’ near you? If you are using a professional to repair, then you are doing something fantastic by keeping skills alive as well.
50 million litres of paint a year is wasted in the UK. That’s huge. Especially as most is petrochemical based. Yes, it’s sensible to keep some for touching up of wear and tear, but it’s estimated that 15-25% of paint we buy in the UK is never used. Paint companies have online paint calculators and advice on use of primers and undercoats, which make the topcoat paint go further.
There’s various ways old paint can be reused. Research in your area – it can be reused, used for community projects (look up Community RePaint) or recycled into new paint (such as Paint 360).
While we’re on the subject of paint, check that the end product and the ingredients are not tested on animals and be aware animal bristle brushes and wool roller sleeves are still available on the market. Can you borrow brushes and kit from someone rather than buying new?
It surprised me when I heard a power tool is used only five times in 30 years. Ellen MacArthur said “I don’t need a drill, I need a hole in the wall”. The Sharing Economy is the future, and lending kiosk The Library of Things is one to watch. It’s being piloted and hopefully will soon spread across the country. Could you set up a Whatsapp group with friends listing occasionally used household items to share?
Cut down on waste and bills
Home running costs and resources can be reduced. I think most of us are now using energy-efficient and longer-lasting LED bulbs, and we are better at turning off lights and appliances – but have you switched to a renewable energy supplier yet? BHESCO (not-for-profit community energy co-op) helps households switch to clean and renewable energy, helps to make homes easier to heat and helps reduce fuel poverty.
Most households are paying too much because they don’t regularly do an energy price comparison and switch to a cheaper energy supplier. New tariffs and deals come out every week, so it’s important to shop around. Average savings for a household that has not switched for over a year is £300. BHESCO suggest using an energy comparison site like the one offered by Citizens Advice. It’s quick to do and you just need your last bill to do it.
Another quick win to save on bills and resources is to add a Waterblade water-saving device to your handbasin mixer tap. It’s easy to do and pays for itself in 6 months.
Katie’s lifestyle tips
Now some lifestyle tips from me, Katie. I’m passionate about sustainability and I have a podcast called ‘Sustainable Squad’. I thought I’d share some of my findings with you. Just over a year ago I decided to make a point of living a life with less impact. It turns out, being vegan is extremely sustainable. Unlike Chloe, I’m not yet fully vegan, but I’m making better choices every day. It’s important to acknowledge it’s a big scary leap at the beginning, but the more you investigate, the easier it becomes.
The word vegan can be a badge of honour and a point of ridicule, depending on who you’re talking to. I find the people who ridicule aren’t ready to make changes and don’t understand why they should. But that’s cool, we all have to start somewhere – not that I’ve ever ridiculed someone for it – but it’s always best to lead by example and excite people to try it for themselves.
My journey of discovery has led me to places like Eden, an amazing perfume shop that can match your favourite branded perfume scent with a vegan, cruelty-free alternative. I was skeptical at first, but I have recently learnt that the perfume I wear every day is sold in China (where animal testing of cosmetics is still mandatory), so I promised myself I would find an alternative once my existing bottle ran out. Not only did Eden accurately match the scent, they encouraged me to bring back my empty bottle to refill it! Zero waste never smelt so good.
Borrowing clothes instead of buying
The rise of the craft beer has been a pretty epic movement, and the best of them create vegan beers. Franklins Brewery is based in Sussex, which is local to us. They make a conscious effort to save on water and energy. They also use a commercial recycling company called Paper Round, who are a 100% zero to landfill service. If they can’t recycle it, they generate energy from incinerating it and selling it back to the grid. Genius!
I couldn’t believe all beer wasn’t vegan! When I spoke to Franklins Brewery, I discovered that a substance made from dried fish bladders is used to clarify the liquid, so it looks perfectly clear. Back in the day, a cloudy beer meant the beer wasn’t good quality, but this isn’t the case anymore, so there’s no need to use this method. This goes for wine too.
I’ve also discovered that fashion is one of the biggest polluters of them all, so choosing pre-loved items and renting clothes are great ways to reduce your impact. A lot of my friends have children now, they begrudgingly buy maternity clothes that won’t get worn again after they have dropped the baby weight, and they have drawers and cupboards full of gorgeous baby outfits that are inevitably quickly outgrown. Think of all the expensive, good quality outfits that are bought as gifts or by people with a healthy bank balance.
There’s a not-for-profit company launching this year called Super Looper who plan to tackle this problem. They’re a lending library for maternity and children’s clothes. No waste, no landfill, no stress – just lovely, good quality clothes for your baby and you to wear for as long as you need.
As I continue to discover, there are so many creative and passionate people doing amazing things to help us all to reduce our impact on the environment. We just have to talk to each other, do a little research and share what we find.
Katie Proctor is passionate about sustainability and has a podcast called Sustainable Squad. She loves creating content and connecting with people who are trying to make a difference. You can listen to the Sustainable Squad podcast on Apple podcasts and Spotify. youtube.com/ SustainableSquad
Chloe Bullock is a Registered Interior Designer® at the British Institute of Interior Design. She offers animal-friendly, human-friendly, planet-friendly interior design. She was the first interior designer in the UK to be vegandesign.org certified and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. materialiseinteriors.com
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