Life

Becoming More Sustainable

Becoming more sustainable is something we’ve been trying to do for a few years but recently we’ve stepped it up a gear. Since becoming a Mum, I’ve become really aware of how wasteful our lifestyle is. The main catalyst for my desire to change our lifestyle has been seeing just how many plastic toys we accumulated for Dylan in his first year that actually never really interested him all that much and just ended up cluttering up the house.

Now that I’ve realised how wasteful all this plastic is, I’ve become so aware of all of these disposable things we use for convenience which have such a harmful effect on the planet. Don’t get me started on the amount of plastic that gets brought home from the weekly food shop.

I’ve also been reading about how the chemicals in our beauty and cleaning products can impact the environment and food chain. And I’ll be honest, David Attenborough’s recent documentaries have really shocked me into wanting to make a difference.

I don’t want our boys growing up without respect for the planet and am keen to teach them from an early age the importance of caring for the environment, so we are starting to make some changes which will hopefully have a positive impact.

Colourful pile of cloth nappies

Cloth Nappies

When I was pregnant with Dylan, I considered using cloth nappies, but my good intentions went out of the window with his early arrival. I kept meaning to do my research on cloth nappies, but I just never forced myself to find the time and disposable nappies were just so convenient. I had the same good intentions with Harris, but he decided to arrive even earlier than Dylan so again I hadn’t managed to get as far as buying any cloth nappies before he was born.

When Harris was a few months old, I finally got round to my cloth nappy research and it turned out to be simpler than I’d thought it would be. We bought a mixture of birth to potty pocket nappies from Baba and Boo and Littles and Bloomz.

As he was so premature, he wasn’t actually big enough to use the nappies until he was almost 5 months old but if I’d been more organised, I could easily have bought some smaller ones to cover the first few months. We have recently switched to using the same nappies at night with extra boosters so now only use disposables in an total emergency if we’ve run out of clean nappies, which hasn’t happened for weeks now.

I was worried about washing them but it’s actually very simple and I quickly got into a wash routine. After seeing just how easy they are, I feel bad that I didn’t make the effort with Dylan. I’m really glad we made the switch and are saving so many disposable nappies from ending up in landfill.

We’ve used Cheeky Wipes since Dylan was a few months old as an alternative to wet wipes. I just throw them in the wash with the nappies so it’s no extra effort and saves thousands of wipes going into landfill. I also find it easier to clean sticky hands or dirty bottoms with Cheeky Wipes than wet wipes. Wet wipes tend to smear stuff around whereas the Cheeky Wipes actually lift the muck off much faster.

Eco-Friendly Beauty

I’m gradually trying to replace all of the products we use every day with eco-friendly alternatives. I have already switched to Wild deodorant which I think is absolutely brilliant. It’s made using natural ingredients, comes in fully recyclable packaging and, best of all, it actually works.

I’ve just ordered my first bottle of hair conditioner from Faith in Nature. You can buy their products in bulk and send the plastic containers back to be re-used. Obviously, it’s not a perfect solution as it still involves plastic but it’s a good starting point. I follow the curly girl method to look after my hair and since switching I use far fewer products so have saved plastic that way. I’m going to be more careful with the products I do buy and try to ensure that I choose sustainable options wherever possible.

An easy step towards becoming more sustainable is switching to reusable makeup wipes. I started using reusable makeup wipes around the time I switched to Cheeky Wipes. It just makes sense seeing as the washing machine is on almost every day anyway. They’ve not had much use since Harris was born as I don’t think I’ve actually put any makeup on since the day before he arrived, but I’m sure I’ll find time again at some point to at least put mascara on!

I’ve been trying to buy fewer plastic wrapped toiletries. Having a bath is my favourite way to unwind and I rarely get time to have a good soak nowadays, so I don’t mind spending a little more on a beautifully scented plastic free bubble bar from Lush! My husband has been using Thomas Clipper soap and body scrub bars and I try to pick up bars of soap or candles from local sellers when I see them.

One thing I’d really like to switch is our toothpaste. I usually just buy whichever brand is on offer in Tesco and I feel guilty every time as the tubes are not recyclable and the toothpaste itself is full of chemicals which get washed down the drain and into the water system.

I have been trying a few more sustainable options but just can’t find one I like. The Denttabs toothpaste tablets seemed great the first few days of using them, but after a while I just felt like my teeth weren’t getting properly clean.

I’m now trying Colgate Smile for Good which is made using natural ingredients and comes in recyclable packaging. So far it seems good and my teeth definitely feel as clean as they would with normal toothpaste. I’d prefer to use a tablet style toothpaste instead to eliminate plastic entirely, but this is a good halfway house for now, until I can find a better alternative.

Sustainable Household

We’ve been using Smol washing capsules for a couple of years now and I think they are great. The packaging is all cardboard so can be recycled and the capsules themselves don’t contain as many chemicals as mainstream brands from the supermarket. They work out cheaper per wash than the bigger brands and are comparable with supermarket own brands. I love that they are posted through the letterbox, it’s just so easy. I’ve also just switched to Smol dishwasher tablets and we are happy with them so far.

I’ve been buying Method cleaning products for a few years now. They smell so good, use 100% recycled plastic packaging and are made from plant based ingredients so are better for the planet. You can also buy refills which reduces your consumption of single use plastic.

My latest switch has been to Splosh hand soap refills. You can send the refill packaging back to them for recycling. Splosh also sell all kinds of cleaning and household products so I think I’ll be trying out a couple more over the next few months. Their products are plant based wherever possible according to the website but they do use synthetic ingredients as well to ensure that the products really work. Synthetic doesn’t necessarily mean toxic but I think I will do a bit more research.

We buy toilet roll from Who Gives A Crap. It’s made from 100% recycled paper and is delivered to your door completely plastic free. They also donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those in need so not only are you helping the environment, you are also helping people. We used to buy our toilet roll in bulk from Costco so we are now spending more although it works out cheaper than buying the branded toilet roll from the supermarket.

Shopping Habits

Something that really frustrates me is how difficult and expensive it is to shop sustainably. We have started trying to buy local as much as possible but with two young children, going to the supermarket is just easier as we can get everything in one place and be in and out so much faster avoiding boredom and tantrums. Whenever I do a supermarket shop, I try to buy loose fruit and veg wherever possible to avoid the needless plastic and look for the most sustainable packaging options for other items. But I still come home with much more plastic than I’d like.

For the past few years, we’ve been reducing our meat consumption and finding more vegetarian and vegan recipes that we enjoy cooking and eating. Now when we buy meat, we get it from a local butcher and look for free range and organic. Instead of buying it every week, we get a big batch delivered to freeze so it’s just as easy as picking up meat weekly at the supermarket. It’s definitely more expensive so I can see why lots of families just can’t do that.

We’ve had to cancel the milkman that we used for a few months last year as it was just too expensive. I worked out that by using a local milkman to deliver local milk in glass bottles, it would cost us around £1000 extra a year compared to the supermarket. Now that I’m not working, that’s just too much to spend on milk. I do feel bad but with all of these sustainable changes costing more, we just can’t do everything.

We are already fairly sustainable in our clothes shopping – in that both my husband and I hate braving the shops, so we very rarely buy new clothes! We sometimes ask each other “where is my new blue t-shirt?”, only to realise that it’s at least five years old.

For the past few years, I’ve used the The Dress Agency to buy dresses for events like weddings. I always used to buy from high street shops and would usually spot someone else at the wedding wearing the same one. Then after a few years of barely wearing the dress, it would get given to a charity shop. I prefer buying second hand as the clothes are of a higher quality than you’d find on the high street and, probably because they are previous seasons, you don’t find anyone else wearing the same outfit.

We’ve been lucky enough to have been given so many hand-me-downs for the boys that we’ve also not needed to buy too much for them but I’m trying to choose more sustainable options for them as well when needed.

Toys, Toys, Toys

I mentioned earlier about the sheer number of toys we accumulated during Dylan’s first year. Lots of them were passed down from friends and family and I always felt like I had to keep everything. After Harris was born, I realised that something had to change if we didn’t want our home to be overrun with toys.

All of a sudden, Dylan didn’t have my constant attention and I noticed how much he relied on me to play. I started reading lots about helping toddlers play more independently. Through this reading, I came across Montessori and everything I read about the Montessori approach to play made complete sense to me. I was able to sort through our toys and give lots to charity which has given us back some space, plus I’ve noticed a big difference in how Dylan plays. 

Since the big toy clear out, I’ve been very careful with the toys we’ve bought/requested for birthdays and Christmas and am only buying things that I know will be used for years to come.

Other Changes I’d Like to Make

There is clearly still so much more we could do in terms of becoming more sustainable and sometimes it all feels too overwhelming. I’ve got a handful of other changes I’d like to make over the coming months and no doubt this list will grow.

  • Beeswax wraps instead of cling film
  • Switch to reusable pads or menstrual cups when my periods start back (I’m lucky enough not to have started back yet since Harris was born)
  • Grow some food – we grew herbs last year but would like to try some carrots or potatoes this year

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Hello, I'm Helena. Mum to two beautiful boys and wife to Mik. Born and bred in South Wales but now living in North East Scotland where I've given up my job as an engineer to be a stay-at-home Mum. I hope you enjoy following along with our parenting journey here.

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