My recent eco-friendly little improvements

At one point or another, on our journey to a more sustainable life, we may feel stuck. Unsure what steps could be taken to further reduce our environmental impact.

Bag, knife, coffee mug, paper soap, stainless steel water bottle (not pictured)… These are things that I have always close by.

Once you have implementing most the basics

You’ve read before whole lists of 10, 50, 100 things you can do to be more eco friendly. These range from turning off the lights, lowering heating temperature, unplugging things, not throwing out food, reducing meet consumption or going vegan, rejecting single used plastic, repairing things, buying eco-friendly products, doing your own products, switching to baking soda & vinegar for everything there is to clean, always having a reusable water bottle at hand, ditching the straw, going paperless, buying local, buying seasonal, not buying, avoiding fast fashion, etc…

At some point, these all seem pretty basic! And once you have implemented most of the basics, what do you do?

You and I have both seen examples of people who have their yearly trash fit in a single mason jar. It’s amazing, but it also feels absolutely unattainable to me, and maybe to you.

We’ve all read articles on how to make our own toothpaste, soaps or laundry detergent. These can be intimidating. Sometimes it feels like some of these require a PhD in chemistry. I know they don’t, but personally, I’m scared to try, to mess up and end up with a bunch of otherwise unusable products, or worst create a radioactive product that’s going to make me loose my hair! Yes a little dramatic but you get the point.

Personally, I can’t just go out and buy an electric car. I haven’t seen one that doesn’t cost a pretty penny.

My partner and I have been living on a fairly tight budget and we don’t buy stuff mindlessly. I did a year long no-buy challenge which was originally just for clothes but extended to pretty much everything else and ended up lasting more than a year. Really good habits came out of this! Although admittedly, I relaxed a bit since then and have bought quite a few things already. Still not a lot by most standards.

Plus, as you know, I started sewing and repairing my clothes. This didn’t go so well but it still had a huge impact.

So once more, I felt a bit stuck.

So as I often do, I looked back at the recent changes and little progress we made, to look forward and find new ideas. Here are some of the things we did that had a big impact.

Things that reduced our plastic garbage significantly

Last week-end, my partner realized that our plastic trash had shrunk significantly recently and we were quite impressed with such recent progress. It is the second time we manage such a reduction and it comes down to a couple recent changes.

The laundry ball

Being as impressed as I was, I wrote a specific piece on the mighty laundry ball I got. Since such purchase a couple months back, we have used regular laundry detergent (eco-friendly one of course!) maybe 2 or 3 times only, for specific loads. We have therefore not put a single laundry detergent bottle in the trash for something like 9 months and at this rate the one we have should last a couple of years! This is a lot less plastic thrown out!

Shampoo bars & body soaps

We finally found shampoo bars and body soaps that work for us. This was an exercise of trial and errors to say the least!

Internet makes it sound easy to make such a switch, but for us it wasn’t. It may have to do with where we live and the availability of such products, it may have to do with our own taste. Anyway, we are happy now and there has not been shampoo bottles or shower gels in our trash for about 3 months! Another big save on plastic thrown out!

No more junk food, no more take out

Once more, I’ll quickly explain that a couple months back, I had tummy issues. My gut sent a cry for help and I acted swiftly upon it. It was hard at first, really hard but this lead to amazing changes and almost to my surprise a great reduction of our plastic trash!

Let me explain a bit how this impacted our plastic trash.

First, I stopped eating cereals in the morning. I liked my cereals with a soy yogurt but stopped for I couldn’t handle the amount of sugar in such breakfast. So this change meant no more yogurt related trash! Simple & very effective actually!

Bean burrito
In case you are wondering what my breakfast look likes now, this is it! A bean burrito! The tortilla is the only wheat I eat during a day. I cook some red beans in water with a dash of baking soda to make them more easily digestible and then turn them into a smooth purée to which I add a dash of cumin. I put the tortilla in a pan with a big spoon of the purée on top and heat the whole thing until the tortilla is slightly crusty. Voila! Filling, warm, full of proteins and minerals but no added sugar. My tummy has been happy!

Secondly, I cooked every single meals and doubled up on fresh vegetables. Being vegans meant we always ate a truck load of vegetables but there were often additional things added. Things like ready made tofu scramble, quorn, occasionally seitan… products that are often considered as meat substitute. We stopped a long time ago using products that taste like meat because the taste of meat was not something we were after! One after another, the ‘fake meat’ products we once used, became revulsive.

What lead me recently, to remove such items from our diet was the processed aspect of them. I had to eat super clean to heal. But the additional benefit was again on our plastic trash size because such items happen to usually be in plastic containers! So one more big save!

In addition, cooking every single meal meant absolutely no take out! Some of the take out, we occasionally had before, were in compostable containers but the only vegan Indian we could get was however in plastic containers. This actually didn’t have a huge impact because it was fairly occasional and a lot of the plastic containers were brought to my dad’s garage and used to store motorcycle engine parts! That’s one kind of reusing!

But cooking everything did meant that there was no more junk food consumed. No chips, no cookies, no cakes or else. A lot of plastic around all of these!

Planting my own herbs

My partner and I live in an apartment with a small balcony. This year, I really wanted to have more fresh herbs and started growing them inside as well as outside. My plan is to replace some of my dying indoor plants by edible ones.

At this precise moment, the mint, chive and basil are all doing great although not huge. The thyme is weird looking. The rosemary and the coriander have died.

It is still progress as some of these plants I previously had and some I bought seeds or got them from my dad. I did not buy a single plant in a plastic container this year (or last year!).

And there has been no plastic trash from buying fresh herbs in the supermarket either!

Forest of coriander

Packaging changes at our supermarket

To be fair, part of our plastic reduction is also linked to the significant changes we see in our supermarket. The products in bulk now available, like coffee and nuts, as well as the wrapping changing from plastic to paper on a lot of products. It’s a slow change but it is happening!

Sadly, we still have plastic in our trash. That’s a big disappointment really. Nowhere can I find baby spinach not wrapped in plastic for example. My partner still eats vegan cheese which is also wrapped in plastic. There are occasional deli purchases like stuffed vine leaves and an occasional sandwich he has to grab between meetings. I still have some beauty products that come in plastic containers as well as vitamins.

Nevertheless, we made progress!

Overall, What has been most amazing to me is how a simple change in diet had the unforeseen consequences to shrink my waste size and our garbage size! Double win!

Finally switching to reusable period protections

Another thing that I have finally accomplished is to switch to reusable period protections! Yes, I’m late doing so. I had tried the cup and did not work for me, so I went back to my organic protections. I bought some period panties and the company went bankrupt and I never received them. 😦

But one of my amazing friend, after trying several brands, sent me some of her favorite pads for Christmas and I loved them, almost instantly.

That is a huge win for our general trash reduction goal and the planet.

Eco-friendly reusable period pads

That’s it really, that’s all we managed since the beginning of the year. Nothing particularly extraordinary but maybe it shows how our lifestyle choices have huge consequences on our environment impact.

What failed

There are a couple things including eco-friendly things we tried and, I must admit, we miserably failed.

Dish soap

Just like with the shampoo bar, we thought we had found a solid dish soap. It did not turn out great. Difficult to rinse, smelly, messy, not practical… We’ll keep trying.

The toothbrush made of recycled plastic

I had found this great German toothbrush made from recycled plastic and it sounded really good to me, as my electric toothbrush was dying. Yes I know bamboo… I can’t go without my electric toothbrush, so one made of recycled plastic seemed like the next best thing. It stopped working after 2 days, I couldn’t get an exchange. Realized there was no way for me to get additional heads anyway… So, I bought another brush from another brand, not made from recycled plastic.

The eco-friendly, vegan household products

We already use eco-friendly, vegan household cleaners and a lot of white vinegar. But all of these products come in plastic bottles. I wanted to switch to the ones where you get the product in little tabs or in powder form and just add water.

It didn’t work out. No delivery in my country! Why oh why?!

My new pair of trousers

I had to buy a new pair of trousers because my old ones were all patched up and have become so big for me that I couldn’t wear them. I talked about this in this post with a slight twist on the topic… because everything is an opportunity to reflect!

Hey, I haven’t bought many clothes since my no-buy challenge, these trousers, some new socks (finally!!) and 2 t-shirts to replace some overly worn-out ones, that’s pretty much it. So the purchase of these trousers was significant to me!

Anyway, the issue here is that my new trousers are now too big as well. I didn’t think it would happen so soon. Not going to replace them for now, but there is no way they will last as long as the previous ones!

My Chickpeas experiment!

Needless to say that I won’t be making hummus with my own chickpeas anytime soon. Last year was worst actually so there is progress here! Not sure what I was really expecting 😉

Yes, this is a single chickpea in a pod. I have about 10 of these, which is twice as much as last year! 😂

What further improvements can we do now?

The fact that my diet change had such a huge impact on our trash makes me ponder what other lifestyle changes we could make and which could have an impact as well… without buying an electric car right away!

Unfortunately, while pondering, I realized that the most important lifestyle change to come, is that we’ll be moving and our new place needs quite a few things. Damn…

So apart from the below first item, everything else is about doing our best with regards to the move and the apartment furnishing.

Lotions in bar

Since the shampoo and body wash bar have been great, I’m going to try to find a new body lotion option. It’s going to take me a while because body lotion + bar + organic + vegan not wrapped in plastic is not easy to find. This is just based on preliminary research!

If it goes well, I’ll try face lotions as well!

Eco-friendly move

That’s going to be a difficult one! We saved the boxes from our last move and we should have enough because our “one in – one out” policy. There are pieces of furniture that needs to go before we move because they won’t fit in the new apartment. Our bed won’t survive another move and we are on the hunt for a new eco-friendly one.

Moving is tough! Moving in an eco-friendly way is tougher!

One thing I’ve started, is to slowly declutter the little clutter we have. Selling what we will no longer need. Etc. The goal is to not move something we won’t need in our new place.

Led lightbulbs and eco-friendly fixtures

Our new apartment comes with zero lightbulbs! We’re going to need quite a few of them so I’m starting to plan such purchases, to buy pretty but energy efficient ones. It’s a whole project, it’s crazy how many we’re going to need and how expensive these get. The world of lightbulbs is broad and wide!

Curtains & shades

We do not own many curtains at the moment, for we always had non typical apartments so far. Currently living under the roofs means our windows are either roof windows or weirdly shaped ones.

So curtains and shades shopping I must! It is another daunting tasks for me. I was considering finding organic fabric and sewing them myself, but I’m first going to see what’s out there, ready made. Very, very daunting!

Various stuff

I hate just thinking about it but we need to buy a new wash machine. We need mirrors in the bathrooms, shelves in the kitchen and dressing room… I talked about how I felt buying off the plans has been a disastrous experience and a financial nightmare, how things went… beware, I’m ranting a lot in such a piece!

We managed to select the most eco-friendly materials we possibly could. So we need to keep on this trajectory for the final parts and various stuff still needed. I’m stressed out and want to disappear instead of handling!

That’s it for now at least! I realize this may not be the most useful article but I thought there were maybe some interesting bit and hope you will too. The struggle to find eco friendly daily products is real sometimes. Sometimes you are lucky and the universe puts you on the right path.

If you’ve implemented most of the usual eco-friendly tips you found and have a hard time taking the next steps, at least you should know you are not alone!

My recent eco-friendly little improvements