If you're looking for some Eco Living tips or recently attended or are even thinking of running a Green Fair and want to learn more, you're in the right place! Making sustainable swaps to eco friendly products and learning how to 'Go Green' will make a big difference. Sustainable living is a lifelong journey and we all need to start somewhere, so however small, remember that every change matters.
Running a Green Fair in your local community, is a brilliant way to help encourage change where you live, share ideas and bring people together. If you'd like to run an event, it's very easy and there's even have a complete guide to help with all the planning. The idea of a Green Fair is to help people learn about different eco products that are available and promote local environmentally conscious retailers and producers. It's also a great opportunity to share other sustainable living ideas such as eating sustainably, green energy and recycling options. You can also showcase local environmentally friendly initiatives such as cycling, car share schemes, tree planting, re-wilding or nature reserves.
In this guide, you'll find lots of useful information under different headings, either for your own personal information or to provide ideas on info you can share at a Green Fair. Households remain the highest contributor to UK greenhouse gas emissions, more than transport, energy and manufacturing so encouraging individual action is crucial.
- 1. Eating Sustainably & Reducing Food Waste
- 2. Eco Cleaning and Household Swaps
- 3. Eco Personal Hygiene
- 4. Clothing & the Impact of Fast Fashion
- 5. Green Energy, heating & insulation, energy efficient appliances
- 6. Recycling & Repurposing
- 7. Reducing Plastic Waste
- 8. Composting and an Eco Friendly Garden
- 9. How to use your car less.
1. Eating Sustainably & Reducing Food Waste
CO2 emissions from food make up just over one quarter of all the world’s emissions, which means changes around food can have a significant impact and is an easy place to start. Everything we eat has a carbon footprint. The greenhouse gas emissions are produced by growing, rearing, farming, processing, transporting, storing, cooking and most notably, wasting, food. There are ways however, we can reduce our environmental impact.
Eat in season and buy local
A locally sourced diet is a good place to start. Eating food that has been produced in your local area, in season as nature intended means cutting out excess emissions that are generated from artificially producing food, transporting it thousands of miles and keeping it in cold storage for long periods of time.
Reduce Meat and Dairy consumption
The average amount of meat eaten per person in the UK is almost double the world average with many people eating it twice a day. Meat production globally has a significant environmental impact accounting for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Meat and dairy produces considerably more Greenhouse gases than plant based foods. For example 1 kg of beef, produces around 60KG of greenhouse gases, compared to 1kg of peas for example that produces just 1kg of greenhouse gases.
It is widely agreed that if we are going to tackle climate change, a shift in diet is essential. This means reducing our meat and dairy consumption and building in some meat free days. For some people this can mean starting with one meat free day per week, for others it may lead to the decision to go Vegan.
A study by Oxford University Scientist Joseph Poore, found if every family in the UK swapped a red meat meal for a plant based meal just once a week, the environmental impact would be the same as taking 16 million cars off the road.
Choose Higher Animal Welfare Products
When we do choose animal products, we can choose products that have been produced to high animal welfare standards which is better for the animal as well as carbon emissions. All meat and fish production is not the same and there are significant differences in the CO2 production of industrially or intensively farmed foods versus free range and organic foods.
Industrial farming practices can be harmful to plant and animal life and cause long term damage to the environment through for example soil degradation and de-forestation which can lead to flooding as well as pollution. Some of this damage can last decades. Choosing products that have been sustainably or organically farmed can help protect our long term ability to grow food. Organic farming also helps protect the farm workers who can suffer serious health issues from the chemicals used in industrial farming. Organic products themselves may also be better for us since they contain no traces of pesticides, hormones or antibiotics.
Supporting Fairtrade is a direct way in which we can help the world’s poorest famers, many of whom are already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change. The Fairtrade foundation promotes sustainable farming practices that help farmers adapt as well as delivering a lower carbon footprint product.
Cut out Food Waste
If Food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of CO2 after the USA & China. This is the biggest area where you can make a difference when it comes to food. Food waste in landfill emits a methane gas, 20 times stronger than CO2. Meal planning, always shopping with a list, using up leftovers and composting are key ways to reduce food waste. Many people have found just by eating last nights dinner leftovers for lunch the next day, makes a huge difference.
2. Eco Cleaning and Household Swaps
There are many easy eco cleaning and household sustainable swaps. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming and can save you money in the long run.
Easy Eco Swaps
- Beeswax wraps are becoming very popular as a healthy, environmental alternative to clingfilm. Although more expensive than cling film, remember, they will last 12-18 months and can be re-waxed. You can also use an upturned plate to cover bowls or invest in a set of re-usable containers with lids for storing food in the fridge & freezer.
- Wet wipes should be avoided as they do not break down (as they contain plastic) and cause blockages in sewage pipes. For cleaning, use cloths or old flannels.
- Oven liners can replace baking parchment as they can be washed after every use.
- Environmentally friendly toilet paper is made from recycled paper as opposed to virgin paper. This helps to preserve trees, protect habitat and saves energy. They can also be bought without any plastic wrapping. You might find it cheaper to buy in bulk and share a subscription with another family. Remember to compare the size of the rolls as well as the quantity when comparing prices!
- Many eco cleaning products are now available as ‘refills’. This helps to reduce the impact of single use plastic.
Homemade Eco Cleaning Recipes
Eco Cleaning or Green Cleaning means cleaning in a way that is free from harmful toxins, keeps us and our environment healthy and reduces waste to landfill. Many commercial cleaners contain harmful chemicals and pollutants that flow into streams and rivers. Cleaning sprays can pollute the air in our homes and aggrevate health conditions such as asthma. Finally, most shop bought household cleaners come in single use plastic bottles, which significantly add to the large amount of plastic bottles we get through every year.
Making your own eco household cleaning products is the easiest way to avoid all of these issues. It's also by far the cheapest way to clean your home and is not difficult to do. You can find some easy recipes here.
3. Eco Personal Hygiene
Over the years, we have become used to relying on many single-use and ‘disposable’ items when it comes to personal hygiene. Whilst convenient, these items are extremely difficult to dispose of responsibly as many cannot be recycled.
- Plastic toothbrushes cannot be recycled & take over 400 years to decompose. Bamboo toothbrushes are a good alternative.
- Swapping to re-usable make-up and face wipes that can be put through the washing machine are great alternatives to disposable options, including cotton wool pads.
- There are many sustainable alternatives available to sanitary products. Period pants are now becoming hugely popular. Washable cloth sanitary pads are discreet and excellent sustainable alternatives. You might also like to try Mooncups. If these options aren’t for you then consider switching to 100% organic tampons & sanitary pads, which have a lower environmental impact.
- Soap bars as well as shampoo & conditioner bars last a long time and are a more sustainable alternative to liquid soap and bottled shampoo & conditioner since they don’t use plastic. You could also try refills of soap, shampoo & conditioner or buy in bulk to reduce plastic.
- A dish of traditional shaving soap, complete with brush and real razor are great ways for men to reduce their waste. They also last an incredibly long time, compared with aerosol shaving foams.
- Plastic cotton buds are now banned in the UK. Bamboo or cardboard cotton buds have replaced them. Make sure to buy them in no plastic packaging.
4. Clothing & the Impact of Fast Fashion
It might surprise you to learn that Fashion, is the worlds’ second most polluting industry after oil. There are 3 main ways in which this industry impacts the environment.
1. How Clothes are produced
Producing clothes takes huge amounts of water which is often then discharged untreated into local water systems. It’s estimated that by 2030, 47% of the world’s population will face severe water shortages so this heavy usage of water to produce clothing will put increasing stress on drinking water supplies. For example, it takes 7,600 litres of water to make just one pair of jeans and 2,700 litres to make a simple t-shirt.
2. How clothes are disposed of
Textiles should never be put into a landfill bin. Clothes release toxic gases such as CO2 and methane when they are left to decompose in landfill, which in turn adds to global warming.
3. How we wash them
When we wash our clothes, especially synthetic garments, thousands of microfibers are released into the water system. These microfibers are ingested by aquatic organisms and make their way into our food chain. For more information on clothing visit How Clothes Impact the Environment.
What can we do?
A ‘Capsule Wardrobe’, ie. one containing a much smaller number of clothes that you can mix and match to create all the different outfits you need, is the more sustainable approach.
Try asking yourself 'will I wear this item at least 30 times', before buying anything new (wedding dresses excluded). Lend and borrow from friends rather than buying new for particular events. Shopping second hand is not only thrifty, but the most sustainable approach. There are also an increasing number of 'sustainable clothing brands' coming onto the market. Although initially more expensive, some of these sustainable brands offer long term guarantees and repairs which can work out cheaper in the long run as well as being better for the planet.
Avoiding putting any textiles into landfill bins. If your clothes are not in good enough condition to be sold in a charity shop, bag them up and mark as textile waste. Textile waste can be recyled. Sometimes animal shelters ask for old towels, blankets or duvets.
Only wash clothes when necessary. Ask yourself, do they need washing or just airing?Use a Guppy Bag in your washing machine to catch the microfibers that are released from clothes and prevent these fibres getting into the water system. Empty it into the bin.
If you're running a Green Fair, another idea you could look at is a community Clothes Swap Event, also known as Swishing!
5. Green Energy, heating & insulation, energy efficient appliances
Green or renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale (as opposed to oil, coal & gas) such as solar, wind, rain, tides, waves & geothermal heat. Renewable energy causes a lot less pollution than fossil fuels. The cost of renewable energy is coming down all the time.
Switching to a green energy supplier is a vote for green energy as opposed to fossil fuels & shows the demand is there which encourages investment. Some tariffs will be 100% renewable, others will be a percentage of the total. If possible, you should use a tariff that gets 100% of its electricity from renewables. According to Ethical Consumer Magazine, the two main things to look out for are :-
- Does the company supply 100% renewable energy?
- Is the company building new sources of green energy?
Heating and Insulation
Energy usage in homes accounts for around 15% of the UK carbon emissions. Ensuring our homes are energy efficient is key to reducing our carbon footprint. Poorly insulated homes lose heat quickly, which means you use more energy to keep warm which is also expensive. Make sure your loft & cavity walls are well insulated and reduce drafts around doors and windows with caulk. Upgrade your boiler if necessary to a more efficient one. Double glazing makes a big difference in helping your home retain heat. You may also be able to install other energy sources such as solar panels.
Visit www.gov.uk/improve-energy-efficiency to find out if you are eligible for a home energy grant to help pay for things like loft and cavity wall insulation.
Energy Efficient Appliances
The average household in the UK has 40 – 50 electrical appliances! There are many ways in which we can all reduce our energy consumption.
- Avoid overfilling your fridge & let food cool before placing it inside. Keep the filter free from dust.
- When boiling water, only heat the amount you need
- Using a washing machine at 30 C will use around 40% less energy than on a higher temperature setting. Ensure you have a full load before washing.
- Appliances left on standby mode cost on average £30 a year. Large TV’s use the most energy on standby.
- Computers, printers etc take around 9% of our energy usage. Switch off when not in use
- Lighting accounts for 18% of our household energy. Energy efficient lightbulbs use 75% less energy than standard to generate the same level of light.
- Don’t leave lights on unnecessarily.
- Install timers on appliances such as TV’s, computers, printers and broadband routers to switch off automatically at night.
- Delete unnecessary emails, spam and photos. The backup process required to store all this data uses energy!
The Energy Saving Trust are an independent profit for purpose organisation who offer impartial advice on energy saving schemes and can lots of useful information.
6. Recycling & Repurposing
By reducing and sorting waste, emissions from the average home could fall by 0.25 tonnes of CO2 per year. If you're organising a Green Fair, you might want to consider inviting your local council along to talk to people about recycling. It's also a great opportunity for them to hear questions and feedback from the local community.
We need to understand that recycling is not a magic wand and there is no such place as ‘Away’ when we throw stuff. Our main aim needs to be on REDUCING what we use, then REUSING and then finally RECYCLING. Avoiding single-use items where possible can have a big impact in helping us to reduce our waste.
All councils differ in what they recycle kerbside & indeed how they do it. However, it is often possible to recycle far more products through other recycling points and these are very important in minimizing our waste to landfill.
Recycling is complex and we should be aware of what can and can’t be recycled by our local council in order to avoid contamination. Recycling contamination happens when items are placed in the wrong recycling bin or when materials are not properly cleaned, such as when food residue remains on items. Not only can this result in that specific item being rejected and sent to landfill, it could also contaminate a whole batch of items for recycling. Another common problem to be aware of is that cardboard and paper cannot be recycled when wet or if they have been wet as the water weakens the fibres.
Local councils will have a list on their website of what you can and can’t put in the recycle bin. If you are not sure, you should leave it out as it could contaminate a whole batch meaning that more items cannot be recycled.
Common items that can’t be recycled at kerbside.
- Loose shredded paper. This shouldn’t be emptied straight into the recycling bin, but can be added to your home compost. Loose shredded paper is too small and is difficult for machines to recover at a recycling plant.
- Black plastic (mostly in the form of food trays) Black plastic is difficult for the lasers to see at recycling plants and cannot generally be recycled.
- Polystyrene, although a plastic cannot be recycled. The best thing to do is to try to avoid products that come with polystyrene.
- Clingfilm. Also a plastic, but it cannot be recycled.
- Tin foil & aluminum trays can be recycled if they are clean. They should also be scrunched up into a ball at least the size of a tennis ball so that the sorting machines can recognize it.
- Some plastic packaging such a bread bags can be recycled along with carrier bags at larger supermarkets.
You can find more information on recycling at www.recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with/
Items that can be recycled at many council household waste sites
- Mobile Phones & small appliances
- Mixed light bulbs
- Large appliances
- Fridges & freezers
- Hardcore & rubble
- Wood & Timber
- Scrap Metal
- Used engine oil
- Household waste
- Mixed textiles & clothes
- Cooking oil
- Hand tools
- Gas bottles
- Garden waste
- Mixed recycling
- Mixed glass, bottles & jars.
Other local recycling and re-purposing opportunities
Many items not accepted by local councils can still be recycled through other providers. Terracycle is one such company. They have programmes for recycling various different waste streams. Local drop off points can be found on their website. If there isn't one near you, maybe you could start one.
Many other items can be recycled at various collection points in the local community. Recycling items is important as it means that material can be used again to make a different product.
- Batteries. Batteries should not be placed in landfill as they leak and contaminate the soil. Every shop that sells batteries has to provide a battery recycling point.
- Crisp packets. These can be recycled through Terra cycle.
- Petfood Pouches – all dry pet food & treat flexible plastic packaging and wet food pouches. See Terracycle.
- Biscuit, cracker & cake wrappers. See Terracycle
- Pens & writing instruments. See Terracycle
- Plastic Confectionary packaging. See Terracycle
- Plastic cleaning packaging, plastic air freshner containers and cartridge caps, flexible wipe packaging, rigid plastic tubs used in home cleaning, flexible laundry & dishwasher capsules & pods packaging, tinted fabric conditioner bottles. See Terracycle
- LOL Surprise packaging & Accessories & old toys. See Terracycle
- Used Inhalers should be taken to your local pharmacy for recycling. For more information on the carbon footprint of inhalers and dry powder alternatives visit greeninhaler.org
Terracycle can recycle almost any waste stream. You can sign up to be a collector for specific types of waste. Schools, and work places are great centres for collecting harder to recycle waste streams. The scheme offers a points system which can be traded as payment.
Repurposing & Repairing
Repurposing is important as it not only extends the life of a product, it prevents a new one being made and so saves not only resources, but also energy and fuel.
Sites such as www.Freecycle.org & www.ilovefreegle.org are great ways to pass on stuff you no longer need to someone who will make use of it. This not only keeps your item out of landfill, it also means someone else is not buying new so all the resources that go into producing a new product are saved.
Not all charity shops will accept electrical items as they need to be tested, but plenty do and most will collect larger items for free. Check locally but the following usually accept electrical items. British Heart Foundation, Sue Ryder, British Red Cross, Age UK.
You can also recycle many electrical appliances, without buying anything new, at your local Currys PC World, from kettles to toasters to TV’s, regardless of where you bought them from. You may also be able to trade in old laptops for a £50 voucher to spend on anything.
We've got used to replacing rather than repairing items over recent years as the cost of goods has come down. Reparing items can extend their life which means we will consume fewer of that item in our lifetime. If we're not able to repair an item ourselves, maybe we can find someone locally who can. Repair Cafe is a worldwide organisation that can help. You take your item along and they have the tools and the materials necessary and you pay for the cost of these. People skilled in repairing items volunteer their time and help you to repair your item. Repair cafes operate from places like village halls and might take place once or twice a month. If you want to start one up, you can find all the resouces at repaircafe.org
7. Reducing Plastic Waste
Only 9% of all the plastic ever produced, has been recycled, so it’s vital we find ways to reduce it in our everyday lives. Look in your bin, find the most used plastic items and start with those. There are so many ways available to reduce our plastic and more and more are becoming available all the time.
- Carry a re-usable coffee cup & environmentally friendly water bottle.
- Shop for fruit & veg without any packaging or sign up to a plastic free veg box scheme.
- Take re-usable containers to buy meat and fish from deli counters
- Look for non-plastic alternatives to common household & personal hygiene products
- Have your milk delivered in glass bottles
- Ditch the clingfilm, which can’t be recycled, and try Beeswax wraps, or used an upturned plate to cover dishes!
- Making your own smoothies is a great way to reduce plastic and food waste. Smoothies work best with fruit that’s a little past it’s best!
- See if you have a Zero Waste Store near you.
- If you can’t find an item plastic free, try buying it in a larger container as this will use less plastic in the long run.
- Let retailers, companies & organisations know that reducing plastic is important to you. Consumer pressure has already achieved so much. Friends of the Earth have a petition calling for the government to introduce a new law to phase out plastic pollution.
8. Composting and an Eco Friendly Garden
If you're lucky enough to have your own garden, then composting and eco friendly gardening are great ways you can make a difference. If you don't have your own garden then maybe you have access to an allotment or even just a container garden or window box.
43% of household waste can be composted at home! It can be done all year round & it’s a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and recycle as nature intended. The Royal Horticultural Society has a great resource on how to get started.
You can order compost bins from your local council. These compost bins are mainly made from recycled plastic in the UK and are discounted to encourage us all to compost.
How to Compost
It is important the site is not subject to extremes of temperature and moisture, as the micro-organisms (bacteria and fungi) that convert the waste into compost work best in constant conditions. Place your compost bin in an area of light shade or shade.
An earth base allows drainage and access to soil organisms, but if you have to compost on a hard surface, then add a spadeful of soil to the bottom of the compost bin.
Bins retain some warmth and moisture and make better compost more quickly, but even an open heap will compost eventually. Any of the compost bins on the market should produce compost as long as they exclude rain, retain some warmth, allow drainage and let in air. Bins less than 1 cubic m (1.3 cubic yd) in size are much less effective than larger ones.
What to add to your compost bin
You need to aim for a balance of 50% greens & 50% browns to get the right mix. RecycleNow has good information on what is good green and brown compost waste.
Examples of green waste include :- plants, rhubarb leaves, soft prunings, tea leaves, vegetable peelings, fruit peelings & pulp, coffee grounds, cut flowers, vacuum cleaner contents, wood ash, wool, pet bedding.
Examples of brown waste (essentially dry waste) include:-cardboard, paper towels, cotton wool, egg boxes, evergreen prunings, hair, natural corks, nuts, paper bags, straw, shredded paper.
Keep out meat, bones & fish.
How do you know when compost is ready?
Garden compost can take between six months and two years to reach maturity. Mature compost will be dark brown, with a crumbly soil-like texture and a smell resembling damp woodland. It probably won't look like the compost you buy in the shops and it's very likely that yours will still have twigs and eggshell in it! Don't worry, it's still perfectly good to use. Simply sift out any larger bits and return them to your compost bin. Compost can be used for things such as flowerbeds, to enrich borders, as a mulch, around trees, to replenish pots, patio containers, healthier herbs and vegetables and feeding your lawn.
Useful Sites for Eco Gardening Tips
Composting tips from Garden Organic
For tips on how to grow your own veg & flowers
Creating an Eco Friendly Garden
Switching over to sustainable gardening practices goes a long way to building a garden you can enjoy, admire and even eat. It helps reduce your environmental footprint, by increasing carbon storage, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and contributing to plant and animal biodiversity. Here are a few tips to create your eco friendly garden:
- Plant trees. Planting trees helps to store carbon from the atmosphere into the soil.
- Grow your own organic food. Not only does this help to reduce food miles, it also helps to save water and fossil fuels.
- Compost your waste. The less green garden waste and food scraps going into landfill the better, and you get to use the compost in your sustainable garden.
- Take responsibility for your gardening practices. Think very carefully before you reach for the bug spray or synthetic fertiliser! So many good, sustainable alternatives exist — use your compost to help feed your plants, and get worms and insects working for you.
- Minimise your use of power tools. Mowers, blowers and brush-cutters can make life easier, but think about their environmental impact. Buy an energy-efficient mower, mow less often and keep the grass height to about 4 to 5 centimetres — it’s better for your sustainable lawn as well.
- Get the kids into sustainable gardening. At home, at school or in the community, if kids learn the right way from the beginning, they’re sure to keep gardening sustainably into the future.
- Create a haven with a diverse range of plants. Not only do you help increase plant biodiversity, but you also provide a habitat for animals, beneficial insects and birds.
- Build your garden for the future, not for fashion. Make your garden climate-friendly and water-wise. Understand your environment, weather patterns and the plants that thrive where you live, not what the magazines dictate.
A few essential tools for your Eco Garden
To create your eco garden, some things are just too good to pass up. Compost, mulch and worms all help to condition your soil and retain moisture, and you can get beneficial insects to work with you to keep your plants healthy, sustainably.
- A compost heap or bin: Choose whatever type suits your garden — a three-bay heap for a large property, a classic upside-down-bin style to place in an average garden, a tumble-type bin that neatly sits on a paved area or a bokashi bucket to keep in your kitchen.
- An insectary: A garden plot, or even a series of pots on a balcony, with at least seven different plant species of varying heights attracts various beneficial bugs to your eco garden. Good candidates to plant include amaranthus, coriander, cosmos, dill, lemon balm, parsley, tansy and yarrow.
- Mulch: To help keep in precious moisture, cover the soil around your plants with the finished humus from your compost or an organic mulch.
9. How to use your car less.
Cars & trucks account for around one fifth of all CO2 emmissions.
One third of drivers use cars for walking-distance journeys. Because emission systems fitted in cars take around 5 minutes to activate, many of these short journeys cause high pollution levels and expose drivers & passengers to harmful pollution bursts. Government figures show that 60% of journeys of less than 2 miles, are made by car. Being mindful of when we use our cars can really help. If we allowed ourselves more time, could we walk to the train station instead of driving for example?
It’s important to turn your engine off when parked as an idling car can produce up to twice the emissions of a car that’s in motion. Idling increases the amount of exhaust fumes in the air, which contain several harmful gases which harm the environment and contribute towards climate change as well being linked to asthma and lung disease.
If we do need to use our cars, can we car share? Asking friends to car share for environmental reasons is much easier. For example, could you share lifts on the school run, to kids parties, after school activities, even trips to the shops or supermarket?
Planning time into our day to walk rather than drive short distances can make a big difference as well as being beneficial to our health. Sustrans is a charity that aims to make it easier for people to walk and cycle and have lots of tips and information. As we come out of the COVID pandemic, there is a greater emphasis on cycling and walking and many councils are putting in measures to make this easier and safer.
There are many things we can all do in our everyday lives to reduce our carbon footprint and help protect our planet from the impact of climate change. Coming together as groups of friends and communities and supporting and encouraging each other can really help.
Living sustainably is a life long journey. Make as many changes as are manageable. Once you start, you will find it gets easier and together we can all make a difference.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
Anne Marie Bonneau